Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Redesigning 40k for the 21st Century, pt3

Part 1
Part 2

So I’m going to start with a summary of my position, handily provided by Justicar on the Millenium Gate:

“I, for one, like the GRIMDARK as it was originally implemented. Gothic is/was a fun change from the usual Star Trek, everything will be better in the future spiel. People just talking their problems out, every violent situation is based on misunderstanding, yada yada, etc. 40K was somewhat unique in that everyone fights everyone else. A very handy thing to have when you are marketing a wargame.

“That said, you are right that GW has gone too far with the pervasiveness of the GRIMDARK aspect of the setting. I think one issue is that GW has gone overboard with this and developed some tunnel vision with the GRIMDARK aspect. Part of the problem is that GW is treating it as the same as the Warhammer setting where the Old World is essentially doomed, it is just a matter of when, rather than if. This of course has been institutionalized most recently in the countdown to doomsday stuff they stuck in the fluff section of 5th edition which I think limits the large scale appeal of the setting.

“That outcome may be "certain" as to the Old World but that is 1 planet in a much larger universe. 40K has always had the GRIMDARK thing going on but in the past there was some balance with things like Rogue Trader fleets expanding the borders of the Imperium and Adeptus Mechanicus Explorator fleets pushing past the boundries of known space. There were tangible examples of recovered technology being implemented to improve the advance of technology in a number of the Imperial codices. We don't see much if any of that anymore. GRIMDARK is a large part of what makes 40K memorable and unique but like all good things, a complete excess of it is not desirable.”

So, I’m not against grim darkness, never ending war, a galaxy of horrors, and never ending danger. I just want to have a reason to fight against it, and have a slim hope of being heroic and saving the day against all odds (until the next horror comes along).
I think it is necessary for the games longevity to continue to strip away some of the GRIMDARK that has infested it. Why? Well look at it this way – you’re playing a game, be it on PC, Xbox, or whatever. Now it is no ordinary game, but one where your controlled force is your own. You lead them to victory time and time again. But each time you win, a message pops up saying ‘you won, but achieved nothing as the universe is still doomed no matter what you do’.


Why would you keep playing with that shoved in your face all the time? That’s what GRIMDARK overdose means to me.
Waaaaay back in the Rogue Trader days humanity had a future – not just in that it wasn’t monumentally screwed, but the Emperor had a plan. What was that plan? Well he knew that over time, humanity would become more and more psychically aware, much like the Eldar before them. He guided and nurtured humanity over the centuries, working to the goal of preserving his species.
Eventually his body gave out (later, Horus beat him up) and he retired to the throne. But the Imperium was set up to cull out the weak psykers and eventually, should the guard and marines prevail against the odds, humanity would emerge out the other side victorious against the galaxy.

It was still a very slim chance it’d work, but there was a nebulous, far off goal Humanity was working towards more than mere survival. What does this have to do with a-bombs, iPods and Eldrad’s toilet?

Depth of the background

Many decry the newer editions as ‘dumbed down’, ‘made for ten year olds’, ‘aimed at kids’ etc. We’ve all heard it, maybe even said it when our Codex has had its story section reduced to tales of the Ultramarines being awesome.
I started 40k when I was seven or so, back with Rogue Trader. My brother was a bit older than me, but we both started with Marines (RTB01 FTW!) and mostly messed around like kids did. There were no GWs in Australia yet, we mostly went to Tin Soldier in the city or Games World out at Hornsby. They had a club, NaSGuL (Northern Shore Gamers League), and this is where I discovered Space Hulk, Blood Bowl and the wide variety of games out there.
However, I was more interested in the models and stories than playing (as you may have guessed from my blog), and devoured every book and expansion I could get my hands on. I didn’t get most of it at the time, but I pretty much memorised the RT rulebook, the Compendium and Compilation. I can still find things almost instantly in them.

Many years later, I was going back over the Random Mission tables in the back of RT, specifically the pudding one, and I went “ahhh, it’s parodying the second coming of Jesus!”. It’s terribly obvious now, but it took a good decade for me to see it. Similarly, I didn’t immediately get that the Sisters of Battle being based on a planet called Ophelia was a Hamlet reference.

