Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Imperator Rex: the Imperial Knight Reveal!

Victory does not always rest with the big guns; but if we rest in front of them we shall be lost.
Apocalypse passed by without me giving it so much as a second thought, despite Games Workshop’s hope it would crash into my life with the full fury of a Lucius Pattern Warhound titan kicking aside some wave serpents.  While the two models they released for Apocalypse (Lord of Skulls, and the Tesseract Vault) look excellent, the $160 price tag was hard to swallow.  And when I only get to play a game of 40k every few months, I would rather play a standard game and try to fine tune a list, as opposed to playing something filled with crazy world-ending monstrosities that are imbalanced and liable to make the game one-sided. Games Workshop was obviously unsatisfied with the sales of Apocalypse, because they quickly followed it up with Escalation, allowing the imbalanced Lords of War to be taken in regular games of 40,000.  Even with this release, I was still unmoved.  Honestly, Dreamforge Games got closer to convincing me to try out these rulesets when they released their Leviathan Crusader, than Games Workshop did with any of their efforts.  And while I bought and assembled a Leviathan Crusader, I never tried out either of the rulesets, as one titan does not make for a good game of Escalation or Apocalypse.  It looks like this is about to change, however, as last week images leaked revealing that Games Workshop is finally bringing titans out of Epic 40,000 and into Warhammer 40,000.

These guys have been stalking the 40k universe for a long time...
Ever since I started playing Warhammer 40,000, I was always drawn to the creepy, vaguely humanoid mechanical giants that dominated the skylines of the epic battlescenes on many of the covers of Games Workshop’s games.  Having gotten into the hobby shortly before the release of Epic 40,000, I got to see a lot of the warmachines in the pages of White Dwarf and at my local game store, and I always entertained the thought of using them in games of 40k.  Forgeworld was the first to make this possible when they released both the warhound and reaver titans, but their incredible cost and complexity inhibited most hobbyists from really getting to experience them (even when rules were printed for most of the standard variants in the successive versions of Apocalypse).  So when rumors began to circulate that the Warhound’s smaller brother, the Imperial Knight was going to receive a plastic model, people were understandably excited. Then last week, images leaked showing segments of a forthcoming White Dwarf issue detailing both the release (along with the rules) of two variants of the smallest titan class in the Imperium, the Knight.  It appears that the model is a large multipart kit, giving the option to assemble one of two Knight variants: the Paladin, and the Errant. The surprise release of this kit is certain to send waves of excitement through the 40k community and will likely be the first real taste many have of these iconic iron behemoths in 40k.

Thankfully GW stuck with past imagery for the model, and did not trying to reinvent itself (they have tried this before giving us questionable things like the Dreadknight...) 
Fortunately, the model retains many classic elements from its  late 80s/early 90s design, while updating others such that it fits alongside its larger Forge World brethren.  They maintained the characteristic hunched look of other titans (warhound and reaver), with an impressively broad back and shoulders.  The fact that the head is not mounted on top of the machine’s body, but rather in the chest, gives it a very distinct look, setting Games Workshop’s mechanical robots apart from most other companies.  Virtually every portion of the model is covered in broad armor plates that are perfect for painting on sigils, checker patterns, and other heraldry, reinforcing the image of an eccentric questing knight from the Dark Ages.  The Paladin variant even has a knightly helm, with an imposing thin vision slit that hides advanced targeting and cogitator engines!  Additionally, they included the characteristic banner that often hangs between the legs of such warmachines .

Although better pictures would be nice, I am pleased to see they included a skull/Mechanicus themed head.
Based on the leaked images and rules for the Knights, it looks like there are only two shooting armaments in the kit, a Rapid-fire battle cannon for the Paladin and a Thermal cannon for the Errant. I am still not too sure what I think about the Rapid-fire battle cannon. Games Workshop has a tendency to make the barrels of their guns excessively wide, making one question if it could actually function. I feel this battle cannon is right on the edge of being too large, but I will reserve my judgment until I see it in person. Aside from the size of the cannon, I don’t think I like the heavy stubber mounted on the weapon’s gunshield; if it was meant to be a coaxial weapon, I feel it should have been positioned closer to the barrel of the cannon. The thermal cannon on the Errant looks pretty good, with nothing really jumping out at me, as it is essentially an oversized multimelta (it verges on being a little too large, as well).  Games Workshop’s penchant for chainsaws is still alive and well, and while not making too much sense on such a large bipedal walker, it feels right at home on the Knight.  Surprisingly, the blade is actually rather thin, making it easier to imagine it actually cutting something!  I am still holding out hope there will be more weapon options in the kit (like a turbo laser...).  Expanding on this, I hope they follow Dreamforge’s example and make the arms easily detachable/switchable, without the need for magnets.  This would also give Games Workshop the ability to release new weapons in the future (similar to Dreamforge), dramatically increasing the value of the kit.

Quite a dramatic scene, both the Paladin and the Bloody Handed God glance at the camera, hoping to look their best.
It will be interesting to see how poseable the kit will be.  If it even had half of the flexibility that the Dreamforge Leviathan has, it would be fantastic.  At the very least, I hope the legs are not fixed; but if the Riptide and Wraithknight are any indication, it will likely be severely limited.

Based on an uninspiring trailer that Games Workshop released earlier this week, the Knight will be officially unveiled on Saturday (02.22.14).  Then we will have a definitive answer to some of the speculation I mused about above.  We will also see the price; if rumors are true it is going to cost $140.  Although not cheap in any fashion, this would place it below the cost of the Lord of Skulls, the Tesseract Vault, and even a Baneblade.  It even makes the price comparable to the aforementioned Dreamforge Crusaders ($120 Leviathan, $110 Mortis).  Regardless, it is certainly an exciting time.  Finally Games Workshop has made an Apocalypse sized kit that people actually wanted.  What’s next?  A thunderhawk, or possibly a thunderbolt with the new Imperial Guard?  Time will tell!

- Eric Wier

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