Sgathaich:The Fall and Rise of the Chaos Legions – The Fall & The Dark Times

sgathaich bannerThe Fall

By 2007 the 4th edition of Warhammer 40k had been going for some time, and it was time for a new Chaos Space Marine’s codex. But this one had changed. Daemons were just replaced by Summoned Daemons with us being informed a proper Daemon codex was coming. The rules for army generation was considerably simplified which was to become the standard going forward. But a sadder change had happened, rules for the legions were gone. Mini books dedicated to making your army represent one of the traitor legions were replaced all by one rule, shared by all of them. Without this rule you were representing what was called Chaos Renegades.

Chaos Space Marines Warhammer

The 3.5 codex had some info on them, Space Marines who had turned to Chaos since the Heresy rather than during it but they were a foot note compared to the mighty legions. But now in what I call the worst decision GW made with Chaos, Renegades were given top billing. This was not a codex or army about those that brought the Imperium to its knees and instead the random no names that turned to Chaos for little to no reason. I asked people about this and some claimed it was to represent that the legions were no more, they were split up and became war bands instead. The focus of the codex was the Red Corsair’s war band. They had some info in the 3.5 but now they were much more fleshed out including a named special character Huron Blackheart. Even going as far to claim his forces were rivaling Abaddon the Despoiler leader of the Black Legion and current Warmaster of Chaos.

The Daemon codex was more promising as the promised identity to Daemons had returned, named characters with stories and history that was almost Greek in its nature.  But while the codex was fine there was an issue with the version for Warhammer Fantasy Battle. It was written by a man named Matt Ward, a name that in the fandom would live in infamy. The army was considered too good, far too good which led to them having to release a whole new edition of the game, which would turn out to be the last.

The Fall had happened, these were now the Dark Times.

The Dark Times

To say that only Chaos suffered for the Dark Times would be ignoring all other matters. The Dark Times contained some of the worst written codex and decisions in the history of the games. And the company suffered for it.

They weren’t all bad, army books and codex’s moved to hard back instead of paper back which though more expensive, for those that enjoy having a visible collection looks far more appealing. 4th and 5th edition Warhammer 40k were rather interchangeable so it was less noticeable when one became the other. 5th edition Necrons brought some welcome change. They felt less like blank puppets for alien gods that had no identity other than a rip off of the terminator design wise, and instead had a dark Egyptian feel to them, they too now had named characters with stories. No longer were they puppets but overthrew those that turned them into these soulless robots. Still an ancient force rising up but now on their own terms rather than feeling like someone was trying to replace Chaos as the big bad.

A new model type called fine cast came out. Some models previously had been made in metal and that was getting expensive to acquire for such small models so fine cast was brought in to fix that. Sadly that didn’t work too well as difficulties in the casting resulted in bubbles and many other issues that people actually buying them disliked since they often came out looking rather broken or with glaring flaws. However it did allow for some rather more dynamic looking models which would ultimately lead into some truly amazing plastic figures we have today. Fine cast still exists for specialist order models by the way.

But still this was the Dark Times. As mentioned Matt Ward is heavily known for his influence in this period, other codex he worked on were either horribly written, overpowered to the point of no fun to play again or often both.

Space Marines, the regular kind, lost all their diversity too. You see Ward was a big fan of the Ultramarines, and sadly given he was writing the rules and lore he wrote them like a small child writing about his favorite super hero. All other Space Marines’ chapters became second to them. The lore he wrote for them became about how amazing they were. Even the great Horus Heresy when the legions were at the strongest he claimed they were tricked to not take part in it by Horus as he knew he couldn’t stand against them. Editorials claimed you could now just use the special named characters to represent anyone from your chapter.

Compared to Chaos, regular Space Marines were now more powerful which didn’t make sense. These people turned to Chaos and gained power from it, yet the loyalists were showing up as better fighters than their daemonically enhanced brethren.

The ultimate epitome of codex during the Dark Times though was the Grey Knights. Special Super Anti Chaos Space Marines. This army was widely considered the most overpowered army in the game for years. It had characters like Kaldor Draigo that were written in the most Mary-Sue manner. People paying attention to the lore of the primacies, the very founders of the legions who were meant to all be demi god like figures, called out how bad this guy was written. If you ever see a series based on 40k making fun of Ultramarines and Grey Knights it’s usually because of this period of time.

As 5th went into 6th edition and new codex were to be in hard back this time, we Chaos players had hoped for something. Maybe they would show that a Chaos Space Marine by lore is meant to be stronger than his loyalist equivalent. Or maybe the legions were to come back. But no. Everything that was wrong with 4th was still here, no rules for legions, a focus on renegades and now we had cultists who would soon replace Chaos Space Marines as the go to units. I laugh to this day that many tournament lists for Chaos Space Marines take as little CSM as possible.

Warhammer 40K

But surely you think, well they probably developed those Red Corsairs more, the war band they focused on when they began to focus on renegades? No, rather than develop the new guys they had already made they gave us another group of nobodies no one had ever heard of before called the Crimson Slaughter.

People called out for legions. They read the works of the Black Library and the characters like Ahriman and the Thousand Sons – all with interesting histories and motives, unique powers. The rules all failed to represent them. These books weren’t about some nobodies that turned to Chaos last week. These were the legions the very people GW kept ignoring. Rumours abound about a Chaos Legions codex but it was all wishful thinking.

GW experimented at this time with something called codex supplement. Little bonus codex that contained mostly lore, but also some small amount of bonus rules to make the force more unique. Unfortunately they didn’t sell well. Many people feeling this could all have just been in the main codex. Made worse was the choice for the supplements for Chaos were the Crimson Slaughter, the no name boring people from 6th edition, and the Black Legion who as mentioned were meant to be the bog standard CSM. No other Chaos supplements were released and supplements themselves vanished after a short time.

It was during these times that the specialist games all died out, some kept going by specialist interest like Blood Bowl. But these were not official. Places like Orkney’s own war gaming club still ran leagues but this was mainly through converting Warhammmer models and using downloaded rules than any real official releases. Battlefleet Gothic, Necromunda the specialist games vanished leaving only Warhammer Fantasy Battle and 40k (they did do Lord of the Rings but as the movies had ended the interest died down, not helped by massive balancing issues they failed to address)

But the Dark Times were worse for Warhammer Fantasy.

Next: The End Times

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