Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide 2023

The 'biggest' Warhammer 40k faction, Knights have tons to offer - here's our guide to 9th edition Imperial Knights tactics, lore, and stratagems

Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - Photo provided to the author by Instagram user @40ksteve showing a Knight Lance of Imperial Knight house Griffith

When Warhammer 40k’s Imperial Knights faction rides forth into battle, the ground shudders beneath their iron tread. Each Knight is a huge warsuit constructed of impregnable adamantium, bearing weapons capable of tearing open battle tanks and rending down fortress walls. This guide has all the lore, rules, and detail you need to raise a Knights army of your own.

Among the many Warhammer 40k factions, the Imperial Knights army boasts some of the most powerful and imposing units within the armies of the Imperium of Man. They’re a perennially popular tabletop force that plays differently from any other.

To prepare you to lead a Knights army of your own, this guide has details of Imperial Knights tactics, stratagems, information from their 9th edition Warhammer 40k codex rulebook, and a run-down of the main Knight classes and their weapons – not to mention the information we have about them in Warhammer 40k 10th edition. Time to sally forth!

Here’s everything you need to know about Warhammer 40k’s Imperial Knights:

Imperial Knights in Warhammer 40k 10th edition

Games Workshop previewed the rules for Imperial Knights in Warhammer 40k 10th edition on May 18. As with all the other factions revealed so far, Knights have been simplified considerably for 10th edition. Several of the army-wide rules you’ll find later in this article are absent in 10th edition.

One rule that they keep is the Code Chivalric. In the lore of Warhammer 40k, the Code Chivalric is a complex web of laws and customs that defines Knight society. On the tabletop, Imperial Knights players will select an Oath they will pursue during the battle. This isn’t part of army building – you’ll make the selection after reading your mission objectives.

Warhammer 40k 10th edition Imperial Knights rules - Code Chivalric faction rules

The Oaths grant the Knight army an ability, and task them with completing a heroic Deed. The Oath ‘Lay Low The Tyrant’ lets each Knight in the army re-roll a hit roll of one and a wound roll of one each time they attack or shoot; its Deed requires the player to slay the enemy Warlord.

The Oath ‘Reclaim the Realm’ grants all knights +1” movement and +1 to run and charge rolls; its deed required the player to claim one or more objective marker in the enemy deployment zone.

Warhammer 40k 10th edition Imperial Knights rules - Armiger Warglaive datasheet

Claiming objectives will be less painful for Knights in 10th edition than it has been in previous editions thanks to the new Objective Control stat. A preview of the Armiger Warglaive Datasheet shows that these (relatively) small Knights have OC 8, equivalent to four battleline infantry.

Warhammer 40k 10th edition Imperial Knights rules - Noble Lance Detachment rules

Should a Knight player fulfil the Deed required of their Oath, they will immediately gain three command points, and their army will become Honoured. That in turn can trigger other abilities. The article gives the first Knight Detachment as an example: the Noble Lance Detachment has a 6+ Feel No Pain ability, which increases to 5+ when the army is Honoured.

Warhammer 40k 10th edition Imperial Knights rules - Shoulder the Burden stratagem

The article reveals two 40k Stratagems for the Noble Lance Detachment. ‘Shoulder the Burden’ costs 2CP – quite pricey in the new edition, as CP are now very hard to come by – and can only be used once per game (or twice if your army is Honoured). It gives a wounded Imperial Knight +1 move, toughness, Save, Leadership, Objective Control, and +1 to Hit.

Warhammer 40k 10th edition Imperial Knights rules - Trophy Claim stratagem

Trophy Claim costs just 1CP and grants a knight +1 to wound a single Monster or Vehicle. Kill your target and you’ll get that 1CP refunded: fail to slay them and your Knights will be so ashamed that they can’t use the Stratagem again this battle.

Another Faction Ability appears on the datasheet for Canis Rex, “Super-heavy Walker”. There’s no explanation in the article about what it does; it’s distinct from the Titanic or Towering classes of unit, as those are both listed as Keywords. Knights have tended to have abilities letting them walk over, disengage from, or shoot despite being engaged with smaller units, so that seems likely.

Warhammer 40k 10th edition Imperial Knights rules - Canis Rex datasheet

We also get to see some of the new stats for the extremely potent weapons that Knights port around. Canis Rex’s ‘Chainbreaker las-impulsor’ can be fired on two settings, high intensity – which has D6 attacks, S14, AP -3, four damage – and low intensity – which has longer range, twice the shots, S7, AP -1, two damage. Both fire modes have the Blast and Sustained Hits Weapon Abilities, inflicting extra hits on a ‘Critical Hit’ roll – which Rex scores on unmodified hit rolls of 5+ instead of six, thanks to his Chainbreaker ability.

