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Review: Codex Grey Knights

By Ian Warner

Introduction

What the fuck? What the flying fuck? GW have shat on the Inquisition and focused their attention on their Chuck Norris Clone gimps in shiny armour?

Yes I know it’s a shock and will cue the nerd rage that once again the Inquisition has been forced to take a backseat in the wargame despite being the best thing about the Imperium. Especially as the goody two shoes Knights now have centre stage.

It appears at first that once again us Radicals have been betrayed in favour of our bone headed Puritan cousins.

However fear not this is not a betrayal. In fact it is a call to arms for Radicals and Inquisitor fans everywhere.

How? Well let’s have a look.

Background

You do get the impression the big shiny guys have the majority of page count here which is fair enough because it’s really their codex. But don’t skip out on this stuff if you’re more interested in the crazy shit than the shinies.

Why? The Grim Dark Future has just got grimmer and darker and even the previously squeaky clean Knights have been affected.

Many times in old background stories the Knights have been holding back Inquisitors as they go on purges. Now the Knights are active in the purging: Even more so than the Inquisition in fact. How do they use the tiny little bit of independence they have in the new retcon? Blowing up passenger liners, that’s how!

But surely, you say, that’s just typical Puritanism which makes sense, well that’s just the tip of the new iceberg of badassery.

The Inquisition background is pretty sketchy as you would expect but it does make clear that Grey Knights are no longer the exclusive property of the Puritan factions. They’re the gimps of Radicals now too. So long as you have a Rosette you are entitled to, you are the boss to the new boys in silver.

As you will see in the Mechanics overview this makes me one happy heretic!

It goes further though. The Knights themselves have been taking ever more desperate measures to stem the Daemonic tide. There is Grey Knight special character who is armed with a Daemonsword. Supposedly this is because as chief Purifier he is completely incorruptible but nevertheless it’s nice to have some sanction for our methods from Space Marines that HAVEN’T been excommunicated.

So those are the retcons and they are mostly for the better. Though they have been sidelined the Inquisition are clearly in charge and working behind the scenes which kind of suits them more than sticking their big pompous heads above the parapet.

Don’t worry though. As we will see Inquisitors are still available as choices in the army and interesting ones at that.

Other than that the Background is relatively sound. It is nice to have the Grey Knights’ foundation story at last because the “ooooh big mystery” crap got really irritating. Also the guided tour of Titan was a real eye-opener. Again the presence of alien and forbidden tech propping up the supposedly “purest” chapter was a nice touch. Hypocrisy, bigotry and corruption is what makes the Imperium a very human setting.

Mechanics

So what is a Grey Knights army like then?

Well there is good news and bad news.

The bad news is it IS a Grey Knight army. Unless you fancy having that bastard Coteaz hanging around there is no way to have Inquisitors and random weirdoes only.

Also there are no Allies rules which annoyed me as I have a bunch of Relictors who fancy being bossed around by my Radical.

Oh well guess I’ll have to boss around some Knights instead!

The good news the Inquisition have finally, after all these years been done justice.

The Grey Knights are clearly placed at the beck and call of the Inquisition. While if you do want to go “pure knights” you can, it is heavily implied that it is the Inquisition that are behind the scenes.

Not just the Malleus either. You can have Hereticus and Xenos boss around the boys in silver too!

Each Ordo gives you access to unique equipment options though they have the same base profile and points cost. Alas they each use up a HQ choice so you can’t have all 3 Ordos represented but for 25 points base for a 3 wound model with Stubborn and Leadership 10 you’re really laughing.

The equipment options are awesome. Even the grenades, something which no edition since 3rd has managed to do well, are interesting; particularly the Rad Grenades that down those super human Toughnesses for a turn. But it is the arcane stuff that really kicks arse as you would expect.

Malleus can pick Daemonblades and Hellrifles (not to be confused with Hellguns the old name for Hot Shots) for the Radically inclined and Nemesis Daemon Hammers, Terminator Armour and even Psycannons are available for those of you who like to play it straight. Daemonblades deserve a special mention. They are nowhere near as powerful as the Chaos equivalent but they don’t backfire. They are 2 handed and grant 2 bonuses selected at random. These can potentially be quite deadly as even the lowest roll gives you +3 Strength.

Hereiticus are stereotypically bombastic with their Inferno Pistols being added to the mix along with Null Rods and the ever popular Bolter-Stake Crossbow which is now called a Condemnor Boltgun. Also a massively beefed Psyocculm is the perfect foil for Psyker-heavy armies. Particularly Grey Knights!

Xenos of course were denied their Codex by the revamp but Games Workshop make up for it here with a wide variety of arcane, alien and forbidden gear that makes the Xenos option somewhat tempting though you have to think what your tooled-up alien hunter is doing hanging around the boys in silver.