Add to that the sheer volume of background contained in those early books. It’s staggering how much was developed in such a small space really. Does the current background have the same staying power? I don’t think so, unfortunately. When I need to reference something about the Administratum or the Astra Telepathica I don’t turn to 5th ed, I pull out the ancient, dog-eared Rogue Trader book. Maybe 2nd ed if I want another view, but it’s almost always RT first.
I don’t think that the background needs to be dumbed down to be accessible to.
The kids who like 40k for ‘rarrrgh explosions’ would just skip the boring bits not about dismembering, and the weird quiet ones will absorb everything anyway (I used to be able to recite, from memory, the weapon loadout of every 3050 mech [including all the Clan varients]). Those who initially skim the background might grow into it, or they may just enjoy toy spacemen – that’s what the game is to some people after all, just a game. But not having it is a disservice to those who enjoy it in my eyes.

Another salient example, linking with the background disconnect, is the manner in which 40k is sold to people (of all ages). There are no FLGS’s near me, the closest is around an hour away and it is often lacking in F. There is a FLGW about twenty minutes away and next to where my girlfriend works, so I go there when I go gaming. As a result I’ve seen a lot of GW’s pitch technique. It seems to be less aggravating, more laid back here in Australia than in other countries from the stories I’ve heard, so take that on board.

When someone comes in, expressed interest in 40k, the demo game is Marines vs Orks from the AoBR set. The standard setup is to have the staff play Orks, the new guy play Marines. Now the Marines are portrayed as heroic, mighty, fighting for humanity etc etc. I’ve noticed they never add on “but it’s pointless as the galaxy is doomed no matter what.” They talk about the brutality, never ending war, explosions, skulls, chopping people up and next to no chance of survival (unless you are mighty enough!). But they stop short of serving the full GRIMDARK sandwich.


Because it’s depressing. Nobody’s going to play a game where the tagline is “you will never win – it’s in the rulebook (for reals!)”. They will play “you’ll never win, mwahahahaha- what? You’re totally awesome and still triumphed? Noooooooooo!”
It means your victory on the tabletop with your little men counted for something. It’s like playing call of Cthuhlu – you’ll ultimately never win, but you know that going in. However the big difference is that CoC is a horror RPG, not a sci-fi wargame.

But, back to depth of background and the point... having a deep background means you constantly have more to discover (duh), and more to keep players (customers) interested. The paucity of background available in the rulebooks is tragic in my eyes. Sure, there’s the BL novels, Fantasy Flight’s RPG supplements and erm... that’s it actually. And those are all pretty pricey if you want everything. Even still they lack certain crucial bits of data.
For instance: Navigators only being able to pass on the Navigator gene if both parents are Navigators. Pretty sure it’s not in 5th ed. It’s certainly not in any Codex. It might be in a Dark Heresy or Rogue Trader RPG book, but I don’t own those. It is in Rogue Trader though, some twenty years out of print.

I will never be OOP, because I rock!

Have some fun at a GW – say you want to do female Space Marines. Someone will say it’s impossible due to blah blah blah. Ask what book the article is in. Ding! There is no book available in a Games Workshop that contains the infamous ‘only males can be Space Marines’ line.
This is more than trolling for anti-FSM hate, but illustrating that knowledge is being lost from the books. The depth of the 40k verse is getting shallower. I am obviously a fan of story based games, and not having this depth hurts that, as very, very few of the younger gamers come up with overly complicated back stories for their armies any more (or any story at all). 40k is becoming ‘40k the novels’ and ‘40k the game’, with little cross over between the two.

The previously discussed logic holes hurt the background as it is ‘interactive’, so to speak. While a TV series like Star Trek or a linear game like Half Life could have gaping holes in it, the POV is restricted and controlled so you only see what the director wants you to. By the time the hole appears you’re past it (hopefully). In an open game universe such as 40k (or any RPG setting), the cracks are much more evident as you’re essentially asking people to rummage around and see what they find. When there are so many solid wargaming/RPG settings out there, the holes, missing bits and disconnections make 40k look rather rough around the edges some times.
This isn’t really a good way to keep people interested. If every time they want to make an army or explore an idea they run into a contradiction, something that makes no sense in-universe or can’t find an answer, it’s discouraging. We’ve all likely had it happen with something – you’re interested, but finding what you want to know is too much of a pain so you get frustrated and give up (potentially going to a competitor).
Note: not saying that you have to make a background, but that the situation is limiting the option, and that’s bad for those of us who want to.

