I was up in Milwaukee last week and decided to visit my old castle and the new manager. A longtime friend and just awesome dood, the manager ensured that I had the latest Grey Knight stuff to add to my already-massive collection. Now that I can actually answer all my friends' queries to how I feel about the new book, I feel better. Thank you immensely, Kris. My community and I owe you.
First, I'd like to share my personal history with Grey Knights and how that affected my opinions over the last decade. Don't worry, I'll be reviewing the new codex after these few words...
Grey Knights were created in secret by the Emperor as the 666th Chapter and given the role of destroying Deamons. They worked closely with the Ordo Malleus as the heavy arm of war, and they ALL wore terminator armor. All of them. Every single one of them. (Are you seeing where the last decade of Codex Daemonhunters upset me a bit?) They maintained their HQ deep under the surface of the moon, Titan, and their existance was hidden through the use of mindwipe and mass execution. Finally, a Grey Knight's power came from the fact that SM Librarians were sissy psykers compared to them. And there it is. ALL the old GK fluff.
So when the Daemonhunters Codex was released ('03, I think), I flipped my lid! How can there be Power Armor Grey Knights? How can there be an entire Chapter, organized with Chaplains and everything else? Most importantly, how can anyone wearing a red robe call up the Grey Knights and have them come shoot some orks in the face now? And they do it beside assassins and orbital bombardments? Needless to say, I was pretty upset for a long time. So much so that I purchased four units of GK Terminators to add to my Imperial armies and then show off what they used to be. Sadly, GW didn't much care that I'm a purist, and the Grey Knights finally grew to have their own codex.
Codex: Daemonhunters added squads of Grey Knight Space Marines (with power armor) that have some guns and blades, can teleport, and even psyker it up if they wanted to. It added captains and vehicles, Dreadnoughts and wargear, all expanding the Grey Knights to something I didn't appreciate. And it did all this under the guise of 'Inquisitorial Support'. Well, I guess, I had to tolerate what I saw as a complete ruining of the OLD fluff. So fast foward to today (and that damned review you guys are looking for from me)...
It's now 2011 and the Grey Knights have finally gotten their own book. For a purist like me, this is a step in the right direction (take all that other IG crap outta there!), and quite an exciting time. For a gamer like me, this could be the thing that pushes me away from 40k, as all those whiney crybabies of the internet world go on about. So let's open the book and find out:
This is a short but really awesome chapter of the book. The Grey Knights have always been mysterious and their background shrouded in secrecy. This book has done a fantastic job with that. Although somewhat mysterious still, the fluff actually describes how the Emperor tasked Malcador (his most imporant aid) with creating this force for one purpose. It describes how Malcador gathered a dozen of the most powerful warriors from across the galaxy, eight of whom were Astartes, and then used the time-altering powers of the warp to expand those forces quickly.
Malcador the Sigillite
This is by far my favorite part of the book. See, Malcador is well-known as a name in the founding of the Emperium. What is known about him is that he was the second-in-command behind the Emperor in matters political. We know that he is just as mysterious as the Emperor himself, having simply appeared and integrating himself into the Emperor's entourage. It's known that he had great power, somewhat akin to the Emperor's own divinity, but no real details have ever been presented to clarify this. The Warmaster, Horus, dealt with Malcador frequently during the closing days of the Great Crusade, and always expressed a distrust and feeling of unease towards the envoy. We know he wasn't attractive, walked with a limp, was thin, and had a hunchback. In fact, he was described with his hood shadowing his face more often than anything. For all that, we still knew very little about the man, and I (along with most people, I think) had a sour taste in my mouth whenever the Sigillite was referenced.
Now, knowing what the chapter described as his role in the founding of the Grey Knights, I see Malcador in a whole new light. I now feel that he may have been far more important and instrumental in the Imperium than impression gives. The fact that he's described in this chapter as the powerful sorcerer and founder of the most powerful military force in the galaxy is cemented in my brain now. And, it turns out, he helped in the great reorganization of the Second Founding. Being an Ultramarine guy, that makes him even cooler in my mind now knowing that he helped my Primarch significantly.
