Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The New Knights: Not Quite What We Were Expecting

Just yesterday I speculated on the weapons that the Knights shown in silhouette were carrying. Much of my speculation was based on rumors that had been floating around for about a week. Now that images from the upcoming White Dwarf have leaked, it turns out that many of the rumors were in error. First, the new Knights do not have any ranged D-weapons. Second, their armor, Ion Shield, and Hull Point count are the same as the Paladin and the Errant. Without upgrades, the Knight Warden even costs exactly the same as a Knight Paladin.

To be honest, I was kind of disappointed to see that the most jaw-dropping (and thus the most suspect) rumors were false. Once I got over that fact, I found that I'm still really excited for the new Knights. They might not be Shadowswords on legs, but they still add a lot of versatility to the army.

The Knight Crusader is built for ranged combat. Its base weapons are the Thermal cannon or rapid-fire battle cannon, a heavy stubber, and the Avenger gatling cannon with built-in heavy flamer. The Avenger gatling cannon is a 36" range, S6, AP3, Heavy 12, Rending weapon. This turned out to be the gun I misidentified as a possible Volcano canon.

The Knight Warden is armed with the Avenger gatling cannon, a heavy stubber, and a Reaper chainsword. For 10 points the chainsword can be replaced with the Thunderstrike gauntlet. This giant power fist is Strength D, AP2, and has the Colossal rule which causes the model fighting with it to strike at Initiative 1. The gauntlet also has the Hurl rule, which allows the model to throw a defeated Monstrous Creature or non-super heavy vehicle at an enemy unit within 12". The result is an AP- Large Blast with a Strength equal to the Creature's Toughness or half the vehicle's front Armor Value, respectively.

Finally there's what I assume to be the Knight Gallant (none of the leaked photos seem to specifically identify it by that name). The Gallant has a Reaper chainsword and a Thunderstrike gauntlet.

Now we get to the upgrades. From what I gather from the German images, the cheapest is the 5 point cost to swap the heavy stubber for a meltagun. Then there are the three carapace weapon options. One is the Twin Icarus autocannon; a twin-linked, 48" range, S7, AP4, Heavy 2, Interceptor, and Skyfire gun for 35 points. For 40 points you can get the Stormspear rocket pod; a 48", S8, AP3, Heavy 3 weapon. Finally, there's the Ironstorm missile pod; a 72" range, S5, AP4, Heavy 1, Large Blast, Barrage weapon for 30 points. Interestingly, it sounds like the Knights Paladin and Errant may also be permitted to take a carapace weapon. One photo shows the Knight Errant Crimson Reaper with an Ironstorm missile pod mounted on it.

At first glance I wasn't particularly impressed by the carapace weapons. Once I thought about it, though, I realized that the fact that they're mounted on Super-heavy Walkers makes them a good deal. Since a Super-heavy can fire its weapons at different targets, each additional weapon is like adding one more unit to the army. Four 40 points you can get almost as many S8, AP3 shots as a Space Marine Devastator Squad can give you. The Ironstorm missile pod is effectively a 30 point Whirlwind tank. And the Twin Icarus autocannon is essentially a Space Marine Stalker tank with half the shots but with the Interceptor rule.

For a Knight Crusader, I'm considering the heavy infantry-busting combination of the Rapid-fire battle cannon, the Avenger gatling cannon, and the Ironstorm missile pod. That's two S8, AP3, Large Blasts, one S5, AP4, Large Blast, and 12 S6, AP3, Rending shots from a single model.

The Models
The models are about 95% identical to the Paladin and Errant. In fact, the White Dwarf says that the new kit has all the sprues needed to build the original models (as I originally suspected). There are a few additions that are kind of neat, though. For those who didn't like putting tiny aquila heads on their Mechanicus-aligned Knights, the new kit has little Cogs Mechanicus. Sadly, since I already have two unbuilt Knights, I won't be able to replace all the aquilas unless the new kit has extras.