Unfortunately the new version of the Inquisition seems somewhat biased against Psyker Inquisitors.  Being psychic is a 30 point upgrade, requires you to take a free force sword and gives you the choice of 2 rather mediocre psychic powers. They’re both pretty neutral in terms of Puritan/Radical and can be justified as either. Whilst it would have been nice to have some Radical powers and maybe a couple of cleansing flame types for the Puritans it is understandable not to give these really cheap characters too much power. Also it is nice that it is now a reasonable tactical option not to have your Inquisitor psychic.

There is also a lack of an Invulnerable save option for an Inquisitor, which will make sense when everything is revamped and Invulnerable Saves become as rare as they are supposed to be, but for now puts the Inquisitor at a disadvantage.

Of course each Inquisitor gives you access to a Retinue of weirdos and boy are they weird! The stupid “boost your stats by taking the scribe” mechanic has been dumped. Each henchman can actually fight (albeit only as well as a trained human for the most part), has either flak armour or some sort of innate Invulnerable Save and advantage is gained beyond mere stat boosts in taking each type.

The types of henchmen have been seriously revised.

The formally independent Death Cultists, Daemonhosts and Arco Flagellants are now in the retinue with a slight toning down of power. Cultists give you Strength 4 power weapon attacks which can be most helpful with all those feeble human Strengths around. Daemonhosts are just as strong and tough as Marines but have only a 5+ Invulnerable to protect them and with no weapons it’s just the 1 attack. They do have a random trick up their sleeve with Daemon powers though which, though they are considerably more subtle in tone, are just as fun as the old stuff. Arco Flagellants get the biggest nerf, losing all their silly holy frenzy rules and with electro flails no longer counting as Power Weapons.

Just because it makes an energy discharge when you hit someone doesn’t make it a Power Weapon.

The old support staff that are actually useful are back in a slightly different form. Banishers are dedicated Daemon fighting clerics with preferred enemy Daemons and an ability to force nearby Daemons to re-roll successful saves. Crusaders are now extremely badass with the new Storm Shields and power weapons. The price tag is high though. Though the power claw option is removed servitors are reliable as ever, though keep your Inquisitor close or their brains melt! Mystics are now homing beacons for teleporters: Useful when you need some silver armoured gimps to save your arse! Psykers (separate from Mystics) bring down a punishing ordinance attack that gets stronger the more Psykers you have. Again, my radical brothers, it is heavily implied that these are UNSANCTIONED Psykers. AWESOME!

Finally there is a catch-all category for your Warrior henchmen, covering Guardsmen, Arbites, Hive Gangers, Bounty Hunters and even Battle Sisters. The equipment options for these guys are quite flexible though the lack of shotguns, grenade launchers, heavy stubbers and sniper rifles may be disappointing for some. Shotguns mostly! Too many awesome shotgun armed figures you can’t use!

Anyway there is also a new kid on the block. A bionic Orang-utan.

Yes seriously!

The Jokaero will be known to all background addicts like me as a nearly extinct species of ape-like Xenos who invented Digi Weapons. Well it looks like the Inquisition are breeding them because they’re finally on the 40K battlefield and beyond squad size there is no limit to how many!

Jokaero are techies granting you random equipment bonuses but they also pack fearsome Digi Weapons capable of turning into a Lascannon, Multimelta or Heavy Flamer at will. Unfortunately their physiques have degraded through over reliance on technology so with Weapon Skill 1 and Strength 2 they will need a butch Inquisitor, Crusader, Cultist or Warrior to defend them in Assault.

Templar Assassins retain their independence though the rules about deployment have been relaxed; you can have multiple Templar Assassins so long as they are from different temples. You are admitting to your opponent that things are really bad though, especially with their beefed stats. The “ignore Invulnerable Saves” ability has been nerfed a bit but I guess that is part of the overall revamp. Necron fans expect to have your Warsycthes toned down too. Sorry!

Well so much for the interesting stuff now for the Gimps.

Okay to be fair Knights are nowhere near as bland and uninteresting. They are no longer Fearless, Aegis has been toned down and although they are all Psychic most of them can only manifest the new version of Hammerhand which simply adds +1 Strength and occasionally a unit specific power of some sort.

There is now a lot more variety to the Knights than there was. In Daemonhunters there was pretty much only Power Armour Knights and Terminator Knights. Purgators were there but they just had more heavy weapon options.

Now a there are a wide variety of Knights with Terminators and Plain Power Armour “Strike Squads” taking up Troops while the various other choices get their own types, all of which can be built with the basic plastic sets.

HQ now includes, in addition to the beefed up Grand Master and Captain, a Librarian and Champion.

The Champion was a predictable addition as all the Marine offshoots seem to be getting one these days. Although I miss the days when only the Fists offshoots could take them this makes the game more character-driven which in my opinion is awesome.