Warhammer 40k 10th edition Imperial Knights rules - Rapid-fire Battle Cannon weapon stats

Weapon Abilities also make some classic Knight weaponry really interesting. The Rapid Fire Battle Cannon remains a Blast Weapon, with D6+3 attacks and respectable strength, but it now lives up to its namesake by gaining the Rapid Fire D6+3 weapon ability. At close range it’ll fire at least 2d6+6 shots, more if the target unit has enough models.

Warhammer 40k 10th edition Imperial Knights rules - Thundercoil Harpoon weapon stats

The preview also reveals the Thundercoil Harpoon, which has fewer shots but even better armour penetration than the Titan-hunting Astra Militarum volcano cannon. With S24, AP-6, and Damage 12, its raw stats are absurd, before you add in the Weapon Abilities Anti-Monster 4+ and Anti-Vehicle 4+, meaning there’s no target so tough it can’t be wounded on a 4+ or better; and Devastating Wounds, which bypasses invulnerable saves when the Wound roll is a critical.

In eighth and ninth edition 40k, Knights could be pledged as Questors to either the Imperium of Man or the Adeptus Mechanicus. There’s no hint of that in these previews, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see those distinctions show up in future Detachments.Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - Games Workshop sales image showing the front cover art for the 9th edition imperial knights codex

Imperial Knights codex

The 9th Edition Imperial Knights codex dropped in May 2022, bringing the army up to speed and in-line with the way 9th edition is played. Compared to 8th Edition, the Knight codex is a little more crunchy.

New Bondsman abilities allow Questoris class Knights to inspire Armigers to greater feats of skill with solemn tasks, while the Code Chivalric ties Knights to a binding oath, stripping them of many useful abilities should their honour be besmirched. Freeblade Knights are much simpler, simply following a different Martial tradition to the Household tradition of the rest of your army.

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Besides the main codex, the Imperial Armour Compendium contains rules for the exceedingly exotic knights sold by Forge World. 

Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - Photo provided to the author by Alan Bailey showing an Imperial Knight lance painted in purple and gold

Imperial Knights detachments – how to understand them

Knightly Households ride forth in mighty Lances, the earth shaking beneath their thunderous tread. These have special rules in the Codex, which we’ve included in full below. However the Arks of Omen detachment used in the current ‘Arks of Omen: Grand Tournament’ matched play season supercedes these rules. Arks of Omen will be in effect until Summer 2023 – so skip to the next section of this guide if you’re playing matched play.

Every Imperial Knight is a Lord of War choice, so they can only join two Warhammer 40k detachments: the Super-Heavy Detachment; which costs 6 Command Points (CP) if it contains any Titanic units or 3CP if it does not, and contains 3 to 5 Lords of War choices; and the Super-Heavy Auxiliary Detachment, which costs 3CP, and contains only one Lord of War. Unlike other armies, Knight Super-Heavy Auxiliary Detachments retain all their detachment abilities.

One Knight in a Super-Heavy Detachment (or Super-Heavy Auxiliary Detachment in a Patrol game) can be nominated as a Character, and you can create more characters with the Knight Baron stratagem. This allows you to have a Knight Warlord.

If your Warlord is a Knight, and they’re in a detachment containing between 1 and 2 Questoris-class Knights or 3-5 Armiger-class Knights, you gain +3 command points as the Detachment’s Command Benefit; if you can field 3 or more Questoris-class Knights or 6 or more Armiger-class Knights and at least one Titanic unit, the benefits go up to +6 command points. This usually rebates the steep cost of a Super-Heavy Detachment.

Knight Units Net CP cost
1-2 Questoris-Class -3 CP
3-5 Armiger Knights 0CP
1 Titanic Unit
6 Armiger Knights
3-5 Questoris-class 0CP

The Wandering Hero detachment ability allows a Super-Heavy Auxiliary Detachment containing a single freeblade to become an Agent of the Imperium, which can be added to any Imperial army without disrupting their battle-forged status: great news if you want to field one of these magnificent war-engines but can’t commit to a whole force.

Imperial Knights in Arks of Omen matched play

During the current Arks of Omen: Grand Tournament matched play season, the Arks of Omen detachment supercedes all other detachments. The usual rules for constructing a battle-forged Imperial Knights lance found in the Imperial Knights codex don’t apply.

Your army must contain at least three Lords of War choices, and up to six. That can be any combination of Knight classes, including an all Armiger army – all armies receive six command points.

Some Arks of Omen secondary objectives reward a player with CP if they complete them using Troops choices, Armigers, or Chaos Knight Wardogs. This makes an all-Armiger army pretty viable – they’re only ‘small’ units in comparison to their bigger Knight brothers, and they pack speed and a punch.

