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Friday, 2 December 2016

Army List: Imperial Knights 1500 pts


As the end of the year approaches, I have received an invitation to the annual championship tournament in my area. It is a 1500 pts event with minimal list restrictions (just no Unbound) but using a custom set of not particularly well-designed missions. I have decided to take a triple-Knight list with a handful of Astra Militarum in support; here is how I have designed my list.

Getting Stompy

Imperial Knights did very well from The Rules Version 1.2 update; the restriction of grenade use in close combat to one-per-squad-per-turn and the affirmation of Stomp out-of-combat has made them both more powerful and more resilient. Combined with the reigning-in of psychic-powered deathstars, I feel that Knights are in a very good place right now.

I don't have a lot of choice in how to build my Knight Detachment—I only have a Lancer, Castigator and Acheron fully built and painted—so my three options are:

  • Any combination of one or two Knights in an Oathsworn Detachment with no extra rules
  • All three Knights in a Household Detachment for a WS/BS boost on one and Objective Secured for all
  • All three Knights in a Baronial Court Formation for the same WS/BS boost on one, plus a 3++ Ion Shield in the front arc, Counter-Attack and Overwatch if they stick close together
Playing with just one or two of my Knights without any extra rules doesn't seem like it would be anywhere near as much fun as running the terrifying trio, so the choice comes down to Objective Secured versus a bunch of buffs for keeping my Knights together on the battlefield.

At this point we should think about the missions; all three are custom scenarios, with the first two rounds being progressively scored (like Maelstrom missions) and the third round being end-of-game Objective and 'Kill Point' scored (like most Eternal missions). The first mission requires specific Objectives to be held each turn, while the second mission requires table quarters to be held each turn, with the number of units wholly within a quarter determining its control—and Objective Secured counting for double.

The value of Objective Secured in all three missions is obvious, so do the Baronial Court extra rules outweigh the mission-winning potential of the Household Detachment? I'm going to say 'no', because even though the extra rules are good, they only turn on when the Knights are clustered together, which is not always going to be the case when trying to take Objectives/quarters across the table. Furthermore, in a 1500 pts game, it's unlikely that three Knights are really going to be forced to clump for mutual support, and a smart opponent is more likely to scatter across the table to neutralise their overwhelming localised power.

So this is what we have so far:
Household Detachment
Cerastus Knight Lancer, Lord Baron [400]
Cerastus Knight Acheron [415]
Cerastus Knight Castigator [380]
The Lancer gets nominated as the Lord Baron because it benefits the most from WS/BS5; the Acheron auto-hits with its shooting, and the Castigator rerolls shooting and auto-hits in close combat.

In Command...?

My trio of Knights costs just short of 1200 pts, so I have about 300 pts to spend on Astra Militarum. As you can probably tell if you look at any of my other lists and batreps, I like to play my Astra in a mechanised MSU style rather than as a footslogging mass.

A small Combined Arms Detachment of a Company Command Squad and two Veteran Squads, all mounted and loaded up with special weapons, costs a cool 465 pts and was sadly way over-budget. Cutting one Veteran Squad and jiggling around with weapons and transports would have brought the Astra back into budget, but they would not qualify as a Combined Arms Detachment with only a single Troops choice. An Allied Detachment is an option, but then the Company Commander could not be the Warlord. But is there an alternative?

The Cadian Battle Group Detachment follows the usual Detachment-of-Formations pattern we've seen for the last couple of years, with Command, Core and Auxiliary options all getting extra rules when selected together. However, unlike most other Factions, which have compulsory Core choices, it is actually possible to take a Cadian Battle Group without any Core Formations; the mandatory choice is Command, each Command choice unlocks a Core choice, and each Core choice unlocks multiple Auxiliary choices. This means that you can actually build a Detachment comprising any number and combination of Company Command Squads and Tank Commanders—with nothing else to actually command!

So with these two options in mind, let's compare and contrast what we can build:
Allied Detachment (Cadian)
HQ
Company Command Squad, Volkov's Cane, 3x Plasma Gun, Taurox
Troops
Veteran Squad, 3x Meltagun, Taurox

Cadian Battle Group
Battle Group Command
Company Command Squad, Volkov's Cane, 3x Plasma Gun, Taurox
Company Command Squad, 3x Meltagun, Taurox

So each in-budget option delivers the same firepower and has similar resilience—the Veteran Squad has a handful of extra bodies but that rarely matters if someone actually wants them dead! The Allied Detachment has a squad and vehicle with Objective Secured, while the Cadian Battle Group only really benefits from being allowed to include the Warlord. Given the importance of Objective Secured, and the selection of a Household Detachment over an alternative Formation, I think I should apply the same principles here and go for the Allied Detachment option. That would make the Lord Baron Cerastus Knight Lancer my Warlord, and prevent me from rolling on the always-useful Strategic Traits, but I think that Objective Secured still wins out.

Putting It All Together

So with a few Knights and a couple of Astra squads, our final list looks a little like this:
Household Detachment
Cerastus Knight Lancer, Lord Baron, Warlord [400]
Cerastus Knight Acheron [415]
Cerastus Knight Castigator [380]
Allied Detachment (Cadian)
HQ
Company Command Squad, Volkov's Cane, 3x Plasma Gun, Taurox
Troops
Veteran Squad, 3x Meltagun, Taurox
1500 pts
Wow, it's really not much when you look it like that, is it? With only seven units on the table at 1500 pts, this really doesn't qualify as a MSU build. It doesn't have many KPs to give up, but despite their reputation for invincibility, I am very aware of how fragile Knights can really be, especially when you play them aggressively—as you should! I'm a bit worried about having a close combat Knight as my Warlord, but after a second look at the mission pack I realised that Slay the Warlord is only counted if the Primary Objective score is a draw, so risking that VP is much more palatable than usual.

Conclusion

While this list should be fine for winning missions, I expect that my primary strategy in most games will be to cripple my opponent as early as possible with the trip-Knight-punch. Big mobs of Thunderwolves, and other units with lots of S10 or D melee attacks, are going to be the biggest threats to this list, but it should do fine against most other builds. Grav Bikes are always threatening, but my Knights are very good at killing Bikes so they shouldn't be too hard to deal with. Of course, a good MSU list is going to beat this one fairly easily by just racking up the VP faster than I can overkill them with Knights.

I hope to do alright at this tournament—standby for batreps next week!

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