Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Knights Codex Review

Big, yet small. Powerful, yet sparse.

The thunderous-stomping of titanic feet, the insane cackle of thirsting deities, servos grinding and crunching as they work. Rejoice, heretics, Codex: Chaos Knights has arrived! As a long-standing spiky-boy myself, you’d think I’d be over the moon about this. However, there’s something about this all that has the Codex fail to cause as much of an impact as the Chaos Knights themselves might within Warhammer 40,000.

Chivalry is Dead

The Warhammer 40,000 scene has been notably altered since the appearance of the Imperial Knights Codex last year. I have heard many stories of folks turning up for friendly games of 40K until their opponent starts putting Imperial Knights on the table. “That guy”, an all-too-familiar moniker springs to mind, where anyone bringing such hulking war machines in low-cost games is likely flexing their tabletop muscles or may simply be eager to win no matter what. That’s something of a generalisation, of course.

Introducing the Chaos Knights Codex, where now Chaos players can enjoy some hardback romping-stomping fun. Don’t expect a procession of brand new kits. The Codex includes a meagre five datasheets. This isn’t overly shocking, of course. Whilst there aren’t a huge variety of Knights, the small roster available features impressive power and some flexibility. The Chaos Knights Codex comes alongside a couple of new models, specific to the Chaos line. These new kits do look great and differentiate themselves from their loyalist kin. However, I personally would have been happier with a single additional datasheet and kit that sways a little further onto the demonic side. Something a little more heretical or possessed, for instance.

The new stratagems and traits included in the Chaos Knights Codex are all suitably effective and mesh comfortably with the units within. Choosing an “Ambition” for instance, could have your Knights sacrificing Wounds for the sake of improving their weapons or speed. A fantastic stratagem called “Death Grip” can have your Chaos Knight squeezing an enemy model continuously depending on your dice rolls, either until you roll badly or the enemy model is destroyed.

Mighty Light Offering

As with other recent releases, the Chaos Knights Codex does hold the aforementioned fun and exciting things you’d want to field in your new army including relics. However, the book still feels a little half-baked. Whereas the Imperial Knights Codex comes to 120 pages, the Chaos Knights Codex clocks to a total of 72 pages.

At nearly half the size of the Imperial counterpart, it’d feel a little out of sorts to charge the same price. Especially since most of the datasheets are near-identical to those in the Imperial Knights Codex. It does make sense and I can absolutely see the approach here from a “doing more with less” plan of action. However, it’s hard to feel excited for the book when you’re effectively paying for two new datasheets and a few additional rules. The original Chaos Knight datasheets were released digitally for free not too long ago, making the offering even less enticing.

There are a few pages of lore and background going into the fall of heretical nobles and their Knights. As always, there’s some lovely artwork and plenty of composed shots of models. There’s even a handy guide on which parts of heraldry go where on your Chaos Knight model. However, it just doesn’t feel like there’s enough meat on the bones of this main course.

Concept art of Chaos Knights devastating their enemies in battle.

As I said previously, I am a Chaos player myself, I’m quite happy at the thought of fielding a handful of Chaos Knights in my next huge game. Unfortunately, the offering in the Chaos Knight Codex just doesn’t feel substantial enough. It feels as though it’s running an uphill battle.

Dreaded Damnation

Sure, there are wonderful stratagems, there are some fun rules and traits to field. It does make Chaos Knights feel more like a fully-fledged army, rather than re-skinned Imperial Knights. Nonetheless, it still feels like most of the hard work here is a little undermined by the light offering of the Codex itself. It’s quite ironic in that having it conform to the other Codex releases in terms of its length and amount of content would make it feel more unique and an entity of itself. Whereas what we have here does simply feel like something of a rehash but with a few more spikes and eight-pointed stars.

With the popularity of Imperial Knights for both their great kits and undeniable power in-game, a cynical thought forms. Could it be that this is a simple, somewhat cost-effective way to sell existing products to a new or budding audience? With smaller cost in both book and new units needed? The optimist in me hopes not, but the realist in me gets quite vocal as I type this.

If you revel in the prospect of running an army of Chaos Knights, then by all means, jump into the Chaos Knights Codex with both feet. Just don’t be expecting it to be a rich and fully-fleshed experience as with other armies. If you toying with fielding one once in a while to support your armies then you may not really need to purchase the Chaos Knights Codex. It’s a nice to have, but it’s difficult to look at it as something that isn’t a light imitation of the original Imperial Knights Codex, as opposed to a solid and meaningful offering.

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