Saturday, March 15, 2014

Choosing a Knightly House

When I first got into this hobby, I chose Space Marines primarily because they were the first army that I ever played. Although Bryce originally got me interested in the game with the Black Templars and their fluff, I ended up doing Ultramarines simply because I had bought GW's starter paint set, which came with five Tactical Marines with Ultramarine logos. I ended up liking the paint scheme and, fortunately, also liked their fluff.

Now that I've bought a couple Imperial Knight kits (and intend to get at least one more when my hobby budget recovers), I have to determine what knightly house I want to model. I briefly considered doing a few Freeblades (i.e., Knights who have gone off on their own or who have outlived the rest of their house) but I found the idea of a house detachment to be more appealing.

Until I read through the Imperial Knight Codex and The Imperial Knight Companion (which is a beautiful book and well worth the cost to us fluff-minded hobbyists),  I was pretty certain that I wanted to do a Mechanicus-aligned house. Not only do I find the Adeptus Mechanicus in general to be interesting, but I like the red color scheme used by Mechanicus units. I figured that a few red models could be a nice change of pace after painting so many blue-armored Ultramarines.

While looking through the photos and illustrations in the Codex and the Companion, I found that I really liked the black and white accents used by the Knights of the Mars-based House Taranis; the first of the knightly houses.

A Knight of House Taranis from The Imperial Knight Companion

I intend for the Knights to accompany my Ultramarines into battle. Although I was leaning towards Taranis' color scheme, I continued to read through the Codex and the Companion to see if there were any knightly houses that might have close ties to Macragge or notable interactions with the Ultramarines. The more I read, the more I realized that Taranis' fluff wasn't all that interesting to me, regardless of what I thought of their paint scheme.

With the sole exception of House Taranis, all Nobles who pilot a Knight suit are neurologically altered by the Throne Mechanicum that links the pilot to the suit. According to the Codex, the Throne "implant[s] strong positive associations to notions of fealty, obligation and hierarchy, as well as a deep respect for the Noble's ancestors". This was a deliberate feature of the device and was meant to mentally condition Nobles on far-flung colony worlds, preventing them from going rogue and turning on their fellow settlers. With the highest ranking members of the colonies thus conditioned, all Knight worlds became highly conservative feudalistic societies whose Nobles are willing to die for their own people as well as for any allies that they deem worthy. This arrangement is reminiscent of Ultramar itself, which is a feudal realm ruled by various lords, all of whom are inevitably Astartes of the Ultramarines Chapter.

Taranis, on the other hand, has protected Mars since the Age of Technology. Having always been loyal to the Cult Mechanicus, Taranis' Nobles have never adopted a feudalistic system nor has there been a need to condition them through their Thrones Mechanicum. The only reason that there is a knightly house on Mars is because of the discovery that certain genetic lineages are more likely to be neurologically compatible with the Knight suits. Otherwise, the Knights of Mars are effectively a branch of the Legio Titanicus.

While the story of House Taranis is interesting, it's obvious that their true loyalties lie with the Adeptus Mechanicus. This would be fine if I were playing Iron Hands or the Imperial Guard, but I play Ultramarines; a Chapter whose captains bear titles like "Knight Champion of Macragge" and "Regent of Ultramar". I want to model a knightly house that will remember a favor and repay a debt millennia after the fact, not one that will ally with the Ultramarines because the Mechanicus' and the Astartes' interests are generally aligned.

Of course, this doesn't necessarily preclude me from modeling some other Mechanicus-aligned house. The Nobles of House Raven or House Krast may be aligned with the Adeptus Mechanicus and are obligated to support the Forge Worlds first and foremost, but their Nobles have been mentally conditioned just like those of the other knightly houses. Unfortunately, none of the paint schemes of the other Mechanicus-aligned houses really interest me. Many of them use chevron patterns that look pretty sharp, but I don't have any confidence that I'd be able to pull them off.

Like Space Marines, Knights laugh at the idea of camouflage

After a little bit of searching, I found a knightly house with the ideal fluff. House Terryn is based on Voltoris, which puts it relatively close to Ultramar. Although well known for straying far from Voltoris in search of battle, in recent years the Knights of House Terryn have found themselves protecting their region of space from the Tau and the Tyranid hive fleets. This would very likely put them into direct contact with the Ultramarines.

