VII. A Time of Ending

It has been far too long since I posted anything on this, my criminally neglected blog. I’ve been planning a post in my head for the last couple of weeks, preparing to wax lyrical about design philosophy, by new found motivation and plans for this year. Then, this happened;

My god, is that thing awful!

I know many people will disagree, but not only is that thing, the worst miniature that I have seen GW release since the Space Wolf Santa, it also embodies all of the reasons why I’m now thinking of turning my back on Warhammer 40,000.

I first started collecting miniatures as a teenager way, way back in the early 1980s. Back then, Warhammer 40k wasn’t even a thing. By the time I went to university, discovered alcohol and girls, and stopped buying little metal miniatures, 40k was still called Rogue Trader. So, I don’t have any nostalgia for how 40k used to be. I don’t know how it used to be. I only know how it’s been for the last few years.

I returned to “the hobby” in late 2013, a little over three years ago now. It wasn’t the lure of 40k which pulled me back, so much as the lure of miniatures in general. I actually spent some time researching the different miniatures and companies now available before I committed to buying anything. It was seeing the work on the marvelous Peter Hudson (usually known as PDH online) and the chaps collectively know as Iron Sleet, which encouraged me to have a go at making my own 40k miniatures. I discovered a hobby and an online community which was full of inspiration, artistry and had a wonderful vision of what the 41st Millennium could be. Sadly though, it often seemed to be a vision at odds with the vision Games Workshop has for its IP.

Knowing next to nothing about the universe of 40k, I bought a few digital codices to read about the background. Every purchase was a disappointment. Poor writing and poor art I can forgive, but there was a jarring disconnect between the wonderful portrayal of a grim dark future I was seeing in the Inq28 community and the bright, plastic heroes and villains of the official codices.

What I loved about 40k and the work of John Blanche, which I rediscovered as a result, was that sense of decay and doom. The grim darkness of the far future is a hopeless dystopia where man is ultimately doomed to extinction. It was Gothic and melancholy and really kind of beautiful in its sense of despair – except in the official material. In the official material, everything is awesome. Space marines are awesome and tanks are awesome and Grey Knights are really awesome. I hate awesome. I hate awesome with a passion. Yet, ironically, I did find grim, dark and beautiful despair by the bucket load … just not in 40k.

About a year before I bought my first box of plastic GW miniatures, Forge World (I can never figure out if that’s one word or two) released the first of the Horus Heresy big, black books. Things of absolute beauty they are. Gorgeously illustrated, a joy to read. I bought the first one out of curiosity and fell in love with the setting. The irony (if it is irony) is that the Horus Heresy is a time when Primarchs and Astartes legions fought huge battles across the galaxy. You would think if anything was going to tip over the top into excessive awesomeness, it would be the Horus Heresy, but far from it. In both Forge World’s writing and the best of the novels, the Heresy reads like some Greek tragedy on an interstellar scale. There is more sense of tragic loss, melancholy and grim darkness in  the Horus Heresy than in any of the 40k material coming out of GW. I’ve even developed a very expensive addiction to Horus Heresy audio books.

So, this weekend has been a tipping point for me. Last Friday, GW showed us the plastic Primarch and I despaired at what is happening to 40k. It has irrevocably moved from being a setting in which great heroes of legend existed thousands of years ago, but now all is doomed, to one in which Primarchs exist again. It has become even more hatefully awesome. Then the very next day, I’m glued to the internet, looking at all the wonderful things being previewed by Forge World at the Horus Heresy Weekender, each more beautiful than the last.

It’s as if I’ve been hit in the face with the revelation that I’d be much happier giving my money to Forge World. Some would argue that it shouldn’t matter if I don’t like what GW is doing with 40k. We can make our own stories, after all. We do 40k the way we want it to be. However, it does matter to me. I don’t have the accumulated knowledge and memories of years in the hobby to draw upon. The things which GW is putting out now is all I know and I’m tired of my hobby feeling like it’s about fixing things I don’t like. I want to be inspired and delighted by the official material and not feel like every purchase is a bit disappointing.

And yet, I still can’t shake the desire to create something unique. The urge to kitbash and convert and tell my own story is insurmountable. I cannot imagine ever wanting to collect an entire army of space marines, it’s just not for me. I feel like a challenge now lays ahead. Can I bring the sensibilities of Inq28 to the setting I prefer? Is there room in the Horus Heresy setting to explore new ideas and make my own stories?

I think the answer to both questions may be, yes. I just haven’t figured out how yet.

 

… and if you made it to the end of my (perhaps self indulgent) rant, then thank you. I’d love to know what you think.

19 comments

  1. I am hoping that this is a single misstep on GWs part, but have to agree with how hideously garish the new Primarch model is! If you are considering 30K may I suggest Blackshields? I have been toying with getting into 30K with a blackshield warband, they are not tied to the strictures of the known legions and can use all sorts of weird xenos tech (lots of cool conversion opportunities) and their reasons are fighting are pretty innumerable. (My idea for a blackshield warband involves pledging themselves to an alien godlike entity so that they can better fight the traitors). I think it would be a theme that would fit really well and would be really excited to see what you come up with! Its a big darn galaxy so am pretty sure there are other ideas to explore as well other than marines! (maybe remnants of the Interex back for revenge etc etc).
    Hopefully you come to a decision that lets you continue modelling and coming up with stories in your own unique way, be it 30k/40k or elsewhere and I look forward to seeing what you may come up with!

