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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Defeating the Beast: Fighting Grey Knights Article #5

Henchmen Builds and Weaknesses

This is part #5 in a series. Last time, I talked about the weaknesses of Grey Knight-centric lists. As promised, I will cover Henchmen lists and weaknesses next. To start talking about henchmen weaknesses, though, it’s useful to first understand the types of henchmen you might run into.


Acolytes should be thought of as regular Guardsmen because they have the same stats. They will come in three flavors in a GK list. There is the minimal scoring unit, the special weapon unit, and the storm bolter unit.

The minimal scoring unit is generally 3-5 acolytes. They are stupid cheap at 12+ points. They can score. Their sole purpose in life is to score. Generally, they go into reserves, and when they come on the board, they will find a razorback to crawl into or a wall to hide behind. Grey Knight players use these to skimp points on scoring so that they can effectively dump the rest of their points into more lethal units.

The special weapon unit is generally 3-5 acolytes, but this time, they are packing melta guns or flamers. That’s right. Acolytes can get 3 melta guns in a 3 man squad. Yes, it’s ridiculous, I know. In all reality though, these still act as more a scoring roll than a combat roll because they are so weak. Usually, the addition of the guns is just to make the unit lethal “just in case”.

The storm bolter acolyte squad is also intended to be a cheap scoring unit. However, it will come packing 5 or so storm bolters to add some 24 inch range anti-infantry. This way, the squad can remain relatively safe while still adding a few guns to the fight.

Acolytes are just weak. Their weakness is EVERYTHING. One thing I would highly recommend when considering fighting a GK list would be to dedicate a small unit or two of anti-infantry to shooting these guys up. The basic strategy for a GK player is that you won’t shoot his acolytes because if you do, you are neglecting killing something that is far more lethal. However, a heavy bolter here, or a multi-laser, may pay off, especially when they are LD 8. Just keep it rolling around in the back of your head.


Some lists carry psykers in numbers and almost always in a Chimera. When you get about 8 or so Psykers, they can lay down S 10ish AP 1ish blast templates out of the back of that Chimera. Ouch!

Psykers can be sick if you let them be sick. However, they are still LD 8. This means a few things. First, they fail a lot of psychic tests just because of that. Second, if you have a hood in range, they aren’t casting squat. You need hoods if you got em! For those armies who can’t have hoods, it’s sad face. Your only choice then is to blow up the Chimera and kill them like you would any guard player. That’s when they are at their most effective. Otherwise, get a hood into range often and early.

This is actually one of the areas where Space Wolf Runic Weapons aren’t as good as hoods, not even close.

Death Cult Assassins

These are the ones you should fear. Death Cultists, as described, are the most broken unit in 40K in my opinion. At face value, they are a Bloodletter, deadly but manageable. It’s when they get stacked with Hammerhands and Grenades that they get stupid.

Death Cultists, if given the chance, will assault and kill anything. Their biggest weakness is their 5++ save and lack of grenades. However, a seasoned GK player will mitigate this. He will attempt to tie you up with Dreads first and then assault. Or, he will use a Land Raider. Or, my personal fav, simply abuse the assault rules to ensure I only assault into the one guy who has just his small base portion poking out of terrain so I don’t need grenades.

The common solution I hear for Assassins is, “well I’ll just blow up their ride and shoot them”. That’s a great theory, but it doesn’t work in practice. Yes, you can do that. However, in doing so, you are more than likely putting fire power into a unit that isn’t hurting you back at range.

You should understand that unless they are in an assault vehicle or in a Storm Chicken, they aren’t that much of a threat to you. DCA are a much better counter-assault unit than an assault unit. The biggest problem though is that they still score with Coteaz.

If you are an assault heavy army, you must find a way to deal with them. In that case, I would say that you must shoot and kill them. They should be target priority, put every gun you got into them. If you have no guns, you better get some. DCA will annihilate things like Terminators. They aren’t scared at all, and they are so cheap, the seasoned GK vet will gladly sacrifice them to kill your hammer units.

If you aren’t an assault list, you can basically ignore them unless they are coming after you. Food for thought.


