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.

4 thoughts on “Have we had enough of Space Marines?

  1. Good post. Having read this (and your follow up post) I’m inclined to agree on many of the points (especially as I also find Space Marines can be a little dull). In many ways I think this impression stems from the codex, the Black Library’s Horus Heresy series does a grand job of making interesting, multi-dimensional heroes out of Space Marines and there’s no reason at all that can’t be translated into the 41st Millennium. I’m also quite a fan of the more complex Chapters as explored in the Forgeworld books (for example the Minotaurs and Charcarodons – excuse me if the latter is woefully misspelt!). However there is a tendency to dumb down the Space Marines – overemphasised at times but still undeniably the case.
    Part of the appeal of Space Marines, I believe, is that they offer the opportunity to be a hero – indeed a superhero – not simply a defender of humanity against the odds, not just another faceless guardsman dying in a trench but a champion with the best kit and armour the Imperium can provide. They appeal to the part of us that wants to be the hero, riding in and saving the day when all hope seems lost rather than fighting a long and gruelling war of attrition in the manner of the Imperial Guard.
    However I agree with you that it doesn’t need to be this way. There are plenty of heroes in the guard that could share the heroic appeal of the Space Marines (Tempestus Scions being the obvious example) and their lack of superhuman status only elevates the value of their courage. When the time comes to replace Dark Vengeance I’d love to see a starter set of guard vs eldar. It would be a great opportunity to inject life back into one of the old metal regiments (Armageddon Steel Legion would be my pick) with plastic models and replace a lot of old kits into the bargain (rough riders anyone?) Likewise the eldar have a lot of elderly models in dire need of updating to plastic. That is unless Sisters of Battle vs Dark Mechanicus is an option…

  2. That’s the crux of the matter: Space Marines appeal to people who want to be the superhero of the day. That’s certainly a contributing factor as to why I dislike them, as I largely enjoy more notable and obvious flaws. If I were reading a piece of fiction in 40k, I would much rather see the Sister Superior or Guard veteran ducking under the mad chainaxe swings of the Khorne Berzerker, trying to find a weakness in his technique to exploit, as opposed to the Space Marine sergeant meeting the axe with his own blade. Clash of the titans style battles do work, just not when it’s the only type of fight that happens. That being said, I prefer realism first, so I won’t stand for a normal human going toe to toe with a Hive Tyrant and winning. Escape or be squished if you aren’t something like a (particularly main-charactery-heroic Space Marine Captain in terms of power.

    I totally agree with you on the Tempestus Scions part, though I fear that people don’t like them partially because they aren’t the most competitive on the tabletop. To me, this is not an issue. I love Tempestus Scions so much and the idea of having a load of them swoop onto the battlefield and grav chute from their Valkyries guns blazing… *fans self* Marvellous.

    Also, if I want to play a champion with the best gear the Imperium has to offer… Tempestor Prime, Inquisitor or Sister of Battle. Unfortunately, I doubt we’ll see the shift away from Space Marines as most wargamers you ask will have some sort of Space Marine army. Heck, I’m not a fan of them and I have about 600pts of them! For me, however, they are relegated to “allied detachment or go home” status. Let the real men (and women!) of the Imperium handle the real fighting 😉

    And GW won’t give us a Sisters box. They hate us Sisters players (and really, -really- need a few women on their design team. The all-male design team really comes through in the codices)

  3. Pingback: So Everyone Is Hyped About Blood Angels? | Lexicon of Doubts

  4. Pingback: So Everyone Is Hyped About Blood Angels? Let’s Show Some Love For Tyranids | Lexicon of Doubts

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