It is not often a forum post grabs me, but one came along which did. It took Andy Chambers of all people to point me to it, and if he endorses it, then that explains a lot about the Games Workshop design team thinking on how Chaos Space Marines should be portrayed.
The forum article has a click catching title and you can find the full post on BoLS Lounge.
Here is snippet to wet your pallet.
Abaddon’s Bolter Is Crap
Why Chaos’ Greatest Strength Is What Means It Will Never Win.
In many American cities (and in all Western cities to a lesser or greater degree), there is a war that is fought by two huge armies. It is fought daily, in a variety of urban landscapes, everywhere from the rooms of the city hall, all the way down to the ruined couches on the projects and council estates of the poorest boroughs.
One of these armies has extremely competent soldiers. Educated, intelligent and capable, these infantry are significantly more competent than those of the opposing armies. This is because the first of the two armies can call upon significantly better resources, supply lines, and, most importantly of all, has a significantly greater portion of control than their opponents. However, this army has two fatal flaws. The first is that the very control it commands, also stifles it; caught up in it’s own successful use of bureaucracy, it can often be enslaved to that same system as effectively as it is its master. The other problem – and often the more damaging one – is that to rise to a position of command does not call for battlefield skills one might assume. In fact, it call for skills with politics; the ability to play the social games of those with real power. Needless to say, this does not attract the most competent soldiers, but the best politicians. Thus it is that the first of the two armies, seemingly the most powerful, is hamstrung by corruption amongst those who should be leading it. Effective at the bottom, but deeply inefficient at the top, this army could easily rise to dominance, were it not for the nature of its own internal bureaucracy.
The second of these two forces is almost the polar opposite of the first. It does not have the luxury of recruiting skilled combatants. Instead, it must make do with what it gets – less educated, less competent, more undisciplined, and more dangerous to one another than the enemy, these footsoldiers are usefully expendable, but unrefined. They lack the finesse of the first army, but compensate with numbers and enthusiasm. Where this army excels is in the strength of its leadership: because of the brutally Darwinian narture of its organisation, where every soldier is out for themselves, those who lead, lead by sheer personal competence. This is for a simple reason: those who do not, are killed by those they thought their lessers. Thus, this army is led very effectively, and this strength of leadership enables it to compete on an equal footing with the first army, despite the poorer quality of its military forces.
We ordinarily refer to the first army as the police, and the second army as the drugs trade, and the interactions of these two bodies makes for a useful starting point when looking at the nature of the struggle between Chaos and the Imperium.
Why Is 40K Abaddon’s Bolter Less Effective Than 30K Horus’, Even Though It’s The Same Gun?
Chaos is one of the iconic armies of 40K. It’s a huge fan favourite, and because of that, it inspires real passion. People can get so lost in the ideas, that they kind of ignore the truth about what Chaos is and how it functions. Here’s the thing: I really like the idea of Chaos armies, but I think I like them for different reasons to other people. What I’m aiming to do here is kind of break down for you why I like Chaos, and why I think it’s cool. And what’s important to get, is that the things that make it cool, are also things that limit it. They’re things that get in the way, and mean that Chaos can kind of never win – not in a tabletop rules sense, more in a ‘Damn Abaddon, 13 tries and you still can’t get it right?’ kind of way.
So here goes.
The thing about Chaos armies? It’s that they’re not an army. You cannot come to the table with the assumption that the Chaos forces are symmetrical to the Imperium’s; it’s a classic case of what has come to be called asymmetric warfare: where two unequal forces engage one another.
But why is this? Chaos has Marines and Cultists and Daemons, and all sorts – why aren’t they wiping the floor with the Imperium?
On the surface, it seems logical. There are Chaos Chapters, and Loyalist Chapters. There are Chaplains, and there are Zealots. There are Sergeants and there are Champions. There are Dreadnoughts and there are Helbrutes. The armies are functionally the same.
In a word: no. No they aren’t, and it’s not because Chaos is EEEEEEEEVIL. It’s because of something far more important; more important than anything else. Resources. Even in the 41st Millenium, money talks.
You see the thing about money? Money is just a medium of exchange. It’s not ‘real’; it’s just something we all agree has a set value of exchange, in the same way we all agree that the word ‘tree’ refers to naturally occurring ligneous structures which survive through a process of photosynthesis. It’s a useful term. Even if you don’t use money (and I’m pretty sure a lot of people can’t imagine Khorne Berzerkers reaching for their wallets) you still need stuff.
I mean, those Chain Axes need fuel, Bolters need shells, and every Chaos Marine except the Thousand Sons still needs to eat.
Hell, the Thousand Sons probably still need WD40.
So even if you don’t use money, you still need to get stuff. Sure, you can steal those bolter shells… But what if you don’t have any to start with, your Chain Axes are all out of fuel, and those Power Armour batteries have gone flat? Good luck taking on those Astartes with their shiny-clean weapons that don’t have daemon-gunk blocking the barrel.
I hope this illustrates my first, and most important point: Chaos is poor.
Sorry fanboys, but it’s true – check out FFG’s ‘Black Crusade’ RPG, and compare what a standard Chaos Marine gets compared to a Deathwatch as far as equipment goes. Why does the Chaos Havok start with a Heavy Stubber? Because bullets are cheap! Why do Cultists use autoguns instead of lasguns? Because bullets are cheap!
This is something that is part of the Chaos fluff – going rogue, you’re like Genie in Disney’s ‘Alladin’…
The post continues as a very articulate crafty bit of theory behind Chaos Space Marines. I don’t agree with all the conclusions, but damn is it compelling and explains why we seem to have more stories about the Crimson Slaughter than the Word Bearers for the 41st millennium.
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