Only found in DCA squads, I actually recommend to most people that they aren’t worth their points. People take them though because they have a 3++, and they will put them with DCA so they can wound allocate to them. They have S3 Power Weapons which aren’t much of a threat, but it’s still something to consider. They are best used when you are trying to “just shoot up the DCA”. You can see why you may need to reconsider that strategy.

Major Henchmen List Weaknesses

The first major weakness is LD 8. This means you can break them with tank shocks, shooting, etc. This couple with the second major weakness which is lack of And They Shall Know No Fear. Get them to break when they are below half, and there is no coming back. Even better, they’ll drag an IC with them off the board if they break in that situation. Just remember, though, that And They Shall Know No Fear applies to the whole squad if an IC in the squad has it.

Explosions are your friend! Anytime you can get a vehicle to explode with Acolytes or Assassins in it, you will kill a lot of them. This forces LD 8 pinning and morale checks. Bonus! Yet another reason to be packing a reasonable amount of AP 1 if you are planning on going GK vehicle hunting.

In the end, though, the biggest piece of advice I have for dealing with Henchmen lists is to think of it more like playing Imperial Guard. They are basically the same army. Whereas guard packs in Vendettas, Grey Knights bring Dreadnoughts. In a lot of ways, they aren’t even as good as Guard.

This leads me back to one of my number one pieces of advice. In a Grey Knight world, if you can beat Guard, you can beat GKs.

Orks versus GKs

When I first saw the GK book, I hung my Orks up for good. I thought, “that’s it. Orks are finished”. Cleansing flame shuts down mobs, and Force Weapons shut down Nobz. Dreadnoughts massacre Killa Kanz. I got nothing left.

Now that I’ve had some practice with my GKs, I think a little different.

Battle Wagon Orks are actually a decent match-up for most GK lists. The reason is the combination of the 14 FA, the KFF, and the ability to pick your fight. Purifing Flame a problem? Ghazzie doesn’t think so! Force Weapons got you down? Boyz don’t care about power weapons. Flamers also love to chew on GKs, and most of all, Henchmen builds have very little to combat Orks with. DCA will do okay, but they will drop to a concentrated assault by Boyz.

Horde Orks is more of an issue because stacked cleaning flame + your lack of ability to choose fights, hurts. If the GK players don’t have Purifiers, though, it’s on like donkey kong!

Another thing to remember with Orks, especially against the likes of Paladins, is to know your multi-assault rules like the back of your hand. Realize this, if I drive up with 2 Wagons, one full of 20 Boyz, the other full of Meganobz, how can I slaughter Paladins with losing very little?

Assault with the Boyz first, putting someone into BTB with all the Paladins. Step 2, manipulate your ranges such that the Mega Nobz barely make into BTB with one model. Now, the GK player can’t pile in because he’s already in BTB with worthless Boyz. He now has one Paladin to kill a Mega Nob, and the rest of the Mega Nobz will now send their S8 Paladin killing claw attacks through the rest of the Paladins which they chop up a Boyz squad.

Lastly, in a GK world, Lootaz suck. That’s the end of the story.


  1. Why is contacting one model out of terrain to avoid needing grenades called abusing the rules, but tieing guys up with cheap models and piling another squad onto one guy to limit return wounds called using the rules?

  2. In my local area it was ruled at a recent tournament that despite the majority of the unit outside of terrain I was forced to roll for difficult because some models could reach the models in terrain...thus forcing a difficult terrain role.

    This did not seem right to me, but was the ruling. The reverse has occurred when I have been assaulted in other local tournaments as you describe above.

    I have looked for a FAQ on this but no luck, interesting to observe how things are interpreted in different places.

    Great series by the way and good to see the Orks can hang!


  3. Bds, the person could have been ruling correctly in your case depending on exact situation. If, following the guidelines for assaulting in the brb, any of the assaulting troops would have to move through terrain, you have to test. However, if the only models you can reach with your 6 inches are ones you can reach without passing through terrain, u don't have to test. You can't chose to not enter terrain if its the only way a model could touch an untouched model, but if you are so far back you can only touch the ones out of cover, you are fine.

    In any case the 11th co really gave some good advice, really reread those assault rules if your going to play against GK! Since every squad can have a ton of different weapons, make sure you can get the matchups you want and that the GK player is assaulting correctly and not just putting whatever weapon he wants against who he wants it against.