What to do about it?

So, if you’re like me and think too much, you’ll wonder odd things. Like thus:
Eldar choose to go on a path.
That Path is a very focused speciality, be it art, music, war.
They only do one sort of thing on the Path, no others (except in times of war).
So who chooses to go on the path of the Janitor?
If such a path does not exist, who cleans the toilets?
Do the Warp Spiders (the tiny ones, not the aspect warriors) do it?
Do they have some sort of autonomous construct?
If they do, why not use said constructs for war?
And so on...

I think it is a valid question. We know the answer for the Imperials: you do. Grab a shovel (Marines go to the excretatorium and have servitors). But we know precious little about everyday life for the Eldar, or even much about Craftworlds themselves. I can think of only half a dozen pictures in the last twenty three years that show the inside of a Craftworld. There are a couple of descriptions in a couple of novels, but nothing really detailed like Imperial cities have gotten.

Me, I’d read a book all about the ins and outs of a Craftworld or inside of a Tyranid ship. A sort of Incredible Cross-sections series for 40k, and not just the tanks.
Developing the alien races will remove them from their fantasy backgrounds – which I think is a good thing. There is a certain stigma attached to 40k that it is just ‘fantasy in space’, and while that certainly used to be true, the races have moved into their own niches, but they need to be explored more.

Make a background book for each race and have it NOT TOLD FROM THE IMPERIAL PERSPECTIVE! Have it neutral and factual, much like the Horus Heresy art books. Facts. Like what the Eldar use as currency (do they have one? Is it barter, socialist collective, no economy at all or what)? Who runs every day stuff (Farseers? Surely they have better things to worry about than whether L’Shin needs to mow his lawn more often or Jathen speeding on his jetbike through a school zone)? Come to think of it, what are Eldar kids like? How fast to they age? What’s the deal yo?!

I am reminded of a conversation on the Giant in the Playground boards, talking about the Princess Bride novel. Someone mentioned the funny edits mad by the ‘editor’ of the ‘original story’. Someone else commented about the court scene, and how the editor cut out the long descriptions of courtly fashion as nobody would be interested in that level of detail. The poster then lamented that they were interested, and would have loved to have read it.
If you weren’t interested, you’d either skip it or forget the details. They need to bring that sort of detail to the other races in 40k.


It is very, very constraining, and the ‘woooo mysterious’ stuff gets annoying after a while. If I’m playing a race/character, I’d like to know that they’re not actually the bad guys and are just hiding it if I initially liked them as good guys (even if they have a terrible secret). The whole Dark Angel traitor mystery thing hurt my love of them when it got really silly during 3rd, and as much as I liked Necrons the vagueness and ‘unknownness’ of their story wasn’t enough for me to sink my teeth into.
Not to say a little mystery is a bad thing, far from it, but knowing what side your faction on is a pretty big one.
Losing the Imperial view for a neutral one would give much more freedom to explore things previously unknown to us – just add on ‘but the Imperium is yet to discover this terrible secret’. It gives the developers something to work towards and the audience something to speculate about and look forward to.
A good example of this is the Void Dragon. You know it, I know it, Dalia knows it, The Emperor knows it, the Necrons know it, but the Imperium is in for a very rude surprise some day...


It seems this is coming true, with Black Library announcing at Games Day that they will be doing a monthly magazine filled with stories and such. Huzzah! Now fingers crossed they’re not all from the human POV...


I liked it when it was just ‘here is the galaxy. It will kill you’. Now it’s all Star Gods this and Old Ones that and grand interweaving conspiracies about everything. Making everything interdependent makes it harder to advance any one part on its own, and makes each part less unique.

In regards to the evolving society and the background (tech, politics etc), many people got the impression I was for some drastic overhaul to make 40k more shiny and happy and such. Not quite the case. I was for ditching the GRIMDARK, scaling it back to grim, relentless war, and accentuating the sci-fi aspects that are already there, but seldom/never used. Also I’m in favour of highlighting the religious tensions that exist between Marines and the Ecclesiarchy and the Mechanicus, highlighting the growing numbers of Psykers (if they still do that), and having the Imperium doing something – anything!
Of the three global campaigns, the Imperium has been defending for three of them. In most Forge World books the Imperium loses or has a pyrrhic victory. It’s rather disheartening to have your faction always on the back foot, defending (losing) and never seeming to win, unless you’re the Ultramarines that is.


