The Skaven are, of course, the fourth race in Total War: Warhammer 2. The delightful rat-hordes will bring their war machines to the gates of Ulthuan in an attempt to corrupt the High Elf strongholds and claim the vortex for themselves. To ordinary city-folk the denizens of the Horned Rat are a myth—an innumerable host of giant rat-people that live just under our greatest cities? Preposterous!
But then the disease comes, along with a surge in rat-men sightings (lunacy brought about by their afflictions, surely?) and then, the invasion, led by hordes of clan rats, supported by giant rat ogres, hideous siege engines and the occasional doomwheel—a big hamster wheel with guns on it, the perfect rodent revenge fantasy.
Total War: Warhammer 2 lets you use all these units of course, there’s no way The Creative Assembly would pass up on the chance to include some of the weirdest Skaven units (see below). The Skaven also have a few special rules on the strategic map to separate them from their their TW:W2 competitors: the big lizards, the haughty elves and the naughty elves.
Skaven spread their own form of corruption in territories they inhabit. Corruption increases the level of civil unrest (to the extent that any Skaven society is civil), but you get battlefield benefits as a tradeoff. In heavily corrupted zones the Skaven presence is so insidious that you can summon units from underground in the middle of a battle. You can accelerate corruption by constructing specialised buildings in Skaven settlements.
The Skaven aren’t motivated by gold or glory. Their primary resource is food. You can use food surpluses to grow Skaven settlements very quickly on the world map, but if food runs low, expect your population to get extra ratty.
You can find out more about how the Skaven, and the other three factions, operate in Total War: Warhammer 2 in the upcoming issue of PC Gamer UK, in stores on August 24. In the meantime let’s take a look at some of the units that appeared in yesterday’s Skaven reveal trailer.
Hell pit abomination
The trailer finishes with a black dragon getting clobbered by a Skaven hell pit abomination. A faction of Skaven, known as Clan Moulder, love to experiment with Skaven biology to create hideous and destructive battlefield forces. The hell pit abomination is the peak of their efforts. It could feasibly take a dragon.
The trailer shows its ability in melee, but I wonder if Total War: Warhammer 2 will incorporate some of the tabletop rules into the game. If a hell pit abomination dies there’s a chance it will explode into hundreds of rats, or just heal back up and keep whomping.
The rat that plants a ramp for the Doomwheel in the trailer deserves a raise, whatever that looks like for a Skaven, an extra leg to chew on? Skaven love to build mad things, and the doomwheel is as elaborate as their inventions get. It is powered by a rat horde running around the inside of the wheel. It is piloted by one panicked rat inside the wheel who definitely can’t see where he’s going. The wheel seems to act as a dynamo, powering the warp cannons hooked up to the front. These zap nearby enemies with bolts of green warpfire. It also runs over enemies real well. These will look great slamming into big blocks of infantry.
‘Bonging bell’ would be more apt given its presentation in the trailer, but there is no missing this bizarre war engine. On the tabletop the bell can have random effects on nearby friends and enemies. It might buff your magic output, it might harm nearby enemies, it might hurt itself. I’d guess it will have a more predictable effect in game. I don’t know why rats have an affinity for bells, but that’s Warhammer for you.
Warpfire is a kind of bright green magical napalm. It is created using warpstone, which is an evil substance used as a mechanical component to power machines and turbo-charge Skaven beasts. Anything it touches melts and corrupts instantly. Warpstone kind of arcane, but also mechanically useful, so it sits right at the middle of their interests. If only it was edible. Actually, there’s no way the Skaven haven’t tried to eat it.
Anyway, it is very bad. In the tabletop game you can choose to overcharge them and do even more damage. However the giant tank the rearguard rat carries has a chance of exploding—a fitting death for a cruel and unusual weapon.