Imperial Knights 7e: Army Review, part 1
It wasn't long ago that I managed to write a whole set of articles based off an army with only 2 units, well now I have 5 Knights to talk about, plus 4 from Forgeworld, as well as one Special Character, 2 Detachments, and 5 Formations, what an improvement! The last time I wrote about Knights, I talked about 3 main issues with the army and what they should look for with their allies, they were anti-transport, anti-air, and scoring. This time however, due to the potential of getting Objective Secured, new types of Knight, and the option to take additional weapons for air support as well as popping transports, these 3 weaknesses are far less impactful than they were before. To get the ball rolling, I'm going to talk about the most fun part of the book, the Knights themselves, first the standard Imperial Knights from the codex, then the four variants available from Forgeworld.
Knights in General
First a bit about Imperial Knights in general. An Imperial Knight is fairly survivable, able to ignore most firepower under S7 with it's AV13/12/12 and 4+ save to one side via the Ion Shield. It can move at a solid 12" a turn, and isn't slowed that badly by terrain.
At range they (almost) all carry a devastating gun that is more powerful than those found on nearly any other single unit in the game, and are generally comparable to even a squad of other vehicles. As they are mostly equipped with multiple ranged weapons, you're able to fire your most devastating long range weapon at whatever you like, then fire off a single stubber, at the closer enemy that you may wish to charge. Don't forget that the weapons on knights are all mounted with a 45° arc to the front, as per the walker rules, so you have to be careful about the enemy getting to the side of you, all of your weapons have a sadly narrow band to fire in directly in front of the Knights.
In melee, they have 3 attacks, typically with a Destroyer weapon, meaning that they'll annihilate most single models they encounter. Additionally, they generate D3 stomps in melee, which can get lucky and outright remove any model it touches on a 6, but most of the time is going to generate a few S6 Ap4 hits. While it sounds like a Knight can wipe out tons of models in a round of combat, in practice, they are easily bogged down by hordes and even a single pocket power fist/klaw or meltabomb could cause you to lose a knight, or at least a few HP. While they sound devastating in combat, it's also where they're the most vulnerable, so generally, I typically prefer to stay out of combat, but if the enemy is a moderate squad size and of little threat to the AV13 knight in combat, I'm not afraid of charging in.
In addition to their default weaponry, all of the standard Imperial Knights have access to a carapace weapon. Instead of talking about these in context of specific knights, I think it's fine to talk about them on their own, as Imperial Knights can fire their weapons all at different targets, so what it's mounted on doesn't matter as much.
- Ironstorm Missile Pod - fairly inexpensive, this weapon gives the knights a bit more anti-infantry firepower in the form of a long range, S5 Ap4, 5" blast, barrage weapon. Great on knights you plan on keeping in the back field as it doesn't require line of sight.
- Twin Icarus Autocannon - it's like GW read the shortcomings of Imperial Knights on the internet and answered our prayers! While I find the weapon a tad expensive, if your allies can't bring some AA, you always have the option of slapping some on a knight yourself. As it is only AP4, it is unlikely to make Flying Monstrous Creatures jink, but is still a handy option if you're facing a lot of flyers in your area.
- Stormspear Rocket Pod - the most expensive of the options, the Stormspear rocket is by far my favorite. Essentially a 3-shot krak missile launcher, it has it all, a respectable rate of fire to help fire at infantry, a fantastic strength and AP value, and in a pinch, 3 shots hitting flyers on 6's isnt' bad. The big advantage is that when you do encounter things like a Flyrant, a cautious player will always jink as even a single shot landing could knock it out of the air (and then let you charge and squash the bug). If I have the points, nearly every one of my knights gets a Stormspear Rocket Pod.
- Thunderstrike Gauntlet - Any knight that has access to the Reaper Chainsword can upgrade it to a gigantic powerfist. It's still a destroyer weapon, so it's damage output in melee is exactly the same, though it does force you to strike at I1. On non-character knights, striking at I1 is a fairly insignificant change (unless of coarse fighting thundernators, meganobz and other units of high strength I1 melee weapons), but when put on a character, it's a huge difference. Character knights are usually able to challenge out any power fists or meltabombs which may be hiding, but when your'e striking at I1, they'll get to attempt to hurt you before you've had a chance to squash them. It may not sound big, but when facing armies like Orks, which could have multiple klaws in a unit, or similarly Tank Bustas, Fire Dragons, Meganobz, Terminators, etc., giving them the chance to strike can be a death sentence. That said, the weapon is still pretty fun, it's key rule is called "Hurl" which allows you to throw wrecked vehicles or slain monstrous creatures into the enemy, doing a bit more damage. It's an incredibly situational ranged attack, as it does require you to kill specific models to function, but it is pretty hilarious to blow up a transport then spike the burning wreckage down onto the occupants after they've fled.
