Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Imperial Knights Codex review



Hi all, I picked up the Imperial Knights codex at the weekend so thought I'd do a review for you.



First Impressions.

My first thought on reading the codex is that it's very light on text and heavy on images. The actual rules section is limited to the last 22 pages of the 120 page book. Now that's fairly inevitable I guess when you're looking at a book with only 5 units in it (and to be honest those 5 units are really stretching the boundaries of reason - they could all easily be achieved with just a single entry)

Contrast that with the number of pages of illustrations of knights of note - 50 pages of illustrations of knights from the various houses showing their heraldry and weapon loadouts, followed by over 20 pages of photographs of those very same knights painted up 'in the flesh' and this is a codex filled with background more so than rules.

That's not to say I'm disappointed with it though, I spent a very enjoyable evening reading about the various nobles of House Terryn, Hawkshroud, Raven etc.

The Knights

So let's not kid ourselves, the point of the codex is the rules - so what are they like?

There are five knights described - no special characters and each of the knights has a particular basic weaponry loadout

Three of the knights are equipped for both ranged and close combat, these are:

Knight Errant - the Errant brings a thermal cannon and either the reaper chainsword or the thunderstrike gauntlet. Both of the melee weapons are strength 'D', the trade off being that the reaper chainsword strikes at initiative (4) whereas the thunderstike gauntlet is I1 but allows you to throw destroyed tanks and monstrous creatures up to 12".

Knight Paladin - the Paladin is armed with the rapid fire battle cannon, which comes with an underslung heavy stubber, but is otherwise exactly the same as the Errant.

Knight Warden - the Warden is the third of the mixed options and brings the Avenger Gatling Cannon (to be honest, I like it the most even if just for the name!). This almighty version of an assault cannon comes with an underslung heavy flamer but once again is otherwise an exact replica of the Errant.

Each of these three can swap its shoulder mounted heavy stubber for a meltagun, and can take any of three carapace weapon systems - one a horde killer, one anti-air and one anti armour.

The other two knight systems specialise - one for combat and one for ranged defence.

Knight Gallant - the Gallant as you might expect is the combat focused variant, bringing both the thunderstrike gauntlet and the reaper chainsword, allowing it to strike at initiative against some units and hurl those units where going second isn't a problem. It's also the cheapest of the 5 options, which is probably mostly due to the fact that it's really set up to take down super heavies and therefore is vulnerable to being taken down first. The one ranged concession to this variant is the usual shoulder mounted heavy stubber (which can be exchanged for a meltagun) and the option to take any of the three carapace options.

Knight Crusader - The final variant is the ranged support option, bringing the Avenger Gatling Cannon and either the Thermal Cannon or the Rapid Firing battle Cannon. As with all the other variants, the Crusader brings the same shoulder mount and optional upgrades.

Assessment

First, for those of you wanting to know if the Knight is the answer to the Eldar Wraithknight? It isn't.

Both move at the same pace and the Wraithknight's longer ranged 'D' weapons (the heavy wraithcannons) mean that in a stand up fight the Imperial Knight is toast, every time, particularly since it doesn't bring enough firepower to down the wraithknight with any reliability. (Technically the Avenger Gatling Cannon can do it, but it requires such an extreme combination of high rolls to hit and wound followed by the wraithknight failing its save options it's nigh on impossible).

It is, however, perfectly reasonable to conclude that the paladin and crusader in particular are an answer to squads of Wraithguard for example, with a pair of S8 AP3 Large blast templates, backed up by a trio of krak missiles and possibly 12 AP3 gatling cannon shots. As such, I'd say that the Knights are mainly suited to two roles:
1) Being a fire magnet - the ion shield combined with a naturally high AV all round (side and rear armours are only a point below the front value) means that your opponent will have to focus a lot of attention on it to take it down (unless the aforementioned wraithknight rolls up a 6 on the D-table), whilst it remains fully effective until it loses its last HP due to the super-heavy rules (which I really don't get, a destroyed weapon is a destroyed weapon regardless in my eyes! If you want to make those results less common, just make super heavies apply a -1 or -2 to the damage roll, it already works like that for open topped vehicles!)
2) Taking out high value infantry/light to medium vehicle squadrons. The Knight's weapons either come with large blast templates attached, high volumes of fire, or are close combat attacks, and the lack of any genuine option for super heavy killing outside combat means they're restricted to those roles (ok, the thermal cannon is a S9 melta with an 18" double range, but you're still going to miss 1/3 of the time and could roll low outside that, so its not a seriously reliable tank hunter like fire dragons are). That's not to say they're bad, but just be aware that you're spending a lot of points to get something that's not designed to make those points back through kills.

So which one is my favourite?

Wow, that's a really hard question to answer. I'd have to say that for sheer fun potential I'd have to go with a thunderstrike gauntlet - the hurl rule isn't a game changer (it's AP-, for getting hit by a tank!) but it is pretty damn funny and very '40k' back from the days when I first started playing. I do like the appearance of the crusader though, a walking behemoth bristling with guns (6 if you max it out).

That leaves me with a real dilemma, as the quickest way to get your points back (ish) is by use of the thermal cannon to take down tanks, but the avenger gatling cannon is by far the coolest looking of the three options.

I think, when pushed, my favoured loadout would be the knight warden, hefting the gatling cannon and a thunderstrike gauntlet, with the twin Icarus autocannons mounted on the carapace to give added punch to the anti air solution of my army.

But what if I want a whole army of knights?

Ok well here's where the codex gets fun, and messy!

First off, I should point out that the wargear list in the codex can't be taken for the single knight option, and is not available to all of the formations.

The Oathsworn Detachment

This is the detachment that lets you take between 1 and 3 knights, but cannot be your primary and has no command benefits. If you want an army of knights therefore - avoid this detachment at all costs.

