People really love the frequently cheesy (cough, Draigo wing, cough) but always fun army that the Grey Knights are. Well fun unless you are playing against them and have an issue with the Psychobroke grenades that are pretty much standard issue for inquisitors (they come in a gift box also including Rad grenades). I too play Grey Knights, I just ended up getting into them before the codex rumors hit and thanks to the Black Library.
There is a used book store near where I work that had (until I bought most of them) a great selection of cheap Black Library stuff. Grey Knights was one of the first I read, with its descriptions of them as regular marines that have taken an extra dose of bad ass and awesome. And they were cheap on ebay as their codex stunk up the room. This made them a must have so I started collecting and painting. Oh yeah and painting them grey, not metallic spray primer. The fact that then new codex rumors surfaced just made me even happier particularly when it was released and made them into tiny gods.
That is just a decision to play a specific chapter. What we can get from reading is also great images of specific characters and events. Specific characters may give us inspiration for model conversions. A sudden desire to make a model armed and posed just how you imagine Pedro Kantor as he fights the warboss on Rynn’s World, or Kor’Sarro Khan on his bike, mowing down some Alpha Legion marines.
The events and worlds described can give us great ideas for how to build a whole theme for an army. If you are looking at Necron’s then reading something like Fall of Damnos can give great insight into how they act and feel. Maybe Tau are your thing? Savage Scars had some great coverage of them even if they were often getting their butts kicked. Either way, if you think there is an army you want to play, go to Black Library and find a book about them. Not only will you have ideas for a great looking army, knowing the fluff is what makes this the most fun.
Based on all that, here is a quick and dirty review of some of the books I’ve read and what you can expect from them as a source of inspiration.
If Black Templars, IG or Orks are your thing then here is a book for you. Personally I found it turned me against the Templars some and they are the central characters. Yeah they are good in a fight, but boy are they a bunch of self-righteous dicks. The Salamanders show up too, and are much friendlier, and of course vast hoards of guardsmen also die. The book does a great job of describing the setting and has plenty of flavor for Templar and IG fans. The Orks were a bit distant and generic though.
The first of the Ultramarines series, featuring a fight with Dark Eldar on a rebelling world that is trying to jump start some Necrons.
Interestingly the Necrons are not noted as such, instead being described as ancient robot aliens. The book is set after the defense of Macragge from the Tyranids. I didn’t realize it took so long for the Necron to become players in the grimdark 40k universe.
The book takes a little while to get going but hits a decent pace once it does. I’m getting a little tired of the description of the awesome power, history, and majesty of a Space Marine strike cruiser before said cruiser gets its butt almost blown to oblivion. I’m surprised those space ships last more than a couple of weeks. Old book though, so it was probably a new idea when this was written. The Ultramarines are decent in the story, having a good feel as the most Adeptus Astartes of the Adeptus Astartes. The Dark Eldar though are a little off. Yeah we get the idea that they are a bunch of psychotic freaks. My question is though, how do psychotic freaks form a functioning society that doesn’t die out in a single generation?
One of the Space Marine series, primarily featuring the White Scars but with many other chapters having cameos. It covers one of the first engagements with the Tau and is set before the defense of Macragge from an unknown, new insectoid race.
I really enjoyed this book, one of my favorites so far. There were a decent range of characters and some enjoyable personalities. The action and tension was decent, and discovering the Tau was fun. Just imagine you were up against Tau but had never read the codex. One thing that I did pull from this book in a big way is Chapters working together. Sure you couldn’t jump codex, but I really want to add some extra marine squads of different chapters. There is fluff about which chapters get on well and which don’t, but the idea of working on each squad in an army with a different style and color scheme really jumps out at me.
OK, Grey Knights are awesome. If you want elite, unstoppable squads of Marines killing hoards of deamons across fields strewn with blood and bones then this is the book for you. I did have a few, minor plot related issues that I can’t really talk about without dropping spoilers. This book is why my Grey Knights are all on SWM Bone Field bases. And now they have corpse field bases too!
Death Wing and Victories of the Space Marines
Both are good anthologies with a reasonable range of stories. There are a few very notable ones and some that quickly drop from memory, but are worth the time. The best from Death Wing were the first and last stories involving Dark Angels. The first as it chronicles the events that lead to the Dark Angel terminators wearing their armor white. The last as it gives a glimpse of one of the arch enemies of the Dark Angels, The Fallen. For Victories, the stories that stuck were the defeat of the Crimson Consuls, a story about some renegade marines fighting for resources, and the last one about the infrastructure behind the grey knights.
These anthologies are great as they manage to squeeze a whole lot of character into short stories. All kinds of flavor and all kinds of inspiration for individual models, units, chapters or worlds. Similarly, it also brings out the idea of building a force around a renegade marine chapter. Some, like the Iron Snakes, may simply be non-astartes compliant. Others, like the Knights of Blood, may be loyalist but declared renegade by the inquisition. Either way this open up huge avenues for how you build, model and paint your armies.
Hopefully you can read some of these, any of the vast array from Black Library really, and hopefully we’ll be seeing a bit less “Black Reach Ultramarine on sand/glue base” and a bit more “Holy crap, awesome army, what made you do it that way?” But no, Black-blood Wolf Angels isn’t a good chapter name.