by Brownrob (FUMBBL)
I started playing Skaven in our league for the last season. I never played Skaven so far but was surprised by my overall success. I won 9 out 10 games and became League Champion. On the road to success I played against Dwarves, Orcs, Dark Elfs, Lizardmen, Human and Chaos. I wanted to compile my experiences in this guide which is meant for vanilla LRB coaches, though we don’t use stars. Some of my statements could sound strange to you, so constructive criticism is – as always – welcome.
The starting line-up of Skaven is not set in stone, so you may tinker around with positional players, TRR and FF as long as you consider a few things:
- always start with two Storm Vermin, you need the extra punch they provide
- always start with at least two Gutter Runners, they are your best players and top-scorers.
- never start with a Rat-Ogre, he is not needed for a classic Skaven game and due to his high price he’ll only tie up resources needed elsewhere in your starting line-up.
- try starting with 12 players, Skaven are rather fragile.
A (possible) Starting Squad:
2x Gutter Runner 160K
2x Storm Vermin 180K
1x Thrower 70K
7x Linerats 350K
3x TRR 180K
6x FF 60K
Alternatively you can swap the Thrower for a Linerat and 2+ on FF, or trade one TRR or Linerat for an apothecary if you feel you’ll face some experienced bashy team.
First buy should be an apothecary and a 3rd TRR (if you have started without them) while replacing lost Players. Slowly fill up your squad with Linerats and a 3rd Gutter Runner. Buy a Rat-Ogre as the 14th or 15th Player only, buy a 4th TRR when you have reached 14 Players.
If any players get nigglings or stat decreases wait with sacking him until you have 15 players. Linerats with nigglings, –MA or –AG are good for placing at the LOS. If you have anybody with – ST or – AV, well those are really sad creatures with no real use. Fire them. If any injured Linerat should get a skill (due to MVP) give him Dirty Player
Use your apothecary wisely. I never would use him on any Linerat (except the Leader Linerat maybe). The apothecary is reserved for your skilled Gutter Runners or Storm Vermins with 2-3 Skills. If any of your Gutter Runners has got an AG increase, it’s no question to keep him alive at all costs.
General advice: never take Leader, Kick or Dirty Player on a positional player. These are for Linerats, give your positional players only skills which let them do the things better they are assigned for. Take ANY stat increases, except MA for Linerats and Throwers.
Linerats: one with Kick, at least three with Block to have blockers on the LOS, one with Dirty Player (if you prefer that style of playing or if the Linerat already has nigglings/stat decreases). The rest is up to you. Doubles – Guard, Leader (if you want a Rat-Ogre) or any mutation that does not involve ball handling/dodging. Preferably AV/Inj modifications or any special mutation that meets your playing style (see below).
Storm Vermin: Tackle/Strip Ball, Guard, Mighty Blow. Doubles – Dauntless or any AV/Inj modifying Mutation.
Thrower: Accurate, Safe Throw, Block. Doubles: Take Strong Arm instead of Big Hand, as +1 on passing is more important to him as to pick up the ball with AG3/Sure Hands.
Gutter Runner: These are the most versatile positional players in BB due to access to mutations. There are several different “builds”:
Normal passing/running game Gutter Runner: Block, afterwards in any order Sidestep, Leap (better if you have an AG increase), Sure Feet, Sure Hands, Catch. Doubles: NoS or any ball handling/dodge related mutation or just plain speed with Very Long Legs. Well, the guy responsible for scoring. No surprises, but he’s doing a good job.
One-Turn Scorer: Sprint, Sure Feet, Catch (for receiving hand-overs), Leap (for reducing the amount of dodges) Doubles: Very Long Legs, Spikes.
Very boring, but he’s needed to score in the infamous 8th and 16th rounds.
Ball Hog: Sidestep, Sure Hand. Doubles: Big Hand, NoS (for making passes after getting hold of the ball). Whenever the opponent lets down the ball, he’s the guy who comes in, gets the ball and either vanishes with it or makes a pass into safety.
Defence Sweeper/Ball Pressurizer: Strip Ball, Block, Tackle. Doubles: Dauntless, Horns.
