The 9th Age/Tactics/The Vermin Swarm

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The fair use The 9th Age expy of the Skaven of Warhammer Fantasy. The tactics are current as of second edition.

Why Play Vermin Swarm[edit]

Vermin Swarm tends to have more about large number and randomness than other armies, but what you are risking tends to be things you can easily afford to lose anyways and the chance of good things are generally good. That's what we pay for having the best shooting, and cheap numbers.

Army Rules[edit]

Safety in Numbers Units comprised entirely of units with this rule add their full ranks after the first to their discipline score but with a maximum bonus of +3 and a hard cap of 10. This does not modify the discipline distributed by commanding presence but units that receive a discipline boost from commanding presence can modify it with their own ranks. This is what gives your units any staying power, be sure your blocks are bricked up and deep.

Callous Models with this rule can shoot or use the H spell into combats as long as the friendly unit engaged with the target is of standard height. All units engaged are ignored for cover but not for line of sight. So it's easier to mow down a unit bogged with your bricks, but successful hits are randomized (3-6 hit enemy, 1-2 hit allies). This randomization is the same regardless of how many friendly units are engaged. Laugh as your enemy heavy cavalry sits stuck with your slaves and you mow them down with gas globes.

State of Trance (x) The model's unit gains fearless, a great boon for your low discipline army, but models with this rule must be deployed in and can only join units listed in the (x). Creates some minimum units you have to take, but you have the points to nut up the infantry.

Brood's Courage (x) A unit with this rule may use the full ranks of units listed in (x) for purposes of safety in numbers.

Tag-Along When a model with this rule is within 3" of a friendly non-fleeing Rat-at-Arms or Vermin Guard model this model gains Aegis 4+ vs shooting attacks.

Honourless Characters with this rule cannot be chosen by the opponent as the model that refuses the duel.

Dark Shards One use only, use during a casting attempt. When a wizard casts a spell you can use 1 dark shard with it, penalize enemy dispel attempts by 1d3. If a natural 1 is rolled on that d3 the wizard using the shard also takes one hit with toxic attacks.

Lightning Attack If an entirely flying unit takes any hits (not wounds) from attacks with this rule they take an additional 1d6 hits at str 4 AP 1 at the end of the phase.


Plague Flail Attacks with this weapon gain +2 str/AP and -1 defensive skill. At initiative step 10 each model with this weapon that can attack chunk out 1 hit with toxic attacks.

Meat Grinder This weapon gives the wielder Impact Hits 2d6 and Grind Attacks 2d6. Str 4 and AP 2 for all hits. Models with this are scary on the charge and can grind through combats after.

Sling Str 3 AP 0 shooting attack with quick to fire and decent range. Not as good as any other race's shooting, but you have volume on them.

Gas Globes Only 8" range, but quick-to-fire, accurate, AP 10, and wounds on an unmodified 4+. You can run up and fire them for a decent threat range and everything should be scared of these.

Ratlock Pistols Short range, 2 shots, Str 5 and AP 3. This weapon is great. Also quick to fire makes its threat range relatively large and magical attacks allows it to threaten otherwise safe models. In melee it gives the model paired weapons.

Jezail Stupid long ranged weapon. 36", over the 30" of crossbows and longbows of other armies. It is accurate all the way out and at str 6 AP 4. This weapon is better than some war machines. The only downside is that on a to-hit roll of 1 the wielding model takes a hit with toxic attacks.

Rotary Gun only 18" range, but quick to fire gives you a decent threat range. A stupid number of shots. (2d6)x2 or (3d6)x2 shots, your choice. Sure it's only str 4 AP 1, but that is a stupid number of shots. You can kill anything by just forcing saves.

Globe Launcher (2d6)x2 shots at 18" with toxic attacks. Less attacks than the rotary gun but can more consistently wound on high armor targets. If an unengaged rat-at-arms or vermin guard unit is within 3" you can draw line of sight from them instead, allowing you to shoot through obscuring terrain.

Naphtha Launcher only 2d6 shots, but with multiple wounds (d3) and ignores to-hit modifiers from cover and hard target.

Tail Weapon When used with a paired weapon the model gains +1 attack.

Hereditary Spell[edit]

The Awakened Swarm 2d6 hits at str 4 AP 2. Not the best blaster spell, but you can fire it into combats using Callous.

