What is Games Workshop’s Least Loved Army?
I have often wondered if Games Workshop decided to ever do a Age of Sigmar style reboot for Warhammer 40k, what factions would they get rid of, which ones would they keep, or re-imagine. This is of course pure fantasy as Games Workshop would never do that sort of thing, but it does make you wonder if any armies could actually ever be on the chopping block? Currently, if you go by Games Workshop’s website, they are supporting 35 different factions, of course quite a few of these are just different ways of dividing the same Space Marine models. At first glance none look in danger of being “Squating”, with a few most likely just being combined together (Sisters of Silence).
If you go by content, model releases, and the Black Library it does look like you can easily get an idea of what Games Workshop likes and doesn’t like so much. To get more specific lets talk how things look currently, because I don’t want you to think about the historical disrespect many factions have received. Let’s focus on the army landscape right now, and who has been waiting the longest for real tangible love.
The best way I think to approach this is by a process of elimination. If we follow this we can eliminate quite a few armies from contention, quickly breaking into tiers of Games Workshop love.
- Space Marines (not Grey Knights or Deathwatch)
- Chaos Space Marines (including Thousand Sons and Death Guard)
- Astra Miliatrum
- Chaos Daemons
This top tier is pretty self evident, especially when you combine in Black Library releases, the above list is represents a vast majority of the protagonists and antagonists for any lore. The tier is easily explained if you think of the classic Games Workshop storytelling of; Imperial Guard fighting Orks, Eldar reveal Orks are being manipulated by Chaos, enter Space Marines. Sometimes players change, but Games Workshop works constantly mixing this tier into model releases for our consumption.
- Adeptus Custodes
- Adeptus Mechanicus
- T’au Empire
- Ynnari & Harlequins
- Imperial Knights & Chaos Knights
- Adepta Sororitas
This second tier mostly represents recency bias, all but Tau and Sisters are new armies of the last decade. Sisters can even be claimed as a “new” army. Ynnari and the Harlequins are often drivers of lore and story, putting them high on the love meter, more than would be typical of smaller factions. Knights are supported as a cash cow, with big robots being an universal draw. Tau fills the a high sci-fi niche which will always keep Games Workshop interested. Ad-mech and Custodes are supported doubly by constant new model releases and an ever expanding lore love; which could easily put them both in the most loved tier in the not so distance future.
- Genestealer Cult
- Grey Knights
The last tier is where we get down the truly least like. Deathwatch is pretty decently represented in the Black Library because of the ease of plotting that can take place, and it is that reason alone I feel is why we even have a model line or rules for them. Grey Knights have fallen hard, after being really loved in the 2000s. The big Grey Knight problem is Custodes and Primaris Marines, having removed that special elite feeling they always exuded. Now Grey Knights are nothing more than Black Templars with Psychic powers and silver paint. Dark Eldar, will always be in the least loved bucket, because of Games Workshop having boxed them into a debauchery corner, which already competes with Slaanesh. Dark Eldar are just too adult for the current look and feel of Games Workshop wants to portray. Tyranids use to be in the running for the big bad of the Warhammer 40k universe, but 7th and 8th edition Games Workshop seemed at a lost with what to do with them, with the only answer being lets make Genestealer Cult! Genestealer Cults while getting a decent amount of love as it comes to models, really suffers by Games Workshop not using them pretty much at all in the Black Library, it also hurts that the inherit lore of the faction will never have them play on a real grand scale.
That leaves my pick for the least loved Games Workshop army, and it has to be…
If you do a search on Black Library you will find about 60 titles that make mention of Necrons, with the Attack of the Necron kiddy crap seeming like the biggest headliner. When you do find a Necron centric story it often only comes in short/novella form as well.
As it pertains to lore found in game books, Necrons biggest boost happened years ago with Trazyn releasing part of his collection in the Gathering Storm series, but even that turned into a focus on the Imperial characters he released. Since the start of 8th edition only one new model has been released. You could also go all the way back to 2011 just count the Tesseract Vault/Obelisk/Transcendent C’Tan as the only other release between 5th and 8th edition. Like Eldar, Necrons have a ton of Finecast models still in the collection that need help. Cornerstone units like Destroyers and Warriors have not seen updates in almost 20 years too. Then you can look to a current debacle, Games Workshop Psychic Awakening: Pariah, which looks to reference Harlequins, and not the much desired return of an old Necron favorite. Then you also have the mostly joking rumor that some of the Age of Sigmar Ossiarch Bonereapers line was originally meant for Necrons.
The biggest asset for the Necrons is being critical to the story of Warhammer 40k universe, and the ancient battle with the Old Ones, but if it wasn’t for that Games Workshop could easily sweep the army under the rug. In the current 40k lore, Necrons seem to be the last defense against the Tyranids, but with Tyranids also currently sideline in favor of Chaos, it is hard to imagine when Games Workshop will take up that storyline again. Necrons have also been in the lower tiers when it comes to competitive play with few ridged builds that don’t use much the model line. Games Workshop couldn’t even make a proper boardgame with Necrons in it, as Labyrinth of Necrons leaves them to cardboard blips. unlike the unique Space Marines that come in the box. All in all, like much of the last tier of least loved, Games Workshop just seems to have forgotten about certain factions.
I feel bad for Necrons, the lore is pretty good with the whole crazy robot empires being is ripe for narrative exploitation, along with the original tragedy of the entire race. They are also good horror fodder, with many tombs raiding possibilities, an easy pairing/antagonist for Ad-Mech. Sure, plastic Aspect Warriors have a bigger claim to needing new models, but overall Necrons need a lot of help too. Imagine if Games Workshop decided to make new C’tan and expand them, giving them a wealth of unique modeling opportunities. Still, the above mentioned Warriors and Destroyers need love ASAP, and lets not forget Flayed Ones as well.
This entire exercise isn’t meant to be too serious, so try not to get too upset, you can make a least loved claim for a lot of factions, but for me personally the Necrons are the clear “winner”.
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