Meat for Meta: What the Fluff?

If you’re anything like me, you have no idea who the hell Dan Abnett is. I mean, I know now that Mr. Abnett is the author of many fine novels in the Warhammer universe, including the official penning of the Horus Heresy. I think that’s when the Emperor told Horus that he was his father and cut off his hand, or something. Warhammer 40,000 actually has a pretty ridiculous amount of fiction associated with it. I haven’t read any, because I just don’t have the stomach for tie-in fiction, but I do read the “story” sections of every codex that I pick up. (Wolves, Smurfs, Chaos Marines, Eldar, and Tau for those of you keeping track) Some of this is embarrassingly bad and some of it is tolerable.

I absolutely can’t stand the way codex authors slip in and out of narrative voices when writing these sections. It’s disorienting and weird, but I power through it. Why? Because ultimately, the fluff adds a lot to the hobby that every new player can benefit from. Take the mighty Space Wolves. Now, if I hadn’t read the codex itself and just went on to the army list section, I would still be happy with my army. However, if I page through the beginning, I might find a particular Great Company whose style I want to emulate on the tabletop. Maybe a certain story or character will stand out and I’ll want to put them in my list. These sections are great for overall hobby inspiration. There’s a section in the Wolf ‘dex called “The Wolf and the Lion” that I really like. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but essentially it lays out a neat little scenario where any time a Space Wolf army and a Dark Angels army “meet”, their HQs should duke it out in a duel. This is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. If you have a Wolf player and a Dark Angels player at your club, you should try to get them to fight it out with their HQs, Thunderdome style. Who wouldn’t be excited by that?

I recently came to the realization that my Space Wolves just aren’t unique enough. If you take out the Rune Priests & Njal from my lists, I may as well be playing vanilla Marines. Back to the codex I went, on a hunt for the character of my army. I found it, and I’m pretty excited about the possibilities. Sometimes a little run through the first fifteen to twenty pages of your codex is all you need to get excited all over again about your army. Now, I’m not suggesting that you read all the tie-in novels and adhere 100% to a “fluffy” army list. I think ultimately you can play whatever kind of army you want to play and enjoy it. As a new hobbyist, I found it too tempting to skip right past the fluff and get to the meat and potatoes sections of my codex.

Thankfully, I realized that it was all part of the fun and worked past the crusty prose to the good bits underneath. Just like the “mini-narratives” I talked about last week, I think a little bit of fluff and story in your games will go a long way to making them more fun. Every Tau player should know about the Greater Good, every Wolf player should know who Leman Russ was, and every Kroot player should read the Kroot mercs .pdf at least once. The tabletop can be just as much a stage as a game board!

You can find me also at my blog Sweeping Advance.

Questions for comment:

  1. Did you read much fluff as a new hobbyist?
  2. What piece of fluff would you recommend most to new 40k players?
  3. What’s your single favorite piece of fluff? (Even a single paragraph/incident counts!)
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Author: Frank Austin

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