Codex Grey Knights Review Part 1 – HQs, Warlord Traits and Special Rules

Codex Grey Knights Review Part 1 – HQs, Warlord Traits and Special Rules

Apollo: Welcome, gentle readers, to a review of the brand spanking new Codex: Grey Knights.

The generous folks at the Games Workshop Design Studio have seen fit to bundle this out hot on the heels of Codex: Space Wolves just a month earlier.  It’s been said before many times in the last two years, but the modern pace of releases is just incredible.  For those of us Venerable Dreadnoughts that had our black carapaces fitted in 2nd Edition, where you were lucky to see two codices (yes that’s the right way to spell it!) a year, it’s difficult keeping up with where we stand.  Luckily, that’s where the Olympians come in – I am Apollo, and together with Hephaestus, we are going to power through a thorough review of the new codex and see where everyone’s favourite daemon busters have been left in the rising tide of 7th Edition Warhammer 40,000.

But, “who are these people?” I rhetorically (don’t) hear you cry!  “Who are they to judge the new book?!”  The short answer is that we are both dang good gamers and nothing short of a dab hand with the old 5th Edition Codex: Grey Knights, and the even older 3rd Edition Codex: Daemonhunters before that (note – that book came out in 2003.  There are gamers younger than that book.  Now you feel old, right?).

Essentially, if you imagine us both as wizened lexicanum savants, hunched over dusty rulebook tomes and creaking gaming tables, cursed by rejuvenant treatments to play 40k until our bionics give out, you’d be bang on.  And for a large part of that time, we’ve been playing with Daemonhunters and now, the Grey Knights.  Nobody except the uncredited ‘GW Design Studio’ author of the new book knows this army better than us.  And if that mysterious figure turns out to be Matt Ward, I might have to do something unprintable to those folks in Nottingham.

We’re going to kick off with with this article, which will examine the current crop of HQ choices, including the Special Characters, and also deal with changes to army-wide special rules, including the warlord traits available to the Knights of Titan.

Strap on your personal teleporters, activate your aegis, and load your psybolts.  We’re going daemonhunting.

 

Hephaestus: What he said!  Apollo and I have got our hands on our copies of the new Codex: Grey Knights and have been thumbing through like mad men. As keen Grey Knight players, we were getting fed up with the ever-expanding FAQ, so we are happy to see a new codex release for 7th edition. Let’s crack on!

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Grey Knights Special Rules

In comparison to the 5th Edition book, Grey Knights have seen huge changes in the psychic phase and to The Aegis.  Most of the other army-wide special rules have remained largely unchanged, subject of course to the general switch in the meta of 7th Edition 40k.


Brotherhood of Psykers

What’s changed?

Now the Rulebook USR, and the sole difference is that a Perils or equivalent attack targets a single random model rather the Justicar

Verdict!

Apollo: This is a boost, as a Perils result is now unlikely to drop the leadership of the squad for the rest of the game. However, since Psychic tests are no longer done on leadership, and all Grey Knights have ATSKNF anyway, this is a relatively minor bonus. Grey Knight players used to rue those Perils deaths, and this basically means you won’t be worried about them any more.

Hephaestus: A nice little change indeed. However does come with a slight draw back, now the powers are ranged and LoSed from a single chosen model. More of a 7th ed change but no more Nova shenanigans (old Warp Quake most notably).

 

Psychic Pilot

What’s changed?

Nothing, except that this is now a Rulebook USR.

Verdict!

Apollo: We’ll be dealing with this in depth when we come to the vehicles, but the big news is that Psychic Pilot is gone for all Grey Knight vehicles except Dreadnoughts. It looks like the days of Grey Knight armies being able to generate 12+D6 or so Warp Charge points are over. Sadly, this is a huge blow, and in my view has basically ruined Grey Knights as the hard counter to rampant Chaos Daemon armies summoning extra units left and right. At least under the 7th Ed FAQ Grey Knights could usually be relied upon to get Banishment off four to five times a turn, and have a very healthy dispel dice pool. Now you’ll be lucky to get off one or two Banishments (and probably only one Deny the Witch per turn) if you want to use any other powers as well. And in any event, the loss of the 5th Edition Fortitude power along with Psybolts has drastically weakened the competitiveness of Grey Knight mechanised lists. It’s a dark day.

