Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Gathering Storm: Rise of the Primarch Part 4 - The Roads Ahead (Warhammer 40,000 Supplement Review)

With the ending of this book, the Gathering Storm trilogy has come and gone. With it we have witnessed a number of sweeping changes to three of the setting's major factions, and the re-introduction of a number of major elements within the narrative. Obviously this was a massive game-changer, and it has reinvented a number of major parts of the setting on the whole. As the name also implied, this seems to have also been an opportunity to have Warhammer 40,000 spring-board its way into larger events, and a much bigger ongoing narrative.

So, having read through this, the question is so what happens now?

Because of how prominent this question is, and just how far reaching the possibilities are, this part will be both referring back to events in the book, but considering what they might imply. Specifically how they might reflect upon how future events will be handled and how the thematic approaches of future tales will differ from past works. 

Plus, we'll also be looking into a few of the mistakes which were made in my opinion; because there are some structural flaws here which simply cannot go unremarked upon.

The Age of Legends Over End Times

The very fact we're advancing the story is a massive change unto itself, both thematically and in terms of future books. While that might sound like a obvious statement, please seriously stop to consider what this means for a moment. Warhammer itself has always been made based upon the idea that it was just a few years away from annihilation. Every codex from the Fifth Edition onward repeatedly emphasised this point, over and over again by adding in more and more gigantic Armageddon grade events for each faction. Some were ascending, annihilating everything in their path, others were gripped in civil wars, while a few were fighting a desperate battle for survival. While some have exaggerated the technological decay of the Imperium, it cannot be denied as a factor in storytelling. Save for the likes of the Tau Empire or the daemons of Chaos, every faction is working with remnants of better ages. Relic weapons, vehicles and even baseline psychic concepts were all taken from a better age. Often a step forwards was either only made by building upon what little had been recovered, or it was reclaiming what had been lost, like with the Storm Eagle entering production once more.

The whole point was that almost every story focused upon a dark, almost nihilistic tone to one degree or another, where characters knew that something grim awaited them in the next millennium. It was akin to how the Cthulhu Mythos handled its own tales, and while some tales such as Gaunt's Ghosts, the Ultramarines saga, Ciaphas Cain books or others would lessen the effect, they could not escape it entirely. The grim darkness of the far future was as defining a theme for this setting as boundless optimism was for Star Trek. The problem is, now we have removed that stopper, and the game itself seems to have been shifting about us. What the lore focuses upon now is less an age where Chaos might reign supreme so much as the era of a new Eldar Empire or second Great Crusade. It's more hopeful, more upbeat and positive despite everything, and in some ways it seems to have gained and lost something in equal measure.

The obvious aspect it has gained stems from the creative freedom on offer now. With that seal broken, writers can begin working and experimenting with many of the ideas which have been hinted at for decades. The return of a primarch to the Imperium alone is enough to send shock-waves across the galaxy, and his reaction to things like the Imperial Church, new powers, technologies and threats the Legions never faced is ripe for story opportunities. Equally, the idea that the eldar could be united once more as a race is a genuinely good one. It would be a difficult uphill battle, it would be a chance to more thoroughly explore the species than anything seen before and, for all the criticisms I had of Fracture of Biel-Tan, a well executed approach would be an engaging narrative. Yet, because of this much of the initial mystery and wonder born of the original work seems to be gone. 

What often drew many people to Warhammer 40,000 was the same thing which made Dark Souls' lore so fascinating. Players were greeted with half-truths of older eras, an age of decline and a time when greatness had been seeping out of the galaxy. The truth behind many ideas needed to be pieced together by individual players, and everything was put into question to some degree. With this new start, that aspect seems to be bereft of this setting. Many of the old question are being given definitive answers, the old fan-fiction ideas rapidly dealt with immediately, and an unfortunate number of plot hooks are either being rapidly resolved or discarded entirely. The latest among these was M'Kar's invasion of Ultramar, which is only granted a passing mention in the Rise of the Primarch. While these stories are admittedly seeded with new hints and mysteries - including one surrounding Guilliman and Ynnead which could be very fun to see play out - they are approached in a very different way. Their scope is much narrower, much more limited to a few individuals, and is less "galactic" in terms of scale.

