40K Counterpoint: Why Chaos Has This In the Bag

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As far a primordial, defining foes go, it doesn’t get much more dangerous than Chaos. Here’s why.

“These are the End Times, Siroca. None of you are destined to survive the coming of the Crimson Path. The Imperium has been losing the Long war since it was first declared, and now we enter the endgame.

I will tell you everything, Inquisitor, because, for you, it will change nothing.”

-Khayon the Black

Like  most  of BoLS’ discerning, enlightened, brandy-swishing readership, I quite enjoyed the recent article on why Chaos is going to whizz galactic conquest down their spiky  legs. In fact, I translated  it to latin, then to medieval french in order to better take in its  nuances in ways that only the early romance languages allow, and noticed some microscopic flaws of hardly any consequence…that makes  it hideously, glaringly wrong, you see.

Now, let’s be clear here: the real reason no faction ever ‘wins’ in 40K is because the setting is geared to stay on a permanent, unchanging brink forever, or until GW decides it can make more money by reshuffling the deck. Some settings are built to evolve and  offer  new facets as they develop; others are  just a static  moment  in time where stories take  place. You could have Chaos outnumbering imperials 20 to 1 with armadas that eclipse the stars, and the fluff would still say that the Emperor cast a mega-spell or something that seals them in the Eye or something. Orks could have a system-sized battle station to eats whole sectors and you’d bet a plucky young Ultramarine pilot (or worse yet, Uriel -freaking- Ventriss) would fly down it’s exhaust vent and bomb its core, then go dance with Jokaero on Catachan to celebrate.

It’s a staple of 40K fluff, in fact, from the Hive Fleet attacks to Black Crusades: some powerful menace gathers, rampages across some bit of imperial space, then is stopped with great  loss  of  life and the great sacrifice of the Emperor’s Dairy Cows, that honored, much-beloved Space Marine Chapter everyone totally cares about.

Chaos gets singled out in the pack of Imperium-Ending (but never quite) threats because, well, it is the one that started the whole mess. The Horus Heresy was the trigger for the entire setting, and it’s natural that we want a conclusion for that. Even if the very idea of a ‘conclusion’ goes against the current mindset.

That said? Chaos could win. It needn’t even be all that hard.

Chaos Weaknesses

Some rise by sin. Some by virtue fall.

-William Shakespeare

Let’s start with the bad stuff. Chaos is rife with infighting, has worse tech (even though is shouldn’t) and fewer allies than the Imperium. It’s also not as big by several degrees.

The infighting and strife is a given. As was said in one of the novels, warriors who already turned back on their greatest commitment often will have an easier time forsaking other bonds. And thematically speaking, many of the forces seen as barbaric (Or ‘chaotic’) in history had feuding, contentious warlords: Mongols, huns, the tribes that ate the Roman Empire, and so on). That’s the whole point: a collection of proud, unruly warrior tribes that only really get in gear when a strong enough leader knocks enough heads, or when a golden opportunity presents itself.

The tech issue is minor (mostly because it’d affect the tabletop game if they pursued it more seriously), and honestly should not even be there. There whole empires of dozens of thousands of systems in the Eye and the Maelstrom; certainly enough to supply armies of a few hundred thousand posthumans and their billions of thralls. We have one planet currently and we manage to churn out ordnance like nobody’s business! In theory, the dark mechanicum, not being bound the Adpetus’ silly (but fun) restriction on innovation, should be making stuff better than their imperial peers. Plasma guns that don’t fry you 16% of the time, AIs that pilot entire fleets, the works. But that wouldn’t be grimdark, so they spend most of their time finding new ways to bind daemons into walkers to make them WS3 and BS3 (no, I’ll never let it go!).

But still, Chaos tech is as good as it needs to be. Astartes, even of the fallen kind, are still warriors born; they notice when their weapons fail them, and they care. It might look crappy and be coated in nurgling snot, but it has to fire and not jam, or some menial slave will suffer. And that’s not even taking the warp into effect. What are material needs, when you can create a continent-wide fleshmetal fortress into being with a thought?


“Are you perchance interested in joining the Tzeentch Book Club? Also, melt into offal as you die, worms!!”


((Small aside: the reason the Talon of Horus doesn’t have the same stats from 30K to 40K is not degraded tech; the Black Legion has far more access to tech than the average warband, and in fact than most chapters. It is stronger when worn by Horus for the simple reason that the Heresy devs realized that giving a primarch an AP3 weapon would be a joke, and doubling a Strength of 7 means gaining only 3 points, making it a very lackluster melee weapon for its job))

The Killing Blow(s)

The Imperium is a colossal, powerful edifice resting on crumbling pillars. Its very size is as much a liability as it is a strength; that’s a lot of borders to defend, and a lot of malcontents and rebels to police and stamp down.

One of the key things about Chaos is that it posits that there is power in giving in to vice and embracing your darker side. And in this setting? It’s actually right. Plague Marines are bloated things of rust and sickly ichor. In any other system, they’d have a dirt-low Toughness and be pushovers, right? You don’t see many Ebola patients winning MMA tournaments.


