Tale of Five Heretics: My Army Chatter
That’s the Legion I finally settled on.
We’re a week from the first deadline so I thought it was time to share a little more jazz behind the process. Those who’ve read my work might think that the XII Legion was the most obvious answer in the world. The truth is that there’re several reasons that the World Eaters were dead last on my list of possible Legions, but have risen inch by inch – clawing over the carcasses of fallen and unworthy ideas – to stand proud at the apex of my hobby pile.
Maybe they’re holding axes in their hands while they’re up there, screaming their hatred to an uncaring and distant genetic grandsire. Maybe! That’d be pretty dramatic, right? How super-deep.
However, it’s much safer to assume that they’re really looking at every other project I’ve abandoned in the past and wondering if their place is already assured on what John French calls my “Shelf of Shame”.
As I’m fond of reminding people, I used to play with a 4,000-point High Elf army, of which a single Phoenix Guard was the only painted fellow. I like to think that in the narrative of that particular army-wide failure, his rank-upon-rank of elven friends exalted him as a hero. They probably just bullied him, though.
I had some nice results with a variant Emperor’s Children colour scheme that Eddie suggested, so I may have them show up at some point. I like that idea a lot, and I prefer mixed-Legion Expeditionary Fleets as a general rule.
I sense we’ve strayed, here. What the fuck was I talking about?
Oh, yeah, World Eaters. Specifically, the fact they were dead last on my list.
I’ll go into that later, as it’s not all that interesting or relevant. Here’s why I ended up deciding to do them, instead.
1. My impatience is maximum. I think it’s probably fair to say that – of the Legions – the Blood Angels, Space Wolves, Dark Angels, and Thousand Sons, will be the most distinctive four, and I’ve got a feeling they’ll be the most ornately done; the most popular and attractively sculpted. That’s probably not an unfair guess given how distinct those Legions look in artwork, how different their rules are likely to be in some cases, and how overwhelmingly popular they are in the license. It feels like a safe bet to say they’re probably going to be something special. The Ultramarines are a similarly safe bet to make that Top Four into a Top Five, but I digress.
The first reason I’m choosing the World Eaters is because I can’t be bothered to wait for any of those guys. Fuck that.
2. The models are lush. The second reason is that the World Eaters look great. Their shoulder pads, their Contemptor, and their head/torso upgrade kits are dead lush. A lot of the Legion-specific torsos work for any Legion anyway, but the World Eaters are especially sexy.
3. My friends are all on the Blue Team. The third reason is because of who I actually play with beyond the Tale of Five Heretics and its various guest stars. My local 40K/RPG pals are almost uniformly into loyalist Chapters or the various branches of the Mechanicum. They’ve already said they’ll be going along similar lines if they ever get into the Heresy, and the rough landscape here looks a bit like Mechanicum, Imperial Fists, Space Wolves, and a Knight Household, so… Yeah.
In that respect, the call of the Red Team is somewhat inevitable. I have no real preference on Red or Blue Teams. I just need a decent storyline to run with.
The fourth reason is the main one, and that’s because I had an idea for an army.
4. Cohort LN-27-5555. Cohort LN-27-5555’s serial number is a bastardised mesh of its original garrison assignment code and its subsequent place in one of the many Expeditionary Fleets ranging far from the light of the Emperor and his primarchs. There’s nothing especially noteworthy about them in this regard. The cohort has always been said to serve as a haven and exile for squads blighted by disciplinary failures, but the same is often said of countless World Eater forces. The veracity of this claim has variously been challenged or ignored by the cohort’s command structure, depending on the officer in charge at the time.
By the way, no points for spotting the blatant referential nod in the name.
5. “So how ’bout them bolters?” Cohort LN-27-5555 was utterly unprepared for the Heresy. While the same could be said for many Legiones Astartes forces spread across the galaxy, in the cohort’s case it was more a matter of lacking the requisite armament, not reluctance or a lack of information.
Since its inception, LN-27-5555 has been armed for service primarily against xenos threats, leaving compliance of human worlds to its secondary forces, such as the Mechanicum and Army counterparts present within its Expeditionary Fleet. In keeping with such duties, the cohort still possess an abundant armoury of volkite weaponry, rotor cannons, chainaxes, and rad-weapons for annihilating alien targets. If you’ve read the rules, those the kinds of things that tend to either be specifically designed to kill xenos in the lore, or aren’t all that brilliant at killing Space Marines in general.
In contrast, the cohort lacks the increasingly abundant supplies of plasma and bolter weaponry more tactically viable against ceramite, and they now themselves relatively disadvantaged in confrontations with their own kind as the Heresy rages closer to Terra.
6. From Rebels to Chaos Marines. This is the big one in terms of the army’s appearance. White is one of the few colours I can reliably paint fairly quickly, if not particularly beautifully, and that makes it pretty tempting right away. But bear with me, as I’m doing mine red.