Terryn's Knights have been known to become lost to the House and to act more like Freeblades than a house detachment while single-mindedly pursuing a vendetta or fulfilling a vow. With this kind of background, it would be easy to model a detachment of Knights that had vowed to support the Ultramarines until death or until they are released from a debt of honor.

I only have one minor issue with House Terryn:

Blue armor with white markings? Again?

That's right; they're blue. I would be adding blue Knights to my already very blue army. Well, the recommended base color of House Terryn is Kantor Blue, which is different from the Mordian Blue, Ultramarines Blue, or Macragge Blue that I've been using for my Ultramarines, but they're blue nonetheless.

And the idea of allying Terryn with the Ultramarines isn't particularly novel:

So much blue...

The Codex even features a Knight of House
Terryn striding among an army of Ultramarines

But come to think of it, I like the color blue and I've never claimed to be very imaginative. The fluff for an Ultramarines/Terryn alliance works out perfectly and has great storytelling potential, so I guess I can live with a thoroughly blue army that looks suspiciously like GW's promotional material.


  1. I can't wait to see what you do with it. My husband and I will be getting one knight and painting it to compliment both our imperial armies. He plays Blood Angels and I have Ultramarines and Sisters of Battle. I am content to let him choose the scheme and paint it up. Have you decided on a weapon load out? Or will you be magnetizing so you can swap weapons?

    1. On first glance, the thermal cannon seemed like the obvious way to go. A supercharged melta weapon is the next best thing to a D weapon, which is why I originally intended to equip all my Knights with it.

      As I started to think about it, I realized that the thermal cannon only produces a single blast that can be defeated by invulnerable saves, jink saves, cover saves, etc. Plus, it's a tank killer, but squads of troops with meltaguns, blasters, haywire weapons, etc., can present a significant threat to Knight that a single blast might not be able to get rid of.

      So I've decided to arm two Knights with thermal cannons and one with a rapid-fire battle cannon. The first two will be dedicated to heavy vehicle/heavy troop hunting while the other is meant to kill squads and their transports.

  2. I think you are one of the few bloggers who makes posts about the minutiae of things like choosing a color scheme or faction, and in such length and detail. It's really enjoyable because I do the exact same thing, often taking 24-72 hours of mental gymnastics and Googling until deciding upon any specific thing before proceeding. After all, it's something I'm going to be spending months, possibly years on, so I don't want to just pick something at random.

    It's really fun reading things like this, so thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with the rest of us.

    1. Thank you for the comment. The truth is that I love the game because of its story. I enjoy playing, and I wouldn't be building models if I weren't using them on the tabletop, but I primarily see the hobby as highly involved storytelling. Moving plastic figures across a table doesn't interest me. But if you give those figures and their faction histories, motivations, vendettas, etc. and put them in an exciting sci-fi setting, then I'm be interested.

  3. For my Knight, I chose to do a Freeblade and used the Auric Arachnus model (gold body, yellow carapace). The codex noted that it is believed that Arachnus fought with the Ultramarines in the Battle For Macragge, and I happen to be a huge Ultrasmurf myself. Now I'm thinking about a second Knight, and I might have to do that as House Hawkshroud (yellow everything). I hate painting yellow, but I have nearly every army and I need something that doesn't match my green IG or DA, my red BA and CSM, my blue UM (as you said above), my bone Eldar, and my purple Tau. Not alot of colors left...

    1. After reading the story about Auric Arachnus in the Knight Companion, I very strongly considered recreating his Knight to go along with two Terryn Knights. I gave up on that idea after one look at the spider pattern on his carapace. There's simply no way I can do that justice.

      I also love the idea of the Obsidian Knight, who has fought alongside House Terryn, but our Dark Angels player, Jake, is interested in doing that one.

      Hawkshroud is a good choice if you don't mind painting yellow. The only problem with that one is that their logos are only found on the extra decal sheet; if somebody wants to do more than one Knight they'll need more than one $20 sheet.


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