Hephaestus: Even without abusing the pool, you’re still going to be generating 6-9+D6. Its most certainly the end of every unit casting all its powers but it feels more like what the psychic phase should be like without the abuse.

 

Preferred Enemy (Daemons)

What’s changed?

Nothing!

Verdict!

Apollo: Grey Knights still get this bad boy (and rightly so!) – you’ve just to remember to use it!

Hephaestus: Like with every anti-daemon rule the GKs have had, the biggest problem is forgetting you have them due to never using them. Even veterans find themselves pulling out their C:GK when playing a Daemon army.

 

And They Shall Know No Fear

What’s changed?

This is now a Rulebook USR and has changed to remove the extra 3″ Regroup move

Verdict!

Apollo: Another minor tweak to the Grey Knights detriment, but at least it’s consistent across all Marine codices now.

Hephaestus: Hard to complain about such a widely used USR being changed. If your falling back, you are going to have other things to worry about over than a 3″ regroup…

 

Combat Squads

What’s changed?

There’s a different wording but in practical terms, nothing.

Verdict!

Apollo: Still gives you a lot of tactical flexibility.  Not many armies get the chance to alter their list once they’ve seen the enemy’s.

Hephaestus: Something that you may realise you take for granted when playing with something other than marines. You might even forget you have it with GKs due to squad size. I found I used this solely on Strike Squads in the past, oh memories.

 

The Aegis

What’s changed?

The unit gets to re-roll 1s when making Deny the Witch tests, instead of -1 to the enemy leadership under the old Psychic rules.

Verdict!

Apollo: Another big hit. At least most infantry (and Dreadnought and Dreadknight) Grey Knights units will be testing for DtW on a 5+. Being able to re-roll 1s statistically turns that into a 4.66+. However, the requirement that your DtW test must nullify ALL of the successful Warp Charge points frankly makes this a pretty much meaningless benefit. DtW is a bit of joke in my view, and the old Aegis rule was much more powerful than this new one.

Hephaestus: Completely agree, its a tiny blanket benefit to the C:GK but the flawed DtW system just overshadows its usefulness. GW just haven’t found the balance between casting every power and getting utterly blocked out.

 

Purity of Spirit

What’s changed?

Nothing. See Page 28 of the Rulebook.

Verdict!

Apollo: What a waste of dead tree. This is already in the Rulebook, and the Rulebook is a damn sight more concise. Don’t insult our intelligence GW!

Hephaestus: Same BRB rule, given a name for C:GK, guess they felt the Special Rules page was a bit empty.

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Psychic Powers

To a great extent, we all knew what was coming with Psychic Powers – these are essentially unchanged from the release of 7th Edition.  Grey Knights now get access solely to the Daemonology: Sanctic psychic discipline, and these have replaced all of the old Codex powers, and to a certain extent these are like-for-like replacements.  As Grey Knights players have been playing with these for a while, we won’t be covering these in detail, but it’ll be worth exploring some of the new powers in combination with the refreshed rules in the new Codex, particularly the ones that you’ll be firing off a lot of each turn.  We’ll be talking about these in each unit choice, depending upon which power is the default for each particular unit.

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Warlord Traits

1 Daemon-slayer

Hatred (Daemons) and successful Warp Charge harnessing on a 2+ when casting Banishment

Verdict!

Apollo: Fluffy, but utterly situational. How often do you play Daemons?! In effect, this is a big double-down given that the Sanctic Primaris Banishment is only useful against Daemons. If your primary detachment selection doesn’t you a re-roll on the Traits table then you could easily be stuck with a useless trait.

Hephaestus: Shock. Someone might roll a Warlord Trait they will never use. You can take Draigo if you really want this Warlord Trait. It does mean that you wont be wasting 2 dice rolls on 1 of your banishment casts vs daemons.

2 Hammer of Righteousness

Warlord and his unit get Hammer of Wrath

Verdict!

Apollo: Not bad, but it’s not going to win you any assaults on its own. Best used (pretty obviously) in a big squad, but its not the sort of thing for which, should you roll it, you’ll be redeploying your Warlord from his assigned tactical role picked at the time of list-writing. Purely by dint of being random, this is not even close to being as useful as the old Grand Strategy rule.