In brief, it's less the sort of thing you would expect from Warhammer 40,000 and more something akin to the Age of Sigmar.

Now, I have nothing personally against the Age of Sigmar (how it was brought about, yes, but let's not open up that can of worms again) but they're two very different games. One is a Norse war and celestial conflict, a mash up of Spelljammer, Flash Gordon, and the Marvel idea of Jack Kirby and Walt Simonson, with the ideas of Warhammer Fantasy behind it. It's a great setting in its down right, but it focuses less upon establishing a vast universe and setting over a series of epic sagas following larger than life characters. By comparison, the dark nature of 40,000 worked better on a larger scope, focusing more upon the armies than the individuals. There were always the odd exceptions to this, yes, but if you were to sit down and compare the likes of Sentinels of Terra with the Vraks Campaign, it quickly becomes clear which style is more appropriate to the setting. 

By following a few focal characters or general narrative threads, we run into the old issue of a very narrow narrative focus. It becomes less a story about various armies, less a story about empires and granting players the opportunities to build their own forces, and more about the few people leading them. While the opening Fall of Cadia might have been extremely character focused, there was still enough room to show that the ground troops and warships involved were playing an incredibly important role in events. Unfortunately, this was promptly thrown out of the window with Fracture of Biel-Tan and ignored entirely with Rise of the Primarch. In each case, the only important figures involved were the newly introduced characters, with everyone else effectively just serving as their fodder. It leaves me worried that, while the story itself might progress, it won't be enough to actually emphasis the sheer scale of galactic warfare, or the vast legions involved in any fight. When we have a story moving forwards, it makes me concerned that the narrative won't focus upon the potential loss of a major world or an army, but how it will simply affect the demigod leading it.

This also leads into the next subject rather nicely.

No Men, Only Gods

So, Guilliman is alive, Magnus is active again and the Yncarne is ascendant. We have beings so powerful that they can break armies on their own striding about the galaxy, capable of pimp-slapping Bloodthirsters about and fell mini-Titans in slugging matches. So, where does that leave room for everyone else, then?

It's the old problem of introducing someone like Superman into a story, as once you have someone who can beat almost everyone at their own game, there seems to be no room for anyone less powerful. The problem is, however, that while DC Comics and Marvel have their own methods of balancing out the obvious differences in power between such groups, Warhammer doesn't have that same opportunity. There's no morality issue to hold back any of these characters, no kryptonite to rely upon, and quite frankly few skills where they can edge out against these figures. 

This mentality of pushing anyone who isn't god-tier aside can already be found within these stories very early on. On the side of the eldar, the Yncarne is the single most important being of the entire book, understandably perhaps given his role, but also the only other characters of real worth are also linked directly to his power. Eldrad barely gets a mention, Yriel is pushed into being little more than a sacrificial lamb to show off their abilities, and Iyanna is all but forgotten within a few pages of her introduction. The same problem arises with Guilliman, but it's taken to an absolute extreme. While a few figures do receive glory moments early on into Rise of the Primarch, once the Avenging Son awakens he effectively hijacks the story for himself. Calgar is reduced to a background mention along with the entirety of the Ultramarines' command staff, Celestine only shows up in secondary mentions, and even the other released characters are little more than a means to an end. There's no real narrative balance here, and there are few moments indeed for characters to shine.

A rather heated discussion in the comments section of this review's second part (which I did not get involved in for reasons of neutrality) repeated such fears at a few points. While personally I cannot agree with several points - such as the fact the story will focus only upon the primarchs - I do think we'll see a rise in these sorts of characters over the coming editions. From Farsight to Ghazghkull, every faction has its own figure which can easily become a demigod and an ascendant power in their own right. Each has been seeded with figures which can be upgraded to a level on par with the primarchs and, going from past Supplements, the extremely character based tales effectively set them up for this sudden rise to power. The problem is, the story honestly seems like it doesn't fully know what to do with them once it crossed the line of adding them into the setting, at least besides having them fight one another,