Use it as a tie-in to release xenos terrain, xenos world / background sourcebooks and such. Hell, do a bunch of civilian figures for all races if you want to go crazy. Adding more detail never hurt, except for the ‘lol Old ones made everyone’ crap, so yeah.

This is the end of my thoughts now, and I hope you have found it as interesting reading as I have pondering it. I Could certainly go on, about the impending end of the galaxy, the stuck timeline (not necessarily a bad thing) and so on, but that’s it for a while.
I do realise much of this may come across as bashing on 40k or the designers, but that is not my intention. I know that no major change is going to happen overnight, and that it does look like GW is moving in the right direction in terms of increasing the love for the background nutters, and expanding their viewpoints. The ranting and complaining is because I love.

Or they could just bring back Rogue Trader, consarn it *shakes fist*

Redesigning 40k for the 21st Century, pt2

Part 1 here

Part 3 here

So I'm putting my money where my mouth is here. But first, a preface.

Most races in 40k have been redesigned and refined over time. Eldar have changed the least of some, Tyranids the most. But the changes are there. Compare a 2nd ed Guardian to a modern plastic one:

The legs are more defined, the armour layered and so on, but still recognisable – just sleeker. Compare the old Falcon to the new:

Much bigger difference here. But they took a design I thought was cool back in the very early 90’s, and made it into a sleek, futuristic looking vehicle. Gone were the blocky shapes like a Lamborghini Countach, and in were the graceful curves of the vehicle’s namesake.
But Space Marines... they haven’t changed a bit since they first started.
Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but aside from a slight difference in scale and sculpting style a 2nd ed metal body Marine is the same as the Tac Squad box marine. With the fantasy tropes imported into the futuristic setting of 40k, Marines were given the role of Knights or Samurai: heavy armour, heroic, monastic, bold colours and so on.

It is easy to imagine a knight in armour or a samurai duelling to the death, leaping around and being generally action packed. Kinda like this:

Image from here

But it’s hard to see a guy this bulk and with these proportions doing something that dynamic:

There’s a reason most marine pictures are limited to ‘standing and shooting’, ‘standing and shouting (maybe while pointing)’ and ‘running while shooting and shouting’. generally physically impossible for a marine to get into a large amount of poses with the way they are.
I’m going to present a radical re-design, going quite a bit farther than I think is really necessary to illustrate my point.

So there it is, not the most wonderful design, but then again I’m not getting paid to do this... Starting from the overall view then working down from the top I’ll go over what I’ve done and why.

The Figure
Firstly, I changed the proportions rather drastically. Marines in the fiction are described as supersoldiers constantly on the attack, charging their foes and killing them either with dakka or their superior close combat skills. If you’ve ever read a Marine book from the Black Library you’ve likely read a description of them moving with blinding speed, parrying, jumping away from attacks/explosions and generally moving with great speed.

The GW Ultramarine design above doesn’t look like the kind of guy to fly through a window ahead of an explosion, land on his feet, draw a chainsword, block a guard, back kick another off a ledge, before ducking another swing and killing the first guy.
Does mine? I think it does more so, and since this is my blog I’m running with it so there.
But back to proportions. The GW UM is boxy overall, big flared boots balance out the massive shoulder pads. He is big, intimidating and I can easily picture him advancing relentlessly and unharmed through a barrage of gunfire and explosions.
However, that’s what Terminators are for, and the silhouette of the GW UM is not much removed from his bigger brother anymore. The shoulders are bigger, as is the backpack. The legs are more flared and blocky.

So what did I do? Firstly I narrowed him down, thinned the legs and waist, while keeping broad shoulders. The backpack was similarly reduced. His stance is more upright, with the feet closer together.

Accentuating the triangularity of the torso and giving the illusion of elevating the head (by having the helmet go above the backpack and shoulders) instantly makes him look more athletic. It’s a basic trick of figure design dating back to the ancient Greeks.
Many of the ‘best’ and ‘perfect’ examples of figure sculpture are anatomically impossible – they’d be all out of proportion to a real person (super shoulders and slightly small heads), have no tailbones to make their butts look better - extra muscles even. It’s because, much like in film, reality doesn’t look real – or people prefer to look at idealised reality depending on who you ask.

