It’s back to the Grey Knights today, as it is that time of year when I get back into my beloved Chapter 666. As I mentioned a while back, I’ve been reading the third book in the Grey Knights series, which has prompted me to get back to the models that I have been working on for years!
Alaric is back in action with his squad of Grey Knights, reinforced after the events on Chaeronaiea, supporting the Imperial Guard on the planet Sarthis Majoris, which is besieged by the forces of the Archenemy under the leadership of the Aspiring Champion, Duke Venalitor. Alaric seeks Venalitor out on the battlefield for single combat, and is bested with shocking ease, finding himself transported to the daemon world of Drakaasi alongside his fellow battle-brother Haulvarn. On the nightmare world, he is approached by one of the slave labourers who asks him to find something called the hammer of daemons, in exchange for which he will provide the perfect armour with which Alaric can fight for his freedom.
There are a series of gladiatorial fights across the world, although it becomes apparent that Alaric is not breaking. Venalitor uses a bound daemon of Tzeentch to attempt to break Alaric but merely causes the Grey Knight to lose his sanity temporarily, which makes him fight with greater ferocity than before. Coming back to himself, however, Alaric leads a slave revolt and, through his time with the daemon attempting to break into his mind, he learns that the hammer of daemons is in fact a ship, which remains spaceworthy on the world. Alaric and many of the slaves manage to escape, Alaric using a saviour pod to return to the nearest Inquisition outpost.
This novel felt very different from the previous two in the series, almost making me question just how much of a series it is intended to be. I suppose they are bound together by the central character of the justicar, Alaric, but they are a little bit like standalone adventures, really. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but worth pointing out, I thought. There were a lot of parallels, I thought, with Graham McNeill’s novel Dead Sky, Black Sun, where Uriel Ventris and Pasanius voyage to a daemon world to make penance. After a while, the gladiator-esque scenes began to bore me a little bit, as Alaric is taken from daemon city to daemon city, sparring with all manner of creatures and building up an almost celebrity status as a fighter. I know it was necessary to the plot, but it wasn’t really how I pictured a Grey Knights story reading – I think it might have been to do with just being Alaric solo. Also – he was bested by Venalitor a bit too easily for my liking. The man’s a justicar, after all! He should be better than that!
I was also dismayed with the fact that Alaric was unable to use his psychic ability, and while he did give that daemon a run for its money, he still lost his grip on reality for a while. A Grey Knight justicar? Seriously? Hm. Overall, there is a definite sword-and-sorcery feel to this book, and a lot of it felt very much like a Warcry of generic Age of Sigmar style novel, as we have daemons and Chaos and gladiatorial combat. It’s all a bit weird as it didn’t feel much like 40k at all. I’ve read some reviews where people found the data daemons of the last book a bit weird, so were glad this one was firmly back in Chaos, but I just couldn’t get into this as the sort of low-tech book masquerading as 40k!
In rather exciting news, I’ve also had two games with the Grey Knights last week! First of all, I had a 1500-point game with my buddy JP and his Heretic Astartes, that was just bad for me as I made the ridiculous blunder of deploying almost my entire force into Teleport Strike, meaning I only started the battle with a land raider and a Dreadknight on the table. Going second, my first turn was just grim (though I did get off a pretty nice Overwatch with all the hurricane bolters on the land raider!) and the second wasn’t much better! Time was making fools of us and so I deployed the whole force onto the table during my second turn, and saw some nice turn-ups (killing Abaddon was a highlight, for sure!) but it was really just sad.
My second game was against James and his Black Templars, which was a much smaller-scale game at 680 points (basically the contents of the new boxset, for him!) This felt like a much more manageable game, I think it helped me because I am pretty new to the faction, despite having been working on them for years! So having just two troops, an HQ, an elite and the Dreadknight was a much better way to see what things do!
In both games, the weight of play was really in the psychic phase, for me. Against the Templars I did have a lot more opportunity for shooting and whatnot, as it was a smaller table etc, but without closing to melee range I was mainly playing the psychic phase. Which is fine, it’s where the Grey Knights are very comfortable after all, but I would like to see what all the Nemesis force weapons can do! I think that’ll be my goal for the next time I play, anyway.
The Dreadknight is definitely a great model, and I think it was in winters seo review of the codex where he said it’s like GW want to sell more of them, it has had a lot of nice additions made now. In the game against the Templars, the walker decimated both a Crusader squad and the Marshal, between the psychic, shooting and melee phases, so it’s definitely something I want to play with more often!
I actually tabled James by the end of turn three, but still lost the match on victory points, which goes to show how important the mission can be for 9th edition! The most horrifying moment in that game came when his Emperor’s Champion charged into a Strike Squad and basically cleaved his way through the entire unit, doing 6 attacks (all hitting) with AP-5 and 3 damage each. My guys never stood a chance!
Something that I really like about the new book – indeed, something I like about the edition as a whole right now – is how it feels like everything is quite balanced. Balance and GW, you say? Well, it’s only in my experiences so far, of course, but I don’t think there’s really anything where you can say “this is the way to play this faction” and no other army builds work. There are so many nice options out there in the books that I’ve played with/against, nothing seems to be hugely overpowered. It’s just all good stuff, and it does seem to prompt an experimental attitude as you might like to try out a number of different builds. But then, this is coming from me as a non-power gamer. I’m sure more competitive minds than I will find ways to break things, but the core rules themselves don’t seem all that ridiculous just now…
I’ve got more Grey Knights games lined up soon, so I’m looking forward to more experimentation soon. In the meantime, I need to get painting these chaps!!