Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Worlds: you gotta break 'em down to build 'em up

The release of 8th edition Warhammer 40,000 earlier this month, brought with it a huge update to the background material. Possibly the biggest change since records began*.

In the new storyline the Imperium of Man has been torn apart by a vicious Warp Storm, the suitably ominous-sounding Cicatrix Maledictum, cutting off half the galaxy and giving traitors, heretics and the like the chance to really step up their game. As a result no Imperial planets have escaped unscathed and much of what's left is unrecognisable.

Although it's all still grim and dark

At first this seemed like a bit of a blow, similar to what Games Workshop did with Warhammer Fantasy Battle and the release of Age of Sigmar – tearing it down in order to build it back up from scratch. The kind of shocking changes that leave you slack-jawed, quietly mouthing "but, but... I liked that."

However, as with any upheaval, the trick is to see the benefits.

If you've ever tried reading this blog and following my skittish course through the hobby, you might be aware that I often have several models on the go at once. These can be in many different stages of progress, from odd-shaped bits of cut-up plastic to half-painted miniatures only a few licks of paint from completion.

Although this approach is practically useless at getting any serious armies finished, it is excellent for keeping me entertained and enthused. As soon as I get bored with a project I can put it to one side and try something else, without too much self-recrimination. At the end of the day the main reason I model and paint tiny toy soldiers is because I enjoy modelling and painting tiny toy soldiers. Maximising that enjoyment just makes sense.

With the major changes to the background story, there's a way my skittish approach can be used to my advantage. I can update my tiny corner of the WH40K universe – the Acheron Subsector – not just to keep it relevant, but to throw the spotlight on some of the unfinished factions on my desk, bringing the most fitting ones to the fore and building the unfolding story around them.

Using the background section from the new rulebook as my guide, I've put together a rough outline of what I think has been happening in Acheron, prior to the arrival of any new forces.

1) The Medean Warp Cluster has become far less stable. For a while Warp Storms flared and raged around it, and when they eventually died down it looked significantly larger and more livid. On ships travelling in nearby real-space, several astropaths and navigators were said to have inexplicably, and in some cases violently, lost their lives.

2) The Ork taint has risen in at least two systems within the subsector. Although still brutal, their behaviour has sometimes been described as erratic, like they were preoccupied, or could sense something that humans couldn't.

3) Contact was lost with some of the deep space defence platforms positioned on the major shipping routes. It was as if they simply winked out, one by one.

4) Cults of dubious nature have sprung up in the more densely-packed hive cities throughout the subsector (including Kruenta Karoliina Arx Rotunda in the Ancora Binary System). As the cults have grown in size, civil unrest has turned to fighting in the streets. In many cities, in an effort to contain the disruption, House security forces and other pseudo-military organisations have been seconded to the Arbites. Some officers have reported seeing strange and unnatural creatures among the rioters.

5) Squads of corrupted vessels have been spotted at several locations within the subsector. It is unclear as to whether there are multiple fleets or a single, highly mobile one.

6) Imperial ships bound for, or expected from some of the fringe systems have not shown up. Astropathic contact with those same systems has gone null. At least 7 inhabited planets are currently feared lost.

7) The local Astartes garrison, belonging to the Storm Guard, is thought to have engaged an enemy on multiple fronts. In their last contact, a priority beacon, they stated they were taking heavy casualties. Nothing has been heard from them since.

I'll be trying to explore this story further as I paint and model my way through the next few evenings, attempting to fit some of my forthcoming models into the unfolding narrative. In the meantime, with no new miniatures presented here, my Addiction Challenge score hasn't changed. Hopefully I'll have painted something by the next post, otherwise this number isn't ever going away.


*Otherwise known as 1987, when Rick Priestly and Games Workshop released Rogue Trader**.
**And thousands of young kids were strangely captivated by the idea of collecting diminutive, little fighting dudes, most likely unaware that they were entering into a hobby that stood a good chance of sticking with them for the rest of their lives.

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