Out of the Box: Skarrd
This time we're looking at playing your brand new Skarrd Starter set! Join us for the lowdown on the tactics for playing, and playing against, these fierce wasteland warriors!
Mr. Black here, once again Dear Readers, and this time let's look at the Skarrd Starter.
As with the other starters, the Skarrd box gives you a taste of how the faction plays as well as a look into the visual appeal of such a group- We have the twisted amalgamations of the Grafters at their finest here, as shown with the Harpies and the Grafter herself, and we display the raw melee punch that the Buzzblades and Golab bring to the table.
Remember, as you're reading this and playing, that Skarrd are a melee faction at heart, boasting the lowest number of Ranged Abilities currently in the game; they want to get into the thick of combat as fast and swiftly as they can and reign down terror and bloodshed upon the enemy.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the contents:
We start with the Grafter, the mad architect of Skarrd society. With just a cursory glance we see the Grafter's stats are decent, but nothing to write home about: marginal DF, AR, PS, all that- it looks average across the board, and it is, to be honest. But that is due to the fact that the Grafter isn't meant to be a front line fighter, not at all- she let's her creations do that.
Basically, as you look more into the Force Organization book, you will see many of the more "creative" Skarrd units require that a Grafter be present in your force: Harpies, Sister of Charity, Abominations, and Drillheads, just to name a few- all require a Grafter to be purchased in order to field.
So, if you want to look at it like that, then the Grafter is the key that unlocks the Skarrd toy-chest, and if you wish to view that as her sole role and nothing else then fine, I understand, but do note, you have just fallen into the pitfall so many others do of underestimating the simple Grafter, and you're going to pay for that mistake- in not only blood but in body parts as well.
What do I mean? Well, as I said, one of the best tools the Grafter has is a rather passive stat-line- especially when compared to the monsters she brings to the table. Most of the time you're opponent is going to focus on the horde of Drillheads burrowing towards them, or the hulking Abomination firing off missiles as it advances. These things are big, shiny, and scream "dangerous", while the tiny Grafter is just slinking along the sidelines, waiting for an opening.
Take a look at her one Attack Group: the Crushing Claw. 4x2 is nothing to ignore, and the fact that once she hits you she will keep on hitting you (due to the Crush ability) means that even the heaviest armored units stand to suffer a wound or two on her behalf, and remember, one to two wounds is by and large the average around here. So an unassuming opponent may very well just find the head of their precious Saint or Brood monstrosity being squeezed to death under the vice grip of the "harmless" Grafter!
Overall, the Grafter is a necessary component of most Skarrd lists to allow us to bring out the big guns, but don't neglect her or just throw her away during the game: Each and every unit is deadly, and the Grafter is no exception. Let your opponent forget about her, let them assume she is a push over, and when their back is turned rip out their spine with a well placed Power Claw!
Coming up next we have the Golab, who acts as the heavy hitter for the Skarrd starter. High AR, respectable DF (especially given its size!) and two prime weapons to choose from the Golab can be a real terror on the battlefield, especially when fielded in groups. Fortunately for your opponent you only bring one to bare in the starter, unfortunately, it's still a hulking powerhouse that will tear apart anything that stands in its way!
As mentioned before, the Golab's stats are very impressive- and that is a good way to sum up this guy: He is a big blob of muscle and hate. The downside? His PS score is low, and without a willful Individual around (Grafter!) he may just decide to up and run- and we don't want that.
Looking at his attacks we have two options, depending on the situation and the threat he needs to kill: A Heavy Sword and a Power Claw. Now, "Which to use and when?" is of course the question on everyone's mind, so let's get that out of the way:
When to Use Heavy Sword
He has a nice AS: 9 with the Sword, which partners well with its PW: 9. What this means is that the Sword is better to be used against those lightly armored harder-to-hit troops. Usually in the case of such threats they will have a low DF as well as a low AR, meaning that they rely on not getting hit to stay alive. Well the Golab brings a build in 45% to hit (9 out of 20) before even factoring in their DF. Combine that with the average AR on such units (let's say 14, which mean they're only saving 25% of the time- 5/20) and you stand a very good chance of hurting them- not even factoring in other bonuses such as Gang Up or Charging, which make you hit even more reliably and even harder!