Malcador the Sigillite, second only to the Emperor himself, now matters.
Citadel of Titan
Yeah, it was cool. Every codex has a 'homeworld' chapter, so nothing new to report here.
Did anyone notice the three rule come back? Waaaaaaaay back in the day when Rogue Trader was the only source of 40k lore and the game Space Marine (Epic:Armageddon's ancestor) touched on chapter organization. If I recall correctly, the game said something about a Space Marine company being made up of three platoons of three squads, all based on the standard template of Tac, Ass, and Dev. I could be wrong, but it seems the Grey Knights brought that back with a bit of love for us oldies out there...
Deeds of Legend
So, the Grey Knights worked with the Blood Angels to banish Ka'Bandha. They fought against M'Ker the Reborn many times, but never with the Ultramarines. That was odd. The only other Astartes Chapters mentioned are not famous Second Founding chapters and such. I like that touch, as it reinforces the supposed idea that the Space Marines are ALL famous and well-known. It's funny that most people only know about a dozen chapters, almost all Second Founding (remember that this includes the Legions of the First Founding. I'm trying to be correct in my reference here, outside the gamer norm). Other than that, this section is cool as well.
The Army of Titan
Finally, the meat and bread of this book. The special rules start here, and I gotta say I was surprised. First off, Mastery Levels are back. That's a nod to GW from us oldies again. Second, Psychic Pilot allows vehicles (namely the Land Raider and Stormraven) to use psychic powers! Luckily, it's just the 'ol Daemonic Possession rule that ignores stunned and shaken results on the damage chart, but still. Wow. Preferred Enemy (Daemons)- duh.
ATSKNF, and here's where my jaw dropped. Remember, that's not fearless. That's what Space Marines have. In fact, that's how I defined Grey Knights as NOT BEING SPACE MARINES in my shop (for Apoc battles and things that mattered for). And here, slapping me in the face, is the quintessential Space Marine rule. I'm both humbled and surprised, as Grey Knights were always fearless. Always! Combat Squads also showed up. So in all my wisdom, in all my knowledge, I have been shown by GW that, in fact, they are now just another Space Marine chapter (only better). Well played, GW. Well played.
Finally, the Aegis. Yay, psykers have Ld 9 when doing the voodoo that they do to Grey Knights. I only say that because almost every single psyker in the game is Ld 10. Okay, sure. That makes sense.
Grand Masters are awesome, Librarians are lamer than I thought they'd be, and GW better make a new model for each. Right now, the standard Libby in Termie armor ain't gonna cut it, and everyone needs a plastic hero kit. Hint, hint, nudge, nudge GW! I also love that whole 'Grand Strategy' rule. Good stuff. The Brotherhood Champion just seems like the next 40k slayer. Remember the Lone Wolf? Yeah, it's been done already. And that's the Grey Knight HQ choices in a nutshell. Now let's look at some units:
Grey Knight Termies are awesome and always have been. Then you've got the Paladins. Wait, is that Psychic Terminators with multiple wounds and the ability to add Feel No Pain? Yes, please! I will be using my really really old RT Grey Knights for these (with really tall and sexy bases. They're really small compared to the new models). If only they weren't a gazillion points for each member of the squad...
Strike Squads and Interceptor Squads are okay. I STILL don't buy the whole Grey Knights in power armor thing, period. Sorry GW, my old-ass brain is like that. But I do like the personal teleporters, especially the 'shunt' move. Being able to put that on a Dreadknight is also ridiculous. And by ridiculous, I mean awesome! Purgation Squads are cool, but still fall into my 'unacceptable' column. And I don't like their Astral Aim power. It's dumb, especially considering it grants a cover save still. If you play against GK in the future, bomb these guys. They'll shoot you with alot of shots even when they can't see you. Jerks. Then you have the Purifiers, the Sooper Power Armor Fellowship (SPAF). I don't like 'em. But again, they wear power armor automatically disqualifying them from Grey Knight coolness for me.
