by Milo Sharp (www.blood-bowl.net)
The vicious Skaven live far beneath the Olde World in their burrows and warrens, but occasionally venture above ground to plunder, pillage, or play Blood Bowl! The Skaven Blood Bowl game revolves around their blistering speed, frequently scoring four or more touchdowns within a single game. Their fascination with the mystical warpstone leads to a greater than normal incidence of mutations within the Skaven species, and the best of these are put to use on the Blood Bowl pitch.
Starting with the obvious advantage, Skaven are fast. With a base of 7 MA for even their basic player, the Skaven have speed unequaled by any team in the league except Wood Elves. Gutter Runners, like Wood Elf catchers, are only a skill and a movement increase away from being able to score in a single turn. It could be argued that Skaven are faster even than the Wood Elves, because they have easier access to movement increases via the mutation Very Long Legs.
Access to mutations is another advantage for the ratmen. As mentioned above, it boosts the likelihood of a speed increase from 1-in-12 to almost 1-in-4, but that’s not the only desirable mutation. Big Hand is incredibly useful for retrieving the ball from lots of tackle zones, and Stunty can allow a Gutter Runner free access to practically the entire pitch. Claw and Razor Sharp Fangs will allow your Skaven to clear the field of their enemies in record time, and even Spikes will help you offset one of the biggest disadvantages of the Skaven—their low armor value.
Storm Vermin should not be overlooked by a Skaven coach, regardless of how appealing the Gutter Runners may be. It is the opinion of many a coach—and not just Skaven ones—that Storm Vermin are among the best blitzer-type players in the entire game. Their movement allowance of 7 is better than many blitzers, and the access to physical abilities allows for Horns, Claw or Razor Sharp Fangs to enhance the innate abilities of the Storm Vermin. The job of a blitzer is to blitz, essentially, and the high speed of the Storm Vermin allows them to do so with aplomb. How many times have you seen a blitzer have to go for it to get the extra point of movement to put a tackle zone on a ballcarrier, or—better yet—to knock the ballcarrier over? With Storm Vermin, you can frequently save yourself another risky dice roll.
Last but not least, many coaches overlook the fact that the Skaven are the only team with access to all five skill categories, making them one of the most well-rounded teams. They have access to some of the best catchers available, and some pretty good throwers as well, making their air game almost as potent as their running game.
In a nutshell: fragility. Skaven suffer from having some of the weakest armor in the game, leaving them vulnerable to high player attrition rates. It can frequently become difficult to field a full team near the end of a game against a rough-and-tumble team, and injuries on key personnel can leave your offense somewhat shaky. To offset this, try to score early and often, and take a Magic Item card when possible in the hopes of drawing Healing Scroll, Magic Helmet, or Magic Sponge.
Unlike the other big air teams, Skaven do not have Throwers with 4 AG. This can make passing, particularly early in a season, somewhat risky. Stick with quick and short passes until you can acquire the Accurate skill for your Thrower (or better yet, an agility increase.) Once you have Accurate or Strong Arm, you’ll have more flexibility for future plays.
Although these may not seem to be tremendous disadvantages, any experienced Skaven coach will warn you to be careful not to get too attached to your vermin. A run-in with a high-powered “crunchy” team can leave a Skaven team in ruins. Save your apothecary for deaths and draw plenty of Random Events to bring in the cash you will undoubtedly need to replace your wounded players.
Most Skaven coaches, at some point or another, develop a Gutter Runner capable of scoring in one turn. With a 9 MA and the ability to sprint two squares, a rookie Gutter Runner can come within two squares of the endzone in one turn’s worth of running from the line of scrimmage. All that is needed to make a one-turn scorer out of him is any combination of two of the following: Very Long Legs, Sprint, or a movement increase. If you are taking the Sprint skill, you would be wise to also take Sure Feet. In a pinch, the Speed of Light or Magic Pills Magic Item cards will substitute for one of these. (And you should already be taking a Magic Item card hoping for one of the healing cards mentioned above.) You never know when you’ll have one turn left to score before the end of the half or game; it’s nice to have the ability to do so. Furthermore, it’s certain to make your opponent nervous when he knows you have that capability, and may force a mistake.
Use your high movement wisely. Tackle zones are the bane of Skaven, because they tie your players up, negating your primary advantage. Keep your defensive formations loose, so you can better react to whatever your opponent does. Whenever possible, keep your players away from the opposing team and look for a mistake to be made. Few coaches prepare for the possibility of a Skaven breakthrough, and can frequently be caught flat-footed when a turnover is made. If possible, circle a player or two around the rear of your opponent’s formation to harass him; if you can break the ball free from your opponent, you can also use them as receivers for a pass which ought to put them out of reach of retaliation.
Score whenever possible. Attempt to delay your opponent only when you clearly have an advantage or when you honestly believe you can prevent an opponent from scoring before the end of the half/game. A high scoring game favors the Skaven, as their high MA should keep you ahead of or equal to your opponent. Any game in which the Skaven score less than three times should be considered a poor performance, regardless of the outcome. Remember, touchdowns bring more star player points than any other player action. More touchdowns also means more changes to get players out of the KO box, which should not be overlooked.
Famous Skaven Teams
The Skaven Scramblers
Fifth Column Tunnelers
The Rattsburgh Squeelers