Rise of the Primarch in particular showed Guilliman as a near unstoppable force capable of ripping apart Terminators with his bare hands. In terms of tactics, planning, leadership and sheer skill at arms he is presented as completely outdoing everyone else beneath him, and this turns him into the sole focus of the tale. So much so, that only the addition of Tzeentch's most powerful servant briefly stops him, and he runs into few problems at all until Magnus decided to personally have a go at fighting his brother. This has the unfortunate side effect of turning Warhammer 40,000 into a Godzilla film, merely with the JSDF replaced by standard troops and the kaiju switched out for the big guns. The latter can only be beaten by another of their kind it seems, at least going by narrative requirements, and by doing it effectively removes a great deal of player involvement from the story. As we mentioned way back in the Sentinels of Terra review, it renders any of your own creations or armies completely moot as it's always going to be someone else taking center stage and making the important decisions here.

Another factor, and one which can't be ignored, is the fact that by focusing more upon these "big guns" of each army, the Imperium and Chaos have a massive advantage over everyone else. While I disagree with the idea that it will somehow render all other races superfluous to the setting, the fact they have far more to work with and release cannot be ignored. After all, each side has seven of these figures to call upon. As it stands, the Tau Empire have only one potential figure, the Orks have perhaps two, who knows if the Tyranid Hive Fleets will even see one at all, the Necrons might have two, and the Eldar only have three at the most. Okay, perhaps more, but that depends heavily upon the Phoenix Lords getting a long deserved power boost. Because of this, even without going into the re-introduction of the Custodes or Sisters of Silence, we're likely to see the human races still taking an extremely prominent role in the setting. Likely one to the detriment of the other factions, and with an even more tunnel-vision focus upon Chaos.

Even if you don't accept that, however, consider this: Above all others here, the primarchs are the ones who the majority of the fandom would want to see. They're the ones who have had the most written about them, the most personality in their events and with the continued successes of the Horus Heresy line, and they're the ones with the biggest population of relevant armies. Unfortunately, the simple truth is that the fandom would be more excited as a whole about Leman Russ' return than a C'Tan partially reforming itself out of shards.

What's Now Is Now

Above all else, something which seriously needs to be considered here is the speed and pacing at which certain tales will be dealt with. Specifically how quickly events will resolve themselves and rapidly tie up loose ends so they can move forwards. When you sit back and really look at the Gathering Storm event for a few minutes you will realise two things: It accomplished exactly what the fandom wanted, advancing the storyline to a degree unseen in past years and rapidly retooling the universe to fit a new status quo. At the same time however, it cannot be denied that it went from "Chaos is victorious, we're screwed!" to "Time for the Second Great Crusade, long live the new Emperor!" in the space of perhaps a few days at most.

Little time was actually taken to really explore the consequences behind each event, or even the revelations that arose between the Fall of Cadia and the second Battle of the Webway. We had the Thirteenth Black Crusade succeed, we had Chaos spilling forth and attacking countless worlds, but no time at all was spent exploring the supposed Apocalypse which was to follow this event, nor the end of times which was supposed to follow. For what should have been the death knell for all that was good in the universe, we received what basically was presented as a bad few weeks for a few worlds and a few Chaos raids. Even the very assault upon Ultramar itself was almost nothing special. How unexpected, how impossible an attack, this should have been was all but completely ignored until the event lacked even a fraction of the scale it needed to reflect upon the major changes going down. Given how speedy a resolution we had, you would almost be forgiven for thinking it was more of a daring assault than any titanic invasion force.

When you sit back and compare this event to other outings, it doesn't take long to realise just how many missed opportunities there truly were. If there was ever a time to explore Chaos, to really shake up the status quo and rapidly change things, this was now, and we have seen that handled excellently in the past. The often mentioned Shape of the Nightmare to Come, my personal gold standard for these stories, spent its entirety examining how this would effect each group in turn. From Abaddon establishing his own Dark Imperium while fighting off opportunistic daemon primarchs to Biel-Tan establishing its own small empire at long last, to the fate of the Imperium breaking up into small feuding kingdoms, it covered everything. 

