new edition who dis?
Over the last three editions, Games Workshop has made some… let’s say choices. Some big swings, if you will; some of them have paid off well, and others have not, but you can’t deny that they are trying. One of those big swings has been introducing an absolute plethora of new factions to the game- in fact, GW has added no less than sixteen distinct factions to the game in the past decade, whereas in the decade prior to that they added only two.
However, not all of these factions have received equal amounts of support. While some of them have seen very impressive kits get released and are the feature of multiple novels, supplements, or campaign books, others have just kind of… fallen on the wayside and are ignored like some kind of medieval leper in the streets. So today, let’s take a look at a few of the lesser-remembered factions that haven’t exactly gotten a lot of love from Big Daddy Workshop.
5. Dark Mechanicus
At the beginning of 8th Edition, Forge World made A Choice: they were going to do their own thing and fuck GW and its new policies. Horus Heresy wasn’t going to convert to the 8E system. The Imperial Armor indices would do their own thing. They had no interest in coordinating their rules with the precedents that the main company was setting.
This… didn’t exactly work out great for them, because as it happens the guys over there who make extremely pretty models to put on a display board don’t actually have any idea what they are doing when it comes to writing balanced rules. A whole comedy of errors ensued as unit after unit from the Forge World books had to be FAQed, cost-adjusted, or straight-up removed from competitive play due to their inane rules, but for anyone who was familiar with Forge World’s rules writing from earlier editions, this was actually just par for the course.
What was more amusing, however, was Forge World deciding to make a bunch of Special Unique Snowflake factions to fit all of their Very Special Boys into. (Note: Forge World does not know what women look like. Perhaps some variety of Tyranid??!) This happened in all of their books to varying degrees- see, for example, their bizarre choices for how to represent Death Korps of Krieg (not a regiment!) However, nowhere was it more noticeable than in the Chaos Index, where they created multiple entirely-new factions that in many cases only had a small handful of units.
The Dark Mechanicus was one such faction- it contained two, count them two characters, which were actually just the same character but one of them found a Segway to ride on, and also all of those Chaos Knights you had could instead be Dark Mechanicus faction for absolutely no reason. Did the Dark Mechanicus have any rules, stratagems, relics, or traits associated with it? Of course not, dear reader! Forge World doesn’t write rules for units, they write a disorganized mess and hope you will pay them $25 to sort it out for yourself.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW: No unit with the Dark Mechanicus faction has been printed in any book since the first day of 7th edition. They can still legally be fielded in a Chaos army, although there’s not much reason to do so.
Around the end of 7th edition, when the game was in a hole in the ground begging to be put out of its misery, Games Workshop saw a way through the problem: release campaign books with game-shattering lore and abilities that would completely change the scope of the world they had been building. And thus the Ynnari came to be, worshippers of the Eldar god of death who hoped to see a galaxy reborn and out from under the dominion of the Chaos Gods. Splintering off from the traditional three Eldar factions, Ynnari promised to utterly rebalance how the dying race acted and were perceived, bringing to them a new dynamism never before seen.
Of course, as was standard at the time the rules were so utterly broken that every competent player knew at a single glance that they would be game-dominatingly powerful, essentially giving you two turns to each one that the enemy took. As a result, Ynnari were utterly dominant in the format and could bowl over even the horrifyingly-unbalanced armies of late 7E with comical ease, abusing the most broken units from an already-broken codex in addition to their own broken rules and a fundamentally-broken allies system. This continued into early/mid-8th Edition, until after nearly two years of absurdity Games Workshop finally recognized the obvious and put a stop to their shenanigans.
But that’s all of the game stuff. Where have Ynnari been in the story during the hundred years since their introduction? They, uh… haven’t been. Although some books featuring them have been published, despite nominally being a world-altering revelation for the Eldar race, it mostly hasn’t really affected stuff much. Now there’s four factions to be mad at each other instead of three, but for the most part the entire race has just collectively shrugged its shoulders at the birth of a god of their pantheon not seen since ancient days and manifest bodily in the world and just said “okay, and?” If I thought the whole thing was cleverer, I might read it as a commentary on our ability to ignore or take in stride world-changing events when they conflict with our personal views, but it more reads as just a case of the writers not actually wanting to make any changes to the setting and so basically ignoring the faction.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW: Ynnari have gotten two “proper” rules releases in 8th Edition, which were actually the same release, and they declined to fix any of the problems with the book in the second one. They currently sit just ahead Dark Mechanicus in terms of units available to them with three characters instead of two.
3. Servants of the Abyss
No, seriously, who?
I doubt most readers will even remember the Servants of the Abyss, as they effectively aren’t even a Warhammer 40K unit release. Instead, they were part of the Blackstone Fortress board game, one of a whole host of such self-contained games that Games Workshop released in the past few years. But, of course, they couldn’t keep these games self-contained, so each of the models included in the box was also given a set of rules for using it in games of Warhammer.