One of the questions I get asked a helluva lot is: When do the World Eaters go from white and blue to red and brass? It’s a great question; one that’ll be answered in the fullness of time. I can answer when mine go from white to red, though. Right now.
I want my cohort to have a transitory vibe. They’re up to their necks in the Heresy, partway between the unstable Space Marine Legion they were and the blood-maddened Chaos Marines they’ll become. Not yet Warp-touched or decorated in symbols of Khorne’s favour, but definitely on the way there.
The ways I’m going to show the transition from “rebel” to Chaos Marine won’t win any awards for originality, but I think they’re going to look distinctive and effective all the same.
One of my favourite pieces of old World Eater lore is the way it’s common to see a single piece of their old heraldry and colour scheme showing through all of the red and brass that they’re more commonly associated with as Khorne’s chosen. I love that image, and it’s stuck with me for years. With the cohort, I think it’ll be done with their Legion shoulder pads. The rest of them will be red, but they’ll keep their original colours on their shoulder guards.
They wear the Eye of Horus on their opposite shoulder guards to show their allegiance to the Warmaster, not just as a Heresy-era practicality but also as a modelling nod to their eventual fate. A lot of Chaos Marines have the Eye of Horus on their armour, and while the cohort has no idea of its future in the Eye, the grand tradition followed by so many Chaos Marines shows it has its roots in simpler, more innocent and ignorant (and conversely, more loyal) beginnings.
My first month’s pledge is a Despoiler Squad, kitbashed to heck and back from a squillion kits. (I don’t ever convert. I just kithbash lots.)
Anyway, that’s why I chose the World Eaters. I have to admit, I’m, dead psyched about all this.
As promised, the reasons why the World Eaters were dead last on my list are below. I try to avoid playing anything I write about, and writing about anything I play, and I’ve always played very shooty armies. I’ve mentioned this in interviews a bunch of times, but if you’re at all interested, here’s the dealio:
- Excuses, Excuses…
The reason for several failures at getting a Chaos Marine army going (along with the usual amateurish gripes about Forge World’s Plague Marines being too hard to paint) is because one of the easiest – and wrongest, and stupidest – ways to make a writer look bad is to say “She/He only made Faction X look good in a novel because he/she loves them”. It’s never true for anyone over age 12, but the myth persists.
Admittedly I don’t get it a lot, but it still annoys me when I see it said about anyone.
It’s the licensed fiction equivalent of saying a musician has sold out. “They sold out” might’ve once meant something, but now it means something completely different to almost everyone who says it (like “hipster”, these days) and is usually teenage shorthand for “I don’t like this but other people do, thus I’ve remained pure and other people suck”.
So to avoid that particularly stupid trope, as if anyone is that unprofessional in their day job, I’ve tried to avoid my hobby and writing crossing over too many times. Plus, I like so many things in 40K that it’s not really hard to avoid that crossover.
I’ve been getting over that pandering, lately. The more I write, the less I care about triggering a frothing opinion somewhere. These days, I trust most readers and reviewers with the discretion and intelligence not to make those kind of assumptions, and if someone is the kind of soul to genuinely think “He made a faction good because they’re his fave army” then you know there’s basically no reasoning with them, anyway.
I write what I have ideas for at the time. If I wrote what I loved most, you’d all be proud to ignore One Ratskin Guide’s to Life in the Necromundan Underhive, interspersed with instalments in That High Elf Love Story Which Will Never Be Written Now Because of the End Times.
I don’t like any faction more than any other; I just like different aspects of different factions at different times, the way people’s favourite songs can rotate and shuffle year by year. For nostalgia reasons, I tend to dig the Blood Angels sliiiiightly more than the other Legions but that’s nostalgia, not: “I think these guys are more interesting”. I like the Transformers cartoons out of nostalgia and still enjoy them. I don’t think they’re better than, say, Deadwood, or HBO’s Rome.
This is the kind of headache-tastic handwringing that has plagued me for years, but I’m getting over it now like a big boy.
Another thing that put the World Eaters dead last is that I’ve played shooty armies for most of my gaming life. My 4,000pt. High Elves did a lot of shooting. My 1,000pt. Wood Elves did nothing but shoot. My 1,000pt. Chaos Marines were Marked by Khorne (not even my favourite god)… and apart from the Biker Squad they did nothing but shoot all the time. My House Cawdor gang, who were juiced up with bonuses for hand-to-hand combat, also did nothing but shoot and throw grenades.
Well, they also died a lot. That should go without saying.
So, y’know, an army predicated on melee often needs transports (which I’ve historically been too scared to paint and risk fucking up) and when it comes to playing I tend to default to what I’m used to. Which, of course, is standing back and shooting.
But I’m trying something new, here.
And now you know.