Now, while that story might have been a monumental event across ten thousand years, the author made sure to do two things: Firstly, to make sure that he did everything possible with these opportunities. From Yarrick falling as a hero to large factions of the Black Templars becoming nihilistic insane warmongers, it wasn't afraid to experiment with what might happen should Cadia fall. Each and every one of those mini-stories featured more fine detail and more substance than much of what was found here, covering enough to ensure anyone would be taken in by the in-depth narrative. Secondary however, it also ensured that there was a darkness before the light. When a primarch returned, it was only after the universe had suffered and readers realised just how badly they were needed, and it allowed them to have immediate impact upon the setting, adding to their grandeur.
Even if you don't want to count fanfiction options though, also consider what we have seen in the past. Imperial Armour always accomplished showing the long term consequences of each war, and the build up towards the ongoing battles. Smaller, minor, things like the affect a war would have upon shipping in the area or even the politics of the Inquisition were always present, and there was always enough there to give a sense of genuine conflict between two huge forces. More importantly, it managed to feature a number of prominent characters on each side, made their role essential to the story and featured a fair bit of personal drama, all while retaining a key focus upon the army as a whole throughout most of each story. Hell, even if you're tired of that one or think it has the benefit of a larger page count, the likes of Battlefleet Gothic also accomplished the same thing on a much more restrained length. It might have lacked a few of the character bits and featured a shorter ending, but it nevertheless built up the image of a hellish war and a sense of dread building towards the first battles.

The simple point is that many of these stories seemed to only focus upon what was important at that moment. They never paused, never seemed to move towards showing more of Ultramar affected by this war, and never stopped to really give a greater sense of scale. While it did have a few moments where it fleetingly touched upon this, such acts were often tied into the "protagonist" of that particular book, and were often quickly skimmed over.

On the one hand, such an approach does mean that they can more easily advance and adapt the narrative as the tale evolves. On the other however, it seems as if Warhammer 40,000 is about to lose one of its greatest strengths in delivering something the fans have asked about for so long. While a new approach is certainly needed to help encourage an ongoing tale and adapting storyline, it needs stories to back up the advancing plot and to give each twist more meaning. Perhaps Black Library can be used to fill this gap, but lore books or even extended segments within campaign releases would easily be able to carry out this role without too much trouble.

A New Dawn

More so than anything else, we need to cover this part. This is going to be very brief, but it seems to be something that few people have picked up on, despite the big warning lights going on throughout these books. So, here it is: This isn't a continuation, it's a soft reboot. 

Now, this is down to personal opinion, I will admit, but everything here fits in with that definition of the term. A soft reboot is where a writer tries to reset or retcon a series back to its initial starting point as something of a do-over, but it doesn't simply abandon what was established. Instead it works around the stories established, and brings them to a point where they can focus upon a new status quo after usurping the old one. In this case, what we have is a new Imperial crusade being launched against Chaos, a new seemingly united eldar people and Chaos growing in power. Many of these points fit into events closer to M31 than anything else, and while some M41 ideas remain, thematically and even in terms of general presentation, it is trying to almost start over. It's following a new direction entirely, and what we get is largely opposed to what came before.

This is most evident when you actually sit down and compare how the books treated established plot-hooks and cliffhangers with its own events. Each time, they were either rapidly resolved at a breakneck speed or quickly abandoned/dealt with off-screen so they didn't get in the way. Everything was rapidly shuffled side and reworked so that nothing would remain to get in the way of a fresh start for someone, and each army could focus upon something new instead.

Most of the stories we will see will likely revolve around the older ideas more than anything else. So, while Cypher's tale will be told at last, it's unlikely the Celestial Lions will see any resolution to their tale, nor will the abruptly dropped suggestion that the Dark Angels and all their successors had reformed into a single legion and were advancing towards Cadia. Again, this is good and bad, with the bad relating to the loss of ongoing ideas and story opportunities, while the good allows for more of an ongoing tale to be rapidly updated as time goes by. What will shift this in one direction or the other will ultimately depend upon how the writers choose to handle certain key events.

Final Thoughts

There's little left to say which hasn't been mentioned already here. Ultimately, we're off the edge of the map here and it seems that anything can go from here on. Whether or not that will be for good or ill will ultimately come down to the skill of the writers behind this, but it's hard not to shake the feeling that for everything we'll gain here, we'll lose something of equal value. Only time will tell if this push will have truly been worth it in the long run.


