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First look at sneaky new Skaven rules in Age of Sigmar 4e

In the latest Age of Sigmar Faction Focus article for fourth edition, Games Workshop reveals how the Skaven will burrow up from the shadows.

Age of Sigmar rules for the Skaven - a glowing green warp lightning cannon

Games Workshop has revealed the core army rules for the Skaven in Age of Sigmar fourth edition, in a Faction Focus article published on Wednesday.

Skaven are the second of the Age of Sigmar armies to appear in a Faction Focus, following on from Stormcast Eternals on Tuesday. At the level of the army rules, a lot of the changes are simply adjusting how abilities are expressed to bring them in line with the overall style of Age of Sigmar third edition. Much of how the Skaven will play looks to be the same as before – sneaky.

Here’s what Games Workshop has revealed about the Skaven rules so far:

Age of Sigmar Skaven rules - Battle Traits

Skaven Battle Traits

The new Skaven Battle Traits emphasise their sneaky – some would say cowardly  – nature, and the fact that where you get rats, you get tunnels. At the start of the game, you can place any amount of your army into reserve in The Tunnels Below. Each Battle Round you can place a Gnawhole onto the board, which those tunnelling units can emerge from.

Skaven have some interesting movement shenanigans. ‘Too Quick to Hit-hit’ allows them to retreat without risking mortal damage, while ‘Always Three Clawsteps Ahead’ grants a unit movement during the opponent’s turn to try and keep out of charge range.

The Lurking Vermintide

Phase Deployment Phase
Effect Deploy any number of your units in reserve in The Tunnels Below
CP cost 0

Splinters of the Vermindoom

Phase Once at the start of each Battle Round
Effect If there are less than three Gnawholes on the table, set one up at least 9” from all enemies, 3” from all friendly units, and 1” from all terrain
CP cost 0

Gnawhole Ambush

Phase Your movement phase
Effect Skaven units in reserve in The Tunnels Below can be set up wholly within 6” of a Gnawhole and at least 9” away from all enemies
CP cost 0

Too Quick to Hit-hit

Phase Passive (always in effect)
Effect Whenever a Skaven Infantry or Cavalry model uses a Retreat ability, that ability can’t cause it Mortal damage
CP cost 0

Always Three Clawsteps Ahead

Phase Once per turn during the enemy Hero phase
Effect One non-monster Skaven unit that isn’t in combat and wasn’t set up this turn can make a normal move
CP cost 0

Age of Sigmar Skaven rules - Gnawhole stats

Skaven Gnawholes rules

Thanks to the Age of Sigmar 4th edition rules for faction terrain, Skaven Gnawholes aren’t just a piece of scenery, they’re now fully destructible, with six health and a 4+ save. Of course with the ‘Splinters of the Vermindoom’ Battle Trait, destroying a Gnawhole only closes it until the next Battle Round.

Units can move across Gnawholes but not end their turn on them, and enemies that do so risk suffering D3 mortal damage on a D6 roll of 2+. While they’re on the table, Gnawholes enhance Skaven maneuverability, both with the Gnawhole Ambush ability from the Skaven Battle Traits, and with their own ‘Tunnels Through Reality’ ability that allows Skaven units within 6” of one Gnawhole to leave the table and be set up within 6” of another one during your movement phase.

Gnawholes also have a once per turn ability that costs 1CP called ‘Endless Vermintide’. This lets you set up a copy of a destroyed non-hero Skaven infantry unit on the battlefield, placed within 6” of a Gnawhole and at least 3” from all enemies, with half as many models as it initially contained.

Age of Sigmar Skaven rules - Fleshmeld menagerie Battle Formation

Skaven Battle Formations

Battle Formations are like subfactions from AoS third edition – pick one when you build your army to gain an armywide ability. Games Workshop has revealed the themes for three of the Skaven Battle Formations, and the name and ability of another.

Skaven will have access to a Pestilens formation capable of “corrupting the earth itself”, a Skryre formation with “lethal prototypes”, and a Clan Verminus formation that emboldens “your rank-and-file Clanrats, Stormvermin, and other Claw-horde units”.

The Flesh-Meld Menagerie represents the Clans Moulder. Its ability, ‘Prized Creations’, lets you pick up to three friendly non-Hero Moulder units to receive a random effect. This is a D6 roll: on a 1-2 it inflicts D3 mortal damage on the unit, on a 3-4 it grants them +1 attack with melee weapons, and on a 5-6 it grants both +1 attack and a 5+ ward.

Age of Sigmar Skaven rules - Warp Lightning Vortex manifestation

Skaven Arcana and Manifestations

Games Workshop has only revealed one new Age of Sigmar spell for the Skaven, ‘Summon Warp Lightning vortex’, from the Skaven Arcana and Manifestation Lore. This does reveal some information we’ve been missing up to this point – how Manifestations arrive on the battlefield.

The Skaven Manifestation Lore contains the spell ‘Summon Warp Lightning Vortex’, which has a casting value of seven. Once successfully cast, the first part of the vortex is placed within 18” of the caster and visible to them, and the second and third parts are placed to form a triangle with 7” long sides. It projects an aura a further 6” around it that inflicts a -2 penalty to enemy run and charge rolls, and any enemy unit that passes across it suffers D3 mortal damage.

The vortex doesn’t look too hard to remove, with seven health and a 6+ save, or a banishment roll of 7+, but dealing with it will soak up the opponent’s attention. If they don’t deal with it, it can project Warp Lightning Bolts in any Hero Phase following the one in which it was placed. These bolts target each enemy unit within 6”, inflicting D3 mortal damage on a roll of 4+.

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If you’re keen on the new Skaven minis but not on the new rules, check out our guide to Warhammer: The Old World Skaven for tips on using them in rank and flank fantasy, or our guide to (hypothetical) Warhammer 40k Skaven for some conversion ideas. If you just like rats, we get you – we have an article all about the things that Skaven get wrong about real world rats.