The new model kit also adds a rim to the shield on the right side of the torso. And it includes two new faceplates: a Mechanicus one that looks half armored and half organic and a brutish one with a snout.

[Edit 5/1/2015: Make that three new faceplates. A couple leaked photos now show a third new faceplate with a solid upper half and a perforated "mouth guard".]

My Impressions
I had really hoped that this release would include ranged D-weapons, if only to keep up with Eldar. However, if Eldar are removed from the equation, this is actually a very nice release that gives Imperial Knights a lot more variety and allows them to be a full, reasonably well-rounded army. (And leaving ranged D-weapons out of the army makes it easier to keep friends.) It looks like five Knights, a few meltagun upgrades, a Thunderstrike gauntlet here and there, and a few carapace weapons bring the army up to 2000 points.

I also like that there are enough options to give each Knight a specific role in the army. It's easy to see a Knight Gallant with its Reaper chainsword and Thunderstrike gauntlet leading the charge. A Knight Errant and a Knight Warden with their 36" range weapons follow just behind the Gallant, taking out tanks and infantry, respectively. The Knight Paladin with its longer ranged Rapid-fire battle cannon guards their backs. At the rear, a Knight Crusader covers the rest of the army with its ranged weapons.

Unfortunately, I'm now extremely excited about building a Knight army, meaning that there could be a substantial delay in starting my Skitarii army.

Monday, April 27, 2015

New Imperial Knights Incoming

Not long ago, we started getting rumors about new Imperial Knights: the Knight Warden and the Knight Crusader. Like the Knights Errant and Paladin, these Knight types existed in GW's small scale game, Epic 40,000. Although there are a few differences between the old Errants and Paladins and the new ones (e.g., the original Errants had giant power fists instead of chainswords), they're similar enough that it's been generally assumed that any future models will share certain features with the old ones.

The original Knights Warden and Crusader were both heavily armed, long-range Knights. Thus, it wasn't surprising when the rumormongers eventually gave us the following:
Crusader is armed with: Quake Cannon, TL Las-cannons
Warden is armed with: Volcano Cannon, Multi-barreled Autocannon
Both models have an optional top carapace missile launcher weapon mount, with multishot S8, AP3 anti-flyer capability
Both models are protected by a single energy field based heavily on the rules for the Stronghold Assault book’s Void Shield Generator.
Armor Values: Front:14 Side:13 Rear:13
Hull Points: 8
Both models clock in well above the cost of the Knight Paladin/Errant
As is now the norm, both Knights were supposed to be built from the same kit. Not long afterward, we were told that the kit would build a third Knight: the Knight Gallant. The Gallant doesn't appear to have an Epic counterpart.

Today, GW released their teaser for the Knights. Although the teaser only shows the new Knights in silhouette, we can guess a few things about them.

For starters, the legs, torso, and shoulder armor appear to be identical. Second, the new models can be equipped with weapons found on the Paladin and Errant. Both the rapid-fire battle cannon and the Reaper chainsword make an appearance. It's very likely that the new kit contains all the Paladin and Errant sprues plus at least one more sprue with new weapons.

Mystery Knight #1
Given that the Warden and the Crusader are supposed to be equipped for long-range combat, I'm going to guess that this one is the Knight Gallant:

The Reaper chainsword and the power fist show that this is primarily a close combat Knight, although the structure on its back is probably the missile launcher mentioned in the rumors. Its shape and location are nearly identical to the missile launchers found on larger Titans like the Reaver:

I'm very curious as to whether or not the power fist has special rules (perhaps it's AP1 versus the chainsword's AP2) or if it's just there to give the model an extra attack. If it's effectively identical to the chainsword (and assuming the kits are interchangeable), hobbyists who want to better distinguish their Errants from their Paladins could follow the pattern of the Epic models and equip the Errants with power fists.

