Buffing the Bad Guys for the Greater Good

PT Taylor here with some truth for ya!

Let’s face it, Games-Workshop has a long history of giving all the biggest and coolest toys to their seemingly favored son, the Imperium of Man. For every Ynarri or Mortarion release, the Imperium stable gets three new codices and jet bikes that are cooler than yours, not to mention nearly every Black Library story is told from an Imperial perspective and every “versus” boxed set comes with an Imperial half that you have to trade to your buddy or sell on Ebay.

Last edition was a bloated mess on all fronts but by the end, Space Marines were getting 600 free points for their formations and had better psychic powers than anything even the alleged super psykers of the Eldar could muster. Even in this brand new edition, they’ve added previously unheard of grav tanks, super Space Marines to make your old, regular Astartes look like the wimps that they are, and super-super Space Marines to make those look like the wimps that they are. At the beginning of the edition (before the extra Imperial codices dropped), someone estimated that there were 300+ units which had the <Imperial> keyword, while all the other factions besides <Chaos> (200+) and <Eldar> (150+) were limited to 40-50. Hardly an equitable situation.

Narratively speaking, this violates a cardinal rule of writing, which is that your villain (or antagonist, if you prefer) should always be a worthy adversary. Otherwise, there is no real struggle for the hero, which ultimately yields no catharsis for the hero, which translates to floppy and uninteresting character development. It should be no secret that the tale of the 41st Millennium is broadly told from the Imperial perspective, which is fine, for a number of reasons. It’s also fine for The Imperium to be the seemingly favored faction of the developers (there had to be a favorite, after all).

What’s not fine is the neglect that is often shown to the hero’s antagonists. From the Tyranid Hive Fleets to the dynasties of the Necrons to the Orkoid spore infestations, these are all intensely significant threats to the survival of mankind. They are all singularly strong enough to be extinction level threats to the existence of humanity, but they are seldom shown in such a light in the storyline. For every Space Marine who falls in combat with the indefatigable Necron warriors – who happen to have generally Marine equivalent game stat lines – they take down a dozen of the objectively terrifying murderbots, armed with no more than a chain pocket knife and power boots. Not exactly the frightening display we saw from the T-800 robots in the Terminator series of movies, which the Necrons totally totally weren’t based on or anything…

While there is a similar disparity on the tabletop, its impact on the meta is questionable. Though the Imperials are generally top meta in most eras of the game, they aren’t always major event winners, falling victim to the pitfalls of alternative missions and the like. At the same time, some factions *cough* Orks *cough* have been notoriously neglected for years, with hardly a speck of light at the end of their tunnel. Considering the monumental struggle involved, one might think that the Orks should be the protagonists of the 41st Millennium…

The Ork struggle is real.

This has been one of my longstanding gripes with GW. Perhaps, as a long time Xenos enthusiast, I am a touch biased on this front, since the closest I’ve ever come to actually collecting an Imperial army is Space Wolves. However, with the advent of 8th Edition, it seems as though we could be in the midst of a bad guy renaissance.

While I wasn’t exactly pleased with the Craftworld Eldar Codex, the faction (with some help from soup units) did all right at LVO 2018, I guess. Tyranids stole the show at Adepticon. The new Drukhari book looks amazing so far, and Necrons seem so good, I want to build an army myself. The final test will be the treatment of the Orks, I think. My opinion since the fairly accurate timeline leak – which placed Orks as the last codex release – has been that the faction would either be an afterthought or king of the power creep. There is an equally compelling argument to be made for both, I believe, though there are some pretty heavy rumors floating around the Internet of a great and mighty Waaagh! on the horizon…

And this is a good thing. A great thing even. Because despite the fact that so much energy is dumped into the Imperial stable of units, the bad guys are growing increasingly more powerful on the tabletop, and I hope GW keeps up the good work on that front. Chaos has been just fine for a while but it’s been a genuine blast watching Tyranids smash face at our local RTTs, these past few months, and I’m super stoked to see how the Drukhari and Necrons fare in the coming weeks. It seems that some of the story line’s arch villains are finally starting to live up to the hype their codex fluff text has been feeding us for decades and for the first time in a long while, I can say that I’m pretty optimistic about the future of the game. And I can only hope that the story narrative is reflective of this trend, as well. Just like Captain America needs Red Skull and Batman needs The Joker, the heroics of the Imperium’s champions fall flat without worthy adversaries to challenge them.