The Battle Brothers rules allow a single Knight Freeblade to join another Imperial army in a Super-Heavy Auxilliary detachment at no CP cost. This gains the Agent of the Imperium keyword, so doesn’t interfere with any bonuses that faction gains from drawing models from a single faction.

Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - Warhammer Community artwork showing a Knight Castellan and Knight Armigers in battle

Imperial Knights Code Chivalric

Millennia of tradition and a fierce code of honour contribute to the Imperial Knights Code Chivalric. This honour bond inspires them to acts of heroism, but defaming them for cowardice. Knights armies begin the game with one Honour point. When writing your army list you will pick two Oaths for your army.

Each Oath has a Pledge – a vow that, if fulfilled in a turn, will grant them an Honour point – and a Troth – a taboo that will cost them Honour points if breached. While the Army has between one and four honour points, every Knight gains the Honoured abilities of their Oaths: if they reach 5 or more Honour points they will become Virtuous for yet more favour.

For example, the oath Refuse no Challenge will honour the Knightly Household if they destroy two or more enemy units in melee for the turn, and dishonours them if any fall back from combat. While Honoured, these Knights gain +1 to hit in melee during the first round of any combat, and if they become virtuous they can re-roll any advance and charge rolls.

You will need to gain Honour consistently each round to become Virtuous – but there are some ways to shortcut this system. The Banner of Macharius Triumphant relic, for example, grants the bearer the Objective Secured ability and one additional Honour Point, as long as the bearer hasn’t been destroyed.

And, if your Knightly House or a Freeblade obeys the Hunters of Beasts Martial tradition, and you swear the Lay Low the Tyrants oath, you’ll gain two Honour Points instead of one when they destroy a monster or vehicle.

Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - author image showing a Knight Valiant model painted blue

Imperial Knights Exalted Court

Knightly Characters in a battle-forged Imperial Knights army can be upgraded to members of the Exalted Court. The posts of the Exalted Court are the hereditary titles within the Knight House, responsible for one facet of the court’s politics and operations.

In case you were wondering how much it costs to buy a peerage on an Imperial Knight world, these upgrades cost about as much as an anti-tank missile system (in terms of points anyway).

Each member of court is a veteran, a skilled and inspiring leader. If they have a Bondsman ability they are able to use it on a second Armiger class Knight each turn. They each bring unique skills to bear, derived from their position in the arcane courts of the Knightly houses – from a Herald of the Questor Imperialis to the Princeps of a Questor Mechanicus household.

The Monarchsward can shield another friendly Knight character from enemy fire by interposing its own ion shields and iron steed, and inspires Armiger-class knights to fight first in the fight phase.

The Forge Master is adamant in defence, reducing incoming damage it receives while wholly within your deployment zone, and inspiring Armiger-class bondsmen to repel enemies that make it into your deployment zone with greater accuracy and zeal.

Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - Games Workshop photo of multiple Freeblade Imperial Knights models

Imperial Knights tactics

Imperial Knights tactics have to take into account the incredible density of destructive power they pack into a relatively small area. Each Knight is a walking bastion of armour, force fields, and devastating firepower. Their mere footsteps can crush the mighty warriors of the Adeptus Astartes while their huge melee weapons will scythe through armoured vehicles with ease.

But, except on those terrible occasions when Imperial Knights march to war against their heretic kin, the Chaos Knights, Imperial Knights are always outnumbered.

Because their power is so concentrated into so few units, Knights must be extremely careful in deployment and when committing their forces. They have no way to screen enemies away from objectives except by interposing their own metal bodies.

The Unyielding Knight rule means that Armigers count as 5 models and larger knights as 10 when determining control of an objective, but you must vehemently persecute your opponents’ objective secured models and highly value the options in the Codex that can grant your own models that ability.

Questor class Knights have 24 wounds, a 5+ invulnerable save against shooting attacks only, toughness 8 and a base armour save of 3+. This is durable but far from invulnerable: high volumes of fire or competent melee attackers will bring a knight low.

There are many ways to improve your survivability in one axis or another: a Veteran of Gryphonne IV Warlord of House Cadmus reduces the damage from melee attacks by 1 (to a minimum of 1), insurance against thunder hammers and power fists. A House Raven Master of the Trial reduces the AP of attacks with AP -1 or -2 by 1, insulating them from anti-infantry fire. The Armour of the Sainted Ion relic gives the bearer a 2+ armour save. Any Knight can tell you that the only way to be truly safe is to kill your enemies first, so be ruthless with your target priority.