The Household Detachment

Starting with a minimum of three knights and going up to 5, you get a specific knight trait (later) for your warlord who also re-rolls to hit in challenges. Your warlord becomes a character and can select one item of wargear, also becoming BS5 and WS5. All knights in this detachment then become objective secured.

These are pretty significant benefits to be honest, a Knight Crusader with full weapon loadout and objective secured sitting on a home objective, or a Gallant (cheapest) running round the table to claim objectives in Maelstrom missions could be a difficult list to beat.

Exalted Court

5 knights, so not for the faint of heart (or wallet)! They all become characters, and can each select from the wargear list (doesn't limit you to one per knight, though only one of each item per army). All knights add 1 to WS and BS except the nominated High King or Princeps, who gets +2 to WS and BS, and +1 to Invun saving throws.
The warlord gets the same re-roll on traits and hit rolls in challenges as the Household detachment.

I should note here, this formation doesn't require your warlord to be the nominated high king/princeps, which I think it probably should given the emphasis through the codex on the rigidity of the structure of knightly houses - I can't see a High King deferring control on the battlefield to a subordinate.

You're looking at 2000pts at least to field this as an entire army however.

Baronial Court

The 'light' version of the Exalted Court, it is effectively the next tier down in the knightly house organisation. The exalted court brings the High King and Barons, this formation brings one of those Barons and his retainers/bodyguards.

It's formed from between 3 and five knights, and is essentially the household detachment with a couple of exceptions. They don't get objective secured, instead swapping this out for two special rules. First, they get a +1 bonus to saving throws for their ion shields on the front arc if they are within 6" of another knight from the formation. Second, the Baron and all knights within 12" get the counter attack special rule and can fire overwatch.

The big difference therefore is the lack of objective secured. With D strength on their melee weapons I don't think getting an extra attack is going to make a huge difference in most cases, and the ability to fire overwatch won't help if you've taken the blast style weapons. The bonus to the shield however may persuade me to use this formation, as the boost from 4+ to 3+ is going to make a big difference to their survivability, particularly when targeted by D weapons.

Tripartite Lance

This has to be my favourite formation in the book. Three Knights each of a different configuration (Warden, Gallant and Crusader) that must be fielded as a single unit. Each then provides bonuses to the unit until that Knight is destroyed. The Warden reduces cover saves by one, the Gallant means each knight inflicts D3 hammer of wrath hits (at S10!) instead of 1, and the Crusader makes all blast weapons count as twin-linked. Bear in mind though that the last of these will be limited to the carapace weapons and the crusader itself, since neither the Gallant nor the Warden can take arm mounted blast weapons.

It's a fun sounding formation to my way of thinking, and in particular the D3 hammer of wrath hits per knight could make a huge dent in a lot of opponents given their native strength. It's still probably not enough to warrant giving up objective secured etc if you're going for an all-knight army (unless you're looking at 8+ knights of course) but definitely flavourful!

Gallant Lance

Well you've really gotta like combat to take this one - 3 knights all with the Gallant loadout, though the formation benefits do allow you to re-roll failed charges and gives you the Crusader and Rage special rules.

As with the tripartite and skyreaper formations, the Gallant Lance requires you to give up the benefits of objective secured and the option for taking wargear upgrades, for the dubious benefit of letting your knights get into combat better. One to avoid methinks, particularly given the likelihood of the Gallant being the most difficult configuration to get the most out of.

Skyreaper Lance

Here's an interesting formation. No restrictions on the type of configurations you can take, but the knights themselves must all be equipped with the icarus autocannons on their carapace, and gain re-rolls to penetrate armour on flyers (including glancing hits if you so wish) and re-rolls to wound flying monstrous creatures.

It's not a massive bonus to be honest, and comes at the expense of objective secured and taking any of the wargear upgrades etc, but if you are going to be facing a lot of flyers then it may be worthwhile. Of course, if you're taking the standard detachment then you can get all those extra goodies and still take the autocannon upgrades, you just won't get the re-rolls to pen that make them that little bit more efficient.

To be honest, I'd avoid this formation, looks good from the outside but the things you give up are more worthwhile than the benefits.

Almost there, just two parts to go!

Warlord Traits

The first adds one to run and charge distances. Useful, particularly for Knights Gallant or the Gallant Lance formation, but unlikely to change the game.
Number two lets you master craft a single, non-heirloom weapon.
Three lets you re-roll failed attacks on the charge
Four means 2-4 of your knights can outflank (and really mess up a gunline!)
Five allows re-rolls of ones for invulnerable saving throws.
Six gives you an extra attack.

As ever with warlord traits, there are a couple of good ones, but nothing truly earth shattering (as it should be - I'd hate to lose or win a game solely because I happened to roll lucky on my warlord trait)

My personal favourites would be either outflanking or re-rolling failed Invulnerables on a '1'.

Heirlooms

A banner that forces (note you can't choose not to) friendly Armies of the Imperium units to re-roll failed morale and pinning checks, and fear tests.

A helm that grants Rampage

It Will Not Die

Master Crafted Thunderstrike Gauntlet

Special Chainsword that grants re-rolls to hit of '1's in combat

Ion shield that grants a 6++ against the facings not covered by the main shield.

Again, there are some decent items in here - particularly the one that grants It Will Not Die, but nothing else that is really a 'must-take'.

So there you have it - my first full codex review - completed in a single post (ok ok with only five units that's hardly an achievement i know)

Overall I like the book, the different knights have a distinct character to them whilst not rendering the Errant and Paladin the poor relation of the new configurations. I'll definitely be picking up one of the kits so look out for that in my painting updates - but I think I'll be painting it as a freeblade to fight alongside my Iron Fists.

Till next time, don't forget your Goat Leggings!
TBE