Friday, April 8, 2011

Grey Knights - Not The Best Starter Army

I originally posted this on the B&C, but I figured I'd post it here as well, since it was fairly lengthy :X

I was reminded to watch the Beasts of War videos also by this thread, and starting from the very beginning, I realized that they are touting Grey Knights as the "best starter army" out there.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love the BoW guys as their videos are informative and entertaining, but I don't always agree with what they are saying and this is one of those times where I think I should just chip in, perhaps, to stop newbies from swarming this forum thinking this is an "easy mode I win" army because they are not. It is also to the benefit of the newbies to know this, so they don't go blow thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours only to realize that the GK's aren't their cup of tea.

Yes, I do agree that if you look at it from the perspective of "less models to buy" and "easy to paint" then sure, they aren't too bad, but from a playing perspective its a very different thing.

Why do I say they aren't the best starters?
1) They Really Aren't A "Close Combat Army"
For reasons I cannot understand, they have been touted as a specialist close combat army that would murder anything they lay their fingers on, and the trick is only to get them into close combat. And, apparently, they cannot play the shooting game.

Seriously? Jeez. Your basic Grey Knights fight a little better than your average Space Marine by sheer virtue of their Force Weapons, which may or may not activate, with the potential of Hammerhand, which may or may not activate (I'll talk more about psychic powers in a while). You *pay* for those weapons, and while they seem cheap for what they do, you are forced to take them and because everyone has them, you do not have "ablative wound" Grey Knights. When they die prior to striking in close combat, you lose most of those points for nothing, because a Force Weapon isn't doing anything if it isn't hitting you.

Your "Elite" choices, the Purifiers, Paladins and Terminators, have only two attacks each when not charging. Not even three, just two. Yes, Purifiers have Cleansing Flame, which works once in a while and may kill something, but it is not substitute for one extra attack. So what you end up with is what I call a low "attack saturation" - basically, model-for-model, point-for-point, you don't have very many melee attacks. They also die like Space Marines (I'll talk a little more about that later) and there are a number of good assault units out there that would kill you. Sure you may kill quite a number of them as well, but remember that your Elite choices are generally very expensive.

The most close-combat-orientated unit in the book IMO are the Death Cult Assassins, which I have mentioned several times on the forums. These Genestealler-wannabe's are the real deal - high WS, good S, and a ton of power weapon attacks for less points than your cheapest Grey Knight. Problem? They aren't exceptionally fast, and they are really squishy. Slow squishy close combat units were not designed for new players.

Assuming you are actually playing a "Grey Knight" army (i.e. not a Henchmen spam), the Grey Knights were, are, and probably always will be a mid-field army. Most of their firepower is at that 24" band, and few are higher or lower than that. You basically play them like a pseudo-shooty army, assaulting or shooting/falling back as the situation requires. If you just rush them up and try to shove them down the throat of the enemy thinking they are invincible in close combat, there is a chance that against certain armies/players you will likely fail.

2) They Lack Movement Options
Before some people go all "But you have Deep Strike, transports, Storm Ravens and shunt teleportation!", hear me out. You pay points for those Force Weapons everyone *has* to take, and if they aren't delivered into close combat (e.g. you die before getting there) then it would all have gone to waste. In addition, the great number of TDA units and characters means that you are forced to take either a Land Raider or Storm Raven (very expensive), risk Deep Striking (Mystics/Teleport Homers are rarely found and Servo Skulls only reduce the danger, although admittedly by a decent amount), or just slowly footslog. Also, unlike other Space Marine armies, you lack things like cheaper Jump Packs, bikes/cavalry (lol Space Wolves), Land Speeders and Drop Pods.

If you play a Rhino, then all armies are just as fast as that, so you aren't any faster. And your Terminators aren't going anywhere.
If you play a Razorback, you would use them for a single turn of movement before you disembark to shoot. And your Terminators aren't going anywhere.
If you play a Land Raider/Storm Raven you run the risk of shrinking your already-very-small army even further.
If you play Teleporter units (Interceptors/Dreadknight) then you pay a lot for them, further worsening your "attack saturation". Now, I love Interceptors because I can see a powerful application for them, but you have to keep in mind an Interceptor is no better at fighting than a GKSS, which is a full six points less per model, and I already do not rate the GKSS's very highly for combat capability.
If you Deep Strike, it is a risk unless you somehow work Teleport Homers and Mystics into your list. Servo Skulls are great, but aren't an absolute safety net. And even with all that, they may fail to show up when you need them, or arrive too early.
If you footslog....well it could work I guess, but it is very slow, which is in itself a big problem.

3) They Are (very expensive) Space Marines
Everyone who has ever played 40k either owns, or has played a billion times against, a Space Marine army. Every army will inevitably take enough guns and/or melee specialists to make sure Space Marines die. Now, this is a universal problem for all Space Marines, but for the GKs even more so because your cheapest GK costs 25% more than a regular Space Marine, and it just goes up from there.

Small elite armies are *not easy* to play. There is little margin for error because every loss *will* hurt you, and even your cheapest sacrificial unit is a noticeable percentage of your army list.