Every Knight packs monumental firepower, but bringing it to bear is critical. As Super-Heavy Walkers, Titanic Knights can declare a charge even after falling back, and can make Normal Moves, Fall-Back or Advance over models other than monsters and vehicles. As Vehicles Knights can fire their guns while locked in melee, but their mighty blast weapons will be disabled: this is especially punishing for the lumbering Dominus-class ranged weapon platforms.

As with other Characters, your Knight Warlord can Heroically Intervene 3” at the end of your enemy’s charge phase, a useful tool to trap enemies who seek to claim those objectives. 

Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - Photo provided to the author by Stephen Reynolds showing a questoris knight in green and cream armour

The best Imperial Knights stratagems

Although you should be able to avoid any command point costs for your detachment, you will find that you have very few to play with. Because each Knight is such an immense concentration of force, their stratagems are accordingly expensive. Pledge to Defend the Realm if you want to maximise your budget: while Honoured, this oath grants two CPs instead of one at the start of your Command phase.

The pre-battle stratagems Knight Baron and Heirlooms of the Household are justifiably popular among Knight players. Exalted Court allows you to turn additional Knights into characters and grants them a Warlord trait, while Heirlooms of the Household throws open the Sacristans’ holy vaults to dispense additional relics to your force.

The size of game limits how often you can use these stratagems and they’re an easy way to blow through your CP budget, but they will greatly increase the survivability, flexibility and offensive power of your cadre of chivalric mech suits.

Rotate Ion Shields is a critical defensive stratagem, increasing the invulnerable save of a Knight to 4+ against shooting attacks for a turn for 1CP for an Armiger class knight, or 2CP for the larger Knights.

Except for Armigers, Knights are simply too large to benefit from any kind of terrain and can always be targeted by their enemies once in range, so you need this to protect you from the powerful armour-cracking anti-tank weapons that abound in 9th edition, such as the Dark Lance mounted on Drukhari Raiders, Twin Cognis Lascannons of Adeptus Mechanicus Ironstrider Ballistarii, or the Melta Rifles carried by Space Marine Eradicators.

Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - Warhammer Community photo showing House Terryn Imperial Knight models fighting Khorne Daemons

Full Tilt allows a Knight to charge after advancing for 2CP. Depending on your deployment and the terrain, you may be able to attempt a turn-one charge that will congest your opponents deployment zone and give you some time to claim objectives.

Knights that owe allegiance to the Questor Mechanicus have the powerful stratagem Machine Spirit Resurgent, which, for 1CP for an Armiger or 2CP for larger Knights, allows them to ignore all damage they have suffered. This substantially improves the accuracy of a damaged Knight’s weaponry. Questor Imperialis knights are more likely to die, but go out in a blaze of glory: for CP for an Armiger or 2CP otherwise they can make a Valiant Last Stand, shooting as if it were the shooting phase or fighting as if it were the fight phase (albeit with minimal accuracy).

Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - Photo provided to the author by Alan Bailey showing a Forge World Imperial Knight model in purple and gold paint scheme

Questor Imperialis and Questor Mechanicus

Each Knight World owes fealty to one of two great masters, the Imperium of Man or the Mechanicus of Mars, making them part of the Questor Imperialis and Questor Mechanicus respectively. These bonds of service can be traced to the Great Crusade when the Knight worlds were united with the Imperium and swore oaths to ride forth to the defence of their liege lords.

These are represented by your army’s Questor Allegiance Oath. The Vow of Honour binds your knights to the Imperium of Man, adding 1 to their advance and charge rolls. The Sacristan Pledge represents the superior technology and materiel provided by the bonds with the Adeptus Mechanicus, allowing each Knight to regain one wound at the start of the turn.

Whether your Knights are part of the Questor Mechanicus or the Questor Imperialis will also determine which stratagems, relics and Warlord Traits your army can access. 

Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - Warhammer Community photo showing a House Terryn Imperial Knight lance

Imperial Knight Houses

Each Imperial Knight House follows a Household Tradition, shaping its way of war. These open up unique stratagems and Warlord traits, as well as providing a more distinct narrative character to your force.

Household traditions give characterful bonuses to every Knight in the Household. House Griffith, for example, revels in the Glory of the Charge, granting them +1 Attack on any turn in which they charged, were charged or heroically intervened.

Likewise, the indomitable House Hawkshroud are Oathkeepers, counting double their current number of wounds on their damage table and counting their Honour level one point higher as long as they’re not dishonoured, while the Relentless Advance of House Raven allows them to ignore any modifiers to their Movement characteristic or Advance rolls, and count as Remaining Stationery when shooting even after advancing.

Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - Warhammer Community photo showing a Knight Valiant model in House Raven colours

In most factions, the army-wide buff provided by picking a sub-faction will really define how your army plays in a way that a Relic, Warlord Trait or Stratagem won’t. This isn’t true for Knights, who concentrate their power into a tiny number of models.

