Over the last year or so 40k has changed considerably. Things which we once believed to have been banished to the dusty corners forever are back. The Adeptus Mechanicus have marched out of their manufactories with the might of the Imperial Knights by their sides. Once more the Wulfen howl in the night, whilst the Harlequins spring forth from their library and the Genestealer Cults come crawling from the shadows. It’s enough to make one wonder what’s left. If Games Workshop are trawling their own history for ideas – and frankly that’s good news in my book – then can there be much left to resurrect? Well, once I sat down and started writing a list, it turns out there’s quite a lot…
We Are Chaos!
Let’ start with the forces of Chaos – a faction naturally close to my heart. In many ways Games Workshop have built themselves a beast that’s difficult to ride here due to the sheer multifaceted nature of a faction that straddles both of its central games systems. There are four pantheons of daemons, a very conservative five ‘types’ of chaos marines (one for each god plus unaligned traitors – and that pushes the likes of the Iron Warriors and Night Lords to the fringes once more), the traitor guard and then the same again on the Fantasy side of the fence. Keeping it all fresh is a mammoth task and there’s always going to be someone who feels that their particular element of the faction is being under represented with releases.
On the plus side Chaos has always been a convertors’ army. By cannibalising Warhammer and Age of Sigmar both Khorne and Nurgle fans can create a plethora of futuristic barbarians, whilst those who’s taste is for bitter old legionaries need only visit Forgeworld’s Horus Heresy range. This opens up the opportunity for Games Workshop to thin down the task into something manageable. Of course everyone has their own personal wishlist of things they’d like to see – personally I’m looking for multipart cultists, obliterators and something to be done about the tanks (ten thousand years in the Warp and all that’s happened to them is someone’s nailed on a few spikes).
Over in Age of Sigmar the forces of Chaos have been split down into a whopping 20 factions (frankly I may have miscounted – once the numbers get that high I start to get dizzy). Of course that includes the Skaven, as well as factions like the Chaos Gargants that only include one model, but my point stands. Perhaps the problem in 40k is that everyone aligned to Chaos is crammed into just two factions – Chaos Space Marines and Chaos Daemons. Compare this to the five different colours of Loyalists and we start to see a discrepancy. Should Blood Angels and Space Wolves exist as a single unit entry in Codex Space Marines in the same way as Plague Marines and Thousand Sons do? Would the servants of the gods not be better served with a Codex and model line all of their own, separate from – but supported by – a central Chaos Codex? Many people are starting to think so. Of course if they did take this route there’s a couple of the gods just dying for their place in the sun at last…
Bring The Noise!
Grab your long grubby mac – it’s time to talk about Slaanesh! These days the Prince of Pleasure seems to be suffering from something of an image crisis. Rumour and supposition abounds that Games Workshop are wary of upsetting their younger fans – or more accurately their credit card wielding parents – with too much naked hedonism. The god’s absence from Age of Sigmar has only served to fan the flames, although personally I’m struck by how much attention Games Workshop have deliberately drawn to this, suggesting that they’re setting up the return of the faction at a later stage in the advancing storyline, probably alongside a relaunch of the elves. Whether this (hypothetical) resurgence of love for the Youngest God makes its way into 40k or not remains to be seen. If not we can always hope that a few kits of similar quality to the Blightkings might do for Slaanesh what the festering fatmen did for Nurgle, in terms of conversion fodder. Given a bit of love and attention however and the followers of Slaanesh have the potential to develop into one of the most stylish and visually arresting factions around, with sonic weapons, body modification and plenty of glamour abounding – and with not a boob in sight if that’s how the designers want to play it.
I could probably spin my notes for this out into a blog of their own if I let myself (or perhaps even a book of roughly War-and-Peace like proportions) but I’ll restrain myself to saying that – although I’m not promoting prudishness – a version of Slaanesh that focuses more on the decadence and weirdness and less on the tits and ass is a sacrifice I’m perfectly happy with if it brings She-Who-Thirsts back into the game.
Almost as overlooked as Slaanesh is his/her brother-god Tzeentch, and like the Prince of Pleasure the Changer of Ways also has an image problem. In the case of the latter it’s less a matter of offending the buying public (although personally I reckon anyone with a sense of athletics is liable to find those pink horrors offensive) and more a case of creating something that makes sense out of a concept that is essentially ephemeral and ever changing. It’s a tricky one but – amongst the daemons at least – Tzeentch’s followers are now fairly well represented. I might have preferred something a little more ‘Lovecraftian crawling horror’ and less ‘cartoon character’ but that’s a matter of personal taste. Now it would be nice to see some more emphasis on the god’s mortal followers; mad sorcerers, mutants, beastmen and of course the Thousand Sons themselves. Of all the gods Tzeentch is the chance for them to be the most creative, to come up with something visually arresting and unique. Fans are already producing some wonderfully strange Tzeentchian creations (check out these from Big Boss Redskullz for example) but more official support for the faction would be extremely welcome. In the wake of the Skitarii they’ve demonstrated that they’re more than capable of realising their grim-dark weirdness in plastic and models like the Gaunt Summoner show they still have good ideas when it comes to Tzeentchian weirdness. Time to bring them out of the shadows I say!
The Gaunt Summoner – a sign of things to come for an expanded Tzeentchian faction?
Tide of madness: This classic Tony Ackland picture captures a large part of the horror and strangeness that I would like to see associated with Tzeentch in the future.
