Scent of a Gamer

From the computer to the tabletop, this is all about games. Updated each week-end.

From End Times to Time of Ending

With the release of Fall of Cadia, even the most skeptical of gamer must acknowledge we are seeing a re-run of the End Times, except this time it is Warhammer 40,000 receiving the treatment.

The main feature of the End Times was the merging of various Warhammer armies (or their destruction), this paved the way for the new faction organisation coming in Age of Sigmar.

The important point is this: the decisions were made about what to ditch and what to keep before the first End Times books even appeared. It will be the same here. We can garner clues abut the end result from the steps Games Workshop go through on the way to the ending they have already decided upon.

imperial_palace_terra2

For those who may have forgotten, the End Times ran for about a year, and resulted with the destruction of Warhammer’s previous setting, the dismissal of several armies, and the replacement of the game with the new Age of Sigmar rules and setting.

It was definitely an ending. Of course every ending holds within it the seed of a new beginning, and after a rocky start, Age of Sigmar seems to have found its footing. This took a year of releases and especially the release of a ‘General’s Compendium’, a book which brought back points to allow roughly equal armies to be fielded and also allowed the lost armies of Warhammer to take to the table once more.

Differences between this and The Time of Ending may show us what lessons Games Workshop have taken from the last time they did this.

lorehammer_gwac01

 

Hope

Warhammer 40,000 is not in the same position as its fantasy cousin once was. Sales seems to be holding up, not collapsing, and are probably growing to look at the latest company accounts. However, Games Workshop have evidently decided to change their setting.

Why?

Warhammer 40,000 is a setting that has been overwhelmed by its own backstory – just have a look at the popularity of Horus Heresy releases, from the new boxed games and models, to the novel series that is approaching its 50th title.

Gav Thorpe made some good points last year about what the change in setting to Age of Sigmar ultimately meant in terms of outlook. Scrolling down through the comment of the link above will lead you to this paragraph:

“It’s also worthwhile bearing in mind that the space marines serve a distant master, an ideal almost that they will never encounter themselves, that they learn of through the Chapter traditions and the orthodoxy of the Chaplains. Stormcast dwell in the presence of their creator, their saviour; the theme of rebirth and hope, of a new light in the darkness, returns against and again throughout the Age of Sigmar, and not just for the Stormcast Eternals. If Warhammer was about anything (and if 40K has a central theme), it was about the struggle against Chaos representing our own fears and least desirable aspects destroying us from within. If Age of Sigmar represents anything, it is of our best traits straining to rise above our worst, the indomitable spirit to overcome (rather than stubborn refusal of the inevitable). Hope, not hopelessness.”

Age of Sigmar represent a hopeful battle against Chaos, whereas the Old World was always a doomed setting. Similarly in Warhammer 40,000 the struggle against Chaos is hopeless, and in many ways is already lost.

Our question becomes what changes to the Warhammer 40,000 setting will need to happen to switch the central theme from hopelessness to hope? And who will survive and who won’t?

Get ready for a wild ride in 2017.

 

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12 comments on “From End Times to Time of Ending

  1. Thomas
    January 22, 2017

    I don’t know. The setting of 40k has been called the Time of Ending since the release of 6th ed. I’m pretty sure that it says in the Chaos Space Marines codex that the launch of the 13th Black Crusade will be start of the time of ending. I just don’t see much change. They are just reforging the same narrative. And they do it in a most excellent way.

    Sure it feels like the noose is tightening but has really happened in the last couple of campaigns? The Tau killed the Chapter Master of the Raven Guard but the Raven Guard remain; the Tyranids broke the shield worlds of Baal but Baal itself is still there; Fenris got invaded by Daemons and Magnus and his Thousand Sons and Fenris got even deadlier, the Space Wolves are still around; Khârn helped capture a relic that might threaten the fabric of reality but still reality holds true; and bad stuff happened on Cadia.

    The dystopian setting remains and it’s still grim dark in far future.

    The thing is that the where the Old World was small and bound by the rules of geography and reality, 40k is not. 40k is boundless and infinite. Whatever you want happen can happen without really breaking the illusion of the setting. This is why we have Warp drive. Time and distance have no meaning in 40k and we all accept that. In Fantasy it was just one single World and that was in the end its downfall.

    With the Realms and the Realm gates they basically gave Fantasy Warp drive and opened up the game to all sorts of possibilities that just wasn’t there before.

    • davekay
      January 22, 2017

      Warhammer also had its share of ‘do nothing’ campaigns where there was a big fight and everything returned to as it was before. The End Times was different. By the same token I think we’ll see big changes to the set up of 40k by the time this campaign is through – though I’m not expecting the galaxy to go away!

      • Thomas
        January 22, 2017

        Fair enough. All the campaigns I described are part of the same narrative that pushes the Inperium of Man closer to the edge. They are all released during 7th edition (it’s been a very packed edition). You might be right, only time will tell but I believe that the changes will be rather small. The biggest will be the return of the Primarchs, who I believe are coming. This might lead to a rift in the Imperium between old-school puritans and modern zealots. Which would be awesome.