But this isn’t an art lesson, so onwards we go.

The Helmet
Possibly one of the most icon bits of Marine hardware, I fused elements of the Mks 4, 6 and 7 helmets together. The longer snout is Mk6, but is more squared off like a Mk4. It has the Mk7 grill, though cut at a slight angle to give the helm a sense of movement. Like it’s a wolf head lunging or some such.

The optics I made into a monovisor, because I like that and think it looks better. Yes, some of this is just personal preference.
Lastly I made it bigger, so Marines aren’t pinheads anymore.

The Shoulder Guards
Possibly one of the biggest changes I made. They’re now squarish with rounded edges, and made of two layered pieces. The idea is that the lower slides under the upper when the Marine raises his arm, so he doesn’t hit himself in the side of the head when he does the chicken dance.
They’re also a lot smaller, or at least end sooner down the upper arm.

The Arms

The forearm guard is based on the Mk4 piece, but with a raised stripe. I’m not sure what it’s for, but it adds a bit of visual interest over the sewerage pipe piece they’ve currently got. They could get a computer panel and keypad built into one arm on the inside of the wrist.

The Torso
The concept is fairly lengthy to describe, so bear with me.
The key here is layers (like a troll). The bottom layer is much like a Mk5 torso – the criss-cross cables going over each shoulder and under the armpits, with a fifth to the belt.
Over this goes the main breastplate (would have an eagle device, but left it off for clarity), much like Mk3 armour. The plate only covers the front and side of the ribs, rather than extending the whole way around.
The stomach has a similar piece, covering the abdominals and with the Mk8 style cable cover int the middle of it.
This accentuates it being tough armour, as it is additional to the ‘undersuit’, so to speak. It also gives more visual interest, with additional points of highlighting/shading and so on.

The Waist
I gave him Terminator style hip guards as a visual cheat. It lets the thigh armour start lower so the legs can bend into more positions without worrying about ‘clipping’.

The Legs
More layering. The Thighs have a raised section that goes most of the way around. The shins have a more moulded ‘inner’ piece, with the shape of the calf visible, with extra plating on the front. Around the ankles there are movable guards to, like the hips, allow for full flexibility without clipping.

The Backpack
Cut down, compact and more flowing curves to fit with the rest of the overall design.

The Bolter
Aside from being a bullpup (Azrael has one!) the main case is cut at a 45 degree angle at the front to make it look, for want of a better term, faster.

Would I, if given the opportunity by GW, make this Marine into the new look of Space Marines? No. I would, however, make one rather large change: pose and proportion (it’s two things, but one change – trust me).

I’ve recently been building the Forge World marines, and something struck me as odd about them. Aside from their obviously different armour something seemed odd about them. I then realised that they are skinnier than their plastic counterparts, and generally stand more upright (especially the Mks 4 and 6). No dramatically lunging or standing in Horse Riding stance for them. They also have narrower shoulders due to thinner shoulder pads.
Basically they do to a degree what I did in my first step – redesign the proportions. I’d go slightly further and tweak the dimensions here and there (taller thinner overall), add some more details and layering to the armour, but generally I’d keep them pretty similar.

I honestly think that’s all they need to be snazzed up – they can’t be changed too much, they are the iconic guys after all.
Which allows me to segue nicely into Part 3 about selling the game, keeping people interested, and why it’s important who cleans Eldrad’s toilet.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Redesigning 40k for the 21st Century, pt1

So our dear Warhammer 40k is twenty three years old, and the world is a much different place from those times. The Cold War is over, Thatcherism is gone in the UK, and technology has advanced quite apace. We have global communication on devices the size of your palm, cloning, mapping the human genome and reality television.
So how does this change the game?

Well, surprisingly, not much has changed. The Tau have been introduced in what many called a cynical cash-in on the explosion of the Anime market. Necrons and Dark Eldar appeared, but there haven’t been any great changes to the universe.
While we here enjoy the internet and tiny, touch screen phones to communicate globally (and tweet from space) that do more than any one device of 87 (unless you count a whole house as a ‘device’), the 40k guys still use radios with limited range to do everything.


Which one do you think the Guard get issued?