  1. To be entirely fair to how you described the narrative shift:
    "Chaos is victorious, we're screwed!" to "Time for the Second Great Crusade, long live the new Emperor!"
    With the exception of a Primarch returning that is how the 13th Crusade ended, with Cadia all but lost and the Imperials finally getting a leg up on the Chaos forces, to the point that I'm not sure how they could really be a threat after that (it's hard to do anything when they have next to no ships left and the Imperial Navy can bomb the planets). I will say that I think it's rather refreshing that they didn't just go the route of having the inevitable Chaos victory and I'm interested in where they take the setting from here.

    I also think they focused so much on Guilliman mainly because that's what a lot of people wanted to see for so long.
    As for how they should focus on other characters, the first FW Horus Heresy book showed us how to do that well and they came up with a number of very compelling characters, even among the Primarchs.
    To use a different example, I didn't think Hector Rex's duel against An'ggrath was any less interesting because he wasn't 10 feet tall and wielded a sword made out of fire. Had Guilliman been directing the siege of Vraks then you still could have had Rex, he still could have fought An'ggrath and his victory would still be just as impressive.
    To use yet another example, when Mortarion's Heart fixed the lore and showed how Draigo beat Mortarion it was interesting to learn how he did it. If he took on Mortarion and he was also a massive demigod then I think it wouldn't be as interesting because the size of the threat in comparison to the hero makes it all the more compelling as to how the inevitable fight will go.

    Personally I don't really see this as a soft reboot, just another point in the timeline. The Codices can form around this quite easily in my opinion, all they need to do is mention how Guilliman's increasing the speed of the Imperial war machine and I'm actually having a hard time thinking of events that they'll have to drop that they aren't going to be able to explain away in a blurb.
    The Dark Angels for example could find themselves arriving too late thanks to the massive increase in warp storms. Simple, done. Only really bad lore that shouldn't have been in the books in the first place will really have to be dropped (such as that bit in the AdMech books about the Golden Throne) so leaving those out would be a good thing in my opinion.

    1. It's mostly a note of how the whole book really ended. I mean, out of what we got, what actually stopped to focus upon Chaos spreading across the galaxy? The assault upon Ultramar was dealt with within a few chapters, with Guilliman dealing with everything short of direct influence by the Chaos gods with little to really slow him down. The same goes for the engagement with the Red Corsairs and many other later parts. Little there really seemed like a threat, and it honestly seems to me personally that they skipped the immediate loss or potential threat in favour of trying to level the playing field almost immediately. Hell, part of me honestly thinks that Magnus was thrown in purely to show that Chaos was not unbeatable and that the Imperium could fight them on even terms, one leader against another.

      When you look at the actual ending to Rise of the Primarch, little really pauses to actually reflect the damage of Cadia did to losing the Imperium. Instead it seems to try and present the Imperium stronger than ever, gathering forces it has not used in an age and covering details of abrupt mass recruitment across the galaxy with the Imperium set to immediately go on the offensive. It robs any impact the loss of Cadia might have had, and instead makes the whole conflict seem like a wrist slap purely because they have a primarch back now. There's a difference between avoiding the obvious and not bothering to do a single thing with the very ideas they just set up.

      The problem I have in that regard is simple - Those two events focused primarily upon storytelling over all else. They're both good, don't get me wrong, and are what I would expect of someone actually putting effort into presenting an accurate David vs Goliath fight in this setting. The problem, however, is twofold. The first is that the authors writing those events were far more skilled than those currently handling the books, and had more room to work with their ideas. By comparison, many of those found in the more commonplace 40K releases have been simplistic by comparison. Guilliman's abrupt capture, his complete mess of a fight against the Black Legion and other events lacked the same descriptions and skill as the examples you cite. The other problem is that, simply put, Games Workshop is doing more to push models in these books. Unless it is someone the company currently adamantly hates, I think we will see the primarchs winning most of their fights and overshadowing their foes. The company will want to present them as an unstoppable force, will want to show them off as something which people need to get, and will want to encourage buyers to pick them up as soon as possible. While I don't think we'll stoop to the level of the original Draigo vs Mortarion fight again any time soon, it's unlikely we'll see much contesting their power.