Hephaestus: Again, another trait you have to write for to take advantage of, even then its a slight boost opposed to taking advantage. And again, likely going to be most useful with Crowe in a big assaulting unit.

3 Unyielding Anvil

Warlord and all units within 12″ have Stubborn

Verdict!

Apollo: Who needs this AND ATSKNF?! Pretty much only useful if your unit is going to get mullered by something that will lower their leadership, but those sorts of weapons and psychic powers are relatively rare. Pretty much useless. Should have been that they gained Objective Secured, to mirror the old Grand Strategy. Silly rules-writing, GW.

Hephaestus: I rolled this in my first game. If it’s not highly situational or painfully minor, its utterly useless so far.

4 First to the Fray

Warlord and his unit automatically arrive Turn 1 and re-roll Scatter when Deep Striking

Verdict!

Apollo: Come back Mordrak! Your watch has not yet ended! Great Trait, shame you can’t rely on getting it. Definitely the pick of the bunch in the table, it turns a regular unit into an alpha strike clusterbomb. If you get it, and have a unit to take advantage of it (like a big squad of Terminators or Paladins), in my view this is worth it. Don’t forget that Dreadknights are characters too, and can therefore be your Warlord. A 4 Wound, 2+/5++ Monstrous Creature arriving with pin point accuracy on Turn 1? **mwah ha ha ha**

Hephaestus: This is what we want to see! With some-what pinpoint precision you can drop then unit of Purifiers into the heart of the enemy and cleanse all with sweet sweet flame, lets hope you roll a decent 2D6! Bit of a suicide trait from anyone not in TDA but coupled with Rites of Teleportation, at least you can add to your enemies target priority.

5 Perfect Timing

Warlord and his unit have Counter-Attack

Verdict!

Apollo: Counter-Attack no longer requires a Leadership check, so this is a free +1 Attack bonus. It’s not an awful trick to have – if you’re going to be making the enemy come to you, this plus a ton of Overwatch shots will make a big squad a difficult customer to charge, especially if they’re sitting in cover and the enemy doesn’t have assault grenades. Shouldn’t this be called Shield of Blades? Seems that GW has set out to deliberately confuse people by changing the name but keeping the rule, whereas for a lot of other stuff it has changed the rule but kept the name. Nice one, fellas.

Hephaestus: Useful in almost every game, especially considering you are deep striking majority of your time/units.

6 Lore Master

Warlord knows one more power than his Mastery Level from the Sanctic Discipline.

Verdict!

Apollo: Brilliant – your Warlord knows one more psychic power than usual. Shame the Sanctic powers are absolute weaksauce compared to the brilliant stuff Grey Knights could cast in the 5th Edition Codex **sigh**.

Hephaestus: Why limit it to the Sanctic Discipline? You almost have every power covered in some form across the army. Guess you can always take a lvl3 Libby with a certain relic and ‘luckily’ roll this to get 5 powers. Yay?

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HQ Choices

And here’s the first major change to the Army List – No more Inquisition!  I think a few of us saw this coming when the Codex: Inquisition book came out and largely recreated the inquisitorial elements of the old Codex – it seemed unlikely that the next iteration of the Codex would duplicate them.  It’s no great loss – you can still always take Allied Detachments.


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Grand Master Mordrak

What’s changed?

NOTHING TO SEE HERE, MOVE ALONG PLEASE – GW RETCON POLICE

Verdict!

Apollo: Mordrak and his Ghost Knight buddies are gone, but not forgotten.  The First to the Fray (surely it can’t be a coincidence that the rule has the same name?!) Warlord Trait replicates a far amount of Mordrak’s utility, buuuuut you can’t rely on rolling it before deployment, even with the re-roll.  Sadly this makes it far too random to be trusted as a favoured tactic, so you’ll be giving it a go when you roll the Trait, rather than building a list around it.  Sadly, GW no longer makes rules for non-existent models, and Mordrak is an unhappy casualty in that war.

Hephaestus: Such crap. Great HQ with fun and unique rules with every player converting awesome skelly terminators as Ghost Knights. What a waste and a kick to the teeth for all those that put the effort into the hobby.  

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Brother-Captain Stern

What’s changed?

