Fanatics! What a great time to be a 40k fanatic! But all over the inter webs, the game halls and groups we are hearing the murmur of disbelief and mourning the old. We are getting what we wanted, yet we lament losing broken or unimportant trinkets. Where should we lay our focus? Rejoice prayers answered, or lament changes through time?
Recent events in the Warhammer 40K universe have been mind-blowing, for better or worse. We have a progression in the storyline for the first time in…. well forever I guess since the last 13th crusade was retconned. New campaign books, a more embracing view on all things forge world (yes, back in days of yore, purists frowned upon forge world, as expensive, elitist and cheesy, only few of these purists still remain).
On the other side of the pond we have Age of Sigmar that is, from at least where I am standing, growing exponentially. I was never a Warhammer Fantasy player, thus my view on the upheaval the game went through, might not be that of a devoted fanatic.
Games Workshop have given us a community page, they have given us channels on social media to communicate with them directly (they actually answer really quick), and remain in their stance on excellent customer service in terms of returns, replacements and support. And yet we are crying. Why?
But it has always been like so and so…
The idea for this article struck me two days ago when at Bell of Lost Souls who wrote good bye Eldar, hello Aeldari. As it is with our community this unfortunately started a mildly sour discussion on several forums on Facebook. My direct question is why? The same thing happened a couple of years ago, when GW decided to ”rename” Imperial Guard into Astra Militarum. The rules remained the same, the look remained the same, they even got several new and several updated models. But people clutched onto the issue with the least impact, the name change. And it wasn’t even a name change since in the codex, and I quote ”The Astra Militarum, also known as the Imperial Guard, is the largest […]”. Right there. Printed and delivered as clear as day. There was no name change. There was an addition to the name, something that for a fluff player would be just a nice spice up.
Yet, people all over the internet write ”I will call it imperial guard and Eldar, until the day I die”. Do you write this just because you need attention or because you are outright stupid? This has no, what so ever impact on either the storyline or the game mechanics of said army. If I say Adeptus Astartes, am I off the grid for not saying Space Marines? Give me a break.
All of this is rather superficial because these are minor changes. But there are more profound changes to both lore and game that people seem to forget, or for some reason accept more easily than something so simple as a name addendum.
Lesson to be learned
As a part of the community dear fanatic, ask yourself this simple question; why did I get into this hobby? Why did I pick the army I did as my first army? The answer, 9 out of 10 times is because you felt it looked cool.
Your second go to criteria was probably lore. Now here is where it becomes problematic. Like any true geek I will use a familiar universe to all; Star Wars. Because not everyone has read all the old codices, not everyone has read Horus Heresy, but everyone knows the basics of Star Wars ( and if you don’t you are a filthy red shirt and deserve to die).
When Star Wars was ”retconned” there was a disturbance in the Force all across the world, and people couldn’t decide on what cannon was the true cannon. We were left in a disarray of Lucas Cannon, Official Cannon and Expanded Universe Cannon. All these can to some extent co-exist, but as the story progresses it inevitably becomes out with the old, in with the new. And at a certain level that is ok, you decide your own level of commitment. This has for some reason never been a problem in the Marvel Universe, where we have seen the the death of heroes and storylines multiple times, and no-one bats an eye. Why should 40k be any different?
As the hobby grows, time passes, new people enter the fold and love the grim dark. I started out playing just in the beginning of 3rd edition, missing out on the entire transition from Rogue Trader. I remember the veterans back then lamenting the loss of squats, multiple dice sets and other oddities that I never experienced. And by no mean has my experience of 40k diminished on this account.
So lets see what the damage is shall we?
The top 4 biggest and most resounding changes and why they are OK.
#1: Black Crusade – Eye of Terror retcon
This isn’t as problematic as it might seem (for now). Recently Games Workshop gave us the first installment in the Gathering Storm campaign, Fall of Cadia. Now if any of my dear fanatics reading this article joined our ranks post Eye of Terror, here is a quick sum up. Eye of Terror opens, Chaos comes pouring out, Abaddon smashes forward. End result: Chaos takes a lot of victories, but essentially, Cadia stands, but barely.
Now in the first book, the Fall of Cadia, as the title indicates, Cadia does actually fall. But not to worry, unless you have missed it, the Regimental Standard has assured us that the fall of Cadia was actually a GOOD thing!
The dilemma of this so called retcon is that when the eye of terror came, the outcome was never certain and it was driven by the community’s reports. You can see the full report here. People are having a problem that not all agents present at the Eye of Terror campaign are present in the Fall of Cadia book. This is true, but is it a problem? Not yet at least if you ask me. Gathering Storm pt. 2 is already announced and teased, so we know new books are coming, and all races will be involved at some point. I am pretty sure the Gathering Storm campaign will be giving us releases throughout 2017. This will merit a few things, most likely sync a little bit better with the old story of Eye of Terror, so veterans recognize it a bit more, but also it will become so much bigger than just the Eye of Terror.