      We have seen this sort of thing in the past, notably with the Knights. On each side, from the Riptides to the Knights Errant, the Knight class walkers are often presented as the ultimate power in many campaign books. They're often introduced at the end, added in force in some way or adapted to make their role prominent, and usually the decisive move of key point in any battle is decided by their involvement. We saw this at every point of the Damocles Books, and the only reason the Red Waaagh! was an exception was because the Space Wolves saw a more recent release, and even then they still provided a major role within events. Now that an even bigger gun has shown up, it wouldn't be surprising in the slightest if they took the same approach to things.

    2. As for the soft reboot comment, that is built largely upon what we have seen thus far really. Think it about it for a second. Cadia is all but forgotten the moment it is done. Several major turning points from the past books are retconned away without mention, from the Golden Throne failing, to the deals with the Dark Eldar, to the Dark Eldar civil war and Iyanna's prophecies. Others are promptly ditched as well, like a hanging idea of the Crimson Slaughter playing a major role on Cadia and the entirety of Fracture of Biel-Tan effectively rushed through every single existing Craftworld Eldar storyline, abruptly abandoning or resolving them one after the other. The big event surrounding the Space Marines was resolved out of sight, to the point where it's barely mentioned past the introduction, and characters do little to actually mention or reflect upon anything besides major, severe, events which are core to their identities. Sometimes not even then, as Cypher's activities and conflicts from his personal book aren't even mentioned here. They might introduce some, as you say, but given how many of them were linked into the idea that nothing would advance past M41, it seems most likely that the writing team is attempting some kind of fresh start of sorts.

    3. To be fair Chaos spreading through the galaxy is a running theme with the book and it is mentioned multiple times, even if it's not entirely focused upon. We do see multiple parts where Traitors are given free reign thanks to the fact that Cadia's gone and the part where the Chaos gods are reacting to Guilliman returning mentions how their forces are still burning the galaxy and running rampant. Even after they get to Terra they discover Chaos craft debris in orbit around the planet, showing that the Chaos forces have somehow made it all the way there.
      Admittedly the book makes it very clear that the Chaos forces were annihilated and it's one of the buildups to Guilliman speeding up the Imperial war machine, but still.

      Granted I also would have liked if they could focus on it, the time in the Maelstorm killed the pacing for a while in my opinion, and there was more than enough time for Kairos to send the Imperial ships no communications but distress calls to further weaken their resolve and show them the damage that Chaos was doing to the galaxy.

      As for losing it being a wrist slap in the end, I feel like it was ultimately going to feel that way as soon as they entertained the thought that Abaddon didn't actually need the world and that the first book only happens 'but for hubris'.
      Once you entertain that concept it's a little hard to go back to what it was before, that of being a vital defence against Chaos.

    4. As for the Primarchs being depicted in the books, I was honestly surprised that they (both Magnus and Guilliman) weren't portrayed as infallible unstopable badasses the entire time. Guilliman's shown to have human weakness, and this causes him to lose in the fight against Kairos, while he very nearly gets killed against Skarbrand the same way Amalrich did and for most of that fight Skarbrand was giving him a very hard time, even though Skarbrand's not the strongest of the Bloodthirsters.

      As for Magnus, before the Sisters of Silence show up he was dominating that fight against Guilliman which surprised me, as I'd figured it would have probably placed them both on equal footing.

      Both of these make me think that while they're going to present the Primarchs as being far above Marines, they're going to avoid going the route of making them invincible, as most of Guilliman's scenes show that he has a number of flaws and is far from perfect.

      Personally I think the enemies the Imperium fight are going to come up with some way of countering or neutralizing Guilliman in the field and begin to plan around that. One weakness Guilliman never really lost was how he made his command structure, which made it so that the removal of commanders would hit the troops all the harder because they had less initiative due to the way they were trained and used, and I hope that'll come into play in future fights.
      Having opponents who temporarily remove Guilliman from the picture would mean that other commanders would have to step up and get their time in the spotlight, also avoiding the issue of making everyone except him superfluous.

