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.