Obvioulsy a large part of this is scalability and modelling issues (but this is all about aesthetic [more on that later]) , but where are the tiny cybernetically implanted vox units that can contact orbiting ships? Where is the planetary, or even system wide, communication network? The seeds are there in the background, but it seems as if it all gets lost in the GRIMDARK(tm).

In the very back of the original Rogue Trader book there is a little section on the technology of the 41st millennium (page 267 for you grognards). It mentions that units built using atomic stacks, needing to only be as big as functionality necessitates. It also talks about phased crystal transmission, photon lines (super fibre optics), Sucrosol (a sucrose based cybernetic blood), holographic interfaces and more.
One particularly interesting one is the Electoo – a crystal stack implanted in the body to carry information. A further version of this is the Electrograft – an electoo implanted straight into the brain to impart knowledge (“I know kung-fu!”).

So there were variations of nanotech, bioengineering, advanced touch screens and RFID type devices. So where’d they all go? Why is it all flying buttresses made from skulls in the shape of a bigger skull? 40k (and in particular the Mechanicus) got stupid.

By that I mean when it started, 40k was basically a satirical rip on society and stole most of its base ideas from Dune and Fantasy:

Marines – Sardaukar
Navigators – Navigators
God Emperor – God Emperor
Religion devoted to said God Emp - Religion devoted to said God Emp
Chainsaw swords in a sci-fi world – Chrys knives / sword masters
And so on.

Not a bad thing, but as it grew and evolved on its own the unique aspects of the setting became accentuated:
Relentless suffering

Way back when in 1987 the world was a pretty sucky place if you were a nerd – sci-fi, comics and fantasy were still super un-cool, and very much underground to what they are now. In the UK there had just been the 86 London garbage strike, the heightened tension of the Cold War, and recovery from a serious recession (listen to London’s Calling and replace London with The Imperium). Nihilism was in. But even then it still had a slightly upbeat feel – this was “There is no time for peace. No respite, no forgiveness. There is only WAR”. Sure, war was eternal, but it could be won. Contrast with “In the GRIM DARKNESS of the far future, there is only war.” An end sounds less possible.

What does this have to do with the Mechanicus? Well in Rogue Trader, they were pretty smart (and wore white robes BTW), and liked researching and inventing things: “Their devotion to technical research... dabblers in the old sciences...” (RT pg139).
The mysticism was still there, but it was subtler than it is now. For instance you still have to chant and say prayers to a machine’s spirit to get it going, but it is more in the vein of a gamer’s superstition about their dice staying lucky (nobody touches them but me, blowing on them ‘for luck’, rolling in a certain order etc). The same as Marines would paint kill markings on their bolters – so the weapon’s spirit is honoured, and it continues to be filled with wrath. It was basically ‘gotta work with the spirits or I’ll be hit with bad mojo’.

It meant stuff could get done, like not having society fall apart. The modern view was satirised brilliantly in Mechanicum when Zeth lectures Dalia about the idiocy of thinking a light switch is spiritual.

We live in a society where technology is omni-present, so having a sci-fi universe with technology backwards from our own is... odd to say the least. Well, that’s not entirely true. The technology is there in theory, but we never see any of it.

Make everything look fancier too – boxes are very 80’s. Now it’s all sleek lines and curving shapes. Look at a lasgun:

Look at this gun:

It’s a modern assault rifle. Which looks like it’s from the future?
The same can be said for the designs of the guard themselves. Obviously moulding limitations exist, but they’re very bland to be honest. Nothing about them really screams ’38,000 years in the future!’. Even with the GRIMDARKness taken into account, there’s still something missing. The Krieg guys have some cool steampunkish lasrifles – I think the ‘regular’ guard need a dose of that mixed with the FELIN kit:


Armour tech is supposedly super advanced – many forums arguments have been made that 40k body armour could stop a modern machine guns and even light autocannons with no problem (though many dispute this of course). Either way, it doesn’t look futuristic in the slightest. Not even in a ‘we have super tech but can’t use it way’. Something Gears of Warish:

or a grungier version of Mass Effect (more tubes and skulls):

I mean they really look like they’re from the future. So, without further ado:


Glowing holo interfaces, electoos, glowing information cables connecting mega-cities. The Imperium still feels stuck in the past - I half expect characters in the novels to reach for rotary phones sometimes... as the hippy in the Simpsons said "Looks like someone's living in the past! Contemporise man!"
And un-brainwash/de-stupify the Mechanicum while you're at it. Having them suspicious of untested/new tech, constantly searching for a master STC unit etc is all good – just have them use their brains once in a while.

