By now the eighth edition of Warhammer 40,000 has well and truly launched, with copies of the new Dark Imperium boxset falling into the grubby paws of hobbyists the world over and the internet groaning under the weight of unboxing videos and reviews. Some might go so far as to wonder if another one is really necessary but when has that ever stopped me before? Indeed this release is proving to be so seminal, and my resultant spiel so lengthy, that I’ll be splitting it over two posts. In the second half we’ll don our rebreathers, daub the mark of Nurgle on our foreheads and wallow in the Death Guard side of the box but for today let’s armour ourselves in faith and ceramite and tackle the models everyone’s been talking about; the Space Marines.
Much has already been made of this newest addition to the 40k back-story with the fan-base polarising between those who’re overjoyed at seeing progression in a stagnating universe and those who’d have preferred if those responsible had been drowned at birth. Pity the poor Games Workshop writer who must tread the fine line between the fanatical fans and the equally frothing outraged, especially when the former seems able to become the latter in a heartbeat if things don’t play out exactly as they’d have liked.
Whilst much sound and fury has been expended over the fiction however the models themselves have been almost universally praised, and rightly so. These are the towering, powerful warriors that have always been described in the background fiction, not the stunted figures that we’ve been forced to contend with on the table top.
The meat of this release, on the Space Marine side of the box, are the Intercessors and their plasma firing buddies the Hellblasters. Essentially these are Tactical Marines scaled up to the size they should have been to begin with. People may bang on about Cawl-pattern bolters and Mark X armour with subtly different trims but at the end of the day these are True-scale marines gift-wrapped in just enough fiction (of hotly debated quality) to avoid invalidating the existing range. Whether or not that proves to be a good move remains to be seen.
In many ways there’s not a whole lot to say about them, they’re Space Marines plain and simple, just a bit bigger than we’re used to. This simplicity is their greatest strength however, allowing one to adorn them as much or as little as one wants to, to create the Space Marines you’ve always imagined. Even I, an avowed heretic, who’s struggled in the past to conjure much more than disinterest when it comes to the Emperor’s Finest (in spite of painting quite a few of them a couple of years ago) will admit to sketching out ideas for a new Chapter when I’m meant to be thinking about work.
It’s worth noting however that although these are essentially just up-scaled space marines there have been some subtle tweaks which create a much needed appearance of functionality. The squashed torsos of the old marines are gone replaced with a longer abdomen, providing the Space Marine with much needed storage space for all his internal organs, and a bit of extra height into the bargain. Not only does this mean the Primaris marines are taller, they look taller too – or to put it differently, the old marines not only suffered from being short they also had specific design features which made them look even shorter than they were.
Making them bigger has also given the designers more space to work with, enough that they can expand on details which themselves add to the functional appearance of the armour. Take a look at the ribbed material which provides the suit’s flexibility and you’ll find there’s more of it, creating the impression that the wearer could actually move and fight at speed, without constantly having to struggle against the friction of scraping armour panels.
Best of all, in my opinion, we now have nice big power-packs for our marines. The silhouette of the Space Marine is so familiar to us all that there’s something subtly wrong with truescaled marines saddled with tiny backpacks.
However, whilst a lot of elements have scaled up, two key components have stayed the same size; the heads and the shoulder pads. Again this relieves the Primaris marines from the problem of having outsized heads and shoulders that the old-marines suffered from, with the neat knock-on benefit of allowing Space Marine fans access to a huge range of customisation options right from the get-go. You want Blood Angels, Dark Angels, Space Wolves, Grey Knights, or to cobble in bits and pieces of older armour marks? Knock yourself out! No need to wait for them to get their own dedicated Primaris release, just dig into your bits box and get started now! Bits sellers and ebayers must be rubbing their hands with glee and expanding their property portfolios as we speak.
Snarky comments aside though the great benefit of this is the ability to customise the new Space Marines straight off the bat and naturally I was unable to resist. Once a multipart version of the kit is released (pretty much inevitable I’d say) with separate shoulder-pads the options will really expand and whole armies of individualised true-scaled space-knights will suddenly be within the grasp of everyone, without the tremendous effort that was once required.
Just for fun, and because I’m an unrepentant heretic at heart, I cobbled together a Chaos marine from Primaris parts; a three dimensional sketch if you will, to help me plan out some future projects. Of course I’m looking forward to it popping up on Natfka any day now, tagged as “New plastic Chaos Marines spotted!”
Of course not everything in the box is perfect. I think by now my feelings on Space Marines wielding bolters one handed are probably well know. This chap may have the rule of cool on his side but think about how he’d look in action, blazing away with that huge, unwieldy bolter in one hand (the kickback alone sending shots all over the place) and the pistol in the other.