        But in the end; the Emperor will sit immobile on the failing Golden Throne, Chaos will continue to push for Terra and the Xenos will be up to no good.

  2. richardcowen
    January 23, 2017

    -If- they’re running a Warhammer-style End Times event (and it’s looking more and more likely, with such stalwarts as Fenris getting popped and the major strategic shift that is the fall of Cadia, plus the constant rumours of primarchs – Magnus never left, so he doesn’t count), I’m torn between what I’d like to see in the rebooted setting.

    Both old Warhammer and 40k have beautifully detailed settings, that have been written about and fleshed out over decades. WFRP is my favourite roleplaying game, ahead of even Delta Green, Call of Cthulhu and Unknown Armies, and I’ve bought nearly every book from the 40k RPG ranges without actually running anything other than a few campaigns of Dark Heresy.

    But what to expect from the new setting? Will it be an advance in the plotline, or a complete reimagining?

    A few thoughts of my own:

    1) Advancement in the plot – The Imperium has never been completely static. Even aside from the Horus Heresy, there have been ages of expansion and change: the Age of Apostasy and the crusades of Lord Solar Macharius, for example. If 40k is to emulate the ‘hope’ theme of Age of Sigmar, then it needs to start a new period of expansionism, rather than its current state of slow, but steady, crumbling under relentless assault from all sides and within. Both of the post-Heresy hope spots that I’ve mentioned featured some great hero, Sebastian Thor and Macharius, and I suspect if GW go down this route, that hero will arrive again, essentially as the Emperor reborn in the Sigmar-Valten kind of way (but hopefully without him allegedly being murdered by his own side, and the skaven possibly getting framed for it, as awesomely Warhammer-dark as that was).

    2) Revert to the Horus Heresy – This is a massive, radical change, but GW have started taking Forgeworld’s niche idea for running Astartes-heavy games in a historical period for 40k, and turned it into plastic. With the two Heresy-era board games, they’ve essentially released multiple plastic kits in their main game range, and even released the first ever models of the Sisters of Silence, and the first Adeptus Custodes since the 1980’s, for a spin-off written and produced by one of their subsidiary companies, that can’t even be used without buying Forgeworld products. We’ve already seen how the Deathwatch and Genestealers got a ‘trial run’ of sorts with Overkill, before the full weight of the GW machine was thrown behind them in full army releases. Yes, I know there’s a long, long lead-in time that overlapped, but sales would still have indicated how much promotional effort it would be worth putting behind the new armies, rather than publicising X other release instead. But it does seem that the Horus Heresy has captured imaginations. It’s the single-longest serialisation of novels that the Black Library have ever done, which then spawned several other historical Black Library series, including the epic Beast series. Space Marines are, and always have been, the most popular single faction within the game, despite being a miniscule portion of the Imperium’s incredible military power. Meanwhile, the Horus Heresy is about a civil war executed largely by, and motivated by the egos, agendas and prejudices of, Space Marines. It’s not impossible to imagine that the next edition of Warhammer 40,000 embraces the power armour love and sets itself back to the 32nd Millennium, where the Imperium was a more optimistic place, and is struggling to maintain that optimism in the face of not only the increasingly-Chaos-tainted enemy, but also its own desperation-induced militarism. Existing Astartes models in Mk VII or VIII armour could be easily hand-waved by rewriting setting so that that style of armour did actually exist back then, but was rare, and not releasing new models in those style of armour. Imperial Guard models could be rolled into the Imperial Army without much difficulty. The Adeptus Mechanicus rolls even more easily into the Mechanicum. Adepta Sororitas… sorry, ladies, but at least you got Celestine for the Time of Ending. The difficulty with a Horus Heresy reset is that, without rewriting large swathes of the non-Imperial side of the setting (which isn’t impossible, of course), certain factions would either cease to exist or be difficult to include. The Eldar would be different, probably something that combines the Craftworld, Dark and other varieties into one faction – something touched upon in the article as being what happened during the Warhammer End Times – even if those different factions had varying ideologies about how to cope with the new horror of Slaanesh’s birth. The orks would continue as normal, and have the Beast to look forwards to as well. Necrons have always been there, and can be rewritten to be waking up then as well. The Tau? A harder sell, but there’s no reason why they can’t be shuffled back in time (metaphorically) and reaching their interstellar expansion era at the same time as the Great Crusade. Tyranids and Genestealers? Grey Knights and Deathwatch? Adepta Sororitas? The setting could be rewritten. The Imperial Agents list could well become a proto-Inquisition, set up to deal with the newly-growing threat of Chaos. And Chaos? The Chaos Space Marines are simply late-Heresy rebels who’ve given themselves over to The Eightfold Path.