Next is Techmarines, Rhinos, Razorbacks, Land Raiders, and the Stormraven gunships. Throw in the Dreadnoughts and big Vennie (the Venerable Dreadnought) and you have the Space Marine codex pattern down. Cut, paste, paint different color. For this book, however, you have psychic powers everywhere, and that's kinda cool. A techmarine psyker? Yeah, victory.
Now the funnest thing in the entire book- the Dreadknight. Many a year ago, there was a movie about giant robots piloted by special doods called Robot Jock or something like that. The cockpit had a 'moving sidewalk' for each foot and an 'armeture' for each hand. The pilot moved and the robot moved identically. The Dreadknight does that! Yay! Another nod to us old fellers. By the way, the Dreadknight is also amazing because it's not a vehicle, it's a monster. That's right, a monster in an Imperial army! And anyone using a Dreadknight better use the Force Claymore of Doom and the Gatling Psilencer Cannon of Awesome. Why? Well, why not? They rule!
Now I'd be remiss if I didn't give y'all my opinion of the model's appearance. In all my years playing 40k (and that's been alot, more years than some of my readers are old) I have grown used to the John Blanche-led imagery and modelling. 40k has always been presented as gothic, overly mechanical, and just downright not smooth. Yet this model looks like a WarMachine model with its simplistic machinery, smooth surfaces, and giant weapons. I don't like the departure in appearance, but I do LOVE the concept. I just wanted to throw that out there- the Dreadknight does not look 40k to me!
Now we get to the Inquisition part of the book. This is the portion of the codex that I was most hopeful for. This is also the portion of the codex affected the most in the new evolution of the Inquisition.
All three greater orders now have an Inquisitor. Each of those Inquisitors has a separate and unique wargear list. Only the Ordo Malleus has access to Terminator Armor while only Ordo Hereticus can get the monster-hunting crossbow. Strangely enough, the Ordo Hereticus and Xenos Inquisitors have access to cursed and alien technology. Stranger still is the fact that this 'radical' behavior of the Inquisitor does not prevent Grey Knights from showing up. Apparently (and this is me being completely facetious out of disappointment), the principles of the Inquisition aren't nearly as strong as they once were...
The Assasssins are all still there, and even cooler. They're more expensive in points cost as well, but assassins are fixed. The Callidus can no longer charge in the turn she arrives (I actually cried a bit with that one, she was my favorite to use), the Culexus is better because he's in an army of psykers (increasing the number of shots he'll be pumping out) and the Vindicare has unlimitted ammo. Finally. The assassins are still balanced and useful, even if they are surrounded by Grey Knights.
Now jump to the Inquisitorial warband. Everything changed here. The unit no longer has to surround the Inquisitor at all times. Servo-skulls operate similar to the Dawn of War video game and aren't warband material anymore. The order that the Inquisitor belongs to no longer dictates his retinue as well. This change is the best, I think. Arco-flagellants are now in there (I love these things, especially after Judge Dredd), preachers were renamed Banishers and are in there, Crusaders are still there, Daemonhosts are waaaaaaay less powerful and jump in the retinue now, Death-cult Assassins make their appearance, Servitors jump in, Mystics are now teleport homers, Psykers are there with some amount of boom-boom, and the veteran guardsmen make it in as Warrior Acolytes.
The biggest addition, however, is the Jokaero Weaponsmith.
Back in my day, when the White Dwarf taught you how to build your own hover-transports, the Jokaero were described as extremely intelligent apes. They moved so fast that they appeared blurry, even when standing still. They used micro-technology, and were so well known for their tech-savvy and prestidigitational skills that Jokaero weaponry was highly sought after. This stuff is so old that an old boss of mine and I made an ape model to represent one of these and then presented it to our overly-hyper boss at a tournament. That Jokaero was named after our boss and had his own special rules. We felt important for actually knowing something that 90% of the gamer world didn't. And then GW brought him back...