Unit Analysis[edit]


Vermin Daemon A true beast. 8s in Def/Off skill, 6s in HP, Res, Str, 5 Attacks, and not to mention 9 agility and 10 (10!!!!) AP. They have a built-in 5+/5++ (4++ vs magic attacks). On top of this, it is supernal, fearless, and a wizard master in Divination that has +3" range and knows 5 spells. What a beast, I thought this was the wee rat trash army. Well, he has his downsides, first of all, he costs 850 points, second, he can't hide in any units and will have to be out on his own without cover. So he is scary but pays for that by being vulnerable to shooting.

Tyrant Essentially a rat EoS marshal that's a bit faster. Really the only reason to take him is for that 7 discipline to pump to 10 with safety in numbers. He does have a decent number of attacks, kit him out to chunk R&F troops, don't trip about duels or anything, he can avoid them with no penalty and by the end of it you'll still (hopefully) have ablative wounds around your tyrant.

Chief A decent character for his price. You will be taking one as BSB, which is required in this army unless you took the Daemon. You can upgrade him to be very fast for a small chunk of points.

Magister Seems a bit expensive until you notice he's an adept by default. If you're brave take the dark shards on a wizard master and see how many Wrath of God tokens you can have on the table at once. He can, of course, ride the DOOM BELL (see entry) which is great.

Rakachit Machinist This guy is your combat monster. This mainly comes from his mechanical limbs, which allows him to throw dice everywhere (1d6 shots ranged, 2d6 hits in melee). You can take a shooting weapon on him, which you should. The Gas Globes depend on the army you're fighting, but watch out for the short-range. The ratlock pistol is the best all-around choice, 2 shots, and paired weapons in melee. The Jezail is up to you, he has better to-hit than the unit, but watch out for him hitting himself with it occasionally.

Sicarra Assassin One scary boy. No armor but Aegis 4+, 5 attacks in melee with poisoned attacks and multiple wounds (d3 vs characters). They are expensive, but one of these in the right place can discourage your enemy from even coming near. The multiple wounds also apply to his ranged weapons, so feel free to pick on a monster mounted character.

Plague Patriarch Can only be a wizard adept, but gets to pick whatever spell you want. He is a bit of a fightier wizard but does not have the defenses available to your fighty people. Take a buff daddy if you want one, Plague Pendulum is fun.

Character Mounts[edit]

Vermin Guard Litter A great defensive boost, more attacks, a boost to commanding presence, and it is still standard infantry so it can hide in units. A great mount choice and a steal at 75 points.

Vermin Hulk Bodyguard More attacks and health but less armor and the only unit you can hide in are vermin hulks, which isn't a bad choice and if you want a unit of those roaming around you might as well have a chief roll with them.

Monstrous Rat One fast boy that you won't be able to hide anywhere but give you a fortitude 4+, great attacks, and a breath weapon with toxic attacks. Don't put your general on one, but a chief missile will be hard to put down and can do some work.

Plague Pendulum A melee monster. Adds 8 attacks with battle focus and hatred and give your plague daddy +2 armor and an aegis 4+. It comes with impact hits 1d6+2 and grind attacks 1d6+2 that can only be dumped to its front facing, but that should rarely be a problem. You can only roll with Plague Brotherhood, but that would be where you want him anyways. Occultism is a good lore for this monster, get Pentagram of Pain for some dakka and self sustain, Hand of Glory will make this monster stupid tanky as well as boosting the survivability of his unit.

Doom Bell A magic blaster. It tanks up your magister like the pendulum, but also adds Channel 2, increased range, and a solid debuff to enemies. Above the masses increases the range of the magister's spells by 3", changes his front arc to be all around, 360 degrees, and can blast spells while his bell is in combat, sadly the way callous works he can't blast the unit he is in combat with. The bell itself gives a -1 to off/def skill to enemies within 18", at the start of your magic phase you can pump it to -2, but if you roll a 1 on the d6 test the bell breaks and damages everyone in base contact. More entertaining than actually bad, get it into contact and start ringing, only good things will happen. Has to roll with rats-at-arms or vermin guard, rats are better if you're on a budget and just need bodies, vermin guard can actually kill things.


Rats-at-Arms If you need cheap bodies that you can rely on this is where to look. At only 7 points per model you get surprisingly good value, light armor and a shield with average stats (except discipline). They can get full command and a magic standard, don't bother with a champion but a musician to help maneuver your horde and a standard bearer to help swing combats will do the trick. Spears are up to you, if you need them to brick leave them vanilla, if you want some damage out of them as well pony up the 1 ppm for spears.

