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Personally, I prefer to run my nilla knight units with a musician. I have a couple reasons. (a) They rally on a 9 (10 if near general) instead of 8, increasing their chances of rallying significantly. These knights are often testing to rally because they are so often used to bait and flee to set up better charges. (b) Nilla knights are great because they have a 1+ save, which allows them to TAKE a charge, suffering only a wound maybe 2 from most enemies. That said, knights aren't that strong when they get charged, so they may only do 1 or 2 wounds to the charging enemy. In many cases, the combat is close, often tied, and the musician helps there as well. AND point (c) its only 8 pts! I'm looking for a brief discussion of how you choose the command (if any) for your knights.
I dont know anyone who runs them with anything other than a musician. They are flankers and baiters. That's about it. Keeping them cheap makes them expendable.
Inner circle knights led by a warrior priest are nasty, hatred goes a long way. Full command on a unit like that makes them even nastier.
Alot of people run them without a musician. Or with just a standard (a bit rarer). I agree with stone hambey about inner circle. In my list I take 2 units of nilla knights with muso and a unit of 6 inner circle with either warrior priest or arch lector, full ocmmand, war banner as my uber hammer unit.
Anymore it's not that tough (compare to Dragon Princes, cold One Knights, Warhounds and Black Knights, etc.). they might be able to reroll hits, but you still may not break the unit and then their stuck there to get flanked next turn. Add a warbanner if you're going to do it. I just feel that there are so many better things to do with your special choices in an empire army.
I agree, Inner Circle sometimes does not seem worth it, but it gives them that extra bit of punch to over come hard units like ogres, dragon ogres, etc that a str5 charge might not break. Also, in a multi-round combat (which hopefully doesnt happen much) they are more effective and less likely to flee. In my list, I have the special slot to grant to the inner circle, but if you take multiple cannons, etc it may be in your best interest to stick with regular knights for your hammer unit.