  4. @ Neil, I don't hold Lootas in as low an opinion as you, but not as high as damned near everybody else. Problems arising from them, besides cost, armor, and leadership, involve, for me, placement: it is very difficult to deploy them intelligently when you have 15 with extremely awkward guns. Statistically, against Psybolt Dreads, they have no chance of preventing those things from killing all my trukks. I think that the Lootas are semi-competitive at the end of the day.
    Now, on to my two main thoughts.
    Here’s the first: How to deal with psybolt dreads as an Ork player? Here are a few thoughts, none of which involves shooting:
    1). Meganobs will never get near to there with either a trukk or a battlewagon; the trukk is much much too fragile, and the wagon much too slow. Pass.
    2). Deffkoptas can tie the unit up, but the S7 power klaw is very unlikely to destroy it, while the psybolt dread will eventually put a wound on the Koptas, and force a break test, which it will likely fail. Pass.
    3). Kommandos are a option that won't break easily, the power-klaw nob can destroy it (or even a warboss or equivalent may accompany it), and Snikrot can get the backedge. My problem is that you have to wait till turn two at a minimal for the squad to show up, that that's still fifty-fifty. I don't want to wait till turn four before I can advance with my AV 10 & AV 11 vehicles. That's a maybe.
    4). Bikerboys (not Bikernobs) are what I have been leaning toward. Bikerboys are fast (they can be on the pybolts turn one or turbobust), are some what durable (cover saves & T5), the nobs have Bosspoles & power-klaw Nobs. Crazy enough, the PK Nob is as likely to destroy the Psybolt Dreadnaught as the Psydolt Dread is to kill one Bikerboy (1 in 3) -- fair trade.
    They’re some problems though, mostly in price, naturally: so much so that getting troops and elites and heavies right is hard. I have actually been considering taking Wazzdakka in a Kan Wall list! I'll post my army list later.
    Here’s my second question: How to deal with Paladins? I was at the Bay Area Open, and I heard a battlewagon Ork player complaining that Orks had no chance against the Draigowing. I immediately thought SAG Big Mek and Zzap Guns. Here are a few thoughts:

    1). The Shokk Attack Gun Big Mek can literally whip the whole squad off the board…. 1 in 36 times…. assuming the gun hits. It does always have 60 inch range, AP 2, and S 8 or higher a little less than half the time to double out the Paladins two wounds. The problem, of course, is that high degree of unpredictability coupled with a low BS and access to only 1 Ammo Runt. Then there is Shrouding.
    2). Zzap Guns tell a similar story, but a shorter range and the unmaneuverability of artillery. Also, it takes up a Heavy Support slot, which I want to dedicate to Kans and Deffdreads.
    3). Boys seem like the answer, but I mathhammered it out: Assume 19 boys and 1 nob make combat (defending Paladins will have killed 10 of 30), they will inflict on average 2.5 wounds + 1 extra wound for the doubling effect of the power klaw for a total of 3.5. I don’t call this a good deal.
    4). Deffdreads, Killa Kans, Meganobs and power-weaponed Burnas might be the trick. Here, everything denies the 2+ armor and the first three double out T4 of the Paladins. What’s even better, it forces the Paladins to choose between Hammerhand to fight the Dreadnaughts or Forced Weapons to double out the Meganobs.
    These are my thoughts.
    Great articles. Thanks for doing this one on my boys.

  5. Wow, maybe I should have previewed my post for format. My bad.

  6. Killing paladins with Battlewagon Orks should really be easy. The Ork player clearly has the advantage to assault. Heck, the range of Paladin guns is less than the assault range of the Wagons.

    Knowing multi-assault rules is the key. You put your Wagon or Trukk boyz into the assault first, making them BTB with each Paladin. Then, the Meganobz and Ghazzie will go into BtB with 1 Paladin. You have to manipulate your assault ranges correctly. Once there, the Paladins must then swing at the worthless boyz squad. One paladin gets to swing at the Meganobz squad probably killing 1, maybe 2. Then, the Paladins eat a truck load of S8 power weapons and get wiped or so close to that Ghazzie can finish it himself.

  7. Neil-
    On the podcast you mentioned you frequently hold accolyte scoring units in reserve. Do you deploy their PsyBacks and walk them on or sacrifice the extra shooting for a little mobility once they come on?


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