Next is the turn of the Knightly Orders to get the once over. It’s a tough one because the kit is old. Really old actually. The horses have been knocking around for 25 years or so and their riders best past of a decade…to quote the young people: damn! Bitch is old!
Like the Empire Great Cannon/Mortar the Knightly Orders box is creaking beneath the weight of years. It’s a real shame as the Knightly Orders are supposed to be a major part of the Empire’s military strength and character, with glorious histories tracing back centuries. They represent the toughest core unit the empire has access to – as well as being the same kit used to field the elite Reiksguard. They should be taking pride of place at the heart of your army rather than skulking in quietly.
The kit actually had a recut not too long ago, with the frames being shuffled about and even a few new components being sculpted for the frame. I ask the question, why bother sculpting a new horse head on to the Knight frame when you could have just re-sculpted the horse? There are currently only two types of horse body and just a few heads so that’s not many parts to sculpt to completely change the look of the kit. Plus it’s still got the woeful banner, the stupid arm for the musician and the champion that thinks he’ll be better off in a fight without his helmet on.
When you consider that the War Altar and the Luminark/Hurricanum kits had two new horses sculpted as part of their frames (taking up almost an entire frame!) it beggars belief they passed up the chance to redo the horses and just add them to all the kits that needed them. In truth, the entire War Altar itself can be seen as a waste of a plastic kit when something so key like the Knightly Orders needed a new one that badly – another plastic special character in addition to the Karl Franz Griffon was not needed at all.
I used the word ‘key’ as gaming wise, they are very valuable troops to an Empire player – 22 points is fairly cheap for 1+ armour and good mobility. They may not hit the hardest but are capable of being both a ‘Hammer’ and an ‘Anvil’ unit in your army which makes them very versatile and thus valuable. Upgrading a unit of ten to Inner Circle for the +1 Strength certainly gives them the potential for a hammer unit to smash opposing units, particularly with a character in there.
If you keep them cheap and cheerful they’re more than capable of absorbing a large number attacks and still come out the other side which is perfect for an anvil to hold a dangerous enemy in place. Plus you can give them great weapons for free, which is a no brainer if you’re going up against an army that has higher initiative than you – just remember you lose a point of armour so they may not be so suited as an anvil. But at a push, any option can perform either role satisfactorily and it’s this tactical flexibility which will reward their inclusion in your army.
With their usefulness cemented, I had to find a solution to fielding a kit I personally had reservations about – I really struggle to field models that don’t appeal to me aesthetically, and struggle even greater to paint them. So, I decided to keep the Knights themselves, as I said before they were okay, and replace the horses with Bretonnian ones. Some minor clipping of the saddles on the horses backs was all that was needed, plus I flexed the Knights legs in a bit to make sure they ranked up nicely (unlike Phil’s spiky ones).
Now they look great! The Bretonnian horses are huge compared with the old empire ones and makes the unit look really imposing, so much so the size difference with their evil counterparts isn’t so pronounced. I’m hoping this will remove any inferiority complex they may have possessed and result in a greater performance on the battlefield, all thanks to their new horses – take note GW, it’s not just special rules that make your models do better!
As a bonus, whilst digging through my (extensive) bits box(s) I came up with enough parts to assemble two extra Knights, so now my extra beefy unit of 10 is ready for action with two full ranks. In the end I chose to forgo the Great Weapons and stuck with the lances as I thought I’d play the long game and eventually upgrade them to inner circle once the army size increases. If I do decide to add another unit, I will most likely convert them to have Great Weapons and use them as a relatively cheap flanker. Because they don’t come with great weapons…
The Empire Knightly Orders regiment is part of the Empire Battalion box available from Firestorm Games priced £58.50
If you too want to convert you Empire Knights, Bretonnian Knights are available from Firestorm Games priced £18.00