- Meltagun - All of the standard knights have a torso mounted heavy stubber, which can be upgraded to a meltagun at a nominal fee. This may be an amazing stealth buff, as the ability to pop a transport then charge the contents, for a mere 5 point investment could be totally game changing. I'm nearly considering this a must-have an any knight that you intend to get into the mid-field (i.e. any of them but the Crusader).
The Knight Errant is the first of 3 multi-purpose knights. It's signature weapon is the Thermal Cannon, which is essentially a gigantic multi-melta, firing off a S9 Ap1 large blast at 36" with the melta rule. At first, this may seem like an ideal tank hunter, though unfortunately that isn't exactly the case. While it's weapon has a devastating profile, being limited to a single shot means that 2/3 of the time, you wont actually kill the vehicle you fired at, meaning it'll usually take more dedicated firepower to even kill a single Rhino. On the flip side of the coin however, this is the only ranged weapon on Knights that can trigger an Explode result. Where the weapon does excel though is when firing at 2+ save units, being able to plop down a 5" template on some terminators, or better yet a deepstriking centurion death star, is invaluable, and provides the army with the only reliable AP2 outside of combat.
As with any of the 3 knights armed with both a gun and a melee weapon (Errant, Paladin, Warden), if you're not getting it into combat with units where Destroyer attacks are better than S10 AP2, then you're better off running a Crusader. The Destroyer attacks are definitely intimidating, but against most things it's no different. To make the most of these Knights, I use them in mid-field roles, giving them the opportunity to engage enemy monstrous creatures and vehicles, as well as potentially spearheading attacks into the enemy deployment zone.
The second of the original knights, the Paladin brings a two-shot battle cannon. It's able to cut through swathes of infantry with two S8 Ap3 large blasts per turn at a devastating 72" range. Being Ordnance, the weapons have an advantage at penetrating armour, though without AP 1/2, there is almost no chance at all of it wrecking a Rhino (you could get 2 Immobilized results theoretically). It's inability to wreck vehicles in a single volley is the greatest weakness of the Paladin, that said, it is an amazing utility Knight and can be used to shell off the last HP or two on a vehicle, or alternatively blast a ton of infantry to little bits.
The last swiss army knight, and the first of the new variants, the Knight Warden is an incredibly welcome addition to the Knight family. Boasting a brutal Avenger Gatling Cannon, this bad boy pumps out a whopping 12 S6 Ap3 rending shots per turn. Without a doubt, this is a great weapon for both infantry and dealing with lightly armoured transport vehicles which otherwise are a pain to handle. When it gets up close and personal, the Ironstorm Gatling Cannon incorporates a heavy flamer for roasting infantry (or firing at an open-topped transport for laughs). As the range is relatively short for knights (only 36"), the Warden will likely be mid-field, where it's melee weapon will come in handy, punching apart any vehicles that get close. Since the main weapon is rending, it can even pose a threat to more highly armoured targets. Since it's main weapon is rolling to hit normally, and it's armed with a melee weapon, this knight is an ideal candidate for the bonus WS/BS that is granted to your warlord in some of the formations and detachments.
Our first specialist knight, the Gallant is prepared for one thing, punching the crap out of heavily armoured targets. Sporting both a Reaper Chainsword and a Thunderstrike Gauntlet, the Gallant has an extra attack over it's counterparts. While one more attack isn't that impressive ultimately, what is impressive is it's super low (comparatively speaking) price tag, which opens up a lot of options if you're considering a 4-5 knight based army. Overall, I probably wouldn't' take a Gallant in most lists, as it's utility is really quite slim, good at killing tanks and monstrous creatures, and little else, but like I said, in an all knight army, the extra points are more than welcome.
My favorite knight of the bunch, the Knight Crusader is significantly more expensive than the others, it brings to town an Avenger Gatling Cannon like the Warden, but also either the rapid-fire battle cannon from the Paladin, or the thermal cannon from the Errant. It lacks a destroyer weapon, but it is still S10 Ap2 in combat due to all super-heavy walkers having the smash rule! Slap on a Carapace gun and now you've got yourself a mini Reaver titan. I could definitely see lists based around 2 Crusaders, pumping out a devastating 24 S6 AP3 shots, plus 4 pie plates at S8 Ap3. The big decision is between the weapon options, personally, I prefer the rapid fire battle cannon, as it encourages me to keep my distance, the thermal cannon is just enticing you to get within 18", where I'd rather not be.