Reduced in price by 15 points.  Zone of Banishment boosts the Banishment psychic power (and is therefore yet again only useful against Daemons) rather than forcing a Strength test on everything nearby, but no longer requires Stern to give up his close combat attacks and can be cast when outside of combat.  Automatically has the Unyielding Anvil Warlord Trait.  Lost Psychic Communion.  Knows Banishment and Sanctuary.

Verdict!

Apollo:  Stern is still a decent choice for a killy HQ.  His new price pushes him into affordable territory, whereas before his price was just too high for a combat HQ without a 3++ save or Eternal Warrior.  Strands of Fate still makes him a double-edged sword, however, and I can’t see many competitive lists picking a model that gifts your opponent a load of re-rolls.

Hephaestus: You just wouldn’t use Strands unless you had to save his life. Solid HQ choice though and another point of access to Sanctuary. 

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Castellan Crowe

What’s changed?

Increased in price by 25pts.  Now has base 3 attacks instead of the old Perfect Warrior rules.  He’s an Independent Character at last! Blade of Antwyr no longer grants the enemy Furious Charge and re-rolls to hit when charging him.  No longer makes Purifiers troops.  No longer Rending at all.  No longer re-rolls failed to hit rolls when charging.  Now a ML2 Psyker.  Heroic Sacrifice isn’t a Psychic Power anymore, but is a normal Special Rule allowing an extra attack upon Crowe’s death instead of removing the enemy model if it hits – but getting the benefit of Hammerhand and AP2.  Has Smash (AP2 attacks!) and can re-roll all failed saving throws when wounded, both applying only to challenges.  Must issue and accept challenges.  Automatically has the Hammer of Righteousness Warlord Trait.

Verdict!

Apollo:  Papa has got a brand new bag.  Crowe is now a undeniable badass in challenges.  On the charge he spits out 4 attacks at WS8(!) Initiative 6 and with AP2 at Strength 5, with a 2+/4++ and a re-roll to saving throws.  Throw this guy against an enemy character and he’ll make little bits of mincemeat of his opponent (save perhaps anything faster than him like the Swarmlord or an Eversor Assassin, or a model with 3 or more wounds) before you can say “Crowe Tax”.  In addition, he’s learned to play nicely with the other children, and can join units.  This was his big limitation before, and will make Crowe a pretty popular choice.  Even with his increased price, he’s a very good combat character.

Hephaestus: Shame this guy doesn’t have Force but I guess he will just have to kill those characters the old fashioned way. As with  Draigo, making Purifiers Troops is gone but not really felt.

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Grey Knight Grand Master

What’s changed?

Increased in price by 10pts.  BS reduced from 6 to 5, Attacks increased from 3 to 4.  Free ML2 instead of a 35pt upgrade.  Lost Grand Strategy and Psychic Communion.  May generate powers from Sanctic, Divination, Pyromancy, Telekinesis and Telepathy.  Reduced wargear choices – no more Blind Grenades, Psybolt Ammo, Empyrean Brain Mines, Psychotroke or Rad Grenades, Orbital Strike Relay of Servo Skulls (alas poor Yorrick!).  Incinerator is 5pts dearer, Psilencer is 20pts cheaper, Psycannon is 25pts cheaper.  Force Halberd is 3pts cheaper, Falchions are 6pts cheaper, Stave is 30pts cheaper(!), Daemonhammer is 5pts more expensive.  Digital Weapons are 5pts dearer, Master-Crafting can only be applied to one weapon, and is 5pts more expensive, and can take a Teleport Homer for 10pts.

Verdict!

Apollo:  This chap is now cheaper (thanks to the very useful ML2 and MUCH cheaper wargear) and more flexible (thanks to the hugely expanded psychic power options) largely at the expense of losing Grand Strategy and Psychic Communion – both of which were heavily utilised by Grey Knights players.  Sadly the Stave is nowhere near as good as it would have been under the old Codex, but he’ll probably be rolling a 3+ (re-rolling 1s) to Deny the Witch if he has it, and you can give him a Stave and a Relic as well, such that he doesn’t have to rely on the awful AP4.  ALWAYS give him a ranged heavy weapon instead of his storm bolter (Relentless plus a cheap heavy weapon is a lovely combo), a decent Nemesis weapon, and a way to get to the enemy, and this guy will do you proud.  ML2 will help your Warp Charge pool no end, and there are some cracking psychic combos available – this guy can get the new hawtness of Invisibility, for example.  He won’t be able to take on real combat characters (the lack of Eternal Warrior is a big issue), but with a Daemonhammer he could be the perfect foil for the likes of those pesky Riptides.