    5. Now for the soft reboot, I think that there's too many major threats and differences to treat it as another Great Crusade event. Rather than dealing with the odd xenos and rare daemonic incursion, reality is still being ripped apart and the warp is till spewing through.
      If they play their cards right they could make it so that the available planets each faction has start to become more and more limited, causing the others to force their way onto other factions or bringing about things we haven't seen before, such as Tyranids taking shelter on a planet because they don't have the biomass/ability to travel to the next nearest one thanks to both their own trail of destruction and the encroaching warp rifts.

      On another thought, what would happen if a massive warp rift opened near Tau space and kept growing? They wouldn't have the ability to stop it and would have to move, leaving their Sept Worlds en masse for the first time in their history, needing to brave the firewall (still one of the dumbest things in the setting) and basically enacting the 40k version of Banner Saga.

      There's a lot more ideas that can come into play, and I think it's the other factions being far more active than in 30k that will prevent this from seeming like any sort of reboot to the Great Crusade at the end of the day.

  2. You know one thing I do find really odd though? It's when people complain that certain factions aren't the most 'influential' because I have a hard time understanding how you'd define that word in this setting.

    Is influential how the Imperium and Chaos reacts to them? If so then that's rather underselling every faction except Chaos and the Imperium in my opinion, as it's another way of saying that no other faction matters.
    To use an example, while the Imperium has Chaos, the Eldar have Necrons. I'm not going to argue that the Imperium is focused on the most, and in my opinion that's undoubtedly because they're the most popular, as you can find a lot more in common with humans than you can any sort of alien.
    That being said, if they suddenly decided to do a three-part series focusing on the Eldar getting a maiden world destroyed by Necrons rising up and under control of a C'tan, the second part focusing on Ynnead becoming stronger while more Necrons wake up, and the third part culminating in them deciding to take the fight to their robot menace, would anything be out of character? Would the factions not depicted in those books became less influential by being absent? Would the entire series be trivialized by the Chaos gods and the Imperium not noticing and if so, why?

    To use some books that currently exist let's look at the Shield of Baal books. The Tyranids are built up to be a massive threat, one that requires both the Blood Angels and the Necrons to deal with together, and even then they've only delayed them as more are on the way. Is that series somehow lesser now because it didn't have Chaos or a Primarch present?

    What I'm saying is that so long as they have a good writer doing the story, it can remain engaging no matter who's present in it, and I think that sometimes the issue with a series might just be the preconceptions around the factions as a whole rather than what happens in it.

    1. I'm going primarily from what has been established here thus far. Chaos has been repeatedly built up as the big, domineering, threat over all others for the past few editions, sometimes at the cost of other factions. We discussed this before when the story seemed to be turning into an "Everyone Vs. Chaos" event, and often sidestepped obvious opportunities to add in the other races in one way or another. I don't think we'll completely see this one conflict overwhelming everything else entirely - and it wouldn't be surprising at all if a Craftworld Eldar vs Necrons book came out sooner rather than later - but the way this is presented leaves me concerned that Chaos will loom over them all. We have already had one Necron/Imperium/Eldar alliance thus far, and there are a few further hints of such works emerging in Rise of the Primarch. Plus, linking once again into Age of Sigmar, it would fit into the situation of one villain domineering over all others.

    2. Yeah I remember that, but it's not impossible to make it so that Chaos can't get a foothold in reality. Let's say that instead of the Abaddon attacking a planet with Pylons it was the Tyranids, which in that case would be more important, the threat that couldn't reach them at all or the threat that was right there right now? In both cases losing means the planet's destruction.

      I'd also like to point out that aside from having everyone vs Chaos, we've also had everyone (including Chaos) vs Tyranids multiple times now. Personally I think the only reason they're not thought to be as much of a threat is just because they don't get more screentime. It would have been nice to get more than a passing mention of them in the Gathering Storm books, after all if the Chaos Armada's are out in force to burn Imperial worlds then they should bump into the Tyranids at some point.

  3. Hi! I've come across your blog by googling 40k related stuff from time to time. I am very much enjoying your writing! It appears precise in telling what you mean, and meaning what you write.

