It’s a bit late for the first view on the Grey Knights codex, so let’s cover the most interesting parts and think about how to play them. Playtests show that this faction is really powerful and there are more of them on the tables.
The first question which came to my mind was how were they going to represent the whole army of psykers in the 8th edition, where everyone has Smite and can show the enemy under the mortal wounds. This problem is solved in quite an elegant way – the Smite is weakened for all the Grey Knights. However, you can’t say that it makes it useless -all infantry units can cast spells, and the army is capable of mass-deep striking, so you can easily focus and destroy the selected enemy unit with your Smites. But other spells are too useful to ignore, so you’ll have a tough choice of what to cast.
Almost all of them are fun. Especially, the ability to shoot through the walls, lost after the 5th edition codex. Considering stratagems, which can boost strength and AP of any weapon, you can easily focus required units not only with magic, but with shooting. Your favorite Gate of Infinity is here too. And there’s a stratagem, letting you deep strike any infantry or dreadnaught(!) unit. So, you have a dreadnaught, which appears just behind enemy lines, casts 5++ or +1 to wound on himself, shoot, then charge, and hit twice, thanks to another stratagem. This is the dreadnaught you are looking for!
The magic is one of the best for this moment and works great, combined with the stratagems. There’s a feeling that it was done thoughtfully, and it’s great. It must be that way in the army, where everyone is a psyker. Don’t forget about the bonus to casting and denying spells. Bonuses against daemons also greatly represent the spirit of Grey Knights. However, it might be imbalanced a bit. Considering that daemons in the 8th edition don’t feel really well, Grey Knights have a real chance to wipe-out many their rosters by just 2nd or 3rd turn. Let’s hope that daemons will get some instruments to resist it soon.
There are more units. Now you have all space marines’ planes, Chaplains in TDA, and marvelous Grandmaster in Dreadknight. These machines were one of the most effective units before, and they are still a must-have choice. Now they can even enter the game via deep strike, which also contributes to the first-turn-charge army concept. Also, apothecaries are now separate characters, so you can heal any unit you need, not only the paladins.
As for the special weapons, incinerators are expectedly weakened, as all the other flamers. Psy-cannon now is a kind of autocannon, but weaker, so it’s not very interesting, but still useful. But psilencer has now gained D3 damage, so, it might be dangerous for anything. Especially with the stratagem, which boosts it. Moreover, it costs just 4 points. You can also keep your stormbolters, since in this edition they’ve doubled their shots and can deal some real damage. And one of the most pleasant things – halberds, swords and falchions now equally cost nothing and each one can be useful – so, finally, you have a real choice. There’s a tradition for this army lack of heavy weapons, but 8th edition mechanics give you a chance to destroy a vehicle with anything. Also, almost every squad can get a hammer and strike tanks in close combat.
How to play this? The most obvious choice is alfa-strike. Send everyone, who can, to the deepstrike (preferably, a couple of dreadknights, and any other units as you wish), also Purgation squad or dreadnaught via the stratagem. Hide other units far in your deployment zone, so that you wouldn’t be wiped out after the first turn, and then send them to their brothers with the gate of infinity. Your aim is to deal maximum damage in order to prevent your enemy from striking back or effectively perform maelstrom missions. In this case, you even don’t need transports. A remarkable thing is that the point cost is not that high, so you can take quite a lot of units in your army.
In general, the codex is success. It greatly represents the spirit of Grey Knights in the gameplay, almost all units can appear useful, and all army is really effective. We can even talk about a kind of overpower, especially, if there’s a daemon opponent. It’s great that all current 8th edition books keep a nice balance and give many ways to use the army. But, if any of Games Workshop game designers read this, please, be careful with the balance. Don’t let this fall back into what we used to have. Right?