This religious aspect ties in to my next point. The, er, religion of the Imperium. We’re told that everyone is fanatically devoted to the Emperor and the Ecclesiarchy is ever-present and so forth. Except, much like the tech, you’d hardly know it. In what will be a rare game comparison, look at the Guard Codex. You can take a Priest, representing the many religious units across the galaxy (Valhallans, Tallarnians), and... that’s it. He doesn't even do much. Even the models are lacking in any religious symbols.
In Fantasy the Empire generals can’t go without bucket loads of comets, hammers and Sigmar vanity barding. The troops carry religious icons into battle, and there are special fanatical units all on their own (Flagellants).

40k either needs to bring in more of this or return to the view that the Ecclesiarchy is omni-present and powerful, but for the large part the populace doesn’t give a crap, being more concerned with their own survival. I’d go with option 2 myself, but that’s just me. Any redone Witch Hunters codex may partially resolve this, but if religion is truly a part of all Imperial citizen’s lives, it needs to be in ALL Imperial books.


The next one is unrelated to the others in the most part – the scale issue. Example, the Second War for Armageddon:
“The main war lasted for two years, but the actual combat continued for the next twenty years, a colossal effort for just one planet.”
Twenty years to retake a planet is colossal? Well, they do have a thousand Marines taking a planet in a week, so I suppose so...

Just as a frame of reference, it took 28,000 British soldiers 74 days to retake the Falklands. The Germans and Russians had over a million men involved in the battle for Stalingrad alone. The Allies committed in the area of 175,000 to the first day of the Normandy invasions. Eritrea fought for thirty years against Etheopia for independance.
Just look at the numbers on any First World War battle to get an idea of how ludicrously small the numbers in 40k are. Hell, the Athenians had 10,000 guys at Marathon for crying out loud.

Mass Effect 2 has a moment where one character tells the player he received an email from his nephew, and that it is important to him. He says it is important as it gives him a frame of reference, as it is impossible to visualise all the people in the galaxy, but he can visualise (and fight for)his nephew. 40k writers need to realise how many people there are, and multiply everything they do by about a hundred or so.

Fear The Alien has an Ork force big enough to take a Hive (populations in the uncountable millions) funnelled through a single valley and distracted by a single fortress. Yeah... maybe not.


First up, I’d shrink the Imperium. Maybe have it cover a quarter to a third of the galaxy. A big chunk around Terra, then a strip between the galactic core and the Orks of Charadon, then a smaller blob around the Eastern fringe and Maccragge.
This means that the Imperium, while still under siege, can be expanding into unknown space. I think that is part of why the Horus Heresy series is so popular – the Marines (and humanity) are heroically sticking it to the galaxy. In the 41st millennium they’re patching the cracks more than being heroic. Whilst grim and dark, I like my escapism to be fun and exciting, not a depressing reminder about the transient nature of our achievements.

"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Secondly, a million Marine chapters of 1000 each. So what if an entire Chapter masses outside your city to assault it. Escape on your private yacht of evil and drop a nuke on them. 1000 dudes don’t take up much space, so they’ll all be in the central blast area and be instantly vapourised.

So much for the Ultramarines!

You wouldn’t send a single regiment to re-take a planet, you’d send five hundred battle groups each made of hordes of regiments.


or it'll become dated like 70s and 80s (and even 90s now) sci-fi. Rollerball, Logan's Run, Soylent Green, Farenheit 451 all have 'lol, it's "the future"' moments - pay phones, reel to reel computers, flares, women introducing themselves as "Mrs John Smith".
The other, potentially worse, possability is that 40k will end up becoming a parody of itself, without realising it. 3rd edition and early 4th were heading that way with the stripped down backgrounds in the Codex, GRIMDARK, and a lot of really stupid changes to the background (Men of Iron, no new plasma weapons/Terminator suits/Dreadnoughts [see my point about numbers earlier]). Things definately seem to be heading away from this, but only time will tell.

I doubt any major changes like I have brought up will happen any time soon, but I sincerely hope 40k marches onward as the real world does.

That’s it for now – next up: Redesigning the Space Marine! Plus, what to do with those aliens, and what about the kids?