When to Use Power Claw
Unlike the Sword, the Claw has a slightly lower chance to hit in exchange for Crush and a 7x2 PW hit. I know many will jump at my previous comment on the Sword, saying that Crush makes more reliable against low DF models, but let's remember: you have to hit them first! Sure, you can risk it with the Claw, but the Sword is more reliable, and the Golab doesn't exactly have AP to just sling around! Use the Claw against those high DF high AR targets: Hit them once and them let your Crush ability do the rest of the work, as even AR 20 will fail more saves than not against the might of a 7x2 PW hit!
Overall, the Golab is your brute strength on the table- send him after your high priority targets or the opponents that the rest of your force may have trouble with. Remember though, the Skarrd don't fight fair, and if you need to swarm something in Harpies before the Golab jump in for a Gang Up bonus, then by all means take advantage of that weakened opponent! You're playing Skarrd, remember that, such notions as a "fair fight" are laughable when all that matters is survival!
Ah the humble Buzzblade, the basic foot trooper of the Skarrd army. For a cheap 25 points you get another warm body on the table, and that is a fact that few other factions can claim. More so, you can purchase a Sister of Charity to really turn these guys into something formidable in the form of Charity's Zeal or Might, and if you really want to get nuts we have Dominique (with the Cult of Metamorphosis) who can take a squad of Zeals or Mights and further upgrade them into something altogether more... unique... But I think I said too much there...
Buzzblades, sans upgrades are of course nothing to be cast aside either- but you need to remember that strength in numbers is their biggest advantage- they are cheap, numerous, and unlimited in the amounts you can take. Feel free to just flood the table in a rampaging horde of bloodthirsty madmen (and women!)
Of course, the main thing with Buzzblades is that they can be upgraded- this is what's going to happen to them most of the time anyway. But we'll speak of that later, because right now we're focusing on the starter. So, given that, what is their role? Well in the starter they fill the role of grunt infantry, or a nice shield for your more important characters (the Golab and Grafter, namely). Basically you can treat these guys as mobile cover, ranged attack soakers, and a quick bonus when you need Gang-Up.
Like a lot of the Skarrd faction, you have cheap and plentiful units backed by powerful Individuals- nowhere else is that exemplified more than with the Buzzblades. It is worth noting, however, that for their points the Buzzblades are a remarkably good deal, boasting decent AR and AS, while backed up by the Cannibal rule, which does go some way in assisting in their survivability. But in the end you get what you pay for, and while the Buzzblades are certainly great for their points they are not going to win you any games on their own. Use them as a vanguard for your powerful units, or as bodyguards for your more tactical (or fragile) figureheads. And of course, as with all your minions, don't be afraid to toss a few dozen into the meat-grinder if it means coming out a head in the end.
The Harpies get a mixed review by players: Some view them as useless fodder when you can take more Buzzblades, and some see them for what they actually are: tactical reinforcements and objective grab/denial.
I will admit, on first glance a lot of people do cast the Harpies aside, but I shake my head every time I see this because it usually means the person is playing them wrong. That may have sounded a bit blunt, but that's how it is: the Harpies have a complex role, maybe more than any other Skarrd unit, and it can be hard to see without experience!
Ok, so what makes Harpies good? Well looking at their stat-line we see... Oh wow, ok, let's not dwell on that too long. Average AP and MV, a decent DF, terrible AR and PS. But also only 30 points! ...Five points more than a Buzzblade, who has seemingly better stats and the ability to be upgraded to Zeal or Mights... Well, they have a high damage AG though! Oh... Wait, AS 5 PW: 3... Huh, that's not great...
And do you see what just happened? You were ready to toss them out and move right on to something else! Shame on you! But I don't blame, I see players do that all the time- they're not impressive on the surface so just move along. And that's a shame, because the Harpies fill a role unlike anything else in the whole of Dark Age!