Emergency brake for stopping opponent from scoring when he’s deep in your half. Good for taking out ST4 scorer like Chaos Warriors and Bull Centaurs. Alternatively he’s the guy who puts pressure on the opposing ball handler deep in the other coaches half.
Defender: Sidestep, Shadowing, Diving Tackle, Block. Doubles: Jump Up.
Stick him on the opposing receiver/runner to make him trip or lend assist to the Blitzer for his 2 Dice-Block.
Annoying Offence Player: Pass Block, Catch (for interceptions), Block. Doubles: Foul Appearance Dreaded by Elf teams and Humans/Amazons who developed a passing game. You need two of these (and possibly 2 Linerats/Storm Vermin with Foul Appearance as well) to effectively disrupt the opponent’s passing game while putting pressure on the ball handler. Downside is that 50% of all teams never pass. If your league is Elf/passing-team heavy it’s worth considering this strategy.
Rat-Ogre: Block, Pro, Tackle, Sure Feet, Pile On (if you like). Doubles: RSF/C, Stand Firm.
General Play Advice
Use your Linerats in the right way
They are cheap and expendable and have three main tasks:
- tie up opponents,
- put tackle zones to protect your Gutter Runners, and
- lend assists for your Storm Vermins.
Don’t play Elfish and try to dodge away from opponents (with AG3 you’re bound to fail), stick to them and prevent the opponent from attacking more valuable players or players who are in the process of scoring. To bog down the opponent with your Linerats may sound odd to you but if you put pressure on his ball handler or your Gutter Runner is breaking through in the same time, he will concentrate on the important issues and won’t begin bashing the unimportant Linerats in the first place. Always move your Linerats into positions where they are blocking the paths to your offence Gutter Runners respectively mark opponents with them who could be dangerous to your Gutter Runners.
It’s important to bog down and put pressure/attack the same time. Otherwise he’ll bash you into the ground and go for the ball afterwards. Retreat (including dodges) if you’re outnumbered in an area of the pitch and have no chance to score or make him lose the ball.
Never block with the Linerats unless you get 2D Blocks or they have Block. It makes no sense to fall down in your own turn or burn TRR for non-ball handling actions, even less when you’re playing Skaven.
Protect your Gutter Runners
They are your best players and they are breakable. Being a primary target is hard, so:
- never ever enter the opponents half alone with them (unless during a counter-attack, or when his half is empty, of course).
- never ever end their move next to an opponent (unless you have a good reason for that)
- always keep them moving around to irritate the opponent so doesn’t know what you are up to next
They can be used as throwers, catchers, runners ball, hogs or give crucial assists due to their mobility. Best is to have one waiting in scoring distance during the opponents offence, the ultimate looming counter-touchdown.
Not all your Skaven are squishy
Your toughest players are the Storm Vermins and they have to perform three tasks:
- to punch holes into the defence to let your Gutter Runner/Linerats into the opposing half,
- to go for the ball, either as defence sweeper or to attack the ball carrier during the opponents offence,
- for surprise scoring, they are capable why not using their speed to surprise the opponent who focus on your Gutter Runner.
Throwers are not as important for Skaven as for other teams. They pick up and throw the ball worse than your Gutter Runner, but they have passing skills and can be build to a great thrower to support your running game with some nasty passing. He will spare you Team Re-Rolls due to his ball-handling skills in contrast to a Gutter Runner who has a higher Agility but no automatic re-roll if he fails picking up the ball or when passing.
Keep him at the back most of the time and master the PMHMPS move (“pick up-move-hand over-move-pass-score”). If you can stop the opponent from scoring when he’s in your half, his lines will be most probably overstretched. Make a cold blooded counter touchdown with your Thrower picking up the ball, moving, handing over to a Gutter Runner, who moves and makes a quick pass to the Gutter Runner who is waiting somewhere in the opponents half. Remember, you can transport the ball roughly 25+ squares within your normal movement just with several 2+ rolls (more if you sprint or/and pass to a longer distance). Of course, you can pull this stunt with 3 Gutter Runners or pass first and hand over second.
