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Warhammer 40k Skaven guide - could it happen?

Will everyone’s favorite ratmen ever tunnel their way into Warhammer 40k, or are they destined to remain trapped in a series of fantasy worlds?

Warhammer 40k Skaven - artwork by Games Workshop, a Skaven ratman warlord in red armor screaming

Warhammer 40k is a setting filled with gods, monsters, daemons, heroes, mutants, psykers, aliens, and more. But there’s one thing that it’s missing: there are no Warhammer 40k Skaven.

Though the universe teems with life of all sorts, there’s a sore lack of Chaos-worshipping rat men. With their propensity for Warpstone-powered shenanigans, paranoid god, and vicious streak a mile wide, they would fit right in with the other, maladjusted Warhammer 40k factions.

We have separate guides to Age of Sigmar Skaven and Warhammer: The Old World Skaven. Come with us as we visit our little ratmen friends and see if they could ever become part of the Warhammer 40k universe.

Who are the Skaven?

First appearing in the original Warhammer Old World, the Skaven were mutants twisted by the whims of their god – The Great Horned Rat. From their city Skavenblight they infested the entire world, tunnelling across vast distances to pop up and raid, fight, and swallow entire cities whole. Crystalised chaos energy known as “Warpstone” fuelled their insane machinery and disgusting mutagenic magic.

When the End Times blew up the Old World, the Skaven continued their verminous way of life in the Age of Sigmar universe with little interruption. Their tunnels now bore through reality itself. No matter which realm you inhabit, you can never be safe from the Skaven, their hordes ready to gnaw their way into your reality at a moment’s notice.

Warhammer 40k Skaven - artwork by Games Workshop, Skaven ratmen attack Kharadron dwarf airships with their green energy weapons

Could the Skaven come to Warhammer 40k?

First, let’s start off by saying that the idea Warhammer 40k and Warhammer fantasy are canonically linked has been thoroughly debunked already. There were many references in Warhammer Fantasy to the 40k universe, and vice versa, but these are only references, nods, or Easter Eggs.

That doesn’t mean that one faction or aspect of a setting cannot appear in the other. The four Warhammer 40k Chaos gods are also the antagonists of Age of Sigmar, and many Chaos Daemon models can be used in either setting – always good for those looking for two armies but only have one budget.

So while Skaven coming to Warhammer 40k is probably unlikely, it’s not impossible. Their ability to burrow through reality means that out of all the Age of Sigmar armies, they are the most likely to breach the boundary between intellectual properties.

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Technologically, the Skaven would actually work well in Warhammer 40k’s setting. Most factions require a 40k Psyker in order to navigate the tides of the Warp but due to their reality tunnelling, Warpstone powers, and Chaos alignment, the Skaven would be able to infest the galaxy much as they have the Age of Sigmar realms.

In fact, the whole of The Beast Arises novel series hinges on the Orks ability to create subspace tunnels that allow faster-than-light teleportation of huge ‘attack moons’. A vermin species, the Chromes, is found fleeing through the tunnels ahead of the Orks in a distinctly ratty fashion.

Warhammer 40k Skaven - artwork by Games Workshop, a horde of skaven ratmen teem through ruins

On the tabletop, Orks, Astra Militarum, and Tyranids fill the role of horde armies – but that’s not the only Skaven capability. The Skaven are a manifestation of Chaos in one of its purest forms; motivated by greed or fear, pulling in every direction at once, with technology so unreliable that it’s more hazard than boon on the battlefield. They could bring something too often missing on the Warhammer 40k tabletop – levity.

A Warhammer 40k Skaven army would be a machine that generates stories. Every battle filled with crushing defeats, clutch victories, or potentially both at the same time. With their weapons exploding and half their troops ready to flee at a moment’s notice, adding the Skaven to Warhammer 40k might not broaden the competitive meta, but it would enhance the fun – and isn’t that why we’re all here in the first place?

Warhammer 40k Skaven - artwork by Games Workshop, a Skaven inventor raises a glowing vial of warpstone elixir

Skaven References in Warhammer 40k

Though the they have never officially made an appearance in the setting, there have been plenty of Skaven references in Warhammer 40k.

One of the oldest references dates back to the early days of Games Workshop. The Warhammer 40,000: Compendium from 1989 includes a reference to ‘Rodotoxin’, a toxin which particularly affects Skaven.

There were some early hints that the Hrud, a furry scavenger race complete with unreliable technology and rat-tails, may have been intended to be the Warhammer 40k counterpart to the Skaven. The Hrud even live in underground warrens, another similarity to the fantasy species.

Warhammer 40k Skaven - artwork by Games Workshop, a Skaven gutter runner, a ratman with a heavy cowl, spikes, glowing warpstone

More recent depictions have pushed the Hrud have further from the Skaven; their appearance in Perturabo: Hammer of Olympia novel depicts them as more humanoid and less bestial, while the unfortunate Hrud colony in Trazyn the Infinite’s gallery in The Infinite and the Divine is depicted as having extra-temporal psychic powers.

Though Games Workshop has been keen to push the settings in new directions, the references to the Skaven continue to the present day. In the first volume of the last Horus Heresy book, The End and the Death, many daemonic entities are mentioned in one passage. One of these is Kweethul, a minor Chaos God from both Warhammer Fantasy and Age of Sigmar who is often invoked by the Skaven – in particular by Grey Seer Thanquol.

Kweethul may also be a Skaven himself, a rat named Kweethul Grislegut who gained apotheosis to stand amongst the Chaos pantheon as a lesser God.

Warhammer 40k Skaven - artwork by Games Workshop, a Skaven ratman greyseer holding a glowing green orb of warpstone

The Skaven may never make a full appearance in Warhammer 40k but throughout its history Games Workshop has clearly enjoyed teasing fans with titbits and teases that one day, the rats will burrow their way into sci-fi like they have burrowed their way into the hearts of many Warhammer fans.

We’d be remiss not to point out that, if you want sci-fi ratmen, the Veermyn range from Mantic Games miniature wargame Firefight has you covered. For a more deluxe option, there’s Mortian miniatures Cyberrats. We also have no doubt there are plenty of options for 3D printer owners.