Gliding Deployment allows the Harpies to appear where they are needed and reliably when they are needed. Your backfield lose a big engagement and now you're being flanked? Harpies. Your opponent is about to get their Objective back to their Deployment Zone and win the game? Harpies. You need just a little more power to bring down your opponent's big and nasty Individual? Harpies!
Harpies act as a stopgap, a quick solution, or a clever distraction, when you need it. No, Harpies are not a unit that will usually survive till the end of the game, but they shouldn't be looked at as such- they are a seeker missile. Send them down to accomplish a goal (even if that goal is just waste opponent's activations dealing with them!) and then forget about them. Should they live and continue fighting then so be it, but don't expect it!
These are a suicide unit in the finest sense: cheap, mobile, and dangerous in numbers. Remember how we balked at that PW: 3? Well with Vault they can come from unexpected angles (over all, hell, over buildings!) and deliver a PW: 5 hit, plus additional attacks! Take your group of three Harpies: the first Vaults in, two PW: 5 strikes, followed by four more PW: 3s, next one comes in, add some PW to the additional strikes (But remember: Vault does not get Gang Up bonuses!), rinse and repeat. By the time you're done your "meager" Harpies will be hitting at AS: 7 PW: 5 with an upwards of six attacks each!
Literally drown your opponent in Harpy swarms so the whole combat is a mess of claws and, well, more claws. Five Harpies cost a mere 150 points, and I guarantee you can kill any model worth those same points if they all activate first. Remember, they may not appear as much individually, but there is a reason why I call a "flock" of Harpies a "murder".
Expanding Your Forces
290 points in the starter, how do we bring that to 500? Well first we have to decide if we want to delve into one of the Cults: Blood, Toxin, Metamorphosis, or if we want to remain generic. One thing I find is that the Skarrd have such a huge array of options that players can often get overloaded with "Too much cool stuff!!" syndrome and lose focus of their actual army. Now, don't get me wrong, picking what looks cool is certainly a way to go (and once more, I fully back that it matters more how you play what you bring, rather than simply what you bring to the table), but we want a force that can handle all comers without getting too bogged down. That being said, here are some example forces:
Cult of Blood
2x Blood Mistress (90)
1x Red (60)
3x Harpy (90)
3x Buzzblade (75)
--Blood Reign (50)
1x Grafter (50)
1x Golab (75)
Adding to our initial list we have Red, two Blood Mistresses, and a Blood Reign. Now what we have here is the added benefit of making our Buzzblades bonafide Cult of Blood members, thus giving them the lovely benefits of that Cult (meaning they will get stronger the more that dies around them!).
Next we have Red, assassin of the Blood Cult, who's unique ability allows him to pop out where ever he is needed and reign some havoc- and if he fails and just dies, well that's a strategic Blood Marker you've now placed on the table, and playing the Blood Cult you will very quickly gain an appreciation for the ability to make Blood Markers spontaneously appear on the board!
From here you can swap out some units for others or expand the force to 750, adding in the heavy hitters such as Father Mayhem or a Blood Abomination. My personal favorite is simply adding in more Buzzblades, as the Blood Cult benefits alone add up to make them extremely dangerous if left unchecked!
Cult of Toxin
2x Toxic Mistress (110)
3x Harpy (90)
5x Buzzblade (125)
1x Grafter (50)
1x Golab (75)
Here we've added two Spray/Stream attacking Toxic Mistresses, a few more Buzzblades, and a Kaustic to accompany them. The Kaustic gives the Buzzblades the benefits of the Cult of Toxin and a nice defense in the form of a Smoke Cloud (while simultaneously harming your opponents).
Combine that with the sheer effectiveness of the Mistresses and you have a potent force that hurts at both range and melee, all the while having extra support where it is needed in the form of the Harpys and wandering Golab.
