Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Book and Product Review: Warhammer 40k (4th & 5th Edition) Background Section--The Dark Millennium

(Image: Warhammer 40k 5th Edition Rulebook)
In my previous post, I discussed the game mechanics in Warhammer 40,000 4th Edition (WH40k 4Ed). I left off without going over the second part of the book, the Background Section.  But before I decided to do a Book & Product Review, I borrowed Dallas' 5th Edition book and read most of it in order to compare the two and discuss the setting of WH40k.  (Note:  The 6th Edition was published nearly two years ago).

This edition is organized a bit differently than it's predecessor.  There's five sections instead of two:  the introduction, rules, background, hobby information and reference material containing victory point listings and quick reference sheets.

I skipped reading the rules in this edition.  Oh, I'm sure there's a modification or three, but I figure I'd learn such things during gameplay--probably after my forces are annihilated.  Anyway, WH40k 5 Ed contains more background information than the previous edition did, which is appropriately titled:
Dark Millennium.

The epitaph at the bottom of both 4th & 5th editions, along with the cover art, provide a good idea of what life--such as it is--in the 40th Millennium is like:

In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war.

Thirty Eight Thousand years from now, the human race rules a large swath of the galaxy and is, in turn, ruled by a comatose emperor believed to be a god and savior of mankind.  The emperor supposedly retains most of his psychic powers thanks to a throne-like life support system.  The daily-to-day details of running the interstellar Imperium of Man is left to the various Latin-titled bureaucracies.

In other words, the Imperium is a gothic, theocratic police state.  Apparently, it's impossible to govern an interstellar empire without inquisitors torturing suspected heretics...

(Image:  Warhammer 40,000 Dawn of War Wallpaper)
...and commissars summarily executing anyone suspected of treason, or cowardice.

(Image: WH40k Motivational Posters)
These loyal minions of the emperor work overtime throughout the galaxy because, the Imperium of Man has been fighting genocidal wars against several other factions for thousands of years.  Who by the way, have been fighting a genocidal war against the Imperium--and each other--for thousands of years.

In this perpetual, galaxy-wide free-for-all, you have the Imperium...

...versus the enigmatic Eldar (the equivalent of Elves in fantasy)...

(Image by Yuliapw, background info available on WH40k Wikia--Eldar)

...versus their sadistic cousins, the Dark Eldar (Drow)...

(Image from WH40k Wikia--Dark Eldar)

...versus the savage Orks (same as in fantasy realms, but armed with guns)...

(Image from WH40k Wikia--Orks)

...versus the philosophically expansionist Tau...

(Image from WH40k Wikia--Tau)

...versus the monstrous, world-devouring Tyranids (strikingly similar to the creatures in the Alien movies).

(Image from WH40k Wikia--Tyranids)

And if waging total war against the living weren't bad enough...

(Image from Dakka Dakka--Gallery)

...there's the Necrons (undead cyborgs)...

(Image from WH40k Wikia--Necrons)

...along with the denizens of "The Warp," such as the bloodthirsty Chaos Space Marines...

(Image from WH40k Wikia--Chaos Space Marines)

...and unholy Daemons to deal with.

(Image derived from Chaos Daemon Codex, background info available on WH40k Wikai)

Now The Warp is an alternate dimension that makes space travel and interstellar communication possible. 

(Image from WH40k Wikia--The Warp)

It's also where psykers, those blessed/cursed with psychic abilities, draw their power from.  However, using such power comes at a high price:  Insanity, death or the enslavement of one's soul, is often the result when one delves too much into the power of The Warp.  

It acts like the Force in the material realm--but without the Light Side.  Theologians today would probably use another term for this dimension of Chaos:  


And yet, despite this dismal and foreboding setting, there is some good news--at least for those of us who don't actually live in the 40th Millennium.   All this multi-dimensional mayhem assures gamers that peace won't be breaking out any time soon.  Because "...there is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter and the laughter of thirsting gods" (cover page, Warhammer 40,000 5th Edition). 

As part of the wargaming hobby, the Warhammer line has it's fans and detractors.  I'm rather ambivalent towards the game.  I like the rules' easy mechanics and the ability to utilize this knowledge in the other Warhammer variants.  

However, I'm not all that enthused about gaming in this Dark Millennium.  Both editions are lavishly illustrated, often with disturbing and even morbid artwork.  In other sci-fi settings, such as Star Trek, Star Wars, Traveller even the free-wheelin' Firefly, there's always a sense of hope.  

There is none in the 40th Millennium.  

(Image:  Sister Hospitaller by Pvt Serrano)

I guess the Warahmmer 40k 'verse is just not quite my cup of Earl Grey. 

Unless of course, someone were to convince me otherwise...

(Image from Dakka Dakka


Sigridsdad said...

My thoughts exactly Ted. WH40 is set in such a bleak "Universe" that I really don't enjoy it. However... if you want to game, you can go anywhere and find one. So faced with that quandry, I went with the TAU, simply because they seemed the least evil.

Ted Henkle said...

I like how you referred to them as the "least evil." I agree. While their "Greater Good" philosophy sounds grand, I find their caste system off-putting. But I also think the Tau have the neatest vehicles, weaponry and units. I have similar feelings about the Eldar too.
As far as collecting an battleforce goes: I'm going with the Imperial Guard--just a bunch of Average Joes.