Foul play with Skaven
Well, most of the time you won’t have the time or players left for fouling systematically. All your players are busy scoring, putting pressure, sneaking into the opponents half or tying down players, so there are never enough players around for a painful foul. I don’t do it except for really annoying key players who are better off-pitch (like Wardancers, the Sure-Hand/Pass Hobgoblin, anyone with Pile On or opponent’s Dirty Players). The problem is, your Linerats need Kick and Block more than Dirty Player. I prefer pinning down nasty players with my mutated RSC players.
Don’t overestimate Rat-Ogres
Some words about Rat-Ogres: many rookie coaches think that they need some extra firepower to have a chance to stand against non-agile teams. The obvious – and only – solution seems to include a Rat-Ogre in your team. In reality it is different:
- Skaven don’t need a Rat-Ogre to win, the Rat-Ogre can’t be incorporated easily into normal Skaven game-play,
- you can’t use a Rat-Ogre to counter the opponent’s Big Guy or his ST4 LOS,
- the Rat-Ogre provides a skilled opponent the chance to rob you of your turns by forced turn-overs.
If you want to play with a Rat-Ogre, get him as late as your 14th+ player. Give Leader to the first Linerat rolling a double for his skill to have some sort of insurance against your wild animal (and he will roll double-skulls often enough). Don’t use him to mob up crowds of opposing players until he has Bock AND Pro, and even then play him with caution. Always have a Linerat or your Thrower in vicinity to help him out if he’s surrounded by 3+ opponents.
Rather use him as a Defence Sweeper to crush single opponents foolish enough to set foot on your deep half. A Rat-Ogre can be great for pushing nasty dodgers out of bonds or at least mark them with his Prehensile Tail.
Spread your talents
Linerats with skills greatly improve your game play, especially Kick, Leader and Block. If you have Linerats with 5 SPPs don’t place them on the LOS and try to make a quick pass to give them their first skill. Also try to develop your Gutter Runners in pairs. One of each type is never enough. Also try to evenly skill-up your Gutter Runners. It’s no good to have 2 Gutter Runners with 1 Skill and one with 5 Skills. Imagine how your team will perform when that AV7 star gets injured or dies? Furthermore, on the very long term (25+ matches) your Gutter Runners won’t improve any further or even fade away due to aging. Build up you Gutter Runners in waves (for example if you have two 3-4 Skill Gutter Runners, try pushing two rookies as well).
It’s essential to score with your Storm Vermins and Linerats as well from time to time. Your aim should be not to lose automatically when your Gutter Runners aren’t on the pitch, so do not focus on your Gutter Runners only. That will improve your overall play, make you more flexible and giving your opponent a hard time guessing your game moves.
First of all get your Rat-Ogre (and the corresponding Leader Linerat) off the pitch. He is not needed on offence. And if you play well your offence should last only 2-3 turns anyway. Also try not to field your Kicker Linerat. If you have to set-up your Rat-Ogre (bc. you have less than 11 other players), then place him also on the backfield. The best start is to mark the ball at once with your Rat-Ogre if you play against fast, agile teams.
Put your Thrower backfield to pick up the ball.
Field 2-3 Gutter Runners. Put one of them on each side/wide zones and into the midfield, several squares behind the LOS. So you can try to attack on both sides. The middle Gutter Runner is for linking both flanks, to start a surprise change of flanks or as an emergency ball handler if something odd happens.
Place three 0-SPPs Linerats on the LOS, they are cannon fodder. Expendable is the word. Also consider putting Linerats with Nigglings, –AG or –MA on the LOS. If you have several Linerats with Block you can also put them on the LOS instead, but one with Block won’t do it. Place the Storm Vermins on the wide zones. If you have Storm Vermins with Guard you may consider putting him on the LOS but only if the opponent has a non-ST4, non-Block/Guard LOS.
Basic game play
A solid, good working offence strategy is to:
1. Blitz a hole into the opposing defence on the side of the pitch where the ball has landed with a Storm Vermin (assisted by a Linerat) and continue moving. Then use this hole to get 1 Gutter Runner and 2 Linerats into his half. Now you will have 4 Players in his half, enough to scare him of a fast touchdown.
2. Use the midfield Linerats to mark any opponents within his wide zone who are in moving range to your players who squeezed through the hole.
