“If you think you are brave enough to walk the path of honor, follow me into the dragon’s den.” —Knight Exemplar
Admittedly, the customizable card game Magic: the Gathering was something of a passing craze at my high school. Don’t get me wrong, I played quite a bit with my friends, and the amazing artwork on the cards inspired a lot of my drawings and stories at the time. But eventually all the upperclassmen who were really into it graduated and those of us underclassmen left slowly lost interest. By my senior year it’d pretty well fizzled out and there wasn’t much reason left to keep playing or collecting. I still have my cards someplace, but the most recent stuff I have is from the Tempest expansion. There are many examples of both good and bad artwork, but I think the lovely Knight Exemplar is one of my favorites of all time.
I’ll be honest that I feel like the Knight Exemplar’s armor is slightly too ornate. Gold or bronze embellishments like we’re seeing on our lovely knight’s plate mail tends to be expensive to apply and even more expensive to repair or replace after a battle. To me, any kind of gilding on armor tends to suggest parade armor or officer’s armor—armor that’s not intended to see a great deal of combat. This isn’t to say that gilded embellishments in any way subtract from the over-all protectiveness of the armor. Plus it adds to the knight’s camp-cred and is potentially more intimidating when our knight rides down upon the evil, unwashed hordes. And perhaps most importantly, flashier armor makes that much more spectacular an impression the lords (or ladies, if our knight prefers) of the court.
As for the protectiveness of the plate armor itself, however, I’m very impressed with the overall design. While there is debate over the effectiveness of full-plate armor for foot soldiers, it should be noted that there is no more protective armor for heavy cavalry than full-plated armor. The cuirass in particular looks very effective. First off, it’s not boob-plate, and thus she doesn’t have that wedge of metal next to her sternum created by sculpted cleavage. I love the feminine curvature as well—the hourglass tapering of the chest, torso, and waist (assuming these are properly tailored to her measurements), take nothing away from the armor’s integrity, and even reduce her combat profile slightly.
The arm and joint plating look similarly effective for protecting our knight’s appendages, and while her lower half is mostly covered by a waist cloak, what little we see indicates that her legs are appropriately armored as well. I’m not sure what manner of protection we’re seeing at her neck, though it looks to me like some manner of chain mesh or very light chain mail. We can see this same mesh beneath her waist cloak, so I suspect it runs the full length of her torso—how much additional protection this provides, I can’t really say.
Perhaps the most protective part of her armor, however is the spaulders, or shoulder pieces. They’re asymmetrical to start with, larger spaulder on the left. While not as important for a mounted soldier, it should be noted that the larger spaulder should be opposite the fighter’s sword arm in infantry combat. For the same reason, the neck guard is also higher on the left side.
As for accessories, I think our knight is reasonably well prepared for a horde-shattering cavalry charge into the enemy lines. Her lance looks heavy-duty; perhaps steel-plated or even solid metal, it doesn’t look like some simple jousting lance that’s designed to shatter on impact. Shield looks good, if overly ornate. Cloak and waist cloak both look good for cover, diversion, insulation from the weather, or heroic poses. The only element missing for me is a sidearm—a secondary weapon should our heroine break or lose her lance. While this may simply be an oversight on the artist’s part, I’d feel more comfortable sending our elegant knight into battle with a long sword, sabre, battleaxe, or flanged mace hanging from her side.