The Bio-Scryer Cogitator Array stratagem of House Cadmus allows a Knight to unleash its full ranged ordnance against an enemy unit that is set up within 12” of it as if it were the shooting phase, a powerful tool for controlling the battlefield that other Knight Households totally lack.

The First Knight Warlord Trait from House Krast simply allows the Knight to reroll hit rolls of one, a huge boost to accuracy, while their Headsman’s Mark relic increases the damage of the Knight’s weapons by one against models with a wounds characteristic of ten or more, a cheeky little upgrade that will make an Avenger Gatling Cannon or Conflagration Cannon into respectable anti-tank weaponry. 

Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - Photo provided to the author by Stephen Reynolds showing an Imperial Knight Magaera in green and cream paint scheme

Imperial Knight Freeblades

Some Knights owe fealty to no Household. Some have seen their comrades in arms slain to the last, powerless to save those they fought beside.

Others are disgraced warriors who have broken the codes of honour they swore to uphold, sentenced to exile. Then there are those whose have fled in disgust from a Household that has turned away from the Emperor’s light and sought the terrible rewards of the ruinous powers.

Whatever the cause, Freeblade Knights bear a terrible burden, a source of pain and also inner fire, seeking to right past wrongs, wash away their dishonour or simply wreak terrible vengeance upon the foes that took everything from them.

Freeblades do not benefit from a Household Tradition and, while they hold to a Questor Allegiance, they do not gain the benefit of its Oath. Instead they follow a personal Martial Tradition which cannot be shared with any other model in the army. This allows you to create a Knight that is greatly at odds to the rest of your force.

You might complement a melee-focused House Terryn Knight Lance with a Knight Castellan obeying the Unremitting martial tradition. This allows you to determine how many shots your blast weaponry fires as though the target unit had twice the number of models it actually contains, a devastating firebase that will unleash 12 shots from the Plasma Decimator against a unit with just 6 or more models.

Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - Warhammer Community photo showing a Freeblade questoris Knight with battle cannon and chainsword

If you love the idea of world-weary warriors and misfits banding together, consider the Freeblade Lance, an Army of Renown fielding nothing but Freeblades. They gain the Indomitable Heroes martial tradition as well as their personal ones – which offers some of the benefits of both the Questor oaths, as well as unique Warlord traits, relics and stratagems.

If you luxuriate in converting bespoke vehicles, this is absolutely the force for you.

Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - Photo provided to the author by Instagram user @Pratheos showing Imperial Knight Armigers in a purple and white colour scheme

Armiger Knights

Armiger Knights are piloted by lesser nobles, illegitimate children and squires to the Knight House. Comparatively small, Armigers are like the hunting dogs to the larger Knight suits cavalry.

Armigers can be inspired to greater acts of valour by their seniors, reflected in the Bondsman abilities of Questor class Knights. These allow a Questor Knight to assign an Armiger a sacred duty: the Knight Warden’s Duty allows an Armiger to count as 10 models for the purpose of controlling objectives, while the Gallant’s duty increases the Armiger’s Weapon Skill by 1. If the army is Honoured, damage the Armiger receives from attacks is reduced by 1 while under the effect of any Bondsman ability. Most Knights can only command one Armiger but members of the Exalted Court can use their senior skill to command two.

Two Armiger class Knights are available from Games Workshop, the short-ranged Warglaive and the ranged Helverin. Though they’re the smallest of all Knights, these suits are armoured like light tanks, with Toughness 7 and 12 Wounds. The Helverin carries a pair of cannons that can project a hail of long-range fire, while the Warglaive has a short Reaper Chain-Cleaver and a Thermal Spear, effective anti-tank weapons or capable of ripping elite infantry to shreds.

Though they’re hardly ‘cheap’, Armigers are the smallest unit you can field in an Imperial Knights army. Reserving a 155 point Helverin to hold a backfield objective is far more palatable than committing a 450 point Knight. Warglaives can be redirected to deal with emergent threats or sacrificed to hold up a horde or blunt an assault, and A Squire’s Duty allows Armigers to shoot and charge in the same turn that they fall back from combat.

Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - Photo provided to the author by Instagram user @Pratheos showing an Imperial Knight Errant in a purple and white paint scheme

Questoris Knights

The great majority of Imperial Knight classes are built on the redoubtable Questoris Knight chassis. Though the scions of the knightly houses might contest that there are noticeable differences in the temper of the different warsuits’ machine spirits, in game terms and in their models most Questor knights differ only in their armament. Canny use of magnets in the shoulder joints of your miniatures will allow you to swap and change between the various classes.

