Review: Know No Fear: A Warhammer 40,000 Starter Set
The familiar tune fades back in as we return for another review of a Warhammer 40k starter set...
Welcome back to Top Bryss! Last time, GMW did the unthinkable and dropped us back in at entry level. Now, we're going to examine Know No Fear, the awkward middle child of the current line of intro products. This set promises a halfway house between fully committing to the setting and wanting to have everything in a less drab colour of plastic. But is it any good?
Again, we'll begin with the basics. Know No Fear costs 5000 pence. This can be graded in one of two ways. It contains 31 miniatures, 14 Primaris Space Marines and 17 Death Guard, to First Strike's 15. Basically, double the cost, double the miniatures. That's one way of looking at it. The other way is seeing it as a downgrade from Dark Imperium, with no hardcover rulebook and no auxiliary HQ choices (and a few Troops but since it's the same ten Poxwalkers repeated and another Intercessor Squad I doubt anyone's losing sleep over them). The loss of the rulebook in particular is a heavy downgrade, since the Know No Fear armies are easily capable of playing more than the basic mission in the free rules primer.
Speaking of the armies, here's what you do get in the box. Whilst these sprues are as colourful as the First Strike ones, the models contained therein do require glue to be assembled, which increases the buy-in cost a bit more as to make it not a true double for double situation. These models are essentially the singles released off the Dark Imperium album, a metaphor that makes less sense in an era where every single Ed Sheeran song ever released is simultaneously at #4 in the charts but eh, we'll roll with it.
In addition to the models, we also have the standard 6D6 small enough for a child to throw at once, a 12" range ruler of similar build quality to the First Strike 6" one, a bigger (but again not truly 4'x2') game mat, a bigger sceneary piece made of the box insert, and what effectively functions as a set bible. You see, unlike First Strike, where the tutorial missions, datasheets, core rules and other sundry articles are divided into seperate booklets, Know No Fear puts everything into a single Codex-sized paperback. Whilst this means the individual parts are harder to lose, I feel like this loses something over First Strike's approach, which allows both players to keep ahold of their unit stats at any given time and also consult the rulebook seperately.
Looking at the armies individually, the 32 Power Primaris Space Marine army again comes with a good selection of tough all-rounder models. I can't really think of anything I'd want to add to this army from Dark Imperium, since all we lose is a few basic models. What I will say, however, is that the flying stand solution used by the Inceptors, where the stems simply have a U-shaped dip onto which a specific section of the jump pack is meant to be glued, is incredibly unfriendly, especially to those who want to play some games before committing paint to plastic. As an experienced hobbyist, I got around this by creating a makeshift peg-and-hole join, drilling a small hole into the offending section of jump pack and gluing in a small piece of paperclip which then slots into a similarly small hole in the stem (which thankfully is thick enough to allow for a 1mm hole in the middle). But, again, that requires a drill and a stolen metal paperclip, which means yet more outlay costs for the novice (assuming they even want to try drilling so early on).
(Incidentally, I've seen some internet posts claiming pinning the Inceptors like this is insufficient, but I can assure you it works well enough for my purposes.)
Once again, the Death Guard are easily the more characterful army of the bunch, with the Foetid Bloat-Drone and Lord of Contagion as particular highlights that look even more impressive in the green plastic. The only regret I have here is that GMW did not include the Malignant Plaguecaster in this set as to introduce the Psychic Phase, meaning that the full extent of the game is still initially inaccessible.
Also, GMW claims this set comes with a Plague Champion for the Marine squad. It does not. Thankfully, I have the one from First Strike so this is less of a problem.
Know No Fear contains six tutorial missions as opposed to First Strike's four. The first two, which introduce movement, shooting and combat, and the last one, an all-out scrap, are the same missions but on a slightly bigger scale. However, Know No Fear, ironically enough, has a dedicated mission that introduces the Morale Phase, as well as missions designed to get the player used to handling and fighting against Characters and big tough models such as the Bloat-Drone. Again, this serves a purpose of gradually getting you used to all the models in the box, but in doing so you learn a patently obvious truth or two.
First of all, it's pretty clear that the entire strength of the Death Guard lies in just two models. The others tend to die a lot. Once the Lord of Contagion and the Bloat-Drone get involved, anything in their way tend to go to pieces. The Hellblaster Squad is ostensibly the counter to these two units (and the Captain to a lesser extent but he tends not to like being left near the Lord), but in practice the Invulnerable Saves and Disgustingly Tough abilities of the Death Guard tend to make a mockery of their high-AP weapons. That, and the fact that being within Rapid Fire range of the Bloat-Drone means taking 2D6 automatic hits and a charge the next turn.
Secondly, there are a fair few inconsistencies between the unit summaries here and in First Strike, which leads me to wonder if the left hand ever talked to the right. The most obvious one is how plasma weapons are handled. In First Strike (and the Index books), the Overcharge mode on plasma weapons has its own row in weapon summaries. In Know No Fear, there is a prose description of how overcharging works. This feels like clutter to me, and is a step backwards from the conciseness of the lower-tier set. Of course, I haven't seen a copy of Dark Imperium, so maybe it is consistent with that. If it is though, that will disappoint me also.
Much like First Strike, everything will fit back inside the insert when you're done. However, unlike First Strike, there is a Problem.
Honestly, if you want the models in this box and to move on from First Strike, I'd recommend getting Dark Imperium over this purely on the basis of the rulebook. In fact, there are only two reasons why I bought this over that set. One, I prefer the coloured plastic approach to starter sets, it looks much less drab and it highlights model details more than grey does. Secondly, I did not pay full price for this, instead obtaining it at a 40% discount from a popular internet auction site. That is not to be sniffed at.
Overall, this is a mixed bag of an introduction to 40k. First Strike has a much cleaner approach to me, but this will give you a much better sense of unit command. I can see some reasons why people would want this, but overall there is a feeling that this is a compromise of a set. If you can get it at a discount though, you'll easily get your money's worth.