    3) Reboot from scratch – The 40k setting has had its time. Let’s rewrite it from the start. Keep certain elements: the Imperium, possible the immortal God-Emperor (or make it hereditary if we don’t want to remain stagnant?), the threat of Chaos, orks being a thing, eldar as a hangover from a previous great civilisation, but start the rest with a blank slate. What is the Imperium? Fascism was a thing in the 80’s, both as living memory from the war and post-war era and as a satirical swipe at Thatcherism and the National Front. And then the fascism of the Imperium became cartoony, bowdlerised. Compare the Imperium of the Ian Watson Jaq Draco novels with the way it’s presented in today’s Black Library novels: it’s not nice, but it’s filled with great heroes who fight against evil, so it’ll turn out fine.Even the Inquisition are heroic, even if only because Chaos is so much worse. But fascism has gotten itself a bad name these days. (Did I seriously just write that sentence?) Not dipping too deeply into real-world politics, but it may be adviseable for GW to edge away from glorifying fascism (even satirically) for a little while, just in case the world does turn into a complete dystopian nightmare over the next few years. My alternative theme for the Imperium? Embody it in the Imperial Guard, who arguably got their name from the era anyway, and model it on the Napoleonic Wars. Expansionism, large armies of lots and lots of models infantry models backed by artillery and cavalry (tanks). Basically, take the aesthetic stylings of the Imperial Navy officers, and put them onto the infantry; remove the 20th-century fascism and replace it with 18-19th-century imperialism. Maybe have the Astartes as Roman-inspired, what with being Legion-inspired anyway. Perhaps get rid of the small Chapters and borrow the Legion-style of Astartes from the Horus Heresy era. Beyond that, I’ve no real thoughts. It’s possible my entire thinking in this direction would be satiated by a single box of Napoleonic Astra Militarum infantry that I’d never actually get around to starting an army of.

    Personally, I’d like to see 2) or 3), rather than just a straight continuation – without drastic changes to the setting, it would turn the Time of Ending into just another summer campaign.

    But the big change (again, -if- anything changes) is going to have to be the rules. The Warhammer fantasy rules worked pretty well, probably mostly due to the constraints of a regimental game. But 40k’s rules are a shambolic, bloated mess. I’ve ranted about this many times elsewhere (I think including in a comment on this very blog), so I’m not going to go into great depth, but every time I pick up an alternate set of modern or near-future, or sometimes even fantasy, wargaming rules, I’m struck by how much better, more simply and with fewer rules in the rulebook, these games manage to replicate the things that the 40k rules also allow. Many of these games even have concepts that 40k has either never tried, or never managed to successfully implement, such as storming buildings, suppressive fire or explosive attacks that don’t need large discs of card or plastic to work out which individual models are hit.

    • richardcowen
      January 23, 2017

      TL;DR

      – If it happens, I hope we either end up with a new age of Imperial optimism, probably led by a Sebastian Thor-type character, or even better that we go back to the Horus Heresy era or even revamp the game entirely.

      – I like the idea of Napoleonic-themed Astra Militarum.

      – Also, the current rules need rewriting. It feels like everyone else in the industry does miniature wargaming rules better than 40k.

      • davekay
        February 9, 2017

        I think you’re right about other rulesets. I’ just not sure how exposed the average 40k player is to the alternatives out there.

      • richardcowen
        February 10, 2017

        Probably not that much.

        I played a Dragon Rampant game last week, between two typical-sized 24-point armies, that took just under 90 minutes from start to finish.

        The players of the 1850-point 40k game at the next table were astonished to see us packing up the table just as they were on Turn 2’s assault phase.

        I want to throw Warpath at them, but can’t see myself assembling and painting either of the two armies I grabbed in the Kickstarter any time soon.

  3. Monkfiche
    January 29, 2017

    Just scanning the comments and not trying to spoil myself… can anyone say what books are in the arc for this new Time of Ending / Rhana Dhandra / etc please? thanks

    • davekay
      January 29, 2017

      Fall of Cadia is the latest one, but the Games Workshop website is the best place to check, I think there is a new one due in Feb for Biel-Tan.

  4. Pingback: How the end may come | Scent of a Gamer

  5. A High Racoon88
    February 7, 2017

    I’m in the mind set that I really don’t want an age of sigmar reboot. Why? you may ask well for me it’s money and time I have put money and hours on hours on building my 40k armies and I love seeing them in action in store for them to just become obsolete would kill me. I myself hope there is story advancement but not a reboot. I feel a reboot is a bit corporate and we saw an element of that to get age of sigmar on its feet but I feel that 40k doesn’t need it. Anyway time shall tell.

    • davekay
      February 9, 2017

      Resets are harsh when yours is the army being reset. Hopefully they have learned how not to do it from Age of Sigmar.

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This entry was posted on January 21, 2017 by in Game Design, Industry, Writing and tagged , , .
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