Knight class Main armament
Paladin Rapid-fire Battle Cannon and melee armament
Errant Thermal Cannon and melee armament
Gallant Reaper Chainsword and Thunderstrike Gauntlet
Warden Avenger Gatling Cannon and melee armament
Crusader Avenger Gatling Cannon, plus either a Thermal Cannon or Rapid-fire Battle Cannon
Preceptor Las-Impulsor and melee armament

Many knights bear devastating melee weaponry. The Reaper Chainsword is an atavistic call-back to the Knight’s origins as an agricultural machine, a twelve-foot chainsaw that will damage all but the most robust vehicles on a wound roll of 2+, dealing six damage and cleaving through all but the thickest armour. It can also Sweep, making three to hit rolls instead of one for every attack and reaping a bloody tally through infantry.

The Thunderstrike Gauntlet is a slower but more potent weapon, dealing an absurd 8 damage on a wound though only granting two hit-rolls per Sweep attack. The broken carcasses of monsters and vehicles slain by it can be hurled into their allies, dealing mortal wounds. The brash pilots of Gallant class knights wield both of these catastrophic weapons, adding an extra attack on their profile to compensate for the slight redundancy of carrying two short-range weapons that can carve a tank in two.

Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - Photo provided to the author by Instagram user @40ksteve showing a Knight Paladin of House Griffith

The Rapid-Fire Battle Cannon launches a barrage of heavy shells, of a heavier calibre than a Leman Russ’ main gun, dealing a flat 3 damage. This gun is effective against elite infantry and enemy armour, but invulnerable saves (as on the Drukhari Raider), abilities that prevent a unit from being wounded on rolls less than 4+ (such as Primaris Space Marines‘ Transhuman Physiology stratagem) chip away at its effectiveness. The weapon also fires 2d6 shots, and rolling snake eyes can be incredibly dispiriting.

The Thermal Cannon is a Blast 2d3 anti-tank gun. An over-sized melta-weapon, it has high strength and excellent armour penetration, and inflicts d6+2 damage per hit at close range.

If you’d rather your Knights were armed with a minigun the size of an affordable family car, the Avenger Gatling Cannon is for you. With 12 Strength 6 AP-2 damage 2 shots this is a go-to Space Marine killer (though see the notes above…). The relic Avenger Gatling Cannon Endless Fury has better AP and an extra d6 shots, hard to resist.

Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - Warhammer Community photo showing several Imperial Knight models in House Griffith colours

Only the Knight Preceptor bears the Las Impulsor, a curious rapid firing laser weapon that fires d6 high-Strength, anti-armour shots at short range, and 2d6 anti-infantry shots at long range. It’s not a blast weapon, which is a mixed blessing; though it lacks the guaranteed minimum shots against large units, it can still be fired into melee.

Truly, the Omnissiah giveth as much as he taketh away. To round out this odd duck of a Knight, it allows Armiger class units within 6” to reroll hit rolls of 1, reflecting the Preceptor’s role as a mentor to novice Knights.

These Questoris knights can all be fitted with carapace mounted weapons, from the anti-aircraft Twin Icarus Autocannons, parabolic Ironstorm Missiles that can target units outside line of sight, or dedicated anti-tank guns of the Stormspear Rocket Pod.

Add in a smattering of ancillary guns (Meltaguns or Heavy Stubbers mounted in the torso, a Tracer Heavy Stubber in the Rapid-fire Battle Cannon, and underslung Heavy Flamer in the Avenger Gatling Cannon), and Imperial Knights bristle with heavy weaponry. 

Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - Photo provided to the author by Stephen Reynolds showing an Imperial Knight Castellan in green and cream paint scheme

Dominus Knights

The largest Knight kit made by Games Workshop, the Dominus Knights are walking battleships, bristling with firepower. Reflecting their predilection for ranged combat, Dominus-class Knights have worse Weapon Skill than their Questor siblings (though their giant footfalls are no less deadly). Two Dominus kits are available, the Castellan and the Valiant.

Knight Class Main armaments
Castellan Plasma decimator and Volcano lance
Valiant Conflagration cannon and Thundercoil harpoon

Both Dominus have a pair of twin-meltaguns for short-range defense against other Knights or similarly large close-range combatants. Their carapace mounts a combination of single-shot, invulnerable-save-ignoring shieldbreaker missiles, and twin-siegebreaker cannons, tiny weapons on the Dominus but large enough to be the main gun on most APCs or light tanks.

The Castellan is equipped with immense long-ranged firepower. The Volcano lance is a minimised version of the laser-weaponry mounted on space ships, a Heavy d6 blast Strength 14, AP-5, damage 3D3 weapon that rerolls wound rolls against Titanic units.