The Librarian is a surprise though. Why would a chapter where every marine is psychic need one? Well first there is the new Psychic Mastery system allowing you to use multiple powers in a turn. Grey Knight Librarians can use 2 and potentially upgrade to 3! Secondly you can mix and match the best of the Grey Knight powers with some of the Librarian powers from the Marines codex. That is a lot of brain hurt!

Elites have Paladins who are the best of the best Terminators and Purifiers who are the best of the best Power Armour. Purifiers are also supposed to be incorruptible but we all know who they said that about *cough* Quixos *cough.* Also Techmarines are copy pasted from Marines with the addition of a tech-minded Psychic power. Nice to know that it’s not just space monkeys maintaining the gear!

Fast Attack has the addition of Interceptors, who have personal teleporters. More stolen Xenos tech; I like these guys! Stormravens appear too to sell more of those hideously expensive fliers. Games Workshop will never change!

Finally Heavy Support has Purgatation Squads, 3 forms of Land Raider, Dreadnaughts and of course the Dreadknight Monstrous Creature. Yeah this big Aliens rip off is there to compensate for the fact if an actual Dreadnaught were to take on a Monstrous Creature it would have its arse handed to it in short order even if its weapons do now count as force weapons as well as the usual Double Strength Monstrous Creature thing. Purgatation Squads remain loaded with heavy gear but now they have a unique Psychic power to help them shoot round corners.

With that let’s look at the Grey Knight’s gear.

Every Knight having a Halberd was boring, so now Nemesis Force Weapons come in a wide variety. They all count as Force Weapons and have an additional Instant Kill chance against Daemons similar to a Diresword. Individual types do different things. Your bog standard sword gives you +1 to Invulnerable Saves if you have one, making it especially deadly with a Storm Shield. Halberds (if you are reusing your 3rd-4th edition stuff this will be your majority) add +2 Initiative. Daemonhammers are now Nemesis Daemonhammers combining the Thunderhammer rules with the basic Nemesis ones. No you don’t get to strike at normal Initiative against Daemons though! Warding Staves give you an awesome 2+ Invulnerable Save albeit only in Assault. Falchions give you +1 Attack, Grey Knight Dreadnaught Combat Weapons are now Nemesis weapons, and Dreadknights can wield huge overpowered swords that are also Nemesis Weapons.

Shooting wise you may be struggling. Yes there is a new Arcane big gun on the block, the awkwardly named Psilencer, but it is quite low powered and strictly anti infantry. Incinerators and Psycannons have lost their Invulnerable save ignoring ability but Psycannons have another point of Strength, Rending, a set range of 24 regardless of mode and the Heavy mode is now Heavy 4. Dreadknights have a heavier version that is Large Blast but if you really want one of those things hanging out with your army there is something wrong with you.

If you need to deal with tanks with a Grey Knight force you have to rely on the Inquisition, Meltabombs and any Dreadnaughts you have to do the job.

Aside from this weapons are, for the most part, good at what they do – which is not bad for a combat focused army.

Overall the mechanical side of the codex seems fair and balanced whilst encouraging you to embrace the weirdness of the Inquisition and not just build another Marine Variant.

Atmosphere

Whereas Daemonhunters cast the Knights as real goody two shoes who jarred completely with the Corrupt Totalitarian Madness of the Imperium, this new Codex shows their shiny silver armour hides a much darker side.

This has echoes of how the Inquisition were revealed to be not so squeaky clean with the release of the Inquisitor Specialist Game.

After the near loss against the 13th Black Crusade the Imperium seems to be getting much more desperate and hopeless all round. Knights are more human than they were previously portrayed and have the fallibility and desperation that make the Imperium such a great setting.

I can now see how Grey Knights can tolerate working with Inquisitors of a Radical bent. They aren’t too far from Radicals themselves!

Artwork

Most of the stuff that isn’t reprinted is new looks at the boys in silver which is a bit of a shame with all the new weird stuff but it can’t be helped.

The painting guide is up to the usual standard, though it can be hard to tell the difference between some of the different unit types. I guess that is a general problem with the Marines and Sisters though.

Conclusion

I was expecting a clusterfuck of epic proportions and a final death blow to Radicalism. Instead I have the triumph of the radical way and the humanising of supposed super saints in silver! I for one approve.

Though I do have one gripe. Why can’t these awesome new Inquisitors lead my other Imperial armies? I can understand abolishing the old Allies rules as they were just there to get Power Gamers their squads of Knights for “pwnage” but surely we could have Inquisitors turn up with their minions leading Guard or Marines? They are, after all, mostly base human stats with nothing particularly game breaking.

Oh well at least the Inquisition are back and more Radical than ever.

In the memory of Quixos!

Verdict

Style 9/10

Substance 8/10

Overall 8/10

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