Sunday, November 16, 2014

Faith and Purity: Grey Knight Codex Review (With podcast!)

Hey everybody, Corvus here, and in the wake of my "War. Game." post, I decided it was high time to get my feet wet with a 7th edition codex. After some browsing of other cidices, I was left with the new Grey Knights, something I have off and on referred to as "Objectively the worst codex this side of Tyranids," a dubious honor I didn't even award to Orks or DEldar. So, what made me decide to take the plunge? Hit the gap and read on, or tune in. It's not a narrated post mind you, so the experiences are unique!

Let's start with the results of my shopping around through the other codices and how I came to be playing the Knights of Grey. Godfrey is doing Orks, so that's out. I hate the Space Wolves, so no there too. Without Duke and/or shardcarbine toting Trueborn, Dark Eldar lost much of their appeal to me. Why not my Necrons then? They're on the list, and since they have a model for everything, they're unlikely to lose too much of anything. But they're 6 months down the pipe, possibly more, and I'm too impatient. After limited play time with 7th, I needed to jump in with both feet and see why Godfrey is liking this edition so much more than I am. Browsing through the pages, mine eyes fell on something astonishing in the GK codex: 30~ point terminators. Now, that's without special melee weapons and power fists mind you, but that's the cheapest price we've seen on terminators since CSM, and these guys are one of the few troop "swaps" to survive the edition change. No, they didn't require an unlock, but when I hear marines, I think power armored troops, so this was a big change already. Something unique. Add in the best psychic phase of any servant of the God Emperor, and I could feel that old allure that drew me into 20 terminator Blood Ravens rising up again.

So, what's the new codex all about? Am I setting myself up for as much disappointment as my Thousand Sons have offered me? Why do I think it's so bad and are the terminators enough to save it?

We'll open with the armory, as that's the first glimpse we get of points costs and signals to rules contained deeper into the tome. We see that the sword is still the starter melee weapon, the halberd (+1S) is nestled between the free price tag and the cost of falchions (still +1A), which are scantly cheaper than a warding stave (staff + AW), which is its self half as expensive as a Daemon hammer. The long and the short? Given points costs of models, I'd encourage gearing up. In poker, the term is pot committed. With all the points you already have to sink into a squad, the minimal upgrade to a weapon that will either give you an extra attack or buff you out to S5 (without having to bet on hammerhanding to S6) is phenomenal. Obviously the +1A pays off more for the bulk standard strike squad, but don't be afraid to consider halberds on Paladins, as their WS5 and 2-3 attacks base will let that S5 shine.

Past that is the compulsory special weapons rework. The cheapest, the Incinerator, picked up Soul Blaze. It's absolutely worth every one of those few points unless you need a psycannon. Next comes the psilencer. A super-semi-Heavy Bolter with the Force quality. Maybe not good, but the new king of interesting weapons by far in my opinion, and decimating to tyranids and daemons alike in the right circumstances. And then there's the reworked salvo psycannon that we all saw coming.

On the whole, the codex has traded in the Empryan Brain Mines, Warp Stabilization Fields, Psykotroke, Psybolt ammunition, and Rad grenades for a cheap as chips relic table. Why are the relics so cheap? They're quite straightforward and otherwise "unimpressive" but come with the stipulation that a character may take no more than one of any of them, as well as the super unique quality that multiple detachments will not net you multiple of the same relic. All in all, healthy for the game, and I'd expect to see Necron's MSS similarly removed, drastically altered, or otherwise made a relic. GKs kind of set a precedent for that sort of thing and now with it being phased out from Chaos of all flavors (no more Lash), as well as GKs, it's only fair. Even Rage no longer dictates how you can or can't move your own models.

The relics themselves are even a major step down from previous books, having limited rules complexity (relatively speaking), as well as being generally lower power in scope and potency. There's a few standouts, but the two biggest of them seem focused on getting the army successfully through the psychic phase. It's nice to see that GW is acknowledging that this army can easily become hamstrung with a bad psychic phase, even to the point of costing it hundreds of points in peril wounds, so the optional consideration is appreciated. Expect to see at least one of if not both of those relics included in armies.