Seen side by side with the Mark IV helmet (right) the similarities are clear, although the Primaris has a flatter face and more slanted “ears” which helps it to fit into the family of Space Marine helmet designs, whilst remaining its own entity. In this way the Primaris models are actually given a degree of personality, as most of the other featured changes represent an up-scaling of the armour and the introduction of greater functionality, nothing that one would not have expected from a straightforward truescaling of the old astartes.
In spite of all the celebrating that must be going on at Games Workshop HQ and the congratulations echoing from every corner of the internet as reviewers get their hands on the new kits, spare a thought for those who already have armies of power armoured warriors painted and waiting for battle. Thanks to GW’s insistence on putting Space Marines front and centre in every conceivable release over the last three decades there are now quite a lot of us. At one time a widely quoted statistic (veracity unknown) was that one in four miniatures purchased, across all companies (not just GW) was a Space Marine. Whilst I’ve no idea if that’s true there’s certainly a lot of us out there.
On the loyalist side we have Space Marines in a host of different colours and rules, plus Dark Angels, Blood Angels, Space Wolves, Grey Knights and the Deathwatch, whilst the traitors get in on the act with our own array of spiky, angry mutant super-soldiers. That’s a lot of power armour that suddenly looks distinctly short and awkward. Many will choose to ignore this, some of us (myself included) will accept that we’ve no-one to blame but ourselves for not true-scaling earlier and begin the work of bulking up those models we think are saveable. Many will see this as an opportunity to set aside old armies and start new ones and cash registers will light up in branches of Games Workshop the world over, to the heartfelt delight of the shareholders. Some people however will feel distinctly cheesed off – and who can blame them? When Games Workshop first released those stunted little marines all those years ago they ignored the first tenant of being in a hole – stop digging! Instead they went on burrowing assiduously and we, the customers, joined them in droves. So energetic was our participation in expediting this screw up that we hit oil down there, enough to make GW rich. For years they must have been aware of the scale of their mistake yet they chose not to attempt to rectify it, continuing to ring every penny from a flawed range until finally it became apparent that more money could be made from reinventing it. Then, and only then, was the decision taken to put right that old wrong. So whilst I’m overjoyed by the arrival of appropriately scaled Space Marines I can empathise with those who’ve poured money and time into armies of short-marines and are now angry enough to put Khorne to shame.
Last time I discussed this I pondered if the arrival of the Primaris marines would see the death of truescaling. Increasingly however I feel sure that it shall see the death of the Space Marines themselves. Indeed, in the short term, interest in true-scaling will increase as people attempt to get their old models to an appropriate scale alongside the new releases.
Now that we have Primaris marines in our hands the old style “short-marines” of the past will almost certainly see no further releases. Imagine Games Workshop trying to drum up enthusiasm for a new Space Marine release in the old scale now. It would be a flop and they know it.
Of course that’s going to be bad news for pre-existing and well loved Space Marine characters like Dante, Mephiston and Ragnar Blackmane. Will they ever see new models now, and if they do will they have quietly grown to the proportions of their new brothers or will they still be smashing up the galaxy with nothing but short-man syndrome as an ally?
So how big are the new Primaris marines? By now we’ve all seen plenty of size comparisons online or even in the flesh, yet the difference in scale between the new models and their older counterparts (here a Dark Vengeance marine) remains shocking.
Even standing next to a Terminator (from the Black Reach boxset) the Primaris looks big, although the Terminator still has the edge in bulk. As it stands we’re still waiting to discover if GW will be releasing Primaris-scale Terminators over the coming months or if terminator armour has been replaced by Gravis armour (as worn by the Captain in the Dark Imperium boxset). If it’s the latter – surely a mistake on GW’s part – then truescaling terminators will be the next step. Watch this space!
Next to the common soldiers of the Imperium the size difference is even more acute. Finally the Emperor’s Finest look as mighty and terrifying as they are supposed to.
They’re still shorter than an Ogryn, which is as it should be, but the size difference is no longer as extreme, and the similarity in height to the hulking brutes actually helps to establish the Space Marines as giants in their own right. Mind you I’m suspicious that this particular Ogryn has been exposed to something heretical. Someone phone the Inquisition!
I’m also pleased to see that they look suitably bulky next to my old scout conversions, meaning that – with a quick lick of paint – these at least can be migrated over to the new collection.
This Imperial family photo shows the progression I was hoping for, the Scout is clearly bigger and bulkier than the Guardsman but is yet to complete the process which will turn him into a warrior-giant able to support and fight in the weight of power armour. And yes, that is a part painted Skitarii on the end there – don’t hold your breath though, he’s been waiting for the rest of his paint for a while!
