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Comments by YACCS
Saturday, July 15, 2006

About Warhammer 40K and the Space Marines

Blood Angels for Lamont

Ultramarine Legion of Lieberman

Ok, for people who don't play Warhammer or Warhammer 40K, which I assume is the vast majority of you, my references to Space Marines may seem bizarre, but there's a sound reason for it.

First, let me quote from the Wiki about what the game is:

Warhammer 40,000, the Game


Each player assembles an army, consisting of white metal and plastic miniature figurines (models) - each, usually, representing a single military figure from one of the official lists. These armies are constrained by rules contained within the Warhammer 40,000 rulebook, as well as in several army-specific Codexes. The size and power of the army is determined on a points system, with each unit being assigned a number of points proportional to its potential worth on the battlefield. Before a game the players agree on how many points will be used as the maximum army size and each assemble an army up to that maximum limit. Common game sizes are usually between 400 and 2,000 points, but can be much larger. In addition, there are rules for much smaller games. Games generally run from half an hour to several hours depending on the size of the armies.

Play is divided into turns, with each player choosing specific actions for all of his units on his turn, and using dice to determine the results of those actions. Each battle, at the onset, is assigned a set of additional rules and a goal (collectively called a "scenario") specific to it. The most common of these is a basic "cleanse" mission (which was the "default" mission in 3rd edition), which ends after six turns, the victor being declared based on who controls the four quarters of the battlefield; more complex goals can include night fights, bunker assaults, ambushes, and various others. Other games include simply eliminating the other force (meatgrinder scenario).

Some players organize a series of scenarios, called a campaign, where two or more players fight against each other in a number of battles. These campaigns may feature their own special rules, and are tied together by a storyline, which might alter according to the results of each scenario when it is played. Every few years, a global campaign is held in which people submit the results of their games to Games Workshop. These results are collated, and together affect the storyline of the game, which is then accounted for in the next rulebook and fiction releases. The most recent of these global campaigns was the Eye of Terror Campaign. A new worldwide campaign is currently underway, titled The Fall of Medusa V.


As of June 2006, new players wishing to start playing should expect to spend at least £200 ($367) but may need to spend much more, in the region of £300,($500) for a basic playable army with little or no room for customisation (1,000 points). This figure includes costs for the rulebook, the army's codex, and modelling equipment such as paints and glue[1]. Players must also purchase individual units in squads or in boxed sets. The cost of boxed sets varies widely (£18 to £75), depending on the contents. However, the boxed set does not provide for all available options, meaning that players must purchase additional blister packs, each containing one to three models. A typical blister pack costs around £6.

Games Workshop is often accused of pricing its models on how they perform on the battle-field rather than how much money was spent on/in production.

In addition to the current line of units, Games Workshop makes available past model lines as a part of their mail-order-only "Classic" series. These are models that have been used for earlier versions of the game. This is one of many ways to get certain miniatures which have been discontinued.


Since the models are hand-painted and assembled by the player, people are encouraged to design their own paint schemes as well as using the pre-designed ones displayed in the various books. They are also encouraged to further modify their figures and vehicles using parts from other kits and models (known as "bitz" to players), or scratch-built from plasticard, modelling putty and whatever the modeller has at hand. These conversions are often entered into contests at sponsored tournaments and similar gaming events.

Terrain is a very important part of play. Although Games Workshop has terrain kits available, many hobbyists prefer to make their own elaborate and unique set pieces. Common household items like soft drink cans, coffee cups, styrofoam packing pieces, and pill bottles can be transformed into ruined cathedrals, alien habitats, or terrain with the addition of plasticard, putty, and a bit of patience and skill.


Some gamers may not be able to acquire the necessary miniatures for an army, due to a variety of reasons. Instead, they choose to proxy, or substitute, a model with other figures; such as Lego figures or miniatures from another company, or army. Such "stand-in" armies are not eligible for tournament play and most Games Workshop stores will not allow their use (depending on the degree of "proxying").


The Warhammer 40,000 game world is most readily characterized as a gothic science-fantasy setting. The central and most popular elements of the Warhammer 40,000 universe are the Space Marines, anachronistic combinations of sci-fi super-soldiers and fantasy knights and the finest warriors of the Imperium of Mankind, a dystopian and degenerate galaxy-spanning empire.

The physical setting of this story is the Materium, with all action here in the Milky Way Galaxy. Much of this is controlled by the The Imperium of Man, though it is not the only galactic denizen. Other races include the Orks, a greenskinned trollike race, and the Eldar, the former rulers of a great empire. A dynamic, galaxy-spanning story line is possible because of a separate plane of existence, the Immaterium or "Warp." The Warp is described as a realm of thought, where desires and emotions can take physical form, and with currents and eddies that make traveling vast interstellar distances difficult, yet possible. As this is a realm of thought, a coalescence yields an often sinister warp entity. The strongest of these entities are the Chaos Gods, Khorne (a god of rage, bloodshed and war), Nurgle (a god of despair and decay), Tzeentch (a god of change, deception, scheming and magic) and Slaanesh (a god of pleasure, pain, depravity and decadence).

