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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Kalpar Lectures: So what is a Space Marine?

Recently there has been a lot of girly stuff on the blog. Posts about the sexiest bits of beefcake and mancandy in the Marvel universe and nonsense such as that. (By the by, Katie owes me a quarter every time she uses mancandy, beefcake, or a similar term.She's up to about twenty dollars by now.) So I have decided that weneed to bring something MANLY to this site! "But Kalpar!"my one reader is probably exclaiming. "You have already reviewed the manliest comic ever: Tales From the Bully Pulpit. In which the manliest president of all time, Theodore Roosevelt, engages in the manliest pastime of all time, punching Nazis, on the most manly of planets of all time, Mars, even though it ain't the kind of place to raise your kids because it is in fact cold as hell." Well,dear reader, it is true that there is very little quite as manly asTales From the Bully Pulpit, I shall nonetheless attempt with a helpful lecture on the Space Marines of Warhammer 40k and their origins. BECAUSE SPACE MARINES ARE AWESOME! AND MANLY! And also I've done a couple of posts about Space Marines, so I figure people who are unfamiliar with Warhammer 40,000 would like to have some idea what on earth this is all about.

First I want to provide some background information on Warhammer 40,000 in general. Back in the 1980's a company called Games Workshop developed the table top game Warhammer 40,000. Set in the distant future of the 41st millennium, the forces of the Imperium of Man fight against....pretty much everyone really. How the game works is people buy, assemble, and paint model soldiers to formarmies based on rules in a collection of rule books called codices(plural of codex, I refuse to use codexes). Then you find someone as crazy as you and play on a table (thus tabletop game). To simplify, it's basically a more grown up and expensive way of playing with toy soldiers. The Space Marines are just one of the many armies available to play in 40k. But where do the books and video games that I've reviewed come into the picture? Well that's what we players like to call the "fluff". Basically all information about games like Warhammer 40k are divided into the categories of fluff and crunch. Actual game rules, like how much damage a Hellhound flamethrower tank does, is called crunch. Information like the tendency of Hellhound crews being pyromaniacs, which doesn't really affect gameplay, is called fluff. Books by people like Dan Abnett and Graham McNiell are pure fluff, entertaining to read and with lots of great stories, but really doesn't affect how I play the game. Some people do without fluff entirely, but I think it's a lot more fun to read the fluff and know the rules. So before I get into the fluff of Space Marines, I guess I'll provide their crunch. Basically the Space Marines are a middle-of-the-road army. There's nothing they're particularly bad at, but there's nowhere they shine either. Space Marines can be expected to do any task competently, but they probably won't win a shooting match with a Tau army or hand-to-hand combat with a bunch of Orks, simply because those armies have specialized in those tasks. Overall they're a pretty good army to play for beginners or people who like to keep their options open.

Now we start getting into the fluff. And to give credit where credit is due, some of my phrasing for the first part of this lecture is taken from this helpful video. In the distant future, the Immortal Emperor of Mankind unites the people of Terra under his rule and begins planning his Great Crusade, which would unite the many planet shumanity has settled upon into the Imperium of Man. To do this, he created twenty legions of genetically altered super-warriors which he called Space Marines. Each Space Marine is given nineteen extra organs which turn them into a seven foot tall bad ass warrior completely unarmed. The Imperium then makes them even better by giving them power armor, bolters, and chainswords. The power armor makes them very very hard to kill and the bolters fire .75 caliber bullets that explode. The chainswords are just really freaking cool. So, as you can imagine with twenty legions of these guys, the Emperor's armies seemed unstoppable. In addition, the Emperor created even more powerful Primarchs to lead these legions. However, the four Chaos Gods, realizing the Emperor was going to cause them some trouble, scattered the twenty Primarchs across the galaxy. Shrugging and deciding he'd best get to work anyway, the Emperor proceeded to conquer the galaxy. Along the way he found eighteen of his Primarchsons and put them in charge of their respective legions. (...We don't talk about the two missing Primarchs.) Of all the Primarchs, the Emperor chose Horus to be his commander-in-chief and left him in charge of the Grand Crusade so the Emperor could go set up a government for this empire he conquered. Eventually Horus began to feel unappreciated and fell to Chaos, taking eight other Primarchs and their legions with him. The remaining nine Primarchs and their legions remained loyal to the Emperor, but were overpowered by the treachery of their brothers. Eventually Horus managed to attack Terra itself and the Emperor had to intervene personally.

In the epic battle which followed, the Emperor managed to kill Horus but only after taking serious wounds to his body. (Hey, he was the Immortal Emperor of Mankind, not the Invulnerable Emperor of Mankind.) The traitor legions now broken, it fell to the surviving loyal Primarchs to rebuild the Imperium.

One loyal Primarch, Roboute Guilliman of the Ultramarines, decided to write a book called the Codex Astartes. This book would provide the rules for how Space Marines would act in the future and divide the Space Marine Legions into thousand-strong Space Marine Chapters. One Chapter would keep the colors and emblem of the original Legion, but the successor chapters would adopt their own colors and emblem. This division of the Space Marines would prevent any individual from controlling tensof thousands of Space Marines at once, as the original Primarchs did, and hopefully prevent a civil war on such a scale as the HorusHeresy. Initially half of the surviving loyalist Primarchs opposed Guilliman's plan, however Rogal Dorn of the Imperial Fists intervened and convinced his brothers to follow the Codex Astartes. To this day,however, several Space Marine Chapters do not follow the CodexAstartes and have their own organization and rules. While the successor Chapters number in the hundreds, the nine Chaptersdescended directly from the Legions are alive today, and are listed in order of Legion number.