Vermin Guard Your strongest core unit and is actually one of the better core units in the game. Heavy armor and a shield gives them a 4+ vs shooting and halberds with fight in extra rank is great for melee. On top of this they have decent off/def skill and good agility. They will cost you a pretty penny, 16 points each, so a horde of 60 how you want them will take a decent chunk of points, but they will hold ground and throw down.

Plague Brotherhood A blender is all they are. Paired weapons, hatred, and battle focus makes them scary to fight, but their only defense is res 4. Give them a defensive buff of some kind (or plenty of ablative wounds).

Slaves As trash as they come. A max sized unit with all available upgrades will only cost 285 points. No other army can field as many models as you and the slaves are why. They are shit, but that many hit points is hard to burn through. They do have some other quirks, if they break from combat they just die, they can't break steadfast unless they are engaging an enemy in the flank, and if they are the only friendly unit engaged in a combat other ranged units with callous get +2 to-hit (bumping your generally 4+ units to 2+) but change the hit randomization to be 50/50. So tarpit a deathstar and watch as your slaves and enemies get equally melted by gas globes.

Footpads Your core ranged option. They only have slings but at a 3+ to-hit and they have volume of fire over any other downsides. Don't bother with paired weapons, you have better units to be in melee and footpads can't come in the volume to be useful there, just stick to ranged.


Giant Rats Units of 20 or more count towards core which you might as well do because more models is their only defense. They have average 3s in everything except for a good speed of 7"/14". Take a horde of 60 (or a few hordes of 60) and be run forward stupid quick and watch as your opponent gets bogged down with trash rats.

Plague Disciples Same as their brotherhood brethren but with fewer models, hard target, and plague flails. Have them roll near the brotherhood so they can survive and they don't get shot to bits. One or two units of these to flank in might be handy but really you have better units to do that with.

Vermin Hulks Now we're getting to the fun stuff. Monstrous infantry with decent attacks but pitiful defenses. They are fast and maneuverable, something your hordes of rats are not, so these are prime flankers. For a small fee you can upgrade them to thunderhulks, which gives them heavy armor and the champion can get some of the minor war machines. This can be an easy way to get a siege engine out onto the field in a maneuverable position, but a meat grinder might be the best choice to mulch enemies. If you thundehulk them a character on hulk bodyguard cannot be protected by them due to the mismatching bases.

Rat Swarms Trash swarms that can move through friendly units. Take a unit or two to eat charges on the flanks of your big blocks but don't expect them to do anything except die.

Meat Grinder The weapon from the armor section rolling out on its own like the brave little toaster it is. It has good armor and fine stats, being your "cavalry" essentially, but you want it with rats-at-arms or vermin guard so they can eat damage for it and the grinder can give them its 2d6+2 attacks each combat.

Gutter Blades Your skirmishing ranged guys with poisoned attacks. Always give them scout+ambush, otherwise you're better off with more footpads. Leave them with throwing weapons, sure slings have a better range but they move so fast and have more shots with the throwing weapons (to-hit with no penalties, sling 66% hit, throwing weapons 75% at least 1 hit).

Tunnel Gunners[edit]

Weapon Team Pick the Naphtha Launcher, Rotary Gun, or Globe Launcher, this model carries it around. The guns themselves are reviewed in the armor section. Keep this model near rats-at-arms or vermin guard so it can't be shot off the table by any real war machines. Go ham with whatever gun you choose, sure it can die during a misfire, but there is only a 1/36 chance (slightly higher on the 3d6 rotary gun shot) that it will misfire in the first place, then it's a 1/3 chance it won't fire next turn, a 1/3 chance it will lose 1 wound, and a 1/3 chance it will outright die. So unless you are incredibly unlucky, you can milk your guns for an incredible number of shots before anything bad happens.

Jezails Each model of this small unit has 2 wounds and a 4+ against ranged attacks. If they ever get caught in melee you might as well remove them. The jezail is a great weapon, practically a siege engine, but always take at least 5 models so that when 1 dies you don't have to test for 25% panic.

Grenadiers A small unit of light troops with heavy armor and hard target that wield gas globes. They can easily maneuver near a combat and lob in globes to melt elite units. Gas globes are great and this unit has the tools to outdo its downsides.

