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The Skaven are a subterranean anthropomorphic rat race found in the popular table-top battle game Warhammer.
Skaven in the Warhammer world
The Skaven in the fictional world of Warhammer are found underneath all regions, though they were driven out of certain regions, especially the Southern continent of Lustria. In their underground lairs, they are described as a teeming horde, well capable of conquering the world above if they would ever stop fighting each other. To take over the world is the Skaven's ultimate goal. This is commanded by the Grey Seers, magicians who serve as prophets for the deity known as the Horned Rat.
Power is split between the Grey Seers and the rulers of the Warlord Clans, who vie for power among themselves. Clans are constantly at war with each other, fighting for slaves, territory and power in general. The strongest Warlords can become Lords of Decay, and sit on the Council of Thirteen, a group that rules the Skaven. The Council of Thirteen includes the eleven most powerful Warlords, as well as the most powerful Grey Seer. The thirteenth seat is symbolically saved for the Horned Rat itself. The four most powerful of the Warlord Clans also contribute specialist troops to the other clans. Clan Pestilens is adept at spreading disease, Eshin excels at producing assassins, Moulder creates giant monsters, and Skyre builds bizarre war machines.
Though the Skaven's exact creation in the Warhammer world has not been told, they are generally known to have been formed when rats or humans, or a combination, came in contact with Warpstone, a form of Chaos, a malevolent force in the Warhammer world. Though generally considered villains, the Skaven have been known to work on the side of right, if it serves their purpose.
Skaven in the Warhammer game
The Skaven are generally considered a swarm or horde army. The troops generally have weak stat lines, but low point costs. The army also allows players to use more cowardly or underhanded tactics, such as allowing characters to lead from the back or shooting into their own ranks. The first rule of commanding a Skaven army is that all members of the army are expendable.
Skaven armies are also well known for requiring a lot of luck with dice to do well. The army list's spell miscasts and war machine misfires are notoriously unforgiving. Whereas other armies usually roll to see whether or not they can cast or fire again, the Skaven commander often finds himself rolling to find out how many troops the misroll will cost him.
- Skaven at Wikipedia