WD137 is a very good source of material for skavens including beastmasters as there is a lengthy article by Andy Chambers describing his then new skaven army. Andy´s army includes a pack of rat ogres and another pack with giant rats.
Andy Chambers points out in his article that you could in theory field colossal 48 rat-ogres if you wanted to. I really didn´t understand how he got that number. Eight teams,each with four handlers, each with six rat ogres: 8 x 4 x 6 = 192. But 8 x 6 =48. That could only mean that I´ve been completely wrong with the way how you count how many animal handlers you can have. I always thought that the number on top meant number of packs. And model per unit how many handlers you can have in a single pack. How embararssing - now I have to go back and rewrite parts of three previous articles. Hope no one noticed :D
But it´s always nice to learn something new. And this is yet again a good example of how 3rd edition WFB rules are perhaps not the most comprehensive ones out there.
So infact you can have up to 8 handlers divided in 2-8 units. Each handler can have 2-6 beasts in his control. This way you could build two units of 4 handlers and 24 rat-ogres.
The beast choise is pretty nice with rat-ogres and giant rats that only skavens get. Chaos hounds are powerfull as discussed in dark elf and chaos articles but there must be some mistake with the points per model value. For others the hounds cost 23 but for skaven only 20. Giant wolves are another cause of confusion. Points per model cost is given as 2 which is a lot less than their cost of 8 points in rulebook bestiary. I haven´t seen this corrected anywhere but 2 points per model just can´t be right. The points value should be corrected to 8.
And where are wolf-rats? WFB: Armies tells that they are Clan Moulder creations but don´t appear on skaven army list - anywhere!
What happened to wolf-rats?
The Pariedolia blog knows that: "Wolfrats, oddly, were excised from the army roster as of 4th edition and (besides a brief appearance in the Moulder Hell Pit army list in White Dwarf #310) were only recently re-introduced via Forgeworld and the 8th edition supplement Storm of Magic (infamous for also re-introducing Fimir and Zoats, albeit in a rather limited fashion)."
What I am seeing is that the wolf-rats for some reason never made any further than WFB: Armies bestiary. To make things even more curious Andy Chambers tells in the WD137 article that he is planning on converting some wolf-rats for his army. That would suggest to wolf-rats being a troop choise for skaven but I´m not seeing that in the WFB: Armies.
I would personally allow a skaven player to take wolf-rats as pack beasts. By the description in bestiary they are clan Moulder created creatures and in style much more skaven than normal giant wolves.
Rat-ogres and their handlers by Pete Taylor from WFB: Armies
Citadel did produce a set of handlers and pack creatures. The beast choises were giant rats and rat ogres. They were sculpted by none other than Jes Goodwin.
Skaven beastmaster page from the red famous catalogue of 1991.
Clan Moulder beastmasters were sold in blisters with either rat-ogres or giant rats. There was no giant wolf and chaos hound dedicated set produced. You can always use wolf riders or other wolves and chaos hounds from chaos/dark elf animal handler set if you want to use those.
The C22 skaven handlers sell normally for 3-9€ on ebay. A pack of 6 giant rats should cost you about 15€. Jes Goodwin rat-ogres can be purchased for a price of 16-20€ per model.
MM32 and Citadel goblin wolfboy wolf prises range normally 5-10€ each. In BC2 monster starter set there is a vicious giant wolf model that can be bought for less than 5€. FF69 giant wolf will sell for around 20€ and often comes with an orc rider. For wolves there are many allternatives from different manufacturers. Just google for warhammer wolf and choose the ones you like.
Chaos hounds are usually around 10€ BIN.
There is a Forgeworld wolf-rat set available at a price of £32 for five models.
A giant rat described here matches pretty well the models that were produced. Rats have good speed and because of venomous attacks great strenght. But their usability is somewhat reduced by their low WS. Propably the best thing about them is their cost - for just 2 points per model they are cheap. The empathy rule is a strange one in my opinion. I can understand it if rats were to act unlead but with a handler whipping them into action I don´t think empathy would really be an option for rats.
If you have read my earlier articles you propably know what I think about mutations. They are a nice addition but should be used with care. But that´s just me - I´m not telling you how run your game. D4-1 - that´s a lot of mutations.
Base size of 25 x 25 mm is nice as they do not take so much room on the battlefield as the 50 x 25 mm mounted collegues.
A big pack of rats from Tales From the Big Board
TacticsThe cost effective way to field giant rats is like Andy Chanmbers says - take maximum number of rats for each handler and divide them into units that support you battleplan. Small units for harrassing flanks, skirmishers or warmachines. Bigger ones for screening action and close combat against chosen targets. If you take the maximum unit size of 4 handlers and 24 rats you can get maximum rank bonuses that will help you against smaller enemy units. And can even take some casualties before you start losing those bonuses.