Nuns On The Run
The other day I stumbled upon some notes I’d made for a blog post I’d intended to write but which never saw publication. They dated back to the very early days of this blog and referred to some early, sketchy, ideas I’d put together for my traitor guard (long before the project actually got off the ground). In it I quipped that much as I was looking forwards to plastic Sisters of Battle they’d better release plastic Mechanicum first, and maybe revisit the Wulfen whilst they were about it! Oh how I must have chortled to write those words. After all, plastic Sisters were certainly only a few months away at most – whilst the chances of anything coming from Mars were, as we all know, a million to one. Who would have imagined that the passage of years would see the priesthood of the Omnissiah reborn in stylish plastic, whilst the brides of the Emperor continue to languish in an ever decreasing collection of elderly finecast and metal?
It’s not just the girls in power armour that are missing though, it’s the whole ecclesiarchy. The vibe of 40k has always been both grim and grand, darkly gothic and gleefully over-the-top all. The Church of the Emperor has always been the epitome of this, and provides a way to bring that look onto the tabletop without needing to change GW’s established formula for other major branches of the Imperium – particularly the Space Marines and Astra Militarum.
In some ways I can understand GW reluctance to move here – and I’m sure there are plenty of senior managers there shaking their heads and wishing they’d never got into this. The fact is if they play it too safe there’s bound to be complaints that they’ve failed to give the faction its due, yet go too risqué and controversy will undoubtedly follow. It’s Slaanesh all over again. However between the bondage nuns and the catholic pomp however there lies a window of opportunity in which to recreate a faction which not only has a legion of dedicated fans in its own right but also provides an opportunity to round out the Imperium as a whole. My solution? Make the faction more about the Ecclesiarchy, throw in more weird and wonderful machines (the Exorcist is already an organ on wheels – and not in the Slaaneshi sense…), avoid over-sexualising the female characters (never really as big an issue here as it’s been made out to be) and bring the armies of the faithful back to the forefront of 40k where they belong.
The Penitent Engine – brilliantly encapsulating the pomp and strangeness of the 41st Millennium.
I talked about this just recently so I’ll keep this snappy to avoid repeating myself. I also accept that this isn’t so much a missing faction as an overlooked element of one that already exists – and in fairly large numbers.
However the fact remains that the Imperial Guard are extremely well represented when it comes to models – so long as you like Cadians or Catachans. If, on the other hand, your predilections lean towards any of the other famous regiments – or even just something a little more in keeping with the 40k aesthetic than Rambo and the Little Green Army Men then your options are thin on the ground.
As it stands the Astra Militarum (as I’ve still not learned to call them) range is pretty well fleshed out, with most options now available in plastic and more tanks on show than a goldfish emporium. Now’s the time to bring back the Steel Legion, Talarns, Valhallans, Vostroyans and all the rest – and create a faction worthy of the diversity that is the core of the Imperium.
In spite of everything I’ve said above regarding the Sisters of Battle and the Imperial Guard the Imperium is actually extremely well stocked with factions. In many ways this is their right – the story of 40k is, after all, the story of the Imperium at the moment of its decline and fall. The other factions exist almost entirely as counterpoints and adversaries, their differing philosophies used to bring perspective to the story of the Imperium, their armies the savage beasts which will pull the realms of men down.
None the less, with five types of Space Marines, two (easily combined) sections of the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Inquisition, the Assassins, the Knights – plus the aforementioned Sisterhood and Guard – do they really need another? I would argue that the answer is yes, we need the Rogue Traders. The conquistadors of the far future have been part of 40k for such a long time that the original game was named after them, yet they remain an unexplored faction. Giving them their own range would not only offer another opportunity to dig into the weirdness that is 40k’s trademark but set up another angle on the grim-darkness, the grasping greed and expansionism as opposed to the oppression and desperate clinging to power that the other factions already cover.
A Little Help From My Friends
The Tau Empire has always been marketed as the great coalition – dozens of species brought together in the name of the Greater Good. The fish-heads are ever optimistic about recruiting more races to join their quest for a new, hope-full and inspired galaxy. Unfortunately for them all the big names prefer xenophobia, planet-wide brutality and the mocking laughter of thirsting gods but one can but try. However as the Tau range has expanded we’ve seen more and more of their high-tech fighting prowess and less and less of their alien allies. In some ways I can see the value in this – by introducing all kinds of strange aliens there’s a risk of it looking like a rabble on the tabletop. Nonetheless the concept remains at the core of the Tau background, and yet appears on the tabletop only via some increasingly elderly-looked Vespids and Kroot. With the Tau range now armed to the teeth with fancy walkers (with even fancier guns) maybe it’s time to get out there and start making friends?
Always the Bridesmaid – Never the Flesh Eating Alien
Continuing from that last point brings us neatly to the Tau’s oldest – and bestest – friends of all; the Kroot. Yet for all their supposed camaraderie with the space-communists the Kroot are an altogether more complex beast than is allowed by their status as perpetual best friend and bit-part sidekick. Their strange ecology whereby all the creatures of their homeworld look a lot like each other not only brings a unique visual style to 40k but undoubtedly makes for some unusual creation myths (what Kroot-Adam got up to with the birds and beasts of Kroot-Eden is probably best left to the darker reaches of fan-fictiondom…).
What’s more their background paints them as roving mercenaries and bandits, happy to lend a hand to whoever will feed them and not above savaging outlying colonies if they don’t get their way. The Kroot also have a pre-existing range that would make them perfect for a smaller codex not dissimilar to the Harlequins. The Carnivores squad has stood the test of time fairly well but new Kroot Hounds, a clampack Shaper, a revisited Krootox weapon platform, some kind of elite or specialist unit and of course the obligatory big kit in the form of the return of the big chap below – and we’re all set for the people of Pech to throw off the Tau’s shackles and take their rightful place in the galaxy.
All this and no mention of the hairy bikers (not the chefs but the Squats)? It’s probably for the best! What about the Hrud or the Zoats, the Custodes or the Arbites? If there’s a faction you think I’ve missed, or if you think I’m wrong and you want the world to know about it, then speak your mind in the comment’s box below.