Before getting into the FoC, I want to note that the armory page contains 0 rules, and simply references the listings at the back of the book. The army special rules aren't even listed until that section as well, making this very awkward to try to grasp on a first pass, and highlighting what seems to be GW's emphasis on models and battlefield roles first, with rules and arguably even wargear coming second. It's a bold move to try to be dismissive of what's perceived as a rise or growing trend in WAAC tournament culture, but I've yet to see if it will actually pay off. What will be most telling for the company is how quickly they update Eldar, Tau, and Space Marines once they finish updating Blood Angels and Necrons, as those codices are toxic to balance at present.

Next, we come to the HQ section. There's only a few selections here, and they're fairly straightforward, especially considering that, for the most part, they've been brought in line with regular Space Marine stuffs. Techmarines are bought in the same way as what Marines do, and the difference between a Brother-Captain and a Grandmaster is as small as a mastery level and an attack. This helps make "nerfed" Draigo really shine as the LoW "Chapter Master" for the book. Likewise, the librarian gets +1 ML over comparable marine librarians to help reflect his "dedicated mage" status in a book of wizards. It feels good, and it allows for just enough distinction to allow units have differing degrees of "elite-ness" to them. The only loser here is the brotherhood champion, as you do have to pay a premium (in stats) for some challenge-centric rules that a captain lacks. Even the named characters are "interesting" in that they offer a few unique things here and there for a modest points bump, without being game breaking or "worthlessly" expensive. There's no orbital bombardment, no more grand strategy, and not even psychic communion, but that's reflective of GW seeking to strip out a lot of individual rules and focus on army level definition.

Shuffling along, we find our other compulsory choice: Troops. There's only two, so this will be quick. Power armor dudes stayed the same points, and terminators are now proportionally a steal relative! Both still follow the marine heritage of knowing no rules fear, and combat squadding to allow for greater mission to mission tactical flexibility. Power armor dudes offer storm bolter and for the right points, choice of force thing. Their sergent is always a veteran, so that tax is a little salty, but it usually just encourages me to slap a hammer on him, since he'll always be 2A base. The storm bolter helps you keep up with bolter grunts of other books at long range, and if they close to try to double tap, they'll taste the cold steel of your AP3. Also, remember, combat squadding will net you two psychic dice as each half of the combat squad becomes its own ML1 psyker. Terminators are terminators, and act like you duct taped two power armor dudes together, trading their second storm bolter for a portable 5++. The 5++ feels much more satisfying this edition, since the 4+ of area terrain has gone the way of the dodo, and relentless helps the psycannon shine. Each choice can deep strike and knows the same psychic powers, so it really just boils down to if you really want to buy a rhino, and that's a question indeed when we get to some of the other options at the end of the book.

Next comes the elites, a similarly barren wasteland of even more super and magical super dudes. Purifiers, Paladins, and Dreadnoughts all live here. Purifiers have two attacks base for a few points more, can bring two special weapons per 5 guys, are fearless, ML2, and have soul blaze in CC, as well as knowing the Cleansing Flame power. So, they may not be able to be dedicated troops any more, but holy cow these guys are amazing. Paladins are unchanged, retaining their second wound, WS5, and access to more guns, FnP, and banners. Likewise, losing their troop swap capacity, but retaining their potency. Both of these units seem to show off the scaling marine philosophy of just how much a unit has to 'give up' to gain that oft-lauded Objective Secured rule. Dreadnoughts are likewise unchanged relative to other marine books, but trade in their drop pod access for retaining their psychic powers (they're the only vehicles in the codex to have kept their magic). Personally, expect to see few dreads but definitely a unit of Paladins or Purifiers, possibly both. They're expensive but the power is bought at a low upgrade price relative to the troop choices of the book.

The fast attack selection has managed to double in size relative to the last codex, as rhinos and razorbacks may now be purchased as standalone choices in this section. PAst that we find the Interceptor squad, and Stormraven. Interceptors are the same as last codex, offering jump infantry with a 30" shunt once per game, but at a price point akin to Purifiers (ouch). Neat when you just simply must go fast, but I'm not sure if they'll take the place of either of the other two power armored choices if they're chosen to be mounted in a rhino. Likewise, the stormraven has been overhauled and now bears the same loadout as the big blue one. The missiles work well enough Daemons that it feels like a clean inclusion, especially in the face of how convoluted the mindstrike missiles were. The rules for jumping out and how the lifted dread works help things out here too. A suitable ride for your HQ and some friends, if sadly somewhat slow to get troops into CC (turn three). Given that GKs seem to be pushing that "elite" feeling, I'm okay with these fast choices being a little on the weak or underwhelming. After all, speed is the DE and Blood Angel thing.

