Look on any social media platform today, and you’ll see a flood of comments about the newly announced upcoming Space Marine releases. Some positive, some negative — all strongly opinionated about how correct their beliefs are.
While I will be happy to admit I’m very excited about the full range, I do have a slight trepidation with the reconnaissance walker’s appearance, but that would be easily fixed with some conversion work if it looks wonky in person. I’m tempted to put mesh plating between the roll bars. And, all things considered, this is such a slight aesthetic concern that it doesn’t impact my reception of the announcement at all — I’m excited by the entire release. But that isn’t the point of this post.
My main issue I take is with many of the negative comments online that Games Workshop has somehow destroyed the Space Marine aesthetic, fluff, brand, and modus operandi in releasing units like these new Phobos-clad warriors. Childhoods are ruined, people are vowing pacts of vengeance, “Those aren’t my Space Marines!” they say.
“It’s not Grimdark anymore!”
“Update other armies!”
And this is supremely tiresome to me, for a number of reasons, because most of the knee-jerk reactions are so unfounded, it’s gotten to the point where I pity the Community Team for having to moderate and sift through those comments. I feel worse for the designers of the models who not labored over the sculpts, but went through what is likely a discerning approval process only to be absolutely shat on by a bunch of very vocal muppets online.
Let’s address the big one, and probably the most often repeated; the idea that these new marines aren’t grim-dark enough to satisfy whatever vision the consumer has of what Warhammer should be. That somehow the setting has been retconned or, worse, changed irreparably. For those that might not know, the term grimdark was largely fabricated as a direct result of Warhammer: 40,000. It’s a term to describe the particularly dystopian genre and hopeless plight of the inhabitants of the setting itself. “In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.” The term is now used widely among various settings and systems.
So what does “grimdark” look like? Is it armored warriors belonging to an oppressive regime, with skulls on their battleplate, skull masks, purity seals, ridiculously large weaponry (with skulls on them), and exaggerated physiques all sowing terror among enemies of the overbearing theocracy? Because that describes the new Phobos marines as much as it does the 20-year-old Astartes models.
Games Workshop’s vision of their universe’s setting is literally the benchmark for what it means to be “grimdark.” Whatever suppositions the consumer might have about aesthetics, we are just along for the ride — Games Workshop can (and should) do with their Intellectual Property as they see fit. Who are we to go on their Facebook page and write scathing comments and stamp our feet until the very successful corporation realizes Timmy from Salt Lake City wants a complete overhaul of their entire range of miniatures, years in the making?
My usual response to these sorts of outcries are that they are a vocal minority. And indeed they are, a vast amount of the player base likes the changes, from what I can gather. With a global brand that has turned immense profits recently through better consumer engagement, is there no trust in their vision? After all, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen radical changes in their model lineup.
What about the other factions, you say? Surely the Eldar need new models, I hear you cry. I agree, they do. But one has to recognize that this isn’t giving the Space Marines more stuff on top of their old range. It’s effectively replacing the range. It makes sense that the company will fully revamp their flagship line and literal poster-boys before diverting attention to other armies. But even then, look at Sisters of Battle getting an entirely new plastic range. Look at Chaos Marines, look at daemons, all of the Age of Sigmar releases – they can only produce so much at a time, be patient.
Phasing out of the older marines is a hot-button issue. But I am flabbergasted when people act surprised that this is a possibility, even an inevitability. The writing has been on the walls for two years minimum, it shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that they won’t be around much longer. In my opinion, Games Workshop will continue to support the model line with rules, but I don’t see any new kits being produced for the “old-marines.” When the molds wear out (or sooner) they’ll be shelved for good — and I’m okay with that. But look at the glossy photographs in the newly minted Space Marine codex, you still see the old (old!) land speeder kits prominently featured, the old devastators, and many more kits that people thought would vanish. They’re still supported.
Another point of contention I have is when people claim it’s all shoehorned and detrimental to the “established canon” of lore in making these broad, sweeping changes. Someone might say it’s absurd to concoct the Cawl story about 10,000 years of working on the Primaris Marines in a secret lab. And while I’m no expert on the minutia of Games Workshop lore, I do remember a time where the Horus Heresy was just a brief mention in a throwaway comment in a rulebook. It’s now a massively successful tabletop game, book series, and thriving setting all on its own. The first published Horus Heresy book was released in 2006 for Pete’s sake, that’s after the entire T’au army was introduced to Warhammer. I remember when we got a new plastic land raider model, when grav-cannons were brought into the tabletop game, I remember when all the armies got flyers of some kind. These were all introduced in the same way the Primaris Marines are — a cool concept developed and fleshed out to advance the setting while also selling a new product.
The difference is that the Primaris situation is one that is replacing existing models, iconic models, so people are naturally offended by this prospect. I think Games Workshop has done their best in mitigating the outcry with continued support of the rules for that dated line of marines. But it’s time to move on.
A closing thought I have regarding the Primaris issue, which I’ve brought up before, is that it’s what the people wanted. People will defiantly tell you this isn’t the case, and they always wanted marines the size of Gurdsmen – but look back a few years at the top-rated conversions, and what all the renowned hobbyists were producing: truescale space marines. They went through great lengths to make the existing marines bigger than a gurdsman. Say what you want about the story invented to justify it, but we got what we wished for. And for that I am happy.
This is obviously a divisive opinion piece and I in no way want to suggest my line of thinking is the only correct response. It’s simply me venting my opinions on the matter, where I welcome any and all differing opinions. You hobby how you want to hobby — don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But don’t get caught up in a mob mentality online and bandwagon on an opinion because it’s the hotness to trash on Games Workshop. Hate the story they invented, hate the models; that’s all fine. But don’t claim Games Workshop is shitting on their own property, because they aren’t. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you — look what happened to Dawn of War 3.*
Enjoy yourself, but let others enjoy their hobby too.
*Dawn of War 3 is a fun game, post-patch. But it was declared dead on arrival because of the shit reviews people who had never even played it gave online. Relic abandoned the franchise as a result.