The Gods of Chaos are the result of the darkest impulses in the living souls of the universe's inhabitants. Their cults have a dynamic and antagonistic relationship. Khorne opposes Slaanesh, while Nurgle opposes Tzeentch. Nurgle is the personification of powerlessness, Tzeentch personifies power, Khorne personifies duty and rage, and Slaanesh personifies the epicurean or the sensual. These four Dark Powers are not the only entities in the Warp, but they are the greatest and most powerful. It is said, in the background to Warhammer 40,000, that the nature of the Warp is beyond human comprehension and is truly unknowable.


The Warhammer 40,000 game, and consequentially the fictional universe, is made up of many races and species. The main playable armies in the game are the Chaos Space Marines, Daemonhunters, Dark Eldar, Eldar, Imperial Guard, Necrons, Orks, Space Marines, Tau, Tyranids and Witch Hunters. Most races have many offshoots; examples include the following (however, this list is not exhaustive):

* Space Marines: Blood Angels, Space Wolves, Dark Angels, etc.
* Imperial Guard: Catachans, Iron Guard, Mordians, Cadians, etc.
* Tau: Kroot Mercenaries
* Craftworld Eldar: Iyanden, Ulthwé, Alaitoc, etc
It is VERY expensive to play, far more than any other miniatures set for any other era. For that reason, most gamers warn people off of getting involved with the W40K world. However, there is a much cheaper alternative, the computer game Warhammer 40K: The Dawn of War, for people interested in this. Most wargaming rules are far more flexible. You can play from the American Revolution up with plastic figures. Since this is a copyrighted product, you're pretty much captive to their world.

The central event in this game is the Horus Heresy

Horus Heresy
From Lexicanum

The Horus Heresy marked the end of the Great Crusade.

During the heresy, the forces of Chaos showed themselves to several Space Marine legions. This action corrupted these Legions for Chaos's tasks. Foremost among these corrupted Chaos Space Marines was Warmaster Horus, who until then had been considered the greatest warrior of humanity.

These renamed "Chaos Space Marines", abandoning their earlier charge, began a trek back to Terra (Earth), laying waste to their former allies holdings along the way.

Eventually, these corrupted marines landed on Terra, experiencing heavy resistance from several loyal Space Marine legions. Victory seemed to be assured, until Horus let his guard down to watch the final breakthrough and destruction of the Imperial Palace. The Emperor saw this opportunity and teleported to the Warmaster's personal battlebarge with two of his Primarchs. In an epic scene that would burn itself into the minds of all battle-brothers of the Blood Angels chapter, the Primarch Sanguinius fought Horus in single combat, wounding the fallen warrior. But Horus power was too great and Sanguinius fell. At this point the Emperor charged in and assaulted the Warmaster Horus. The Emperor was successful in defeating Horus, but only barely; he lay dying as well. Due in part to his psychic skills, the Emperor survived long enough to be transferred to the Golden Throne - a strange mechanism that would allow him to survive forever in a state of undeath.

After the failure of the Heresy, the remaining Chaos Space Marines retreated into the Eye of Terror, from which they periodically launch Black Crusades into the Imperium led by Abaddon the Despoiler, who is rumored to be the clone-son of Horus.
Now there is a massive backstory to this, and the links will let you explore it in detail.

So why use this?

Because of a few reasons.

One, the figures are widely available online, usually well painted, which makes great illustrations

Two, it seems enough people are familiar with the back story so that using it as an allegory to describe Joe Lieberman's troubles makes sense. It may seem like gibberish to some, but it's really effective. The Horus Heresy, which has betrayal at it's core, seems to describe Lieberman's predicament pretty well.

Three, there is no historical or social bias to the W4oK world. If you use historical figures, all kinds of meanings can be inferred where there aren't any. So to depict Lieberman as a Ultramarine and Lamont as a Blood Angel, with various other participants as members of Space Marine chapters is a wonderful way to take a lighthearted look at the politics of the Connecticut race and not feed the need for Lieberman's people to infer some insane bias against him.

Sure, there's geekdom involved, which is no handicap here, especially when Jen painted a ton of AD&D figures, but it's also a way to express issues of loyalty and opposition in a fictional world where those are the defining characters.

More than any other fictional setting, Warhammer 40K is about the duty of citizens to the state and to each other and the value of loyalty.

posted by Steve @ 9:48:00 AM

9:48:00 AM

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