got into this conversation with a guy in GW the other day about Space
Marine chapters and he took a position I disagree with. You see, he
insisted that there was nothing interesting in the Chapters
represented by Codex: Space Marines and he far preferred the variant
codices because he found the variants to be more interesting.
“Vanilla” was the word he used to describe the Codex chapters.
“Bland” also came up. I mean, all power to him, its his view and
how he interacts with the background but I've always taken issue with
the basic premise.
here are with ten chapters I think have background just as
interesting if not more so than bishonen space vampires, the 80s hair
metal marines or heretics in skirts:
weird one to start. The Exorcists maintain three scout companies
instead of the usual one because there's an unusual level of
attrition in their training regimen. This attrition takes the form of
strapping the scout down, summoning a daemon to possess the poor kid
and then waiting to see if he can exorcise himself simply through the
power of faith. They're masters of arcane lore though they aren't
purely tasked with fighting Chaos, they're generalists like most
chapters. They aren't like the Grey Knights where it actually feels
weird to play a game with them against pretty much anything besides
Chaos Marines and Daemons.
look, this is complicated because these guys have a lot of
conflicting background but I'm particularly going with the version in
Labyrinth Of Sorrows. These chaps have a Greco-Roman vibe to them,
some Macedonian bits (the 1st Company are called the Lion
Guard) and what seem to be Jamaican accents. They aren't big on
tactics and prefer frontal assault in pretty much all cases. They
like axes and seem generally rather cheerful. To be honest I was
disappointed when the Imperial Armour books had a completely
different chapter turn up under a similar name but at least there are
shoulder pad upgrade kits available through Forge World for what's
actually quite a hard chapter symbol to freehand.
Raptors have always been on the back foot. They were formed in the
Second Founding from the already chronically under-strength Raven
Guard Legion. Since then, through attrition and back luck, they've
been under-strength and poorly supplied for pretty much the whole of
the last ten thousand years. Far from being staunch codex-adherents
they tend to be rather more pragmatic in their tactics, being used to
making do with what they have. They're more willing to use camouflage
on their power armour or take direct command of Imperial Guard
regiments to achieve their mission goals (bit dodgy, that last one).
as you can see, they go for a more subdued palate than the usual bold
Space Marine colour schemes.
Sons of Medusa
for an Iron Hands successor this chapter is well in bed with the
Adeptus Mechanicus. They're adherents to the Cult of Moirae, a banned
and suppressed Mechanicus sub-cult which is an unusual form of
radicalism in 40k. Its usually Chaos or nothing.
that emerald green and white colour scheme looks horrible on one
marine but looks absolutely amazing if you can pull it off
consistently on a whole army.
good one for people who like converting their miniatures. The
Relictors have this habit of taking trophies from their dead enemies,
usually weapons. Problem with this is that sometimes those weapons
are tainted by Chaos and recently the Inquisition has started getting
a bit miffed about this. They aren't quite a renegade chapter and
they don't see themselves as anything other than loyalists so they're
a little miffed with the Inquisition for poking their noses into the
chapter's private business.
the average Relictor looks a bit dull, the all-over grey isn't too
inspiring but modelling them with Chaos and xenos weapons would make
for some interesting variety.
Mortifactors are morbidly obsessed with death: they cover the walls
of their fortress-monastery in skulls and even measure the skull of
every battle-brother to work out if it'll fill any inconvenient gaps
in the décor when the time comes. If you have any Warhammer undead
spare parts lying around you can use them to embellish your marines.
the Salamanders it all boils down to one thing with me: they are
closer to humanity than any other Space Marine chapter. With most
Astartes drama comes from how aloof from human concerns they are, how
much of their own humanity they've sacrificed for a greater good. The
Salamanders, by contrast, live amongst the civilian population of
their homeworld between missions. They're connected to the people of
the Imperium in a way that's hard to imagine in many Space Marines.
Carcharodons (aka Space Sharks)
Space Marines fighting Lovecraftian horrors in deep space. It sells
itself. The Charcarodons operate outside Imperial borders in a
self-sustaining fleet, going without resupply for decades. I love the
angle but their armour is actually the real hook: the varying tones
of grey is actually quite visually interesting even before you add in
the Polynesian-inspired markings etched onto their armour. A good
challenge for someone wanting to test their freehand skills.
tend towards bloody boarding actions so there might be a case for
using Black Templars rules so you can have chainsword-wielding
loonies on foot without the need to take a transport.
Mentors (aka Mentor Legion)
a living nightmare to paint but since their background suits them
more to being an allied detachment than a full army that's not such a
problem. The Mentors tend not to deploy in chapter or company
strength but send squad level detachments to work with other armies.
These detachments act as both advisors and observers, studying the
tactical doctrine of the armies they fight alongside. That in itself
is an interesting angle: Space Marines who don't see themselves as
all-knowing in the ways of war but who are on a self-mandated
you're going to have to paint a lot of white.
boys for the High Lords of Terra, basically. There was another
chapter called the Minotaurs (who might or might not have been the
Brazen Minotaurs from earlier) who disappeared in transit. The modern
Minotaurs, who act suspiciously different from the originals, tend to
deploy as a whole chapter to perform brutal attrition warfare, mostly
against traitor or rogue Space Marine chapters. Their rules in the
Badab War books even give them Preferred Enemy: Space Marines and
wouldn't it be nice to have an actual rationale for all those Space
Marine/Space Marine games you tend to get stuck with playing 40k?
images are, I believe, taken from GW publications or images of 'Eavy
Metal paint jobs used for advertising purposes. If I have, in fact,
used anyone's personal artwork I apologise and invite them to drop me
a comment into the most recent post on the blog at the time they
notice and the image will be removed).