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  2. I’m very ambiguous regarding the current direction of 40k. Or more exactly, the release of Guilliman and Magnus. One of the first things that drew me to the setting was the hopelessness and despair of the entropic Imperium.

    “To be a man in such times is to be one amongst untold billions. It is to live in the cruelest and most bloody regime imaginable. These are the tales of those times. Forget the power of technology and science, for so much has been forgotten, never to be relearned. Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim dark future there is only war. There is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods.”

    The grim darkness of the far future has never been a time of Primarchs to me. It has not been a place of heroes of that magnitude. So the introduction of Guilliman (and to some extent Magnus too) shift focus from a place where will not be missed to a place where you stand in the shadow of great heroes. It doesn’t do it for me.

    But still, they release great stuff. I like the campaign books of the last few years and stuff like the Thousand Sons, Ad Mech, Harlequins have been just brilliant. So mixed feelings.

    The greatest fear I have now is that they will feel hard pressed to take another step and then another until they reach the point where something need to happen to the Emperor. And that could change the entire setting.

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  3. I’ve not really kept up with the 40k fluff as it was rolled through various retcons, so my version of the Grim Dark is still very much Rogue Trader mixed with Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying mixed with half remembered bits and bobs and stuff I’ve made up myself. I tend to feel that the community stuff is more my kind of thing rather than the official 40k fluff. I think that there has been a steady eroding of the settings irony and comical satire.

    I hope that you continue to make wonderful things; even if they are divorced from 40k.

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    • Thanks Euan. i certainly need a holiday from 40k, I don’t really know if it will be a permanent one. Right now though, I’m feeling the pull of the Heresy. I’m not about to start collecting a 5000pt Sons of Horus army though. I’ll leave that to people far more dedicated and patient than me.

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  4. I can relate to your viewpoint. I have not played 40k in a very long time, I’m not a fan of the current setting or some of the armies. This is the reason I play inquisimunda, I can make what I want and play how I want. I do like the Horus Heresy however, I started building my very own Alpha Legion last year, mainly because FW make very richly detailed and inspired miniatures, even their transfer sheets are leagues ahead of anything GW put out, I learned how to use micro sol and set specifically so I could use them! I bought some heavy artillery and jet bikes and lots of other goodies so I can try and enter a few of the tournaments at some point. I hope you can find a way to make the setting work, there is so much background material I defy you not to find something to get the creative juices flowing 🙂 good luck in your endeavours, i look forward to seeing whatever direction you go in.

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  5. I have really been amazed at the stark disparity been the writing of GW and FW. FW is able to keep the scale of a galactic war intact, while GW tends to simplify everything down to a handful of poorly developed characters. Take Fall of Cadia, they skipped over the war for the Cadian Gate, just telling you it happened and many died, to instead focus on an smaller less interesting story with the Saint and a few other characters.

    My brothers and I started our blog about 4 years ago to keep up with the hobby, and start to explore the elements of 40k that interested us, because for at least the last 10 years or so GW had only been making “awesome” space marines, striping the awe mystery out of its creation. Slowly, in the last two years, I think GW has gotten better, bring back Knights, making Adeptus Mechanicus models, bring back the Genestealer cult, etc. In this light, I feel the release of Guilliman, while a huge mistake, is not completely reflective what GW will do in the future, and that there is still hope for better. Having said this, I still think I am going to be exploring the setting in my own way, not heeding these new story developments too much. The galaxy is a large place afterall, not matter how much GW tries to make it seem otherwise.

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    • I’m clearly not alone in finding the current direction GW is taking not to my taste. On the other hand, I see many people in forums praising the Gathering Storm and the plastic Primarch as the most exciting thing they’ve ever seen. Each to their own.

      I could be wrong, but I get the distinct feeling that most people in the Inq28 scene are long time followers of 40k, that they played 40k in their youth and now they’re exploring it their way. I totally get that and totally admire what they do.

      I don’t have that though. I only know 40k as it is now. I didn’t play 40k in my youth, because it didn’t exist. The miniatures I painted in my teens were orcs and goblins and adventurers. They didn’t have plastic bases and I bought White Dwarf every month for the AD&D scenarios, fantasy book reviews and articles about Runequest. 🙂

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      • Yeah, that does make it more difficult. I think working within the Horus Heresy would be a good fit, since they are doing a better job expanding the narrative. You also have pretty much free reign for designing stuff preceding the Heresy.

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  6. Imperial or renegade cult list would be ripe for conversion opportunities or solar auxilia is a great choice. If more elite armies are your thing then a renegade mechanicum list could be really cool as well.

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  7. I always felt the strength of the 40k setting is that it is so vast that there is something for everyone. Do I like the new primarch model? Not really…. but do I like Space Marines (Ultramarines in this case)……… not really…… is the model aimed a thing me then? Not really lol! What do I like? Tyranids and Imperial Guard, simples! Sounds like your thing is more the Inquisition and the mechanics, which is a cool and awesome part of 40k, but it’s not all of it.

    Also I can sympathise with your felling of, oh no is 40k going to be all hopeful now a Primarch has come back. Well from what I’ve seen of the new editon, it looks darker then ever with a split and fractured Imperium and desperate man now making Super Space Marines. We all know what happens to the last bunch of super human soldiers that got made…………

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  8. On another note, Forge World do amazing 40k books as well. Their Imperial Armour books are incredible, well worth a look.

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