At the recent Warhammerfest Preview we got to see the new battletomes on the horizon: Skaven and Sylvaneth, along with a new character for Skaven and a Hero and 3 new units for Sylvaneth. What was not announced was the box Echoes of Doom which would introduce some of these, along with updated warscrolls, but that came shortly after.
The box contains a solid assortment of minis for both sides, though it has been pointed out and fairly so that the Sylvaneth side wins out here. Its more elite, has far more points, and gets 2 new units (One character and a unit of 5) as opposed to the Skaven’s one character. The box is still a solid foundation for new Skaven players, with the Stormvermin and Clan Rats you need, along with a Gray Seer and the new Deathmaster to start building up your leader.
The Deathmaster borrows the Hidden Weapons Teams rules from Broken Realms: Kragnos. You can hide him inside a clan rats or Stormvermin unit (writing it down on a piece of paper before you start) and then when it is the appropriate time he can pop out and attack at the start of the combat phase. If the unit is wiped before he gets to appear, then he simply appears with a wound allocated to him.
Damage wise he’s not great. 5 attacks at 3+/3+ Rend -1 Damage d3 isn’t the worst. His ranged attack is slightly worse, clocking in at a 4+/4+, Rend 0 Damage d3. In both cases, he does d3 mortal wounds on 6s to hit. What this means is his damage output is going to be wildly swingy. A 4+ save isn’t bad for skaven, but at only 5 wounds you want to really time that surprise appearance to keep him protected. As a bit of a bonus he can run and shoot, so he can keep throwing shurikens while maintaining a safe distance.
At 170 points I think he’s probably just a bit too expensive. He might gel better in the new book though, Games Workshop articulated in the recent preview they see Skaven as a high risk, high reward army so the wide damage range might fit in just fine. It’s also going to depend on how subfaction affinity is going to work in the upcoming book.
Clanrats, lowest of the low. These guys actually get a fair glow up for what they’re supposed to be: Crappy and disposable vermin meant to put a wall between your opponent and the guys who actually matter. First of note is that their save is now a flat 5+. Previously, they were 6+, but gained +1 if you had 10 or more models. Technically this was contingent on having shields, but there was never any reason you wouldn’t, an artifact of many early age of Sigmar scrolls. This means it’s possible to raise it as high as 4+, making them surprisingly durable in the right circumstances. They also gained the ability to gain d3 rats back at the end of the battleshock phase, so as long as they don’t all run in terror with their bravery 4, you can keep the mill going for quite some time.
They kept the rest of their tricks, retreat and charge and +2 to run makes them a very mobile force that can either hold the line if need be, or move from place to place as needed.
Like clanrats, these guys got their save integrated into the warscroll, starting them at a base of 4+. To differentiate them from just being better clan rats, they now get a 4+ Bodyguard rule, 2+ if the Hero is clan Verminus. Pretty great, honestly! Skaven lists frequently require a lot of very vulnerable, low wound Heroes to succeed so having a cheap and easily accessible bodyguard will go a long way in protecting them from shooting.
They’re a little better in combat too, bumped up to a 3+ to hit instead of a 4+, and all the retreat and run tricks as discussed on clan rats.
Grey Seer on Screaming Bell
This thing has vibes of its old version but functions wildly different from before. It’s been a fairly popular inclusion up to this point as a solid two-spell caster with some decent (but random) buffs for free in the form of its Peal of Doom. It now only casts one spell, but the buffs have been shuffled around substantially. The +1 to casting bonus or rolling a 7 is now built into the model itself at all times. The downside is it only grants it to itself, the upside is it scales, and at full health it grants +2 to casting to itself. Additionally, you can make it a Priest for the turn instead, if that suits you, and get +1 to chanting at full health.
It’s not entirely clear at this point how the priest thing works, since at the list building phase it counts as a Wizard you don’t get to memorize any spells, and the 2 generic prayers – Smite and Bless – aren’t very good and probably aren’t worth using over any spells you’d have access to. It’s possible the upcoming book will give some answers.
As for those buffs I mentioned, the table is very different now. Instead of 2d6, you just roll 1d6. This means that all buffs are equally possible to roll but it also means…they’re all equally possible to roll. Definitely leaning in more on the Skaven’s randomness. The buffs include:
- Take d3 Mortal Wounds. This is what I mean from it being more random, as this went from being something with a 1 in 36 chance of happening to 1 in 6. Good thing it’s got 15 wounds now while retaining it’s 5+ ward.
- Add 6″ to movement. Not ideal, but at least it isn’t d6″ anymore. In case you were wondering, yes the thing still requires you have rats nearby to pull it.
- -1 to hit for all enemy units within 13″. The scaling with damage Peal of Doom range is gone, replaced with a flat number so this is at least more predictable. A key wording choice here is that it can’t overlap with another Screaming Bell, if you were to run 2.
- Shut down command abilities within 13″ on a 5+. This one is entirely new and very interesting, whenever a model issues a command, you can shut it down on a 5+. It’s going to require a lot of set up to get it but you’ll probably be thankful for the rare times this does go off.
- Gains impact wounds on a 2+, D6 is pretty nifty but do you want this thing to be charging into combat? Looking at its attack stats….it’s not bad. I wouldn’t throw it at anything dangerous but it has a handful of Rend -1 hits that can chip some damage off.