Mystery Knight #2
This one is interesting since it's equipped with two new weapons that are difficult to identify. Obviously, its right arm is equipped with a standard rapid-fire battle cannon. However, its left arm has a large weapon with a complex shape on the end:

It's possible that this is the multi-barreled autocannon that the rumors mentioned, but I don't think the shapes are round enough to represent a rotary weapon. In fact, it looks like it could be the tip of the Volcano cannon, like the one carried by the Shadowsword:

That leaves us with the gun on the carapace:

It's difficult to tell what this is, but the rounded shapes and the loops at the top make me think that it could be a twin-linked or multi-barreled autocannon with ammunition drums and feeds.

It's worth nothing this model doesn't seem to match the rumors, which said nothing about the Crusader or Warden being able to carry the rapid-fire battle cannon.

Mystery Knight #3
Now we're really deviating from the rumors. Mystery Knight #2 may have a twin-linked/multi-barreled autocannon and a Volcano cannon, which would make it the Knight Warden. This Knight, however, doesn't match the rumor's description of either the Warden or the Crusader. It's armed with a missile launcher, the mystery arm cannon (possibly a Volcano cannon), and a power fist. If the model has twin-linked lascannons, they're hidden within the rest of the silhouette.

Given what we've been shown, I strongly suspect that Gallant, Warden, and Crusader are going to be very loose terms for the new Knights. Although the Epic Knights followed rigid patterns, the new fluff says that the weapons are actually interchangeable (GW even put tiny lifting lugs on the guns to suggest that they can be hoisted off their arm mounts) and that it's only by tradition that certain types of Knights carry certain weapons.

The GW teaser was probably meant to show the variety that the new/revised kit has and that those providing the rumors may only be aware of a couple of major builds. As for the missing Quake cannon, the only difference between the Volcano cannon-equipped Shadowsword and the Quake cannon-equipped Banesword models is literally a single piece at the tip of the cannon. It would be very easy for the Knight model to do the same.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

First Thoughts on Skitarii

I've been perusing Codex: Skitarii since I bought it. It turns out that having purchased the last three White Dwarves meant that I had already seen about 80% of the codex. The biggest things missing from the magazine were the description of the Doctrina Imperatives and the Detachments/Formations. Either way, I'm very excited to start this army. Although I wish I were a faster painter and could get a large Skitarii army on the Cabal's tables quickly, the codex seems designed to allow gamers to start out by fielding relatively small Mechanicus forces alongside their existing armies.

Models and Fluff
In my last post, I praised the Vanguard, Ranger, and Ironstrider models. The model line only got better with the Sicarian Infiltrator and Ruststalker models. GW topped it all off with the Onager Dunecrawler.


I love the look of all these models, particularly the long-legged Sicarians. Their torsos and upper legs are clearly those of human beings, but their multi-jointed lower legs are grotesque cybernetic alterations that give them phenomenal mobility. This is reflected in their Dunestrider rule, which gives them an additional 3" of movement during the Movement phase, while running, and when charging. I prefer the look of the Sicarian Ruststalkers, but I think the Infiltrators' Stealth, Infiltrate, and Neurostatic Aura (which reduces a nearby enemy's WS, BS, I, and Ld by 1) will be a lot more useful.

Sicarian Infiltrators

Sicarian Ruststalkers

Onager Dunecrawler
I'm also a fan of the crab-like Onager Dunecrawler. The walker is obviously of human design and, like the Ironstrider, clearly shares characteristics with the Imperial Knight (the fleur-de-lis makes yet another appearance). At the same time, it has an insectile design that makes it completely different from anything we've seen fielded by the Imperium of Man. GW has even given the Onager a clever backstory.

As diehard 40K nerds already know, the High Gothic of the 41st Millennium is essentially corrupted Latin, although GW seems to throw in a healthy dose of Greek, too (paleontologists also love to mix up their Latin and Greek when naming dinosaurs). "Onager" is Greek for half-donkey or mule. This High Gothic name for the weaponized crawler was intended to be a translation of the name of its original utilitarian version: the "Mars Universal Land Engine" or "M.U.L.E." The M.U.L.E.'s design was inspired by the (apparently long-extinct) Terran beast of burden, which the designer mistakenly believed was insect-like.