  • Legion I – The Dark Angels: The Dark Angels and their successor Chapters hold a dark secret: half of the Dark Angels Legion betrayed the Emperor during the Horus Heresy. As a result the Dark Angels and their successors, who collectively call themselves “The Unforgiven”, are dedicated to hunting down the surviving traitors.
  • Legion V – The White Scars: Skilled in hit and run tactics, the White Scars are experts at using motorbikes in lightning assaults against their enemies. Frequently the enemies of the Imperium will find themselves outflanked and outmaneuvered by the White Scars.
  • Legion VI – The Space Wolves: A notoriously unorthodox Chapter that refuses to follow the Codex Astartes, the Space Wolves are still one of the mightiest and most respected Space Marine Chapters. If there's anything they love more than drinking and carousing, it's fighting the enemies of Mankind. Kind of like Vikings in Space. If the Vikings could spit acid.
  • Legion VII - The Imperial Fists: Experts at siege warfare, the Imperial Fists are notorious for holding a position against all odds. They also have a reputation for being meticulous in their planning and incredibly serious.
  • Legion IX - The Blood Angels: The Blood Angels are one of the more...unorthodox of the Space Marine Chapters. While they follow the Codex Astartes, there are certain mutations in their genes which make them thirst for blood and go crazy. Kind of like vampires, except Katie wouldn't like them. Although repeated investigations have never proved the existence of such a mutation, it remains a major concern.
  • Legion X - The Iron Hands: The Iron Hands are different from their brother Marines in the respect that they consider human flesh to be weak and inferior. As a result mechanical augmentations among the Iron Hands are extremely common and they work very closely with the Adeptus Mechanicus, the scientists of the Imperium. As a result of this close partnership, many other Chapters view them with a degree of suspicion.
  • Legion XIII - The Ultramarines: The most rigid followers of the Codex Astartes, and as a result the most generic, the Ultramarines had the most surviving members after the Horus Heresy (mostly because they were on the other side of the galaxy.) As a result, the Ultramarines have the most successor Chapters out of all the original Legions.
  • Legion XVIII - The Salamanders: The Salamanders have an affinity for fire and fire-based weaponry, which makes sense since they come from a world covered in volcanoes. The Salamanders are also famous for going out of their way to protect the people of the Imperium and are less willing to sacrifice civilians than some other Marine Chapters.
  • Legion XIX - The Raven Guard: Despite being super strong and really tall super warriors, the Raven Guard are experts at infiltration and guerrilla warfare. Many enemies of the Imperium have found themselves tormented by the unpredictable and almost-unstoppable attacks of the Raven Guard where they least expect it.
Each Chapter which follows the Codex Astartes is divided into ten companies. The first company consists of the Chapter's veterans, experienced and much-honored warriors. The second through fifth companies are the Chapter's battle companies, the teams that do the bulk of the fighting. The sixth through ninth companies are reserve companies, typically called upon when the battle companies need extra men for a campaign. The tenth company consists of new recruits who are scouts. They do advanced reconnaissance for the other Marines and help soften up the enemy before the main force arrives. Each company is lead by a captain, and is divided into ten squads which are lead by sergeants. The entire Chapter is lead by a Chapter Master, although some Chapters choose to be lead by a council instead. Each Chapter also has a pool of armored vehicles, as well as several heavily armored space ships. Even at only a thousand strong, a Space Marine Chapter is a force to be reckoned with, especially if the entire Chapter is deployed in one place. (Although usually just one Company is enough to settle a conflict.)

Hopefully I haven't bored you to sleep with my lecture on Space Marines and have helped you learn something. Stay tuned for more Kalpar Lectures in the future when I talk about other 40k armies.


  1. You could take these Chapters and strip out anything too far-fetched (thirst for blood, etc.), revise the galactic backstory, and have a credible thriller series in our current world. Terrorists? Send the White Guard. Want to topple a regime with minimal casualties? Bring in the Raven Guard.

    It seems like this game was extrapolated (a lot) from the needs of the current military. Unextrapolating could be fun, especially since you'd have to come up with something that wasn't recognizable as Warhammer. Anybody? Nobody? Going away now.

  2. LOL! I think your nerd is showing Dakota , Ben will be so happy to have someone to play with ;) thanks for stopping by.

  3. To be fair, a lot of the stuff from the Imperium is based off of real-life stuff, either from now or some point in history. For example, while the Space Marines in a sort of general sense are all crusading orders of knights for the Emperor, you get the crusader vibe much more strongly from the Black Templars and the Dark Angels. The White Scars have a Mongolian Horde feel to them, while the Ultramarines have Greco-Roman theme going on. So you really could take stuff from Warhammer and put it back into the present day.

  4. Hey now, they can thirst for my blood and go crazy between the sheets any day they please. Yay baby! zing!

    Wonderful insight on these Space hotties. Love it!

  5. so this means you're also going to do a lecture on Eldar and Orcs? Looking forward to those.

  6. C'mon we need a chaos lecture in there somewhere too. Always need more bloodthirsty demons in here.