Continuing with my heavy cavalry theme, I wanted to have a look at the various heavy cavalry units available to the Warhammer player, provide some insites into each unit and give my personal opinion as to which unit is the best (if there is such a thing). And by ‘best’ I don’t just mean raw power, but a combination of killing potential, survivability, special rules and value for points. But before I start analysing I first want to set a bench mark for what is a heavy cavalry unit. Heavy cavalry are typically an elite unit in the army and as such tend to have a stats line to go with it, ideally at least WS 4 and LD 8; they also tend to have a very good armour save, usually 2+; and armed with a weapon that gives them a strength bonus on a charge i.e. lance or spear. Points wise most are around 27pts, but three units do go above 50pts. With these basic ideals let’s have a look at the units available to each of the armies.
Bretonnia. It seems appropriate to start with the army that epitomises heavy cavalry; 5 out of the 10 units available to the Bretonnians are such units. The Bretonnians also have 2 special rules that provide them with a distinct advantage over other heavy cavalry; purebred warhorses and the lance formation. The purebred warhorse means that they not slowed by having barding and so have a M 8 compared to the standard M 7 for most other heavy cavalry. This means that they are more likely to charge than be charged, even against other cavalry units. The lance formation is a special unit formation that allows the Bretonnian knights to gain rank bonuses for every 3 models instead of 5 like other units. It also allows more models in the unit to fight in combat. Take a typical 10 model unit, in any other army this would allow 5 models to fight and give you a rank bonus of +1; for the Bretonnians it allows 8 models to fight and gives a rank bonus of +2. For static combat resolution this gives you a big advantage, and means that a Bretonnian knight unit can even take on full blocks of infantry head on. And remember that all can have a ward save if the player chooses to go second. So what units have they got?
Knights Errant: A basic heavy cavalry unit, 2+ save and lance armed. Pros; Cheap (only 20pts each!) and their Impetuous rule means that they are Immune to Psychology when they charge. Cons; they’re only WS 3 and LD 7, so below average knights and the Impetuous rule means they are slightly uncontrollable (think frenzy, but without the bonus attack). Knights of the Realm: A standard heavy cavalry unit; you must have at least one unit of these in your Bretonnian army. Pros; Lance formation, Purebred Warhorse. Cons; None really. Questing Knights: An elite heavy cavalry unit armed with a great weapon instead of a lance. Pros; +1 S all the time, Immune to Panic. Cons; 3+ save, strike last because of great weapon. Pegasus Knights: A flying (yes flying!) heavy cavalry unit. Pros; fast moving, T 4, W 2. Cons; No rank bonuses and expensive (55pts). Grail Knights: The elite of Bretonnian chivalry. Pros; Immune to Psychology, WS 5, I 5, A 2, magical attacks, ward save. Cons; Slightly expensive for a T3 model (38pts).
Daemons of Chaos. Yes the Daemons do have a heavy cavalry unit. Bloodcrushers of Khorne: A crazed Bloodletter riding a snorting brass Juggernaut – scary! Pros; Immune to Psychology, ward save, killing blow, WS 5, S 6, T 4, W 2, fear, magical resistance. Cons; Instability means they wont last after the charge, 4+ armour save, very expensive (70pts!) which means no rank bonuses (unless you want to spend 700pts).
Dark Elves. Cold One Knights: A sadistic, hate-filled elf riding a velociraptor. Pros; Fear, WS 5, I 6, LD 9, hatred. Cons; Stupidity.
The Empire. Knightly Orders: A standard heavy cavalry unit. Pros; 1+ save, option of lance or great weapon. Cons; None really, but they’re nothing special either.
High Elves. Silver Helms: Elven nobles in bright, shinny armour that makes them easier to see. Pros; Cheap (21pts), fast moving (M 8), always strikes first. Cons; Urm . . . it costs another 2 pts for a shield? Sorry its the best I can come up with. Dragon Princes: Fire Proof knights. Pros; WS 5, I 6, A 2, LD 9, always strikes first, M 8, Immune to all flamming attacks/spells. Cons; Expensive for a S 3 model (30pts), but what do you expect, they’re wimpy elves.
Lizardmen. Cold One Cavalry: A dinosaur riding another dinosaur, how bizarre. Pros; T 4, A 2, fear, cold blooded. Cons; Stupidity, I 2.
Orcs & Goblins. Orc Boar Boyz: Smelly and bad tempered, and then there’s the boar. Pros; T4, boar gains +2 S on the charge, cheap (22pts). Cons; I 2, 3+ save, boar is better than Orc in combat (no seriously it is).
Tomb Kings. I almost didn’t include this unit, it barely counts as heavy cavalry. Skeleton Heavy Horsemen: A skeleton riding a skeletal equine. Pros; Fear, Immune to Psychology, can be brought back from the dead, cheap (16pts). Cons; Where do I start? WS 2, I 2, 4+ save, will crumble to dust if beaten in combat or if the Hierophant is killed, can’t march move, armed with a spear and not a lance, in fact why did I include them?
Warriors of Chaos. Yes the unit you’ve all been waiting for. Chaos Knights: They need no introduction. Pros; (so many) WS 5, T 4, A 2, fear, re-roll panic tests, 1+ save, ensorcelled weapons (+1 S and magical attacks), and can be given Marks of Chaos to make them even harder. Cons; They’re expensive (40pts basic) and even more so if you given them lances or Marks of Chaos.
Vampire Counts. Dead things riding. Black Knights: A long dead hero riding a ghostly horse. Pros; T 4, killing blow with every weapon, ignore terrain movement penalties, fear, immune to psychology, can be raised from the dead. Cons; Will crumble if they are beaten in combat or if the general dies, WS 3, cannot march move. Blood Knights: Blood thirsty, psychopathic vampire knights. Pros; WS 5, S 5, T 4, A 2, fear, frenzied, Immune to Psychology, can be brought back from the dead. Cons; Very expensive (55pts), can crumble if beaten in combat, frenzy makes them a little uncontrollable.
So now comes the hard part, which one do I think is the best unit? This will no doubt be controversial, and other people will have their own opinions, but there you go. For pure brute force I think its a tie between the Chaos Knights and the Blood Knights, both are capable of utter distruction, however both units are also very expensive (you can get two of most of the other knights for the cost of one Blood Knight). The best value for points I feel has to be the Silver Helms; they have a WS 4, I 5, ok a 3+ save unless you pay 2 pts for a shield (which still makes them cheaper than most other knight units), they have a M 8, but best of all they have the always strikes first, which means that it doesn’t even matter if they get charged even though they can out charge most units.
But for me best overall I think has to be the Knights of the Realm; they only cost 24pts (making them below average cost), true they don’t have lots of attacks or a very high WS, but you can have lots of them for your points, and they can get big rank bonuses really easily – something the other heavy cavalry units will struggle to do. They also can gain a ward save if the Bretonnian player chooses to go second (a nice trade off). With the additional attacks gained from the lance formation a good sized unit should have no trouble taking a full infantry block head-on, making them more versitile – you don’t have to be too picky about your targets. And to top it all off they move as fast as the elven heavy cavalry, so enemy knights beware, because they’ll out-charge you.