The new marines also scale nicely next to the enemies of the Imperium. The Ork nob still looks suitably brutish but the boy, although an imposing thug next to a guardsman no longer out-performs humanity’s elite on size and muscle mass. The slight visual toning down of the orks that occurs as a result helps to make them into a more believable force – in the old days when they were bigger than space marines, came in hordes and had powerful technology to boot things always looked a little one-sided when they stood face to face with the Imperium. One was left feeling that there must be something terribly wrong with ones orks when one read descriptions of space marines tearing through whole squads of boys single-handedly. Now they look more believable – still terrifying to a guardsman but only a threat to a space marine when there are a lot of them.
At times one feels that Games Workshop themselves aren’t quite sure what to make of this release. Are these the Space Marines we’ve always dreamed of, shoe-horned into the background, or are they a faction in their own right, for better or worse? GW aren’t sure. With the Intercessors and the Lieutenants they’ve simply recreated existing Space Marines on a bigger scale, but the same cannot be said of the Inceptors who have almost as much in common with Centurions as they do with Assault Marines. They may have jump packs to carry them hurling through the skies but they are heavier, more industrial, more in keeping with the over engineered Imperial aesthetic, than their little brothers. Again I expect to see talented individuals converting them into Assault Marines but one has to wonder why GW felt we should be forced to, or even how successful they’ll be. Many will undoubted wait to see what else is introduced to the new Primaris range before taking the plunge, hoping for running legs on a future kit which could be mixed with existing Assault Marine bits to truescale the old models.
Of course it may well be the case that GW are relying on us thinking in a now outdated paradigm. When Age of Sigmar was first released many people looked at it through the lens of Warhammer. The Khorne models all had an equivalent in the old game and people soon took to debating which faction could best be proxied with the Stormcasts and how they could most easily fit into the background of the Old World. With the Primaris marines GW are almost certainly relying on us doing the same thing. We will talk about true-scaling and pretending that Roboute is still on ice whilst new players join the ranks, only dimly aware that there was a world before the Gathering Storm. Meanwhile White Dwarf will be full of pictures of gloriously dramatic Primaris models, and slowly our shelves will fill up with them, the idea bedding in until one day we wake up and find that having two sizes of Space Marine is the new normal and only bitter old grognards are still spitting into their beards about the “good old days”, and being ignored by precisely everyone.
Meanwhile, I suspect, that the old scale Space Marines will quietly go out of stock, slipping away into the night one at a time until only the giants are left. In future editions the supposed size difference between the Space Marines and the Primaris will be reduced until one day the little Space Marines so familiar to us today are as rare on the tabletop as their Rogue Trader era equivalents.
It’s only been a few months since Guilliman was released and in that time the 40k galaxy has changed vastly. When the Primarch first woke up I was angry and disappointed. How could the writers be so careless with the universe they had inherited? How could they put their own selfish desire to stamp their own ideas onto the story without considering the effect it would have on the fan base? What about the subtle implications of introducing hope to a universe which had excused the fascism of its central faction as a pastiche of a hopeless and crumbling empire? After all if Guilliman succeeded in making the Imperium great again he implicitly proved that the brutality of the preceding centuries had been a necessary evil, a burden to be borne in order to reach a more glorious future.
In spite of my initial upset however I got over it. Guilliman faded into the background, as far away from the filthy hives and ragged inward-looking tech-peasants that inhabit my own vision of the Imperium as any other high lord. 40k rumbled onwards on its pedestal, no more forgiving in actuality of the right-wing than it is of any other political persuasion. In six months time the Primaris marines will have gone to join him, accreted into the ever growing background of 40k. Meanwhile we who gnashed our teeth in such horror in the immediate aftermath of his reawakening will say “well, bringing back Guilliman was one thing, but resurrecting Ferrus Manus as a talking head really is the final straw!”
We’ll get over it, or we’ll wander off to pastures new if we really can’t stomach the new 40k. If you don’t believe me think how ridiculous that one guy in your local gaming group or favoured forum is, the one who’s still talking about how lame Age of Sigmar is, how much GW sucks for killing off the Old World. His tantrums may have sounded like a passionate rallying cry against the injustices inflicted on your favourite fantasy battle game two years ago, now they’re as dull and monotonous as the traffic passing outside your window – and as worthy of your attention.
In the meantime the Space Marines are dead – long live the Space Marines! Now then, what colour am I going to paint them?
If the pictures you see here aren’t photographs of my own miniatures then I’ve lifted them from Games Workshop’s website without even bothering to ask. Agents of the Assassinorum have inevitably been dispatched to silence me. Not to worry, death shall be nothing compared to vindication!