    Recently I've been looking into reviews and summaries of Gathering Storm and am on point with your and others concerns over how the story has taken abrupt turns and shovelling major events to the side. I have yet to vent my own ideas anywhere until here and now. I am somewhat concerned for the split Eldar race of the sinister and the gracious, a contrast I really enjoy. As might become apparent I am not as well versed in the lore of either 40k or AoS, or WFB for that matter, as your or other commentators are - but I think I've got an idea for what's to come.

    My primary interest in this are the ideas of what this "gathering storm" might make of the game itself. That said, your mention of Guilliman taking the place of the Emperor in a Second Great Crusade seems plausible I think and, from what I can tell, very fitting to what's been happening in these books. Now, I want to consider AoS for a tiny bit. I will _not_ argue that 40k will become AoS or played in the same way, I will be raising the idea of the settings of 40k being structured in a similar manner to AoS.

    I haven't read anything related to AoS myself other than little things on forums, blogs and watched few videos on YT - but I know some of what it's about. I've come to understand Sigmar as being taken to a rather prominent and somewhat active role in the background lore of the game (more so than could be said for the Emperor in 40k I think). Sigmar and his Stormcasts are on a mission/crusade to do whatever the story says they are supposed to do. In comparison, if Guilliman sets the Imperium into the context of a setting similar to that of the Great Crusade, I can't help but to make parallels to AoS. I imagine the Emperor taking up a role similar to that of Sigmar - a figure in the background, yet important in the lore - the Space Marines are similarly sent on a mission/crusade to do whayever the story says they are suppsed to do. The difference here being the presence of a primarch - an active learder and model in the game (as well as the story). Then, in comparison, Guilliman (with support in the lore of the Emperor) and his Space Marines becomes a 40k mirror of Sigmar and his Stormcast Eternals.

    For the game of 40k I would imagine this being set up similar to races divided into categories to make alliances a more integrated part of the play. The different triumvriates thus far representing this particular change of the settings of the game. We got "of the Primarch" - the Space Marines; "of the Imperium" - the odd ones; "of Ynnead" - a new single Eldar race. The tunnel-vision focus on Chaos you mentioned could be set up as the overarching Great Enemy, not just in the sense of the Eldar meaning of the concept, but for all races. The main focus would be the good guys having to forge their own paths in a seemingly random world/universe, as that of AoS.

    Model-wise; as the Orc turned Orruk I imagine similar but not as big changes in 40k, but Ynnead with followers being one such case (and, ironically I guess, at the same time taking the place of Slaanesh considering the looks of the Yncarne).

    Obviously only time will tell, as you said, but somehow I felt I needed to ask. I have seen few ideas of what this deal will lead to for the future of the game. I would love to hear your ideas on this little hypothesis, or even just a few comments or remarks (and anyone else's that have something to add).

  4. Personally, I'm really enthusiastic about the return of the primarchs, but i do understand where a lot of the worry comes from. I worry less about the effects of this new evolution than i am about the horus heresy novel "Master of mankind". WAY too much information was given about the Emperor and his motivations. For me, the worst revelation was the way in which the Emperor views his Primarchs, particularly in the part of the novel where he refers to Angron (who was, in this part of the novel, unconscious on a slab in the imperial palace on terra) while the Emperor was trying to remove the 'Butchers Nails ' from his brain, as "IT", rather than HE. He then goes on to mock the fact that the primarchs regard him as their father, insinuating coldly that he regarded them as weapons, not family of any kind at all, whatsoever.

  5. FlyingMongoose6 May 2017 at 16:28


    I can't shake a terrible feeling of deja vu...

    GW may not be 'blowing up' the WH40K universe, but it definitely feels (with Gathering Storm & 8th Edition previews) like a significant shift away from the dystopian, 5-minutes-to-midnight setting I love.

    I'm optimistic about a potential refresh of the game rules, however I suspect I'll likely choose to ignore any 'advancement' of the lore (as per WHF End Times)!


    In the meantime, I'm planning to expand my collection of WH40K Codex(es?). I own a few from 5th, 6th & 7th.

    As someone who regularly reviews GW books, may I ask Bellarius (or anyone), which recent edition you would recommend for lore?

    Keep up the great blog!!!