Skirmishers have taken a bit of a hit in 8th edition Fantasy, but (perhaps unsurprisingly, given my devotion to Wood Elves) I still find them to be a versatile and practical addition to an army list. Typically, skirmishers are lightly armoured models – often intended to harrass the enemy or flank larger blocks rather than being all gung-ho and charging into the front.
Skirmishers have lost some of their maneouverability, as they can sadly no longer charge 360 degrees. However, with Fantasy’s current prevalence of large stalwart units, it’s still fairly easy to maneouver around a flank and hit an enemy unit with a combo charge. Again, this sadly isn’t as effective as it used to be, but speaking personally I’ve found that a well-timed flank charge can help swing a combat – in my Wood Elves, for example, I ideally aim for three or so Treekin to hit the front of an enemy unit just as eight Dryads hit the flank. Another interesting little ability is that skirmishers can still fire any missile weapons even after marching, making small units of ranged troops such as Empire huntsmen or Wood Elf Waywatchers a tempting choice. By marching forward while harassing the enemy, you can get into a good charge position or even (particularly with the faster races such as Elves) threaten any missile troops or war machines behind the lines.
Skirmishers still retain some of their resilience, with an additional -1 to hit them with shooting attacks. Similarly, template weapons aren’t as much of a threat due to the spread-out nature of the unit, making it harder to hit multiple models. Personally, I tend to hug cover with them since even T4 5+ quasi-ward save Dryads don’t take that much to put down, and they’re at the ‘beefier’ end of the skirmisher spectrum. Since skirmishers ignore movement penalties for marshes, they can still move around more easily than their ranked counterparts, and gain the Stubborn special rule when fighting in woods to help them hold their ground. However, they are very much a support unit, relying on another ranked unit to deal most of the damage while the skirmishers finish off some models and boost up your combat resolution. Their low model count and inability to gain rank bonuses make it dangerous to throw them in alone, and I’ve found that even stronger skirmish units such as Wardancers need help and support to really win a combat.
In conclusion, while skirmishers have taken a hit I think that they’re still a very valid choice, offering additional options to an army and helping to support the main combat units. Eight Dryads charging in might not look like much by themselves, but that’s 13 WS4 S4 attacks added into the combat right there that ignore the hand weapon & shield bonus – that’s quite a lot of extra attacks when you think about it!