There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth in regard to the upcoming Imperial Knight kit, and even if I haven't been at the front of the charge, I have complained loudly and often against the proliferation of super heavy vehicles and D weapons in standard games of Warhammer 40,000. So why am I excited about the Imperial Knight?
To be clear, in my view, Escalation doesn't have any place in standard games of Warhammer 40,000. And I'm not making the argument that simply adding more super heavies will balance the game. This is an issue that has been debated at great length, so I won't go into greater detail. However, even though I believe the Knight fundamentally hurts the game by increasing the available number of "inappropriate" units, I think it still breathes some new life into the game in a few ways.
I don't really like giant robots. I'm much more interested in infantry. That's a big part of my negative reaction to Escalation, to be honest. However, the Imperial Knight kit is just impressive. Even if I play this model just once or twice a year, I'd be happy because it's the kind of thing that makes me want to paint it for painting's sake. It's ideal for all kinds of crazy details like heraldry, corroded metal and other weathering, etc.
With all of the bickering about 6th edition lately, and then the madness of seemingly eternal supplements, I have been feeling some heavy 40k fatigue, and preparing for national-level events has made painting and planning start to feel like a second job. But the Knight kit - I want to paint that!
It's something new, kind of.
While Knights aren't exactly a new addition to 40k canon, we still don't know a lot about how they fit into the Imperium in terms of history and background. Other than the Badaab War and Games Workshops's strange preoccupation with the Horus Heresy, we haven't heard a lot about the Imperium in recent years.
One of the things I've always found interesting about Warhammer 40,000's setting is evidence that the grim, dark Imperium is not as monolithic as it seems. While the setting has gotten progressively grimmer and darker since 2nd edition (a good thing, in my book), it's also started to become a caricature of itself. Reading the codices for various Imperial armies, it would be easy to believe the Imperium is a single, vast, united political entity. There's something distinctly old school about the background material (or what we know of it so far) for the Imperial Knights. The existence of "Imperial" and "Mechanicus" aligned knightly houses suggests an interesting political distinction between the Adeptus Mechanicus and the Imperium proper. To be fair, this idea has always existed, but has been glossed over lately. It's nice to be reminded. Even further, while the more cynical among us might make the case that the "Freeblades" (who seem at this point to be sort of independent contractors of the stompy variety) were simply invented so Games Workshop can sell more models, their inclusion suggests that even within the Imperium there are still small groups of politically neutral individuals. Again, that's nothing new. But it's welcome in an edition of the game where Rogue Traders and their ilk have virtually disappeared. It's a small step, but it recalls earlier days where the background was slightly more nuanced.
I for one welcome our new robot overlords.