Rounding the final corner has us arrive at heavy support, which is again possessed of limited options, highlighting that the Knights are a strike force, rather than siege. There's the Purgation squad, which are effectively overcosted devastators, but they do pick up Night Vision at the cost of their being expected to lose their power weapons. I don't know if it's a fair trade, but it's a surefire way to throw psycannon fire down range without having to dip into your Paladins or Purifiers, so if you consider the cost of diversionary fire, then they really might pay off. Following that is our old friend the baby carrier - er, Dreadknight. These guys got a pretty sizable rework, from their weapon options to points costs, and they still really really shine, almost to the point of what I've considered a "crutch" for the codex. They'll clock in at a few points more than a basic riptide, but they'll be a jump MC with the shunt option, a neat gun or two, and the righteous passive ability to let you blast Pacific Rim while you punch your opponent's wraithknights, riptides, and daemons. Groovy. If your opponent has a sick conversion, or got over the silliness of the baby harness, he'll bring at least one. Finishing out the Heavy choices are the three Land Raider variants. Nothing super special to see here, but they can have OS if you brought troop terminators, and offer valuable anti-tank firepower, even if it is almost prohibitively expensive.

At last we find ourselves faced with the newest of toys, the native LoW, Draigo, the unique formation (basically apocalypse only), and the faction specific detachment (I've been eluding to it this whole time). Draigo is still a truck, and a steal for his points. He can walk through the warp with the greatest of ease, and is a terminator chapter master with burning blade and shield eternal. No joke, that's what he is. And it's good enough, especially when you consider his psychic might. You'll see him often, but hopefully he'll avoid "toxic" status. The Grey Knight Brotherhood is the equivalent of the Space Marine Company, and offers you all the benefits of the Nemesis Strike Force with the added buff of channeling warp charges on 3+. Nothing amazing, but perhaps enough to help out. The benefits of the Nemesis Strike Force you might ask? You can roll your normal 3+ reserves on turn 1, run and shoot in any combination after deep striking, and get to reroll your warlord trait. It costs you OS, which will be big on the major tournament scene, but the ability to have powerful deep strikes from turn 1 is not to be underestimated.

The warlord traits are basic and straightforward, and the Aegis allows you to reroll dispel dice of 1s, while psyk-out grenades are now just anti-psyker and daemon defensive grenades, and they've retained their ability to only peril on 2+ 6s, a helpful asset when they roll few powers, and almost all known powers are from Sanctic. The tactical objectives also mesh well with the potential shortage of OS in a GK army, offering magic and killy focused replacements to the usual 11-16 of hold this capture that. All in all, a cohesive and well balanced tome, if limited in scope.

In summary, there's design notes here I'm really in love with, including the general feel of the book and the seemingly healthy internal and external balance, but others are big misses, such as the distancing of models and battlefield roles from even faction wide rules. These changes seem to be pushing 40k into a real wargame or battlefield simulation, rather than the Michael Bay real of crazy and over the top rules that I came into with 5th. I'm down for it, but it's going to be a rough year on the tournament scene until the big three see updates. We're being encouraged to make army selections, both at a faction and detachment level, rather than simple unit selections. Synergy will work out well for the game long term hopefully, as it leads player to playing more cohesive or comprehensive forces, but 'limited scope' events will likely accidentally bar GKs, as they're not entirely capable of coping with Guard, Necrons, or Eldar without some other-Knightly help from the Imperium or elsewhere. Their skills make them impeccable at combating Tyranids, Daemons, and even Orks though, so that should keep things interesting between Godfrey and I, at least for a bit longer. With that typed, and other things spoken, that's a wrap. Know that I look forward to purging you soon!


  1. Nice roundup, thanks!

  2. My pleasure! Thanks for tuning in!

  3. For me, the Dreadknight and Terminator troops are the best reasons to PLAY a GK army. I mean COME ON!!! ...a Terminator adorned trooper piloting a larger suit of armor? It's like a Centurion on crack! Plus, that sword and hammer... I cannot wait to get things going in the other direction so I can get back to spending my disposable income on 40K. I think GK's is a nice army, especially with a Dreadknight.