Verminous Artillery Before you ask, it is not callous so you can't accidentally blow up your slaves with lightning. Comes in plague or lightning flavors.

  • Plague Catapult: A good spread and toxic attacks means it can threaten even elite units. It is shorter range than other race's war machines (only 48") so watch out for it getting sniped.
  • Lightning Cannon: Lacks the penetration of other cannons and has a shorter range (again only 48"), but has a standard strength of 7 and is accurate. If your opponent has a dragon or other flying beasty (any large model actually) this thing will just delete them.

Dreadmill A great combat unit and will no longer zap your own units. You can now choose who gets zapped by your doomwheel. The shots are str 5, AP 10, lightning attacks, and multiple wounds (d3). This wheel is scary, but watch out for it getting tarpitted.

Built and Bred[edit]

Abomination Your big scary monster that is bogged down by randomness. It has random movement 3d6, which is a decent distance but can't be relied on to be there when you need it, it's only defenses is Res 5 and Fortitude 4+, so watch out for dwarfs, and it's str 6 AP 3 is relatively low even if it does have 3d6 attacks. They are only 375 points, so take one as a distraction but don't rely on these to be combat monsters when you need them to be.

Magic Items[edit]

Weapon Enchantments[edit]

Secrets of the Doom Blade Tyrant only, Str 10, AP 10, multiple wounds (d6) and divine attacks. The scariest weapon in the game, but at the end of each turn he takes a toxic hit. Also takes the entirety of his magic allowance forcing you to rely on his mediocre mundane equipment to keep him alive.

Swarm Master The wielder has 3d6 attacks but at only str 3 AP 1. Not a bad weapon and can be a nasty surprise when your opponent didn't expect your chief to have 12 attacks.

Darkstone Shot Ratlock pistol or Jezail only. Shots +1 and natural 6s to wound gain multiple wounds d3. The Jezail is scary enough on its own and more shots means more hitting yourself as well. The pistols already have more shots and can better force the 6s.

Armor Enchantments[edit]

Putrid Protection +2 armor and successful armor saves in melee inflict 1 toxic attack against the enemy. A good survival choice and some melee slams as well.

Net of Deception The bearer gains distracting and one model part in base contact suffers -1 attack. Can be a nasty way to shut down a mean character.

Seal of House Underminer You get a +1 to pick deployment zones and one terrain feature on your side becomes dangerous terrain (2). If you have a big gunline this can shut down flanking.


Lightning Rod one use only, activate at the start of enemy turn. All of your units gain hard target (1) and flying movement cannot be used this turn. Can shut down enemy shooting enough for your melee bricks to move up.

Aquila of Ruin Rats-at-Arms only. They add +2 to their maximum rank bonus for combat score (up to +5 instead of +3). Will help your rats do what they are already doing.

Banner of the Endless Swarm If this unit has more ranks than the unit it is in combat with, it gains fight in extra rank, if it has double or more the ranks of the enemy, it gets 2 instances of fight in extra rank instead. Again, will help your rats at doing what they are already doing. You should have blobs of 60 rats with a character or two in there so 8ish ranks of 7 should do the trick.


Multifocal Eyepiece Machinist only. You may choose during the shooting phase a weapon team within 3" of the bearer, they gain +1 to-hit. The short range and limitation to weapon teams makes it weird to make work but not difficult. Now your 3d6x2 shots will be hitting that much more.

Second Awakening When casting a damage spell with a random number of hits, you may reroll all of the dice used to determine the number of hits. Makes your blaster spells more consistent. Wrath of God makes use of this.

Crown of Succession When your general dies the bearer of this item gains commanding presence. Can be a good fallback option, but you should just invest more in your general not dying.

Focusing Stone Whenever a friendly unit within 24" of the bearer hits in the magic or shooting phase you may discard veil tokens to give hits a +1 to wound. Multiple veil tokens may be discarded, each one gives a +1 bonus to a different hit. Makes your magic and shooting scary and consistent.

Sceptre of Vermin Valour The bearer gains stand behind, your wizard doesn't have to be in the thick of it all.

Scurrying Veil The bearer has his march rate set to 20" and can move through friendly units during the charge and movement phase. If you have a sneaky wizard or assassin this can allow you to set up nasty surprises.

The 9th Age Tactics