Gets My Goat – Grey Knight Codex by David Lane

13 Jul

“In the grim darkness of the future, there is only war”. This is the mantra that has guided 40k fiction for decades now. However, on review, I can only assume this is because “In the grim darkness of the future there are only increasingly poor life decisions and baffling levels of managerial incompetence” is, while more accurate, somewhat less snappy.

Gets my Goat will be a semi-regular column that picks apart some of the ins and outs of the 40k universe and its fiction. I will say from the start that I am a casual fan, so if I do question anything that has some semblance of a logical explanation please put me right, I will be happy to know there is reason to the madness.

So without further ado I will move onto the topic of the first “Gets my Goat”. The Grey Knight Codex.

They stand alone against one of the greatest threats that humanity has ever faced, they selflessly devote themselves to travelling the length and breadth of the warp to face down one of mankind’s most ruthless killers, they face down their enemies armed with little more than their blood and sweat and devotion. I am, of course, talking about Daemons and their endless struggle against the silver terror that is the Grey Knights.

Grey Knights, “one of greatest threats that humanity has ever faced?”. Let us review.

First off, the Grey Knight training regime. A regime that is captured in one of literature’s great understatements:

“The Chapter’s initial training process is necessarily harsh”

Now I’m going to stop there for a second. Note that word there, “necessarily”, got it? Then let us continue.

“Only one in a thousand candidates survive the first rite of passage… and most of these will be slain in the second… All told, perhaps one in a million novitiates make it through.”

One in a million survive. This is a process that is “necessarily” harsh. Is the phrase they were looking for not… “ludicrously” harsh, “sadistically” harsh, “pointlessly” harsh even? I’m sorry but when your pass rate is 0.000001% surely alarm bells should ring. Surely someone should sit up and say “hey, maybe it’s not that the candidate are weak, but that the tests are ridiculous?”.

Maybe, and here’s an idea, give the novitiates some training BEFORE you condemn them to your nefarious trial by fire. If you are going to go to the trouble of finding these would be neophytes at least give them a fighting chance. Observe a few hundred of your hapless victims/novitiates and see if you can’t pin down a few common causes of death. Then, maybe a seminar or two before you send the next group out, just to outline a few key points (“don’t eat that, that’s deadly”. “Word of advice if you find yourself in chasm of sorrow, don’t be in the chasm of sorrow”). Can it really be that none of the trainers have thought about this? Is this is just the sort of administrative oversight that starts to creep into an organisation when your its Supreme Grand Master spends his time walking the realms of Chaos rather than signing the paperwork?

Whatever the case may be, you should bear in mind that  this is only what it takes to get your foot in the door, to be ordained as a neophyte so your “true training” can begin. The true training we are told involves giving you a run down on how best to go about “wading in the stuff of damnation”. The Codex sadly doesn’t give us numbers on how many survive “wading in the stuff of damnation 101” so I’m going to be generous and ball park it at 1 in 10. Given what we have seen of the Grey Knights’ approach to training so far I feel I am being wildly optimistic.

Whatever the case may be we come to the point where we should look at who it is they are sacrificing to this meat grinder of a regime. With billions upon billions of people in the Imperium you might argue that the Grey Knights’ cull is little more than a drop in the ocean. Surely there will always be more…

“aspirant hero(es) amongst the common rabble of humanity”

men who other chapters “take it upon themselves to identify those amongst their own recruits in whom the Grey Knights might show an interest”

So, that’s roughly ten million potential marines dead, for one Grey Knight. Ten million doctors, war heroes and adventurers dead, for one Grey Knight.

Lets turn to science.

A Stormtrooper nowadays will cost you 10 points. I know that includes the cost of his equipment and that oh so spangly hellgun but I am using this as a proxy. Lets not forget that some of those 10,000,000 candidates could have gone on to be space marines and kicked in at 15 points a piece.

Anyway, 10,000,000 times 10: 100,000,000.

100,000,000 points of investment for a 24 point Grey Knight return. That’s a staggering return on investment of 0.00000024%. Or, if you’d prefer it another way, the chances I will one day pull Anne Hathaway through the medium of interpretative dance.

Lets break that down another way, a Gretchin will cost you 3 points. So from 100,000,000 you could get roughly 33,333,333 Gretchin.

If you set those Gretchin out, on 25 mm bases, and made a square, you could cover an area of roughly 20,000 square metres. That’s around 3 football pitches. 3 football pitches of 40k scale Gretchin.

Or one Grey Knight.

Perhaps Gretchin aren’t your thing. There is something to the argument that you can make a thousand screws with the metal it takes to make one computer but a thousand screws won’t let me write pedantic blogs. But, at the end of the day, a Grey Knight is a warrior, a talented warrior perhaps but a warrior nonetheless. It is the Inquisition that breeds the men and women of action, the lone wolves that bring the hammer of the Imperium to bear. Therefore when you give me the option of 370,000 Landraiders… or one Grey Knight, the choice suddenly becomes very clear. My tape measure tells me a Landraider is around 6.5cm tall, so stack them one on top of the other and the pile would reach around 24,000 Metres. Or 63 times the height of the Empire State Building. 63 Empire State Buildings of Landraiders. Or one Grey Knight

I’m not saying that Grey Knights don’t have an important role. They are unquestionably heroes, bastions against the horrors of the warp. I am saying perhaps they should review their training routines and endeavour to leave some humanity around to save.

Leaving the training aside for now, surely those that do become Grey Knights must be spoken of in song and legend, celebrated by their fellow man as a welcome light in a universe of darkness. You’d think that, but….