The Plasma Decimator is a Heavy 2D6, Strength 7 AP -3 D1 Blast weapon, which can be overcharged to S8, AP-3, D2 at the risk of causing mortal wounds to the bearer. Castellans pledged to the Questor Mechanicus can call upon the relic Cawl’s Wrath, a Plasma Decimator with increased strength and damage.

Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - Warhammer Community photo showing House Raven Imperial Knights attacking Daemons of Tzeentch

If your opponent has brought only a limited quantity of anti-tank weapons, the Castellan can wipe them away in a single salvo. Just remember that almost all the weaponry borne by the Castellan is a blast weapon, which cannot be brought to bear when engaged in melee, so it is extremely vulnerable to being tied up by chaff.

Where its sibling is reserved, the Valiant is a front-line bruiser. It carries the enormously oversized Conflagration Cannon and the Thundercoil Harpoon, a short ranged damage 10 weapon that will wound anything except a Warlord Titan (or a member of the Dark Angels‘ 1st company…) on a 2+ and can reroll hit rolls against vehicles and monsters – and then deals another d3 mortal wounds as it channels voltaic force into the vehicle it has skewered. 

Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - Warhammer Community artwork showing a Knight Porphyrion in battle

Forge World Knights

There are as many Forge World Knights – made by Games Workshop’s specialist studio Forge World – as there are by Games Workshop itself. These vehicles were prolific during the Horus Heresy but are rare by the time of the Dark Millennium.

These kits are for truly dedicated collectors. They might combine plastic components with resin conversion parts, or be completely resin kits for the largest, most imposing knights.

Rules for these magnificent war engines can be found in the Imperial Armour Compendium. The Moirax is a variant Armiger, and the Styrix and Magaera are variants on the Questor chassis. More imposing (and more expensive), the Lancer, Acheron, Castigator and Atropos are all Knights of the long-limbed Cerastus class, faster and sturdier than their Questor counterparts. Games Workshop announced on April 21 at Warhammer Fest that we’d be getting a plastic Cerastus Lancer kit in the Summer of 2023.

The absurdly bulky Porphyrion and Asterius occupy the Acastus class. They’re the largest vehicles that a single pilot can control through a Throne Mechanicum without losing their mind to the mount’s belligerent machine spirit.

With rules by Forge World rather than Games Workshop these Knights are always a little out of step with the core rules for their faction. They swing from under- to over-powered with each points update. Get one if you want a deluxe modelling and painting challenge that will be the centrepiece of your collection, not because you’re trying to rule the tournament scene. 

Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - Photo provided to the author by Alan Bailey showing two Imperial Knight armigers in a purple and gold paint scheme

Start collecting Imperial Knights

So, you want to start collecting Imperial Knights? When your army is made from 80-ton walking war engines, you don’t expand your force in small steps, you do it in great strides that shatter the earth beneath your mighty tread.

Questoris knights cost from 400 up to nearly 500 points, depending on their loadout, while Armigers are relatively svelte, at around the 150-point mark. There’s not that many different ways to add up those values to make 1,000 points, which is the very smallest size you really want to be playing Knights with.

At current point values, 1,000 points will get you two Warglaives, two Helverins, and a Preceptor – or a single Armiger and a pair of Questoris  Knights (which you can magnetise at the elbow joints and carapace weapon to permit experimentation).

The Armiger-heavy army is slightly easier on the wallet, has a modicum of synergy between the Preceptor and its smaller attendants, and won’t suffer quite so much from being outflanked and outmanoeuvred by more numerous adversaries.

But if you’re collecting Knights, you’re probably doing it for the stonking great gorgeous models. If that’s the case, you already know where you’re going to start – with the kit you think looks coolest. The real question is if you’re ever going to stop.

Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - Photo provided to the author by Instagram user @40ksteve showing a Knight Lance of Imperial Knight house Griffith

Imperial Knights lore

In Games Workshop’s grimdark far future, Imperial Knights lore reveals that these war-walkers are centuries-old relics of ancient technology. They have been maintained by the devotion of generations of tech adepts, and are ridden into war by the scions of a venerable knightly household.

Combining the medieval romance of the questing chevalier with the raw firepower of a 40-foot-tall mech suit, Imperial Knights join battle bedecked with pennants and decorated with livery that proclaims their lineal oaths, their rolls of honour, and histories of conquest.

The first Knights date back to the Dark Age of Technology, when the ascendant human species colonised the galaxy using powerful technologies now long forgotten. Flexible Standard Template Construct systems enabled the construction of any tool mankind might need on the worlds it claimed.

The design for the Knight war-suit was adapted from industrial and agricultural machines employed on hardy frontier worlds. The improvised war machines enabled those first colonies to defend themselves against native beasts, xenos raiders and stranger things besides.