Gerantius (from White Dwarf)
Definitely worth a mention, Gerantius is the only Knight special character usable in normal games of 40k (the Obsidian Knight is Apoc only). For an extra 125 points, Gerantius takes a normal Errant and boosts it significantly, gaining +1 WS/BS, character status, a 3+ ion shield, It Will Not Die, can run and shoot in the same turn, and re-rolls 1's on the stomp table. Overall, I'm still not sure if he's worth the price tag, as he isn't hugely more survivable, nor does he do a whole lot more damage, but he is still fun to toss in a list from time to time. Definitely not a competitive choice unless you've got some key gimmicks to take advantage of (multiple characters in an army for multiple Blood Angels casting Quickening for example).
All Cerastus Knights have similar stats to regular Knights, except that they get a bonus attack (4 base) and can run 3D6" in the shooting phase, which can get them across the board in a blink of an eye with an average 22" move on turn 1. Plus they just look bad ass.
Cerastus Knight Lancer
For me, the Lancer is the Gallant all grown up. It still only carries a single ranged weapon (a 6-shot plasma gun with concussive essentially), and is only otherwise geared for combat, but it does that last part a lot better, albeit for a 20% higher price tag. The Ion Shield for the Lancer is usable in melee, though it cannot be used to the rear arc, and is -1 to be hit in melee by other super-heavies, so overall it does everything that a Gallant does against it's intended target, only better. It's fast, hits hard and is fun to use, though like the Gallant, only really excels at killing single large models, or units of tough elite infantry.
Cerastus Knight Castigator
To most knights, being tied up by a mob of 20 orks or termagants is an annoying endevor that means you'll be killing a few dozen points a turn of enemies, while they hold you in combat, not to the Castigator though. This is the only knight that is more than happy to deal with hordes of enemies in melee, performing a special Tempest Attack at I2, which can kill up to twice as many enemies as there are in base to base... I've had plenty of games where one round was all it took to wipe out 20-30 infantry in combat. Be careful though as some smart and canny opponents will do tricks to prevent you from maximizing the damage, such as charging through terrain so that they pile in at I1, after the Tempest Attack takes place, or moving to about 6-7" with only 1 model in charge range so that if they roll averagely only a couple models will make it into base to base, and so on. At range the Castigator and the Warden are very similar knights. The Castigator has a lower rate of fire, at 8 shots, though it is twin-linked and at a higher strength, giving it slightly more damage output at BS4 against most vehicles, and slightly less against most infantry, and being twin-linked isn't even that bad at shooting air targets. I never leave home without a Castigator, it's too helpful and really compliments the weaknesses of knight armies.
Cerastus Knight Acheron
I want to like the Acheron the most of any Cerastus Knight, but I just don't. It's gun is truly devastating, at S7 Ap3 with a Hellstorm template, it just cuts through massive amounts of enemies in a single shot, ignoring cover and most armour saves, and in melee, it re-rolls those pesky 1's on the destroyer chart, ensuring that all hits result in some sort of damage. The downside however is that it wants to be so close to the enemy that it ends up being put at risk to being charged by units that have the equipment to handle it, terminators and even units of orks packing a Klaw or two. If your'e facing an opponent with no melee threats, then this guy is just amazing to watch, though, at least in my area, it's just too risky for my taste.
Questoris Knight Magaera
Finally, the last of the 40k Knights, the Magaera. At first, I thought this was a totally worthless knight. It's more expensive than a Paladin, and it's ranged weapon left a bit to be desired at a single S7 Ap3 rending large blast. For a somewhat outrageous point cost, you can upgrade it's Reaper Chainsword to a Hekaton Siege Claw, giving it a damage bonus against buildings, as well as having an incorporated rad cleanser (fleshbane flamer). So what's the big deal? It's ionic flare shield, that's what. Like a normal Ion Shield, the ionic flare shield gives it an invulnerable save to one side, but additionally, it gives it +1 armour to that side as well, meaning it can have potentially AV14 to the front, or AV13 to two sides. With Eldar now sporting a massive amount of S6 firepower, and also having to deal with the S6 devourers that Flyrants have, suddenly, it's looking a lot less scary. Sitting in the back-mid field, this guy can be a real pain to shift, and now that knights have ways to gain Objective Secured, this guy can really lock one down.
With a grand total of 10 knights to choose from now, the Imperial Knights have a whole ton more variety than they used to. The gaps in the army have been filled nicely, and I can't wait to get some more games in with the new variants. Overall, my favorite Knights are the Castigator and Crusader, the Castigator for dealing with hordes, flyers and transports, while the Crusader just makes a mess of everything. For a 3-knight list I'd probably add on an Errant, though at this point it's really hard to decide.
Stay tuned for my next article where I'll be covering the Relics, Formations, and Detachments.