Expanding from here we definitely want to see Father Curwin make an appearance, as he is one of the most versatile Cult members. Also consider Chitin or Leisa, as everyone loves a good Infiltrator or Assassin. Otherwise the addition of another Toxix Mistress is never a bad call, as, unfortunate as it may be, the price you pay for such devastating firepower is that it often can blow up in your face!
3x Harpy (90)
3x Buzzblade (75)
1x Sister of Charity (60)
1x Grafter (50)
1x Golab (75)
1x Fetish Bearer (65)
1x Drillhead (85)
Here we have a good taste of what Skarrd have to offer. Adding a Drillhead means you're adding another major heavy hitter to join your Golab, and one that can be a real pain to deal with once it Burrows into the ground! In addition to that your Buzzblades have now been upgraded to either Charity's Might, for added hitting power, or Charity's Zeals, for a swifter attack force- and, to top all that off, you have a Fetish Bearer, who acts to bolster each and every unit in your army (ok, not every unit- the Grafter and Sister aren't affected!).
One of the major benefits here is you gain the use of a Sister of Charity, which in all honesty is one of my favorite units in the game for the sheer melee punch it brings- Too often have my opponents just shrugged at her, thinking she is just a passing buff to my Buzzblades... Far too late they find the full might of her 4 AP, 6x2 Sawblade coming down and cutting them to pieces!
She is a real threat, and expect your opponent to begin targeting here once they see just what kind of power she has! Of course, by the time they do this (hopefully), her precious toys will have made it up close enough to launch a devastating counterattack of their own!
Cult of Metamorphosis
3x Harpy (90)
3x Buzzblade (75)
2x Fallen Angel (80)
1x Grafter (50)
1x Golab (75)
1x Grafter's Apprentice (Charity's Training) (50)
1x Dominique (75)
In carrying with Johann's teaching the Cult excels in the grafting arts, and this here gives you a good taste of how it all runs down. The standard Buzzblades have been upgraded all the way to Dominique's Playthings, care of the Grafter's Apprentice and Dominique herself, and thus have become a real threat to the enemy, as well as one of the hardest and fasted units in your army.
Adding to them we have Dominique herself, who can Take Charge of the unit and lead them fully into battle, creating a threat your opponent must focus on if they wish to avoid annihilation, and since Dominique is just a named Sister of Charity, all the buffs and praises I gave to that unit also apply to her!
Finishing off our 500 points we have two Fallen Angels, who act as flankers and disruptors amongst the enemy force- with use of their Flesh Hooks they can move along side enemy units and snag targets, dragging them off and out of coherency (assuming they live, of course), meaning the unit wont have an option but to turn and face the new threat, or suffer the negative effects of doing so. Of course, that only happens if their target even survives their onslaught- they may just die and then the entire unit suffers from panic due to the Horrible Death rule.
Expanding from here we'll probably add Quietus, as Johann is just too expensive without removing a decent selection from our force- of course, don't let that stop you. If you want to ad him feel free, but we will have to trim the fat, so to speak, so fit his staggering point cost in there. Other alternatives would be an Abomination or a Juggernaut, which both can add some needed ranged capabilities to the army, and depending on playstyle.
The Skaard have lots of options as far as their arsenal is concerned, and boast many different army paths that you as a player can pursue. Of course, it will all depend on the type of army you wish to play, whether it be Generic, Blood, Metamorphosis, or Toxin, but in the end some universal truths emerge: the Skarrd are a faction of ruthless Individuals leading a mongrel horde of madmen and monsters- it doesn't matter how many nameless faces you have to throw into the fire, as long as your Individuals survive to continue their work.
That is the key to Skarrd, in so many words- Sacrificing what you must to achieve your goals. Skarrd have an abundance of cheap and disposable units- more so than most any other faction. Make use of their lives and, if you have to toss a few units to the wolves to achieve a full victory, then you should feel proud that you have the capability to do so. In the end the Skarrd embody raw physical violence, and it should be remembered that for all the guns and technology of the Forsaken, for all the enhanced biomorphs of the Brood, it matters little when a Buzzblade is cleaving your head open with a Crude Club. -Mr. Black