3. Move the Gutter Runner (and maybe 1 Linerat) of the non-attack wide zone slightly to the middle.
4. Move the midfield Gutter Runner into the triangle that forms of the attacking GR, the remaining GR and the Thrower.
5. Remain with the second Storm Vermin and a Linerat in the non-attack wide zone.
6. Try to pick up the ball with your Thrower.
7. Keep the LOS!
In the second turn you have two options, depending on the move of your opponent:
a) if your attack squad hasn’t been bogged down, you can pass to the attacking Gutter Runner or give the ball to the middle Gutter Runner who follows the path of the initial attack to passes/hands over to the attacking Gutter Runner, who in turn should be in scoring distance, or
b) if the opponent has moved most of his players to the attacking side and/or LOS to get a breakthrough, blitz with the remaining Storm Vermin on the other side, give/pass the ball to the middle Gutter Runner, who runs towards the last Gutter Runner gives/passes him the ball. This Gutter Runner follows the Storm Vermin who just made a Blitz and enters with a remaining Linerat the opposing half. Now you should have 3 players on the opposite wide zone of where the initial attack was launched. Normally the opponent hasn’t got much chances to stop you now, unless he plays Wood Elfs or Skaven.
Place your Thrower and your Rat-Ogre Backfield. Never ever place your Rat-Ogre on the LOS or near to it.
Set-up for Storm Vermins and Linerats as above.
Place 1-2 Gutter Runners on the wide zones, but behind the Storm Vermins/Linerats. A clever opponent will try to Blitz you Gutter Runners first to annihilate their threat for the rest of the match.
If the opponent has Frenzy players, set-up your players 2 Squares away from the sidelines.
Basic game play
Don’t play a wall defence, don’t play last man standing. Actually, Skaven must play “shock defence” that interrupts the offence of the opponent. If you play your Skaven well, your opponent will have the feeling to be chased all the time and that he has to score as fast as possible to avoid a touchdown against him in his own offence:
- Always put pressure on his ball-handler and park one Gutter Runner in scoring distance.
- Don’t let yourself dragged into a war of attrition/blockfest
- Use your speed to outmove him, a whole Skaven Team can change flanks in one turn if required.
- Use Kick to make it harder for him to pull off his attack, and to make it easier to attack his ball-handler
But he plays a cage…
Well, there are tons of advices of how to break a cage, so I won’t repeat them here, but the best advice is to strike before the cage forms. Kick is essential for this. See how the opponent begins to sweat when your Strom Vermin puts a tackle zone on his lone Thrower deep in his half. Mix in a Gutter Runner and a fast touchdown isn’t so far anymore. Don’t forget to mark all his fast players and prevent them to gang up your “shock troopers”.
If the cage has formed, surround him and strike from behind with a Strip Ball Storm Vermin, then collect the ball with a Gutter Runner and try to score fast before your opponent gets mad and tries to bash you into oblivion.
Summing up for rookie coaches
You need Kick and Strip Ball (Tackle) else you’ll have a hard time while defending. The best Skaven defence is to hit fast and hard with precision and score in the opponents turn, without getting much into his war of attrition. When you’re leading 2:0 in the 5th turn he may lose his nerves and you can outmaneuver him even more easily. You need short drives/fast touchdowns to get back all your KOed players as well.
My Skaven team has developed nicely after 10 games:
1x Thrower with Accurate
1x Storm Vermin with Tackle
1x Storm Vermin with Strip Ball
2x Gutter Runner with +AG, Leap, Block
1x Gutter Runner with Dauntless, Horns
1x Rat-Ogre with RSC
1x Linerat with Kick
1x Linerat with Leader
1x Linerat with +AG
2x Linerats with Block
1x Linerat with Niggling
1x Linerat with –MA
TR: 191, TRR: 4, FF:11, Apothecary, 50K Treasury.
Wins: 10 Ties: 0 Loss: 1, Touchdowns scored: 32 Touchdowns received: 10, Completions: 17, CAS inflicted: 10, CAS received: 16 (11 after healing), Deaths suffered: 1
A last word
Be prepared that your Gutter Runners will most probably die not of Blocks/Blitzes thrown at them but due to a failed 2+ Dodge.