Knight suits psychically bond with their pilot through the control interface known as the Throne Mechanicum. The powerful machine spirit of the Knight suit influences the pilot, imbuing them with the desire for glory and the urge to dominate the realms around them, while the pilot’s consciousness seeps into the Throne Mechanicum.

Over time, a Throne Mechanicum will accrete generations of mental imprints from the pilots who bonded with them. At the same time, the Knights exert an influence over the society of their worlds. Between the psychic impression of the Throne Mechanicum, and their inevitable role as defenders and commanders, the Households of Knights have risen to positions of hereditary, feudal control over their worlds.

Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - Warhammer Community photo showing House Raven Imperial Knights models aided by Ultramarines Space Marines

In the time of horror known to historians as Long Night or the Age of Strife, the worlds of mankind languished in terrified isolation. Tempestuous warp storms made galactic travel a nigh-impossibility, shattering any hope of interstellar civilization.

Mankind was at the mercy of warp-borne monstrosities and xenos predators. In this darkness, the Knight Worlds blazed like beacons. With reaper chainsword and battle cannon, their mighty warriors held back the foes that sought to devour mankind.

When the Emperor’s Great Crusade reunited the human homeworld with its lost children, the Knight houses were quick to bend the knee. Some pledged to the Forge Worlds of the Mechanicum, reforging ancient bonds that had existed in the Age of Technology, losing their independence to the relentless demands of the machine cult but gaining a great boon of irreplaceable technology. Others swore to the Emperor and his Imperium, the romance and vision of the Great Crusade calling to their chivalric hearts.

For 10,000 years the Knight Households have waged the Imperium’s wars, hurling back rebels, aliens and heretics with gallant charges of their massive war engines. Since the Cicatrix Maledictum split the galaxy in two, separating the far side from the Emperor’s light, the Knight Worlds are amongst the few bastions to hold back the tides of darkness that besiege the so-called Imperium Nihilus. Just as they did in the Age of Strife, so the Knight Houses defend mankind from unthinkable foes. 

Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - Warhammer Community graphic showing the portrait of Hekhtur Cerberan, pilot of the famous Knight Canis Rex

Imperial Knights characters – Sir Hekhtur and Canis Rex

Sir Hekhtur Cerberan is the last loyal son of House Cerberan. Hailing from the Knight World of Randoryn Alpha, Sir Hekhtur and his Knight Preceptor Canis Rex fought side by side with the rest of his Household when the heretic forces of the Iron Warriors Chaos Space Marines sought to claim their world.

Though the Knights fought a staunch defence and reaped a bloody tally on their foe, they were gradually encircled, besieged, captured, or destroyed. Death was not to be their fate, though: each Knight was subjected to horrific torture, while Dark Mechanicum hereteks  and warpsmiths set to work corrupting the spirits of their war machines. Of all House Cerberan, only Sir Hekhtur was not killed or corrupted.

Perhaps sensing its master’s unyielding resolve, perhaps urged to motion by the Emperor’s will, Canis Rex somehow broke from the bonds of the hereteks attempting to subvert it, and smashed a path to its master. Together with other Imperial survivors, they escaped, forming the core of the Randoryn resistance.

Sir Hekhtur was unable to save his world, but, rather than laying down his life in pursuit of vengeance or redemption, he engineered an escape aboard a stolen shuttle. Now he is the Chainbreaker, always at the frontline of the Imperium’s wars to liberate worlds languishing under the shackles of the arch-enemy.

Warhammer 40k Imperial Knights army guide - Warhammer Community photo showing the model for Imperial Knight Canis Rex

While at full health, Canis Rex fights with an impressive Weapon Skill and Ballistic skill of 2+. The knight suit is armed with a Las-Impulsor and the legendary Freedom’s Hand, a gargantuan thunderstrike gauntlet which inflicts 2d6 wounds (for a minimum of 6). Should the noble Canis Rex be slain, Sir Hekhtur is able to disembark and fight on on foot, with an archeotech pistol, and denying your opponent any victory points for destroying Canis Rex while he yet lives.

Sir Hector is a Mentor to the lesser knights of a household. Canis Rex can broadcast Knightly Teachings through its laud-hailers, inspiring the junior nobles piloting Armiger class Knights with lessons such as The Virtue of Courage, granting them additional hits on unmodified hit rolls of 6, or The Knight’s Faith, letting them shrug off incoming wounds as righteous fervor fills them.

With thanks to @40ksteve for photographs of his creamy smooth House Griffith, Stephen Reynolds for his lush green and cream Knight Castellan, Knight Crusader and Knight Magaera, @Pratheos for his royal purple and white Armigers and Knight Errant, and Alan Bailey for his intimidating purple and gold knight lance.