GW is finally advertising the White Dwarf containing the rules and background for the Imperial Knights. Of course, all of the more obsessive fans already knew what was coming. I just might have gotten my hands on a copy of the White Dwarf a day or two early and have already pored over it.
As expected, the magazine discusses the fluff of the Knight Houses. For the most part, this is shown to be similar to that of the original Imperial Knights from Epic. However, the revised Knight fluff now divides the one-man Super-heavy Walkers into factions. Although the Knight Houses predate the Imperium, and still remain relatively independent, most have chosen to align themselves with different groups. There are effectively three types of Knights: Imperial-aligned Knights, Adeptus Mechanicus-aligned Knights, and the independent Freeblades.
At this point, there is no difference in the rules for Imperial, Mechanicus, or Freeblade Knights; the difference appears to be cosmetic. The Imperial-aligned Knights tend to forgo the imagery of the Adeptus Mechanicus, decorating their walkers with Aquilas and the emblems and colors of their Houses. The Mechanicus-aligned Knights sport a predominately red color scheme. They also bear the logo of their House, although this symbol inevitably incorporates the Cog Mechanicum. Freeblade Knights are independent of any House, each having its own individual symbols and colors.
The Decal Question
A short while ago, the rumor mill revealed that a sheet of Imperial Knight transfers was going to be sold separately from the kit. This inevitably caused an uproar among those who are perpetually looking for a reason to complain about Games Workshop. As expected, they immediately assumed the worst and decried the greed of GW for selling the decals separately, not once thinking that perhaps the separate sheet was supplemental to one included in the kit.
A sheet of transfers is indeed included in the kit and is shown in full detail in this issue of White Dwarf. The variety of decals on this sheet puts those included in other kits to shame. It contains imagery specific to three Imperial-aligned Houses, two Mechanicus-aligned Houses, and one Freeblade Knight in addition to multiple Imperial, Mechanicus, and generic symbols.
As good as the sheet included in the kit is, the one that is being sold separately is even better. It's an enormous A4-sized sheet (i.e., about letter-sized) that covers four additional Imperial-Aligned Houses, two additional Mechanicus-aligned Houses, and four Freeblades. There are also a huge number of symbols used by the Imperium and the Adeptus Mechanicus. Interestingly, the sheet includes personal heraldry for Imperial-aligned Knights, some of which include imagery from Space Marine Chapters such as the Ultramarines and the Imperial Fists. Although I'm not usually a fan of water-slide decals, I'm actually tempted to buy this sheet if only to get the Mechanicus logos.
Although I had already seen plenty of leaked images of this issue of White Dwarf, those low resolution images didn't capture the level of detail and the thought that have gone into the Knight models. For starters, the weapons have lifting lugs on them. The designers envisioned the pre-Imperium Knights' as all-purposes walkers. Since they might be used for heavy labor one day and combat the next, the walkers' arms were designed to accept any number of tools or weapons. Lifting lugs on the arms would have aided in swapping out the various equipment.
Also, one image in the magazine and the accompanying blurb show that the GW design team modeled a highly detailed frame underneath the Knight's armor plating. The idea is that the Knights were originally fielded as skeletal machines in support of their various Houses. As time went on, armor plating, heraldry, and decorations were added.
I was happy to see that the models come with a selection of three heads. One is patterned after a medieval knight's helm, one looks like a stylized skull mask, and the third has a cybernetic look that is clearly meant to resemble a skull.
[Update: Images on GW's pre-orders page shows that the cybernetic skull isn't a separate head; it's the head used on all Knights. You can either go with the bare face or you can cover it with one of three face plates: either a stylized skull mask or one of two masks resembling medieval helms.]
What am I Going to Do?
For starters, I'm buying at least two right off the bat. I intend to field them as an Allied Detachment alongside my Ultramarines. And I'm definitely building Knights Errant. The Paladin's rapid-fire Battle cannon isn't particularly interesting to me given how much difficulty an S8 gun has at taking out vehicles with heavier armor. Plus, the Knights have Hammer of Wrath and their Reaper chainsword is a close combat D-weapon. Clearly they're meant to get in close and do some real damage; the long-range Battle cannon doesn't exactly complement that strategy. Now, a S9, AP1, large blast, 36" range weapon with the Melta rule is a different story. The Thermal cannon is the next best thing to a D-weapon.
The paint scheme is a less obvious decision. I like a lot of the Imperial-aligned imagery and the fact that some of the personal heraldry incorporates symbols of Space Marine Chapters suggests that a few Imperial Knights have earned the respect of the Astartes. But I'm also a fan of the Adeptus Mechanicus and I would really like to have a group of red Knights sporting the Cog Mechanicum stomping alongside my Marines.
[Update 2: Pre-order photos let us see how tall the Imperial Knight really is. Although the GW website is currently saying it's 8 inches tall (i.e., about an inch shorter than a Wraithknight) a little Photoshop work shows that it's actually about 6.5 inches tall (which is what I guessed before). I created the image below by matching the base sizes of the Space Marine and the Eldar Guardian. I then used the width of the 25mm bases to determine heights.]