Well I’ve had the Grey Knights book for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve been using some of the time I spend travelling on the train, and my evenings, looking through the book to ensure my armies are ready to face them.
When you see an army across the battlefield you need to quickly know the main strengths and weaknesses of it. To do this quickly you should immediately know the main strengths and weaknesses of each race and then see how your specific opponent has strayed away from an average build (eg. more firepower at the expense of mobility etc.).
So what have the Grey Knights for a main theme ? Looking through each of the unit entries the overwhelming impression that you get is that they are very good in close combat, particularly against units with good armour saves and/or multiple wounds. The standard marine stat line, complimented by good psychic powers which increase their close combat ability (eg. +1 str before weapon modification, all their attacks causing instant death etc.), and an excellent line of close combat weapons (ranging from the basic nemisis force weapon to free or very cheap upgrades to force weapon thunderhammers, initiative 6 force weapons and even a defensive force weapon that gives a 2++ save in close combat).
As if the close combat ability wasn’t enough a closer look will show that their anti infantry firepower is not bad either. All Grey Knights start with a storm bolter, and the options just get better and better. Units and vehicles can have psy bolt ammunition that boosts the strength of bolters, autocannons & assault cannons by 1. This upgrade is not that expensive (the cost of a tau fire warrior for dreads, twice that for squads, and half the cost of a fire warrior for rhinos/razorbacks). You could have a squad of 10 Grey Knights throw out 20 shots at str 5. Riflemen Dreadnaughts (dreads armed with 2 twin linked autocannons) become even nastier for 10 pts (over their marine counterparts) when their shots go from str 7 to 8.
Standard upgrade weapons for Grey Knights squads are the Incinerator (a heavy flamer with +1 str), Psilencer (a heavy 6 bolt gun that always wounds deamons on at least 4+) and Psycannon (an assault 2 or heavy 4, 24” range, str 7 ap4 rending weapon). One notable omission from the grey knights arsenal is melta weapons (although they do have the ap1 missiles on the storm raven). Two ways Grey Knight armies can get melta is on dreadnaughts, and taking warriors in the henchmen unit. Warriors are 4pt guardsmen that can take 3 special weapons (eg. meltaguns) and can be mounted in a chimera.
Grey Knights can also be a heavy terminator army, with basic terminators as troops, and a new elite slot terminators with WS5 and 2 wounds. The troops terminators are the same cost as standard marine terminators and come with nemesis force weapons (which can be upgraded to the other nemesis weapons) and storm bolters. They have the same weapon upgrades as normal grey knights.
Overall we have an elite army that is very good at close combat and has good mid range (particularly 24” range anti infantry firepower). Long range firepower will come in the form of dreadnaughts, razorbacks or land raiders. Melta weapons are in short supply (mainly dreadnaughts and landraiders multimeltas or henchmen meltaguns).
The main weakness of Grey Knights (apart from heavy henchmen army builds) will be the toughness of the Grey Knights. Although they have lots of boosts to their offensive abilities they die just as easily as a basic marine. Plus their terminators do not get access to storm shields, and their elite two wound terminators (paladins) can be instant killed easily with only a 5+ invulnerable save from shooting. Slightly increase your low AP and high strength weapons and your shooting should do well.
Basic Grey Knights are also slow outside their transport. So tactics should include trying to out deploy or outmanoeuvre them and shoot their transports early. The Grey Knights are also another incentive to mechanise your army more. This will have the twofold effect of stretching their limited and/or short ranged anti tank and protecting your troops from their very effective anti-infantry firepower.
These general weakness flow through the entire list, as outside inquisitors and henchmen you only have the same grey knight unit and a two variants of terminator units. In general terms for powered armoured grey knight units you have:
- The standard grey knight troop unit
- A elite unit that can take more special weapons
- A heavy unit that can take more special weapons
- A unit that has personal teleporters to make them jump infantry
Basic tactics against elite armies that will help against Grey Knights are:
- Try to pop their transports early to reduce their mobility, reducing the chance they can use their good close combat ability much or coordinate and focus their excellent short to mid range shooting.
- Try to refuse flank them and/or split up their army allowing you to deal with the enemy in small chunks, while the rest does not play too large a part in the battle. While this tactic can be used against most armies the fact they Grey Knights need to get to close combat to make the full use of all their abilities and the short range (normally 24”) on their infantry means this tactic can be devastating to them if pulled off well.