Rats are not that endurable and you can expect them to take losses from missiles and in hand to hand. Taking a big unit lets you take some damage before rolling for rout/panic. And with skaven handler profile you can expect to fail that roll.
A giant rat unit is propably something you field as expendaple. You sort of expect them to die or run eventually. Therefore I would unneccesarily boost their value by assigning them a character model of some sort. They are cannon fodder, a speed bump or a nuisance to enemy at best - don´t put more points there than is needed to do the job. Four handlers and 24 rats costs you just 86 points. I think that pretty good value for money.
A pair of beastmasters with giant rats. From Orcsbains miniature world.
Giant Rat Pro´s:
Unique to skavens
S3 + venomous
Giant Rat Con´s:
Low combat endurance
Strong profile for close combat. Rat-ogres cause fear which is a very good ability. If you win a round of combat and enemy is pushed back he is automatically routed. And when you charge the enemy of he charges your rat-ogres he has to for fear. Mutations are pretty rare as you get maximum of one on a D4-3 roll.
Some rat-ogres and beastmasters from Snickit´s Tail
Charge! You want to get your rat-ogres engaged in combat. Their WS is an average 3 but 2 attacks and good strenght will compensate. They are very tough with T5 and W3 but the handlers aren´t. Lucky missile fire can take the handlers out and then your rat-ogres are useless. I would really concider taking a hero to lead them. Both for sustainability and leadership bonus. Rat-ogres are a good substitute for heavy cavalry the skaven don´t have.
Some of LM´s beautiful rat-ogres.
Great close combat profile
Unique to skaven
Value per model
Vulnerability of handlers
So the rulebook bestiary tells us that giant wolves are almost as large as a horse. Well - the wolfboy wolves are pretty close to metal elven horses so I´m confortable with that. Base size is 25 x 50 mm. The bestiary description says nothing about skaven and points out that giant wolves are riding animals. Perhaps they were originally not thought to be used in a pack of beasts?
Giant wolves must always follow up and pursue as they are difficult to control. Being hungry for combat a unit of giant wolves must charge if they begin their movement phase within charge range of an enemy unit of half it´s size or more. This can be avoided by a 2D6 test versus units LD.
A minor weakness is that the giant wolves fear fire and must make a paniv test if attacked by fire weapons or if they come closer than 4" of a fire.
The point value feels a bit high. They are fast and have WS4 but are they really worth 8 points. Maybe.
As wolves are really fast and pretty good in close combat with WS4 you could use them as light cavalry. Threaten flanks, harrash skirmishers and war machines. Just keep in mind that you can only make that one maneuver per movement phase and that a big unit will take quite a lot of space. A small pack of wolves could perhaps be held back to protect you jezzail teams or warp fire throwers. With that M9 you should be able to charge first and buy time for weapon teams to do their work.
Once again T3 and no armor means that this type of pack is vulnerable to missiles.
Three BC2 Vicious wolves and a FF69 Giant wolf by Goblin Lee.
Giant wolf pro´s:
Giant wolf con´s:
No very skaven
Vulnerability compared to value
I know I´m repeating myself now with chaos hounds. Things saud here have been said in previous articles about dark elves and chaos.
The points value has to be a misprint and should say 23 as for darkies and chaos.
These dogs are deadly in close combat so you want to get them engaged. They are hard to kill with T4 and W2 but will propably draw missile fire as the enemy wants to take out the whelp masters and send the hound on their way to wilderness. Take a hero to lead the unit and concider armoring the handlers.
As chaos hounds are pretty valuable I wouldn´t waste them on harrassing skirmishers or war machines. Like rat-ogres they are a substitute for heavy cavalry so a simple staright forward advance followed by a charge should work. But once again - a large pack takes a lot of space.
A large pack of chaos hounds from Realms of Chaos blog.
Chaos hound pro´s
Look good in large packs
Very powerfull in close combat
Strong overall profile
Chaos hound con´s
Vulnerability of the handlers
Compared to ´normal´ giant rats wolf-rat have better WS but no venomous attack. They fear fire and are not affected by mutations even though the description says that they are horribly mutated.. Base size is 25 x 50 mm so your unit will become much larger. And they cost more than giant rats.
Pretty much the same applies here as for giant rats. Or for wood elf war hound packs that have almost the same profile as wolf-rats. I don´t see much sense in taking wolf-rats if you can field giant rats as rats cost less and can do the same things as wolf-rats.
Pirate Viking Painting blog Forgeworld wolf-rats.
Unique to skaven
Price compared to giant rats
No oldhammer models available