And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



19 Responses to “Buffing the Bad Guys for the Greater Good”

  1. Blight1 April 8, 2018 7:12 am #

    Granted the imperium are villains too. I find it very hard to root for them anyway.
    Orks are the true heroes. 😃

    • PT Taylor April 9, 2018 3:29 pm #

      It’s hard not to root for da biggest and da strongest!

  2. Rob Butcher April 8, 2018 7:52 am #

    Everyone is a bad guy ,,,, including the folks trying hard to write sarcastic filler.

    Let’s have the batreps and tactical ideas – that’s what fan sites are supposed to be for.

    • Reecius April 8, 2018 12:26 pm #

      No need to be rude, friend.

      And a fan site? For one, I am not sure that is how I would define Frontline Gaming’s blog (although we certainly are massive fans of GW products and games) and for two, there aren’t any rules for how to run the site, either.

      You may have a preference on content for sure, but the beauty of a blog is that you don’t have to read stuff if it isn’t to your taste =P

      • AngryPanda April 8, 2018 12:42 pm #

        I’m not sure what baffles me more. The idea that the site of the organizers of the biggest tournament scene in the world is a “fan site” or that anyone would get to tell fans what their site is “supposed” to be for. I’m pretty sure all the fanfic sites would disagree for starters. I mean hell if I made a fan site it would be an ongoing romance story between a Primaris Marine and an Orc Warboss. On a related note: Black Library, all you gotta do is contact me to make this gem canon. It’ll be the new Horus Heresy, you’ll see!

        • Blight1 April 8, 2018 1:56 pm #

          The great romance between the dashing freeboota captain Snogdakka and the shy captain Darnath must be told. (We can workshop the names)

          • AngryPanda April 9, 2018 11:13 am

            Blight, you have officially been promoted to my co-writer in this series. It’ll span an epic series of books and just like in that other run people will wait till they at last get to Terra. We’ll need all the help we can get.

        • Kevin Lantz April 8, 2018 2:37 pm #

          Don’t forget the guevesa and aunva romance that was forbidden love

        • Reecius April 8, 2018 4:07 pm #

          I want to read this story!

          • AngryPanda April 9, 2018 11:15 am

            That’s because the twist that the true upgrade to the Primaris Marines was that they could feel true love got you hooked already. The fabricator generals real plan behind their creation will be something no one ever guessed!

          • Reecius April 9, 2018 11:36 am


    • PT Taylor April 8, 2018 5:35 pm #

      I feel like I’m missing something here. What sarcasm and what filler?

  3. Pyrothem April 8, 2018 3:47 pm #

    Preach it brother. Variety is the spice of life as they say.

  4. KRQuinn April 8, 2018 8:11 pm #

    Yeah, I can’t imagine why a publishing company with human readers would make sure that most of their books were told from a human (or sorta human perspective)..although when I contemplate my vast library of BL there are a number of books written from a filthy Xenos angle or heretical Chaos bent… I am still missing that Tyranid classic ‘We Saw, We Came, We Ate It All’..out of print of course.

    • abusepuppy April 8, 2018 9:27 pm #

      That is a very good counterpoint to something the article explicitly went out of its way not to say.

  5. NinetyNineNo April 9, 2018 4:12 am #

    I’d say that talking about the “heroic” Imperium needing strong “villains” to fight against is missing the point of the setring for quite a margin.

    • abusepuppy April 9, 2018 6:08 am #

      The antagonist of an antihero or dark hero is still typically a villain.

      • AngryPanda April 9, 2018 11:17 am #

        The Empire is such a dark place that if you gave them anything but the most screwed up villains to fight you’d either have to glaze over a lot of details like the Horus Heresy or expose that your main factions in this game make the Sith Empire look like reasonably okay dudes.

        • PT Taylor April 9, 2018 3:24 pm #

          The term “villain” is subjective, as are “hero” and “good guy”. In the realm of fiction writing, we tend to stick to “protagonist” and “antagonist,” which leaves the notion and application of villainy and heroism to the reader. My use of the term “villain” in this article was simply a stylistic choice.

          That said, the Empire, on the whole, is a state of fascistic horror; however, the actions and choices of many of the Imperium’s champions are quite heroic, selfless, and altruistic. This juxtaposition of light and dark creates a complicated (i.e. interesting) situation, wherein people can be doing the right things for the wrong reasons and vice versa. The dark grit of the 41st Millennium is one of its intrinsic charms, since most of the “factions” cannot be simply dropped into the categories of “good guys” or “bad guys”. These things are one of the reasons the 40k universe has captured the imaginations of so many people for so long, now, and will no doubt continue to do so.

Leave a Reply