Onager Dunecrawler

The original M.U.L.E. was used to escort early Martian settlers across the planet's wastes. Since the Mechanicus is nothing if not a slave to tradition, Skitarii Battle Maniples of the 41st Millennium are still centered around their Onager Squadron.

The Rules
Leadership and Doctrina Imperatives
Contrary to my expectations, Skitarii are not fearless. However, their base Leadership is as high as that of Space Marines while also having a number of ways to boost its value. We also know now that Doctrina Imperatives boost the BS or WS of the army for a turn. If the boost is merely +1, no other characteristics are affected. However, if the boost to BS or WS is +2 or +3, then an increase in BS will adversely affect WS or vice versa. There are currently six Imperatives, each of which can only be used once per game.

Initially, I had assumed that Doctrina Imperatives were based on a Leadership test since the White Dwarf revealed that "Data-tether" wargear added 1 to the Leadership of a unit affected by an Imperative. I wasn't sure how this was going to work for Skitarii vehicles since they also had the special rule. However, the codex states that to use a Doctrina Imperative, you simply choose one at the beginning of the Movement phase; all units in the army with the Doctrina Imperatives special rule benefit from the Imperative unit your next turn. Apparently, data-tether wargear is meant to reflect the fact that a unit affected by a Doctrina Imperative is subject to a higher level of external control by the Mechanicus Tech-priests, which has the side effect of increasing their effective Leadership for that turn.

Detachments and Formations
Since Skitarii lack an HQ, the standard Combined Arms Detachment is not an option. Instead, the basic Detachment is the Skitarii Maniple, which has no HQ choices, two mandatory Troop slots, six optional Troop slots, four optional Elite slots, two optional Fast Attack slots, four optional Heavy Support slots, and one optional Fortification slot. The Skitarii Maniple gives Preferred Enemy to your Warlord (who is chosen from among the Skitarii Alphas of your Vanguard or Ranger Squads, or from among the Princeps of your Infiltrator or Ruststalker Squads) as well as Scout and Crusader to all models. The universal Scout is limited in that units can't use it to Outflank unless they have the native ability to do so; e.g., Infiltrators, which have the Infiltrate special rule. The Skitarii Maniple seems like the best way to field a 1500 to 2000 point all Skitarii army.

The Battle Maniple Formation appears to be one of the best ways to field 800 to 1250 points of Skitarii with another force. The Formation consists of one unit of Vanguard, one unit of Rangers, one unit of Ruststalkers, one unit of Infiltrators, one unit of Ironstriders (either Sydonian Dragoons or Ballistarii, either of which can have up to six walkers), and one unit of Onager Dunecrawlers (which can have up to three vehicles). The Battle Maniple has all the special rules of the Skitarii Maniple while also giving Leadership 10 to all models within 12" of an Onager Dunecrawler.

For a reasonably balanced 2000 point force, you can run two Imperial Knights and a ~1250 point Battle Maniple. Unfortunately, you're limited to a single squadron of Onagers. The Onager is easily the most flexible unit in the codex. While the basic model has extremely limited close combat ability, if you upgrade it with a Cognis Manipulator, you get a Strength 10, AP1 close combat attack that also gives the vehicle It Will Not Die. (Bear in mind that its WS, I, and A aren't great, so don't get it in a fight with a Dreadnought or a Soulgrinder.) The walker's ranged capability is much more impressive, and has anti-infantry, anti-flyer, and anti-armor options. However, since all vehicles in a squadron have to fire at the same target, it's inefficient to arm each Onager with a different weapon.

For larger games you can field a War Cohort, which is composed of three Battle Maniples. All models in a War Cohort benefit from the rules of a Battle Maniple while gaining the ability to re-use a single Doctrina Imperative. I find the War Cohort appealing, in part because it includes three Onager squadrons, each of which can be equipped for a specific task. Unfortunately, my preliminary lists suggest that a reasonably effective War Cohort will cost at least 2500 points.

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