Things to Watch Out For
- Daemon Hammers: These are an upgrade to the standard nemisis force weapon. It is a force weapon and a thunderhammer at the same time. When combined with the Hammerhand psychic power which gives +1 str before weapon modifications it gives the Grey Knight Str 10. This can instant kill T5 troops (such as thunderwolves) and make it much easier for the Grey Knight to deal with dreadnaughts in close combat
- Nemisis Halberds give the user initiative 6 force weapon attacks. This can totally swing a combat if you don’t take them into account. Some close combat specialist rely on killing the enemy before they strike, so if suddenly the Grey Knights get to strike first with Str4 power weapons it could be disastrous (eg. dark eldar incubi, genestealers etc.). Even heavy hitters would not like losing casualties before they attack (eg. blood angel sanguinary guard, marine command squads etc.).
- Dreadknights look awesome, and their stats back up how impressive they look, monstrous creature, 2+ save, additional invunverable save, good in combat and shooting. However if you think of him as a better daemon prince you won’t go far wrong. Without a personal teleportor (see Shunt move below) he is slow and he only has 4 wounds. He does have the nice combo of good armour save and good invunverable, so a few more low AP1 weapons so it has to rely on it’s invunverable save would be good.
- Purifiers are an elite slot version of the basic Grey Knight power armoured squad. I think these will be seen a lot because they gain so much over the basic squad for only for 4pts more a model. They can have the double the special ranged weapons, plus the heavy flamer equivalent drops from 20 pts to free, and psycannons stay at only 10 pts each. Purifiers are also good against hordes because their Cleansing Flame psychic power allows them to cause a wound on all close combat opponents on a 4+ and these would happen before blows are struck and count towards combat resolution. A squad of 5 could charge a mob of 30 orcs and cause an average of 12.5 wounds from this special power, and then deliver another 15 close combat attacks which should kill just under another 4 orks. This totals just over 16 kills from the 5 Purifiers (on average). Even when the Purifiers loses on average 2 guys from the orks return attacks the majority of the remaining orks should die to the no retreat rule. With the ability to cover the Grey Knight weakness against hordes, and their flexibility to be ranged anti-horde with up to 4 heavy flamers or ranged heavy weapon teams with 4 psycannons (16 str 7 rending shots of they stay still) they are a great unit. The icing on cake is that a reasonable costed special character can also make Purifiers troops choices.
- Vehicle Psychic Pilots (which pilot all the space marine vehicles, ie. rhinos, razorbacks, landraiders, skyravens & dreadnaughts) come with the psychic power Fortitude, which means that if they are shaken or stunned they can ignore it if they can pass a ld10 psychic test at the start of their turn. A common tactic used against vehicles is to stun or shake them so they can not cause any shooting damage the following turn and then move onto the next vehicle. The Grey Knights vehicles will probably ignore such damage meaning you will need to destroy key Grey Knights vehicles, facilitating the need for more anti-tank and/or an increased proportion of AP1 weaponry. Just remembering that stunning a Grey Knight vehicle does not necessary put it out of the game for a turn will stop game changing mistakes happening.
- Shunt moves given by personal teleportors can cause a nasty surprise. As well as allowing the unit to move as jump infantry it allows them to (once a game) make a 30” move, although they can’t assault that turn. Luckily these can appear on the fast attack powered armoured Grey Knights and the Dreadknight (for an expensive 75pt upgrade). While the Shunt move can allow them to redeploy very quickly and shoot a unit/vehicle you thought was safe, it is very nasty when combined with the Grand Master (standard HQ character) that allows D3 units to be given one of a number of Universal Special Rules (one of which is Scout). If a Grey Knight army goes first and gives a DreadKnight the scout ability it can set-up normally, Shunt as it’s scout move 30”, leaving it free to move and assault 18” in the first turn giving it a 48” threat zone from where it deployed. Counter options include:
- Reserving your whole army to give the DreadKnight no turn one target
- Castling your army, with cheap sacrificial units on the outer edges
- Let the DreadKnight have it’s first turn fun, knowing that what it kills will probably be worth much less than the DreadKnight (which could be near 250 pts with upgrades), and then the DreadKnight is in the middle of your army unsupported. This only works if each of your units/vehicles the DreadKnight can get to is not worth too much, if the DreadKnight can charge a full Tau broadside unit for example it will make it points back before you even have a chance to move (castling or reserving would be better tactics in this case).
With that I’m going to leave going into the Grey Knights psychic powers and the Inquisitor henchmen for another post. Hopefully this post will have given you some ideas on how to prepare for the Grey Knights, the overall theme of the list and what to look out for.
Let me know your thoughts, and feel free to point out where you think I’ve got it wrong and other things I may have missed so we can all learn.