Coming next week, two new warbands, as well as their dice and sleeves, enter the cursed city of Shadespire. The Chosen Axes and Spireclaw's Swarm, you can get your preorder in now!
Available in store from the 17th February 2018
Warband £17.50, Dice set £6, Sleeves £5
Spiteclaw's Swarm are, paws down, Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire's most devious warband. Where other adventurers in Shadespire might use brute strength or stalwart defence to accomplish their objectives, the skaven excel at scurrying around their foe before making deadly opportunistic strikes.
Core to Spiteclaw's Swarm is Skritch Spiteclaw, a fast-moving leader with a powerful ranged attack and the ability to bring back friendly fighters – representing the teeming hordes of skaven at his command. Skritch is a little more fragile than some other leaders, but is one of the fastest and most flexible, well-suited to either assassination or holding down your own territory.
Krrk is Skritch's chief bodyguard, and possesses some surprisingly bulky defensive stats to match. Going up to 2 Block when Inspired, with a couple of upgrades, Krrk can quite easily be given comparable durability to a Stormcast Eternal, and is essential for blocking enemies or grabbing particularly dangerous objectives.
The Hungering Skaven is the first of the "generic" skaven in Spiteclaw's Swarm. As you'd expect from the ratmen, his characteristics are nothing to write home about, but when Inspired, his chances of landing or dodging a critical hit are not inconsiderable. Hungering Skaven can transition into a deadly (if fragile) fighter – one your opponent might underestimate – if given the right objectives late in the game.
The Lurking Skaven is a fragile fighter with fairly lacklustre offensive characteristics, but a surprisingly high Defence. While 2 Dodge might not be enough to rely on every time you get attacked, it could well stop a key blow getting through, and that makes this fighter a great option to hold forward objectives in the first few turns of the game.
The Festering Skaven occupies something of a middle ground between its two brethren, possessing acceptable Defence when Inspired, excellent Move and fairly unreliable Attacks. Nevertheless, it's very handy for lending Support, and there are a few upgrades that can make this fighter surprisingly capable.
As you can probably see, the skaven are a swarm warband, using their two elite fighters to do the bulk of the heavy lifting in combat, while the lesser fighters can be used to capture objectives or provide support for their allies. Like the Sepulchral Guard, some skaven fighters can be brought back, but unlike the Sepulchral Guard, this can be done on ANY starting hex – including your enemy's! Anyone pushing into your territory could suddenly have to deal with skaven emerging from their own, and Spiteclaw's Swarm is particularly hard to pin down in the late game – when fighters tend to be sparse and more spread-out – for this reason.
Spiteclaw's Swarm also features a very unusual Inspire mechanic, Inspiring whenever they're chosen by a ploy – regardless of who used it. This places both you and your opponent in a very interesting position – is a push worth using if the skaven it's used on is going to become more powerful? In this way, your warband has an inherent defence against your enemy's key plays, while you'll be able to control when you Inspire your own fighters by stacking your ploy deck with plenty of "choose a friendly fighter" ploys.
Talking of ploys, Spiteclaw's Swarm features a range of unique cards that allow them to unleash all manner of devious tricks and traps upon the foe. One of our favourites is Skaven Courage, which allows you a free Attack action for surrounding a foe – simple enough with such a fast-moving and numerous warband!
On the other hand, Musk of Fear is a nifty ploy that puts a friendly fighter on Guard, and, crucially, will usually Inspire them. This means that throughout the next action phase, they'll be able to benefit from two defensive dice which will only fail on rolling Support symbols – and that's assuming the fighter in question is unsupported. With ploys like this, you'll easily make up for the inherent fragility of your warband.
As has been said, the three "generic" skaven aren't much to write home about – at least, at the start of the game. With some cunning upgrades, however, you'll be able to make them surprisingly deadly. One of the best is the Hungering Skaven's Black Hunger, offering another point of damage and causing his Range 1 Attacks to strike every adjacent fighter – friend or foe. Stack this with Daemon Weapon, Shadeglass Sword, or any alternative weapon or Attack action you prefer, and you could cause significant damage to your opponent's warband.
Bodyguard for a Price, on the other hand, makes Skritch Spiteclaw himself eye-wateringly hard to displace and allows you to move forward much more aggressively in the later turns of the game.
Finally, Aversion to Death can make taking out one of your fighters a surprisingly risky prospect, allowing you to swarm onto objectives – or a foe – when one of your skaven dies.
The skaven suit a variety of playstyles, but it looks like they're well-placed as a counter to the ruthlessly offensive lists currently sweeping Grand Clashes across the world – avoiding direct conflict, dashing to the far corners of the board to take objectives, and generally being intensely difficult to deal with! In the hands of cunning Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire players, we think they'll be very dangerous indeed…
The mighty Skritch Spiteclaw is no ordinary skaven – indeed, he is no less than a Warlord of the Clans Verminus. Skritch has similar abilities and equipment to the rest of his kin, but really comes into his own when enhancing his personal swarm, allowing them to regenerate models every turn and making them surprisingly difficult to deal with…