4) Grey Knights Are Not (necessarily) Overpowered
While I am certain many are trying to "break" the codex (and may succeed eventually), there is no clear-cut "I win" button. Nothing is really "exceptionally cheap" as even the GKSS, despite only paying a small sum over a normal Marine for all that kit, can only effectively apply that kit in certain ways. Some, including myself, have mentioned that the biggest possible cheese to come out of the codex may actually come from the non-Grey Knight side of the codex, which means two things:

a) The main attractive part of the Grey Knights, aka the Grey Knights themselves, would probably have a significantly smaller role to play in these lists.
b) Henchmen models are either expensive old metal models, or would require extensive modelling, neither of which are easy for a person who is new to gaming. Not to mention you can't just spray them silver and call it a day.

This also means that one of the stronger "plus points" for the GK's being a good beginner army (cheap to collect, easy to paint) would be nullified if the player decides to go down the Inquisition route.

5) Bling
Grey Knights have a lot of "bling" - toys that may or may not work, either because they are situational or very costly. It is difficult for even some experienced players to tell apart the "toys" and the "actual good stuff", let alone leaving newer players to make that decision. Sure, they could just follow wholesale what is preached on the internet, but then they don't really learn anything. Many good gamers actually go against the grain (so to speak), having their own unique playstyles, lists and preferences that go against the common consensus - things you cannot develop from just following what others say as gospel truth.

One more thing I'd like to mention about "bling" are the Psychic Powers. They sound great and they are great when they work, but they don't actually always work. Often I've seen people take into consideration Hammerhand into their reasoning why GKs are so far superior, how Force Weapons seem to always be "on" (without the Banner), how GK vehicles are "immune to shaken and stunned since they can easily remove it". Fact is:
a) Psychic Tests can fail, especially if your Justicar dies and you are stuck at Ld 8.
b) Perils of the Warp have a 1/18 chance of happening. Not entirely a small chance.
c) Most people play psychic defenses. I never play a Space Marine army in 5th without a Librarian of sorts, and you have to realize that things like Psychic Hoods, Shadow in the Warp etc make your Psychic tests very prone to failure.

6) Complex Army Construction
All the factors mentioned above make building a good GK army fairly difficult, and often times, means you will have to give up certain things to be effective.

Now, I am not saying that GKs are a bad starter army - they are decent and certainly a lot better than say, Dark Eldar. But IMHO, they may actually be one of the harder Space Marine armies to play because of these numerous factors.

Thoughts? Thanks!


  1. I wouldn't really agree with number two. They aren't immobile in needing to stay still and fire and with Rhinos/Razorbacks that 24" range is pretty big (24"+12"+2.9999").

    Everything else though, yes.

    They are a shooting army. They are expensive. They are Marines.

  2. I didn't mean they are immobile or "slow" - they lack movement options in the sense that there is a general lack of well-priced "fast" options like bikes, speeders etc. as all their inherently fast units are very pricey.

    In addition, all TDA's (which make up many of the GK options) suffer from only a handful of ways to be delivered. There seems to only be two sources of Homers (I think only the Purgation Squads get Homers, and I'll go count the Mystic as one), there is no option for Drop Pods, and the usual Land Raider option is a little less attractive because your army is already extremely tiny without a LR, and buying one just robs you of that one extra squad you desperately need. Granted its less of an issue in bigger games, but I tend to play 1,500 - 1,750 myself for the most part so I'm a little critical on how I spend my points.

    I'm used to fast armies, and thus naturally inclined towards units that are inherently fast (i.e. don't require a transport to get places) as befitting my Blood Angels background.

  3. I also agree that GK are not the best starter army... They are great for newbies just getting into the hobby. They are small (model count wise) so cheaper $$$, easy to paint (if u dont try NMM on them).

    On the gaming front, IMO a newbie will take quite long to perform with them. GKs are not a point and click army and just thinking how best to use grand strategy will confuse newbies. Being a CC oriented army, a smart opponent will take advantage of this and lure the newbie GKs in to slaughter :)

  4. Interesting, I am a noobie. Well sort of. I've ran orc's, demons, eldar, dark eldar, Although through proxy. I recently picked up some GK, It is actually the first army I've purchased. On a budget, I threw down 350, and plan on throwing another 350 next week. I understand you are speaking from experience here but I dont think you are giving noobs enough credit. They are a finesse army no doubt. But I'd like to think that anyone serious about getting into this hobby for the amount of cash that it requires understands that its a "strategy" game. And each army requires thought, time, and specific strategy to play well. I did at least. I did find your analysis helpful though.

  5. Thanks for the replies :)
    Anon: You'd have to keep it context - this was more or less written as a reply to the BoW video where the "newbies" involved are people who are brand new to the hobby and to tabletop gaming (hence all the talk about "easy to paint" and "cheap to purchase").

    If you've had experience with this sort of game then I wouldn't consider you a "newbie" in the same way it was defined in the video.

    Also, one must never discount the power of "AMAZING MODELS" when it comes to influencing the purchasing of a player. Beautiful models WILL be purchased - even many players who know how good/bad they are would still buy them anyway because their models look good, let alone a clueless person.



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