One of my buddies asked me about the old storyline for these illusive Xenos, and it turned out that GW didn't change that too much. He's still an ape, he's still super-intelligent, and he's still the greatest tech-savant in the galaxy. I feel sagely having known this for so long.
I do have a problem with how powerful he is. The Inquisitorial Retinue has no limit on how many of each member one can take (to a max of 12). I want to have a retinue of just arco-flagellants, but I predict you will pretty much only see Jokaero warbands (with a crusader or two for a bit of resilience). Pray to the Emperor that an FAQ fixes that.
The Inquisition portion of the codex no longer includes Storm Troopers or inducted Imperial Guard. Sadly, all my NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical suits) troopers mean nothing now. Curses. But the retinue, especially taken as a Troop unit and being able to take many of them (with special character Inquisitor Lord Coteaz, that is) mitigates this a bit. It is still possible to play an Inquisitorial army out of this codex without having to use Grey Knights. And with the options given, it's actually kinda cool!
Wow. That's all I can say. Nemesis Force Weapons are amazing! They are all power weapons and force weapons (and the special rules to use them as a unit aren't complicated, so if anyone complains, punch them in the mouth). Better still, swords grant +1 invulnerable to terminators, halberds strike at +2 initiative, and the rest are cooler even. The Nemesis Greatsword is the ONLY option for the Dreadknight. The Deamonblade is awesome, even if it is a radical's weapon. Alot of weapons have Psi-shock, which forces psykers to take a perils of the warp attack. Cool. I like making psykers explode. The null rod is still there, probably making alot of people happy. All in all, the wargear list is pretty cool.
Mustering the Knights
This is where I complain about the points cost and options (or lack thereof).
I got nothing. Terminators as Troops? check. Elite Assassins and Venerable Dreadnoughts? check. Heavy Support SPAF as well as Elite SPAF? And the elite versions get more attacks? check. Elite Termies with two wounds and Feel No Pain with Heavy Support Dreadknights? check. Fast Attack teleporty Space Marines and Stormraven gunships? check. The points are balanced well, leading to really really small armies. The placement of units allows for abuse of Terminator spam and SPAF spam, but both are pretty Grey-Knight-y. Overall, I really like the army list. Unlike the Tyranid codex or the Space Wolf codex, the Grey Knights seem to fit very well into the game by points cost. They die slowly, but eventually. They hit hard, but run out of steam. And their points reflect their badassness. Good work, GW. Good work.
Notice that I didn't touch on the special characters much. They're expensive, effective, and awesome. Overall, they're pretty good. I didn't really discuss them simply because I had little to say about them that isn't obvious by my review of the rest of the book.
I feel this codex does the army of Grey Knights justice. I still don't like power armor, which make up some of the most game-effective units in the book (making me fluffy for not taking them, in case you were wondering). I wish the Inquisitors had invulnerable saves, but that doesn't really hurt my feelings. I think the retinues are too open for abuse by the current generation of WAACers. I hope that people don't notice that Stormravens are the only fast attack choices in that book worth taking, and then use them to shove the uber-elite Grey Knights into opponents' faces. I hope for that mostly because I want to be the one that does that... I hate the radical allowances in the book, such as Xenos weaponry and retinue members, deamonic wargear and weaponry, and daemonhosts being next to mystics and confessors. None of this stuff makes sense to me in a Grey Knight army. I would think the silver doods would be a little upset if they noticed their boss rockin' these...
Overall, I would have to heap my praise upon the book. Having read it and really jumped in deep, I'm now excited to do my own force. I just told a fella two weeks ago that I wasn't gonna jump on the bandwagon with Grey Knights. I may have to make myself a liar. The book is that good, the army that enticing. I give it a solid 'Awesome' rating.