- Finally, the 1 Mortal wound option has been dropped to just leave the D3 mortal wound option for every enemy unit within 13″ on a 4+. Not bad, especially if you move it into the middle of a crowd.
So where’s the Verminlord summoning? It’s been replaced with one of the strangest mechanics I think I’ve seen in modern Sigmar. When the bell has taken at least 7 wounds, you may choose to shatter the bell and roll a die. If the number you roll, when added to the wound count, is more than 12 you summon a Verminlord for free. If you roll less, nothing happens but the bell is shattered and if you roll a 1 on the die, the Model is destroyed. Regardless of what happens, you can’t use the crack’s call spell or Peal of Doom anymore.
In short you’re trying to edge it as close to death as possible before pulling the emergency ripcord to get a free Verminlord in, very interesting mechanic, with a 5+ Ward it’s very possible your opponent can do sufficient damage to it but not bring it down, allowing you to hit the emergency button. Genuinely better than hoping for a 1 in 36 roll.
Overall, good stuff. Makes an already viable model even better and more interesting to use, with a lot more highs and lows to show for it. Didn’t even go up in price, though whether that will hold for the battletome remains to be seen.
The Lady of Vines
The Lady of Vines returns from her role in the Realmgate Wars series back in 1st edition, now as a playable character and she is an interesting Battle-Wizard. Certain parts of her are going to make her a strong take, but there’s a lot of nasty drawbacks. First, the good. Her Warscroll spell is stellar, granting a 5+ Ward within 12″, making her basically baby Teclis. She’s decent in combat, With 7 Rend -1 attacks (3 dealing D3 damage and 4 dealing a flat 2) and can grant +1 to hit against or -1 to to hit for an enemy unit she is engaged with. So, properly supported by something with more bite, she can certainly hold her own.
Summoning 10 Dryads for free is a nice bonus, shame it’s not in the box. Being a mobile wyldwood within 6″ means its a tight squeeze, but hands out some buffs without being locked in place. Unfortunately, 10 wounds is a terrible place to be, as thats the cut off for being hidden by Wyldwoods and Look Out Sir, so if she can’t get off her warscroll spell she’s liable to be very vulnerable to ranged fire.
The final new unit and…this is a weird one. The shooting basically kinda sucks, 2 shots per model (plus one for the leader, natch) and its a all Rend 0 Damage 1 shots with some real spiking in the form of d3 mortals on 6s to hit, so likely somewhere between 1-2 of your shots on average. They’re only 12″ range, which requires them to get uncomfortably close and quite frankly they are not durable enough to be doing that.
Where they really will come in to their own is as a screen. After performing Unleash Hell they can immediately retreat on a 2+. With their 12″ movement this grants a lot of flexibility. They’ll be basically impossible to charge reliably for many opponents, who will be left holding the bag as their troops sit in the middle of the field with nothing to hit, and you follow up with your own charge next turn. 215 isnt a bad price for them either, their role is just exceedingly specific and niche.
The Spirit of Durthu
Durthu stands out as one of the genuinely good units in what is considered an underpowered book, and he largely gets away pretty well here. He got 2 more wounds and his damage hasn’t changed but he now takes 6 wounds to drop down a bracket instead of 3, which will makes him dangerous for a bit longer.
The bad news is comparatively minor. He now only gets +1 to attacks with his sword, instead of +2. On the plus side, it now includes overgrown mystic terrain, and with the Lady of Vines he has a mobile Wyldwood. While it may be fewer attacks, it’s easier to keep up than before.
The one people will really feel is the change to Groundshaking Stomp, previously just an ability he had it has predictably been changed to a Monstrous action instead. Rather unfortunate, but expected. I think it’ll remain the defacto choice, simply because forcing fight-last on an opponent is exceedingly powerful especially if its not your turn.
He took a 50 point price hike for this and honestly? Probably still worth it.
Kurnoth Hunters with Bows
Sadly, the box only has rules for bows, and not the melee variants. Kurnoth Hunters have probably seen some of the craziest whiplash in the game, they used to be the backbone of the army, but when 3rd edition changed their reroll saves ability to just +1s they dropped off a lot, in favor of more monster mash heavy lists.
So whatTheir bows do a flat 2 damage now instead of d3. While it averages out to the same, consistency is key and knowing you’ll do a bunch of damage 2 shots tends to be be easier to estimate over utterly random damage rolls.
Their abilities have been completely revamped. Tanglethorn Thicket is now entirely gone, instead they got the 3+ save they probably always should have had. Envoy of the Everqueen previously let them function as mobile totems, casting command abilities “through” them. This has sort of become redundant now that unit champions/elites can cast things onto their own unit. Instead, now when Kurnoth hunters get All Out Attack or All Out Defense they can channel that into another unit within 12″ on a 4+. Key point, this works even if that unit already received a command ability! Breaking the action economy has potentially huge benefits, even if it only works half the time. This ability will presumably be on the melee versions in the future, if so it’ll be easier to coordinate fire.
Ultimately they still won’t be doing a ton of damage since they will still cap out 14 damage and that’s if everything goes through, but they make a respectable support unit that will probably make the melee versions far more powerful again.
Honestly everything here is… pretty good. This is an interesting box because both armies are considered near the bottom of the tier list and few debate that they needed the update. The battletome will likely be necessary to see how it all comes together but everything here is either an upgrade or at least an interesting side grade. If this box is a sign of things to come I think players will be very happy.
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