In typical GW fashion, these rules were so comically useless and awkwardly-written that some of the units could not legally be used at all (because they did not share a faction with any other model, for example) and some of them were simply so arbitrarily-restrictive that there was no reason you would ever include them in an army.
Servants of the Abyss fell into the latter category; they are a combination of Black Legion marines and Renegade Guardsmen, but with an array of restrictions to ensure that they will never be as good as either. (And since Renegades and Heretics was, itself, a worse version of the Imperial Guard, that is saying something.) Did you want a Troop unit that doesn’t take up any Force Org slots and lacks all of the Legion abilities of a unit of their type? Well you’re in luck, my friend, because Servants of the Abyss has you covered there! Or maybe you wanted some Chaos Cultists, but felt that paying 4pts per model was simply too cheap and were hoping there was some way to up the ante a little bit? Well good news, because the Servants have you covered there as well!
Ironically, despite being a faction with no support of any kind (they could barely even field a legal battalion) and some of the worst rules in the entire game, Servants of the Abyss have more unit options than several of the full-sized codices do, although perhaps that says more about how understrength many of the books are rather than any particular virtue of the Servants codex.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW: They technically still exist, if you can find the models. Contrary to the wild speculation of the day, their release did not herald the expansion of Renegade Guard or other factions into inclusion in the core game.
2. Elucidian Starstriders
Kill Team was one of Games Workshop’s genuinely good ideas- it takes the basic mechanics of 40K, but scales them down to a squad-level skirmish game with more detailed rules for individual troopers and also brings back some of the narrative elements that were present in earlier editions of the game. The Kill Team boxes were similarly brilliant, combining a basic squad of models with the terrain to start playing the game; with two Kill Team boxes and a few hastily-prepared bits of scatter terrain, you and a friend could pretty easily enter into the world of Warhammer 40,000 and get started on the hobby as a whole, which is a much easier sell than $800+ for a full-size game.
I’m not sure what the Starstriders were supposed to be, though. In theory, they explore a very neat part of the setting at the appropriate scale- a team of Rogue Trader operatives that have writ from the Emperor himself to cross the galaxy with impunity and serve trade interests. Narratively, they make perfect sense for a Kill Team-scale game, since that is the level that Rogue Traders operate on. But then, as always, Games Workshop decided that if they were going to make a model they had to give it rules for 40K, and so opened up the possibility of bringing what is essentially Paul Blart, Imperial Mall Cop onto a futuristic battlefield.
Like the other small-scale releases that were expanded into the main game, the Elucidian Starstriders don’t do anything unique or interesting and do at a price point nobody would want. They try to do a little bit of the “elite, well-equipped humans” gimmick that Scions are so much better at, but without any of their advantages and with much, much worse abilities and characters. Much like Servants of the Abyss, they actually have a whole bunch of units available to them, more than Harlequins and their ilk… but because many of them represent unique individuals you are highly limited in how many can be included, to the point where even filling out a 500pt force is all but impossible.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW: You can still play them in Kill Team, although I don’t know why you would want to. They make great conversion fodder for one-and-a-half squads of Guardsmen, though!
1. Gellerpox Infected
This is the other half of the Elucidian Starstriders set for Kill Team, presumably created for similar reasons. Like the Starstriders, they offer a somewhat unique piece of the setting- the Gellerpox are the mutated results of a Nurgle-born plague that melds flesh and machine to create horrifying warp abominations. To that end, the Gellerpox come in all shapes and sizes- from swarms of disgusting flies and maggots up to towering monstrosities of furnace-flesh that can engulf a Space Marine whole. This was a distinct change from, say, the Poxwalkers of the Death Guard codex or the various Nurgle forces of the Chaos Daemons book, and offered a variety of units from different slots that was potentially quite appealing.
I say “potentially” there because, perhaps as a result of some of its 7th Edition experiments, Games Workshop costed these units with almost wild overcaution. They were slow, came with mediocre defenses, little or no offense to speak of, and with a price point that certainly wouldn’t be seen as appealing for any faction in the game, much less those with access to better ally options such as Chaos. Their Nurgle allegiance made it relatively easy to include them in a detachment if one so chose, but considering they would be competing for space with units such as Nurglings, Plague Drones, Plagueburst Crawlers, Beasts of Nurgle, and others, they were never really in the running for anyone.
The Gellerpox do have at least one distinction of note, however: they managed to get a small mention in the Vigilus campaign series as a bit player in that conflict, apparently keeping a bunch of Ultramarines tied up fighting them in close quarters. One wonders just how incompetent those Smurfs must have been to be struggling with such a token force, but we will leave that to the usual narrative handwaving of “Chaos is always an impossible foe until it isn’t” that is in most books where they come into conflict.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW: Packed away in a cardboard box somewhere, never to be touched again, or in some rare cases used in a display board that will make you ask “huh, I wonder where they got that bit from” when you see it at a tournament.
As always, remember that you can get your wargaming supplies at great discounts every day from the Frontline Gaming store, whether you’re looking to start a new army that isn’t a trash pile like these ones or expand an existing force.