I try to boil it down like this; there was no retcon, just an addendum. 14 years have we waited for yet another (or quite frankly the same) siege on the worlds of The Imperium. Eye of Terror was released in 2003, so it has been no less than 14 years and 4 editions of the game, that if you think about it, is at a temporal status quo, moving ever so slightly forwards and backwards depending on what setting we play. All of this basically only concerns those of us who play story driven games and enjoy the fluff. Eye of Terror was the introduction, Gathering Storm will be the full story and Crescendo. Even Star Wars and the Marvel Universe has loop holes. Be a sport and try to see the coolness of it all instead.
These timeline hick ups will occur, and they will not disappear. 30 years of telling the same story tends to do that.
As a final note to the subject, the Fall of Cadia has awakened the doomsday prophets screeching end times. You are smarter than that. End Times don’t come with the Fall of Cadia or Terra for that matter. It will come with the great Hives of Tyranids. They don’t care about your mark of Nurgle, you still taste like chicken to them.
#2 What is a rose by another name?
This is in fact a major upset for many people. Imperial Guard gets their official name changed to Astra Militarum, now Ahriman tells us Eldar are supposed to be Aeldari.
I mentioned this earlier in the article, how is this a problem? Does your Basilisk artillery battery not fire properly anymore? Will it prevent you from using scatter lasers? No.
And these ”name changes” are not changes but addendums once again. People seem to forget that Games Workshop is no longer a small company of nerds with a little bit more ambition than the rest of us, it is actually a big company with many employees and a massive IP. They are just making sure they can protect and monetize their IP to the fullest. There is nothing wrong in this.
#3 Where have all the cowboys gone?
Unfortunately this even bother me, but just a little bit. In a game with a timeline that basically is at a stasis, it is sad to see named heroes disappear. Sly Marbo comes to mind here as one of those characters. Vect is another loss.
But to quote Tyler Durden ”on a long enough timeline, the survival rate of everyone drops to zero”.
Even though Marbo has provided many a laugh on the battlefield, I kind of understand why he went off grid. He was one of the last remnants of GW’s slapstick comedy. The Squats were lost in transition between Rogue Trader and 3rd edition. Various Ork trinkets and quirks have faded away over the years (transport capacity was the bomb back in 3rd). Necrons became Terminators in space rather than Tomb Kings in space. C’thans going from death Gods to extremely rare Pokémon Gods.
Vect is still in the lore, he does, however not have a model or ruleset. Because according to the lore he is currently not available (out doing raids, whilst Commorragh is still a wonderful family vacation site, and coming back to us in a small jet bike game). But rumors are humming and don’t be surprised if he makes a comeback together with Eldrad and Asurmen, probably in the Gathering Storm Campaign. St Celestine did, why not Vect?
Our community cries wolf, a lot. But does any of us have a reason to despair really? Games Workshop is delivering en masse now, but we can’t expect everything at once now can we? Remember, they are a company that makes money, and they have to plan out their profit over a planned amount of time, not everything at once. And speaking of wolves, Leman Russ was a commander in the Guard, and suddenly bumped up to Primarch, not a bad retcon ey?
#4 Age of Sigmar – wait isn’t this article about 40k?
If we are going to talk about massive changes in any game world, we need to adress Age of Sigmar, and it DOES affect 40k. If you have failed to notice there are some similarities in both worlds; forces of Chaos, Grand Alliance (armies of the imperium) and so on and so forth.
Now, fans all across the community are dreading the rumors of 8th edition. The doomsday profecy is a fact, that 40k will undergo a transition the way WFB did into AoS. There are matters that speak for it, but there are far more that speak against it.
Those that speak for is well, the requests of the community. Yes we are all to blame here. But not in the sense that we want a complete overhaul. Back in 3rd edition, 40k got a massive streamlining overhaul. This is the game format that has been active the longest and been accepted by several generations of gamers. But we have come to a point where you almost need a masters degree in cross referencing in order to play a game. There is an overflow of special rules and contradictions and syntax errors. I am having a hard time believing there will be a complete overhaul into 8th, but there will be a simplification and a desperately needed streamlining.
I don’t believe GW will even touch the uniqueness of its races and units. Those are the main reason why we love the game in the first place and it is pretty obvious to everyone both inside and outside the community. This is one of the major issues to speak against a massive retcon and overhaul. Why destroy an IP that is so strong? Makes no sense, in either economical- or fan loyalty sense of the word.
Old WFB fans were shafted and they were shafted hard. But then again if you stand for just barely 10% of the revenue, your saying is quite insignificant in the big, capitalistic world. And lo and behold, AoS is doing better than WFB did. Just sayin’.
Battesai signing off with words of wisdom
There you have it folks. There is no need to be alarmed, the Regimental Standard says it’s so. Before you cry wolf next time, try to look at the bigger picture and maybe make a prediction of your own.
You have been playing a game with a storyline that hasn’t changed significantly over the past 14 years. Change is actually good at this point. We want an official story of what is happening next. And there is a reason for it. We know Luke Skywalker wins in the end over both the Emperor and Vader. Does that stop people from enjoying expanded universe, playing KOTOR and the likes? Or something more close to home; we know how the heresy ends, and yet people play and while playing CHANGE the outcome in Horus Heresy. Why can’t we be as open minded about 40k? Write your own narrative, your inner child demands it.