Why do I hate Space Marines?

I wrote an article earlier about the Blood Angels vs. Tyranids box set, Shield of Baal – Deathstorm, and felt that I was perhaps a little too harsh on Space Marines without some sort of justification. Let me start by saying that I don’t hate Space Marines. Hate is a rather strong word and I feel that it does not accurately describe my feelings towards the pre-pubescent superhuman warriors defending mankind in the 41st millennium. For example, I do have my own chapter that I will be expanding on the table at some point in the future, but equally they will never be a primary army for me.

Firstly, they’re physically and mentally superhuman as well as being equipped with (almost) the best that humanity has to offer. There is no internal conflict, they are completely set in their devotion to the Emperor as a father figure, stalwart protectors of mankind and they go to battle prepared for everything. To me, this all just sounds like a recipe for boring. If I wanted to collect genetically engineered killing machines whose sole purpose is to fight for a cause, I’d surrender myself to the Hive Mind and collect Tyranids. I like my armies to have character. I like there to be models across the table that I can point to and talk about their out-of-combat exploits. I like there to be a person behind the model, if you know what I mean, not just another foot-slogging soldier. With Space Marines there is not much wiggle room; you have their early childhood, but Space Marine recruits are taken young before they develop too much, so beyond childhood exploits they do not have time to develop interesting backgrounds. When I look at the named characters in the Space Marine codex, none of them jump off the page at me; none of them strike me as particularly interesting or deep. Every single one of them just comes across as “Generic Space Marine Captain #29.” Their exploits are nothing particularly special and include nothing beyond having a good combat record. Whilst I know that this is true for most of Games Workshop’s named characters in the codices, it’s doubly reinforced by the nature of what it is to be a Space Marine.

Secondly, expanding on my first reason, Space Marines themselves are personality-lacking children with giant muscles and bulky weapons. Children are complex individuals, but with a Space Marine everything that makes a child an enigma is removed. They grow up during initiation, but… They don’t develop emotionally as a human. Sure, on the battlefield their brain works overtime and their physical body develops far beyond that of a normal human being, but deep inside, in the most human part of their brain, they are horrifically underdeveloped. Space Marines are no longer humans; they may as well be mechanical constructs. It’s something that I just do not enjoy about Space Marines as a faction.

Third, all their units are the same. If you look at a Tactical Marine, it is the same as an Assault Marine and a Devastator Marine, just with mildly different wargear. The difference is not large enough, with Devastators and Tactical Marines differing simply in heavy and special weapon compositions. Veterans are also the same, just with a few more special rules and fancy toys though their stats remain largely the same as their less experienced brethren. This, paired with their particular statistics, leads them to be a “jack of all trades, master of none” army. One thing that strikes me as odd is that Assault Squads are unable to take any special melee weapons apart from on their sergeant; even Storm Guardians have the option to take two power swords!

Fourth, and finally, it’s an all-male faction due to the nature of the implants. This just goes against my “can-do” attitude! Come on, who honestly wasn’t expecting this one?

So this is why I dislike Space Marines. I have RPed one in a Deathwatch game (Fantasy Flight’s tabletop roleplaying game) where I ended up playing a combat character because I tried to create a skill/social encounter based Space Marine and stumbled upon how OP the heavy bolter (or any fully automatic weapon) is in that system. What just intensifies the dislike is how they manage to be the most popular faction (by a long way!) in the Warhammer 40k hobby. If people want to turn around and say “well, Sisters of Battle can only be female, so it balances!” I will merely state what I said in my article about the new box set: Four factions are Space Marines alone, six if you include Grey Knights and Chaos Space Marines (though the latter has some interesting amount of diversity at least). Sisters are a single faction with miniatures made more than a decade ago and a codex with only slightly more choice than a Call of Duty campaign. It’s not the same boat, heck it’s not even the same ocean.

I just wish that Games Workshop would pay some attention to me as a non-Space Marine player… *sniffles*

Have we had enough of Space Marines?

Well, apparently not. So the new releases for Games Workshop went up yesterday and, speaking honestly, I wasn’t very inspired. The value of these box sets is always good, and I’m glad that these Space Marines have less obvious Blood Angels decals than those in the Dark Vengeance box set, but why do we need yet another box set involving Space Marines?