Hephaestus: I would most likely save all Stave wielding duties for the Libarians, but you have pretty much covered everything. As it was before, give this guy a range upgrade and a hammer with an escort and you’re golden. Great HQ choice with Force and powers. Can’t ask for much more!

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Grey Knight Brother-Captain

What’s changed?

Lost Psychic Communion.  May generate powers from Sanctic, Divination, Pyromancy, Telekinesis and Telepathy.  Reduced wargear choices – no more Blind Grenades, Psybolt Ammo, Empyrean Brain Mines, Psychotroke or Rad Grenades, Orbital Strike Relay or Servo Skulls.  Incinerator is 5pts dearer, Psilencer is 15pts cheaper, Psycannon is 20pts cheaper.  Force Halberd is 3pts cheaper, Falchions are 6pts cheaper, Stave is 30pts cheaper(!), Daemonhammer is 5pts more expensive.  Digital Weapons are 5pts dearer, Master-Crafting can only be applied to one weapon, and is 5pts more expensive, and he can take a Teleport Homer for 10pts.

Verdict!

Apollo:  Frankly, I think this is the second-best ‘cheap’ HQ in the new book, after Librarians.  Give him a Psycannon or Psilencer and let him stroll around using his Relentless and BS5.  If you’re trying to shave points dropping the Grand Master to a Brother-Captain is perfectly acceptable in my view – all you lose is the ML2.  There is no longer the automatic choice of a Grand Master (and his Grand Strategy!) instead of a Brother-Captain that there once was.

Hephaestus: Completely agree, absolute solid ‘cheap’ choice. In fact, I’d advise it. That’s 35 points better spent elsewhere if you’re already generating enough Warp Charge and/or have a killing machine in the rest of your army.

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Brotherhood Champion

What’s changed?

Increased in price by 50pts.  Reduced WS from 7 to 6, Wounds increased from 1 to 2 and 2 Attacks base instead of his special blade strike rules.  Must choose to either get Smash or re-roll failed saving throws in challenges, and must always issue and accept challenges.  Sword is just master-crafted (re-roll one failed To Hit roll instead of getting to re-roll all failed attempts to wound an opponent, as previously).  Heroic Sacrifice is just a special rule and not a psychic power, and only allows one normal attack (albeit including Instant Death, if his weapon is force-activated) instead of removing both models if it just hits.  Knows Banishment as well as Hammerhand.  No longer re-rolls all failed To Hit rolls on the charge.

Verdict!

Apollo:  This chap is just too expensive now.  The only reason to take one over Crowe is the Force Weapon, and I think Crowe’s S7 and greater attacks wins out, even at the slightly higher price.  I can see why they increased the price – he now has two wounds instead of just one.  Too rich for my blood though.

Hephaestus: I think we have been spoilt for choice with HQs. There was always going to be one that wasn’t of the same standard or didn’t fit a role well enough. This is it. I had thought you might take him in smaller games but there’s better options even for that. Nice to have a non-bulky HQ though.

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Librarian

What’s changed?

Massive reduction in price by 40pts!  Comes automatically with a Stave, not a Sword, and no longer has a Storm Bolter as standard, but can take one for an extra 5pts, or a combi weapon for 10pts.  Psychic Hoods are nowhere near as powerful under the 7th Edition rules, but he ought to be Denying the Witch on a 3+ (re-rolling 1s) and doing this for all the units up to 12″ around him.  Reduced wargear choices – no more Psybolt Ammo, Empyrean Brain Mines or Servo Skulls.  Force Halberd is 5pts cheaper and Falchions are 10pts cheaper.  Digital Weapons are 5pts dearer, Master-Crafting can only be applied to one weapon, and is 5pts more expensive, and can take a Teleport Homer for 10pts instead of 15pts.  You can’t buy psychic powers anymore, but he can select from Sanctic, Divination, Pyromancy, Telekinesis and Telepathy, and ML3 is 25pts cheaper now.