“the Grey Knights simply do not exist outside of myth… Imperial Guardsmen who [fight alongside Grey Knights] are invariably executed… should a company or regiment exhibit sufficient heroism on the field of battle the sentence of death will occasionally be commuted to a thorough and excruciating telepathic scouring (which itself has a high mortality rate)”

It might just be me, but the phrase “excruciating telepathic scouring” makes it pretty clear to me that there are a few unfortunates that don’t survive, but that’s what I love about GW fiction, it doesn’t want you to miss out on the little things.

Even Space Marines who fight alongside Grey Knights don’t escape having their frontal lobes removed for a spit and a polish (although they are treated to the platinum mindwipe service which offers such benefits as being “markedly safer” and includes frequent flyer privileges).

In summary, should you fight alongside Grey Knights and, Emperor forbid, learn anything about how to fight against the perils of the warp then you are either killed or lobotomised in short order.

Which brings me back to my original claim. Going by the number’s Grey Knight’s are one of humanity’s most efficient adversaries. While they might not pull in the kind of numbers that say, your average Armageddon war might, the total number of Grey Knights around to total number of people killed by or because of the Grey Knights ratio is going to be an impressive one.

Lets throw a few numbers at the wall, see what sticks, to get the Grey Knights to their full fighting strength of around 900 marines you have to kill somewhere in the region of 9 billion people. (For reference, Earth currently has around 6.9 billion occupants.) Assuming each marine lives for around 100 years, they will have cycled through around 90 billion people in their training procedures alone. Add to that the billions killed by the Exterminatus after Exterminatus that the Inquisition dole out to maintain the Grey Knights veil of secrecy and you are talking hundreds of billions of people down the tubes. For 900 Grey Knights.

You have to wonder at this point whether the Grey Knights are just trying to make sure no one finds an easy way to be rid of Daemons and get in on their gig.  With its “only 1 in 10 million get in” selection policies and ludicrous layers of secrecy are the Grey Knights just the universes most impressive gentlemen’s club? Is walking the “Haunted Plains of Xanadu Regio” just what hazing evolves into after forty thousand years of one-upmanship?

TL:DR – A grey knight has to save the lives of 9,999,999 stormtroopers to break even on what it costs to train him, and if anyone sees him do it, they have to die.

And that, is what Gets my Goat about the Grey Knight Codex.

P.S. At least Draigo’s back story fills us in on what happened to Sam Beckett after Quantum Leap finished.

P.P.S Fancy a bit more Grey Knight banter? Check out this week’s Grey Knight roundtable in episode 11 of our Podcast (


15 Responses to “Gets My Goat – Grey Knight Codex by David Lane”

  1. Disappointed July 13, 2011 at 09:19 #

    What a pointless exercise in whining. This article, and any future ones in the series, tarnish the reputation of what otherwise has been a great podcast and blog so far.

    • NatDog July 13, 2011 at 12:43 #

      You’re joking here right dude, in line with the humour of the article? You’re not really suggesting that this was a serious article meant for you to take literally????

    • 40KUK July 14, 2011 at 11:48 #

      Sir, we do aim to be a very positive podcast, in fact myself and the cast pride ourselves on being so. This particular article is tongue in cheek, not meant to be taken seriously. I know my humour is not for all, but I for one found this very funny when taken in that context. Our aim is to have a whole load of different types of articles, which may not be for all, but give a wide variety of reads and we will continue to do so in the future.

  2. Badboy1 July 13, 2011 at 12:34 #

    This is the most hilarious blog I’ve read in a while that is able to use maths. If this is going to be a regular one I am looking forward to it.

  3. Rupert1 July 13, 2011 at 12:35 #

    Brilliant… just brilliant!

  4. KirstySharpe July 13, 2011 at 12:36 #

    Very funny take on the 40k universe…loved it!

  5. NatDog July 13, 2011 at 12:37 #

    Funny dude LMFAO

  6. MattJ1 July 13, 2011 at 12:48 #

    I’d take no notice of this guy… the rest of us know this is meant to be humurous. Great podcast and great article.

    • Del Stuart July 13, 2011 at 17:34 #

      I for one would love to see a football pitch covered in 40k gretchin!

  7. Farmer_geddon July 14, 2011 at 11:12 #

    Brilliant – worth printing out and taking to the next tournement to put of the multiple Grey Knight opponents!

  8. Farmer_geddon July 14, 2011 at 11:15 #

    Hey, here’s an idea Dan, try spell check? Apologies:

    Brilliant – worth printing out and taking to the next tournament to put off the multiple Grey Knight opponents!

  9. The Voice July 15, 2011 at 09:44 #

    my name is gary percival, and i approve of this message.

  10. Austin Bemister July 16, 2011 at 22:27 #

    I think you’ve missed out a key factor in your questioning:

    It’s written by Mat Ward, of course it’s going to be poorly written and stupidly exaggerated, he sucks at writing. It’s ridiculous that every time a Grey Knight dies they manage to find a million psykers strong enough to be considered. Psykers are relatively rare as far as overall numbers are concerned, and even then many of them are killed because they’re too dangerous, or just put to work in various sectors of the Imperium (many of them drained into the astronomican). So yes, yes it’s a poorly written codex, but were you expecting anything good from Mat Ward?

  11. Pyriel July 17, 2011 at 20:17 #

    Geez, using tabletop point values to “prove” something must be the most idiotical thing you can ever do.

    Using your so called logic it takes 5 grots (background wise) to overpower a fully armed and armoured marine…since you know, they “cost” the same.

    • Rook July 27, 2011 at 08:11 #

      Well, that’s how the game’s designed to work. No need to be a prick about it.

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