It’s simple, really. Space Marines are the front product for Games Workshop. It is their most sold army and features… Four separate factions; six if you include Grey Knights and Chaos Space Marines in the mix as well. So what is it about Space Marines that makes them so loved? No, really. Why are they loved so much? The Horus Heresy is a great part of the Warhammer 40k universe and, whilst I haven’t read them due to little interest in most things to do with Space Marines, I’ve heard that the Horus Heresy series of books from the Black Library are well written. So I fully understand why someone might want to play 30k as one of the original legions, but why in 40k? Space Marines are generally bland and lacking personality and character. However, this is not the same type of lacking as Necrons or Tyranids. Necrons, at least back when I started Warhammer 40k, had the allure of being Terminator (in the Schwarzenegger sense) in space and Tyranids had the draw of being this giant devourer of worlds. Both had the allure of “being the bad guy” but what do Space Marines have? Defenders of humanity? Well, Astra Militarum defend humanity. The Inquisition defend humanity. The Adepta Sororitas defend humanity. Space Marines are well-equipped and engineered specifically for war? Tyranids are literally spawned to hard-counter the enemies on the planet they are trying to consume and the Inquisition has far more toys than the Space Marines gain access to.

Whilst Space Marine characters, such as Shrike, Lysander and Papa Smurf himself, Marneus Calgar, have different personalities, they are not different enough. They all share the underlying attitudes and characteristics of a Space Marine leader figure. The only interesting characters are, and I shame myself for naming Ultramarines, Tigurius and Cassius. Tigurius is interesting to me as his origins are mysterious, his psychic affinity (and ability to roll on Divination) a result of a potentially heretical origin; Cassius is an old man who hates Tyranids who leads his own hand-picked and customly equipped warriors against this foe. Still, they are nothing compared to characters such as Colonel-Commissar Gaunt in all his greatness (why was he removed from the codex!) or Commissar Yarrick who is a normal man who had his eye replaced with a small laser because the Orks thought that he could kill an Ork just by looking at them, or Asdrubael Vect who led a bunch of Imperials to Commorragh so that he could get rid of his rivals. What do Space Marines have? They all probably defended something against impossible odds, or performed some sort of daring offensive. Newsflash: So have others, without the aid of being superhuman and created for combat. The thing that sets Space Marines so low in my opinions is that most of them lack anything beyond combat prowess and faith to the Emperor. At least Sisters of Battle are expected to be able to blend into society and be as a normal human should the Ecclesiarchy need them to track down a heretic in the Imperium, as opposed to being simply nuns with bolters and power armour, and that is the most one-dimensional army that I like. Space Marines are the most one-dimensional faction by a long shot, even the off-shoots such as Blood Angels with their Red Thirst and Space Wolves with their Vikings in Space feeling all boil down to one thing: everything they do revolves around combat, whilst not being the only faction in the Imperium to do so.

Because of this unfathomable fascination with Space Marines, Games Workshop are churning out box sets involving Space Marines and leaving at least the rest of the Imperial factions out to dry. As I said, Space Marines are not the only ones who could be put as “the good guys” in a box set. You could easily use Eldar, Tau, Astra Militarum, Inquisition or (I know, I’m naive to even consider this) Sisters of Battle. Heck, you could even have Orks as the “not quite as bad as the other guy” in a box with Dark Eldar or Tyranids. As a predominantly non-Space Marine player, I ask you this: Where is my box set involving my army? Eldar, Dark Eldar, Astra Militarum/Militarum Tempestus, Inquisition or Adepta Sororitas. Where is my opportunity to get a good selection of models for an affordable price? If Games Workshop put something like Astra Militarum against Orks or Tyranids, I would probably start a small Ork or Tyranid army, as I would buy multiple of the box primarily for the Astra Militarum, but would also get a small, new army out of it that I would probably expand on at a later date. Throwing Space Marines into a box set, whilst I have a small Space Marine army, is not going to get me to buy it unless the other faction was one of the armies that I mainly play (which wouldn’t make much sense if it was Inquisition, Astra Militarum or Sisters).

Forgive me for sounding bitter. Truth of the matter is: I am.

I took a hit from the inspiration bat

Right to the face too, my nose is still sore!

Anyway, I got a massive amount of inspiration this evening and got down to properly starting on my fantasy novel (it’s a long process). I will be trying to get this work published, so I will not be posting it up, but I will post up excerpts once the website is fully armed and operational. More website restructuring and new pages need to be made, but we’ll get there eventually.

I’ve just been in a fantasy mood recently, and have about a week left before Star Wars: The Old Republic – Shadow of Revan comes out (which I am mildly looking forward to, but interest has fallen as of late).

However, first chapter has been finished! I’m happy with it as far as first drafts of first chapters go. I have plans for where I want the story to evolve to and I firmly believe that there is enough material queued up to make two, well sized novels. Fingers crossed I can find a publisher who doesn’t hate my work!