Verdict!

Apollo:  This guy was great before.  Lop almost a third off the points cost and make ML3 half the old points cost, and this is intruding upon the term ‘auto-include’.  A full ML3 Librarian is 65pts cheaper than before!  That’s just ridiculous.  I know GW doesn’t know how to play their own games, but there is little justification for this drop, particularly as Librarians were already heavily represented in competitive army lists.  I would keep the Stave and use this chap as a Warp Charge battery and off the front line.  He can cast all sorts of helpful blessings if he stays out of trouble.

Hephaestus: Huge buff. This guy is competing for that compulsory HQ slot now if he wasn’t before. I say stick him in an assault for major buffs. 

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Techmarine

What’s changed?

Now a special HQ that doesn’t take up a slot and can be taken one per any other HQ, instead of an Elites choice.  Power Axe instead of a choice of Power Weapon.  Loses the psychic power Reconstruction, gains Banishment.  Servo Harness now basically gives him two power fists (suck it, Specialist Weapon!) so he can hit with 3 attacks on the charge at S8, AP1.  Plasma Cutter is now an Assault weapon instead of a Pistol, meaning he doesn’t get +1 attack for 2 CCW when attacking with his Power Axe.  May not select any Nemesis Force Weapons and has lost his Blind Grenades, Melta Bombs, Psybolt Ammo, Empyrean Brain Mines, Psychotroke or Rad Grenades, Orbital Strike Relay and Servo Skulls.  Bolster Defences applies to any terrain piece, not just ruins.

Verdict!

Apollo:  This chap has been brought in line with other Marine Techmarines, which is a bit of a shame as he was a source of real Grey Knights weirdness in the old Codex.  The inclusion of the Power Axe and the alteration of how Servo Arms work is the most lolworthy change though – should I attack with 1A at S5 AP2 striking last, or 2A S8 AP1 striking last?!  I can’t see this guy getting selected very often – the loss of Reconstruction denudes the point of having him wandering around fixing vehicles, and without the funky wargear he used to have, he’s highly blah.  90pts is also an awful lot for a 1 Wound model without an Invulnerable Save.   The only possible use he might realistically have is camping on an objective in bolstered cover in your deployment zone with a Conversion Beamer, but even that’s nowhere near as useful as it used to be, as Tactical Objectives make the usefulness of any given objective relatively random.

Hephaestus: Pretty awful. I agree with the Conversion Beamer load out. Grey Knights aren’t taking Cover Saves and no one runs Techmarines to repair stuff. Wasted points if you ask me, and even if that’s just to get a cheap Warp Charge.


Conclusion

Apollo:  The HQ characters are a bit of a ragtag bunch really.  There’s not much of a running theme in the changes and they come across as being done simply for the sake of changing something rather than for a proper justifiable reason of balance.  Librarians are now almost an auto-include, but generating powers randomly still causes a big headache for players.  The wargear list’s blandness has infected the new Codex and there’s not much we can do about it, except ally in loads of Assassins and Inqusitors!  One thing is for sure – the age of cheap Inquisitor HQs choices has long gone for Grey Knights, and you’ll be forced to actually invest points in the greatest heroes the Imperium doesn’t know it has.

Hephaestus: Pretty spoilt for choice in my eyes. Yeah the changes are a bit all over the place and there’s been nerfs for little reason and buffs for even less, but there is only really one or two choices you won’t pick. And those you do pick are well worth the points. Warlord Traits are a bit hit or miss but that’s the same with them all.

Next up, Hephaestus will be firing on all cylinders with the lead on a review of the new selections in Troops and Elites.  Do not adjust your set.

 

Note – all artwork copyright of their respective owners, with thanks.

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Apollo

Apollo is a warrior. He relishes the din of battle, the clash of mighty hosts and the sharp stink of gamer funk in the morning; he lives for warfare on the battlefields of the grimdark 41st Millennium; and he laughs in the faces of puny noobs. Not for him the laudable ambition of having a Golden Daemon-level fully-painted army, or a deep appreciation of an epic backstory – Apollo thirsts for victory above all else. Fear him. For he is beardcheese incarnate.