So, those guys are T2 and have a 5+ save, right? Tops?


Here? It actually makes them insanely tough, durable infantry that will laugh at shots that waste their health-conscious pals with pristine armor in one hit.

Being a frothing maniac bent on murder is a surefire way to just get tripped by a calmer opponent and taken out cleanly.

In 40K? It lets you punch tanks asunder and fight harder, faster and better than that ascetic warrior-monk that trains 18 hours out of each 24. He really should take up frothing.

The insane are hardly the best leaders and tacticians. But what is sanity when Tzeentch can make your madness merge with reality and let you know the path of every enemy bullet and the aim of their every plan?

Things get a little wonky once bad things turn out to be good. Or rather, when someone is rewarding you for being bad with raw power that helps you be even worse…I mean, better.


“Look how brimming with disease that thing is, men. And such poor weapon maintenance! Pretty much harmless, I say.”


But back to the task at hand. The Imperium likely has more war material and bodies than not just Chaos, but than nearly all other forces combined (endless fleshtides of Tyranids exempted). But that doesn’t really mean much. The Romans also had more men, armor, pikes and supplies than the warbands that brought them low; even the largest force can’t be everywhere at once, and if you try, you’re usually spread thin everywhere and easy prey for a focused assault. In this case, that only means that the Imperium will call vast reinforcements from other sectors after taking the initial hit, and crush the invaders.

Unless they strike roughly at the same time.

It doesn’t even need an alliance or planning, really. A big ork Waagh rampaging through a cluster of systems? Time for the Night Lords to pay a visit to the neighboring sector. Tyanids drowning Ultramar in xenos flesh? Why, move the next Black Crusade up a few decades! Shouldn’t be too hard, especially when one  of your patron deities is in charge of prophecy (even if  he  is a horrible troll  half the time).

The thing about massive, immovable empires? Once they are hit hard enough, they break. Chaos only has to succeed once. It can even be argued that it already did, during the Heresy, and the aftermath is just a slow, drawn-out agony.


When the destitute bums of the opposition are this badass, you might want to start running.


It would actually make for a cool setting, but will likely never happen. A Black Crusade that nukes Cadia and blazes onward to a new, desperate defensive line within spitting distance of Terra, causing a Mechanicum Confederacy to split free, several chapters choosing to defend their own turf instead of the empire while others abandon their fortress-worlds and move to the Throneworld, human-Xenos leagues, an independent renegade (but not chaotic) Astra Militarum segmentum holding out against all comers like a space Prussia…hell, I’d play that.

Instead, we get to see the Imperium succumb to the slow degradation an corruption of  institutions, basic  premises forgotten, infighting between its many parts, the  human toll of its survival become higher and  more  bitter, and  of course, the fact that  many of the things that does actually feed the dark deities it  built  itself to oppose. Idolatry, eternal war, fanatical faith (Lorgar must be either amused to hell of  endlessly  pissed off…), a  massive exploited and diseased  underclass, a decadent and  affluent nobility that  literally owns planets…

On the other side, there is the dynamism and ruthless meritocracy of the fallen legions/warbands. There’s a scene in the brazilian movie Tropa de Elite (Elite  Squad, 2007) that I like to quote, in which cops talk about the druglords that command entire favelas (shantytowns that serves as havens for crime): “A gang leader can be as crazy as he likes, but he can never afford to be dumb”. Warbands with dumb leaders get eaten by those that are as brilliant as they are insane. A warband that starts winning usually keeps winning and gaining  momentum, because while the Imperium would scuttle a captured chaos ship (and with good reason), chaos marines will gladly take in slaves, looted weapons, armor, ships, tanks, and even geneseed.

That’s another thing that often gets overlooked. Loyalist astartes may be more disciplined, but they draw from a much narrower pool of candidates, testing them thoroughly to see if they can resist corruption and mutation, seeing if he can recite the 5000 Canticles of Detestation and so on. On the other side, most traitors can just find the most brutal and cunning kid that can survive the implantation and there you go; fresh replacements. Maybe not as great as a loyalist at first, but give him a few centuries of experience in the Eye of Terror and he’ll be up to shape, and if not, you get his geneseed and try again until you get a proper killer worthy of the Pantheon.


“Another roll on the chaos boon table. Nothing personal, dude, but I got Furious Charge like, 4 times in a row, and I’m really keen on getting that extra Wound.”


 The Gist

There’s strength and purity in what we’ve become. There’s a savage honesty in the Nine Legion’s warbands now. They follow warlords of their choosing instead of those assigned to them. They create traditions rooted in the cultures of their parent Legions, or completely defy their origins according to their own whims. I admire that unshackled freedom and have no desire to walk back from where we stand, sorcerer. I’m speaking of taking what we have and…refining it. Perfecting it.

-Warmarster Abaddon

Whew, that’s a lot of words. As fun as talking about which fantasy space-dudes are the  coolest and bestest (and  it  is  fun, make no mistake), we should arrive at a point. All of it to say a very basic thing: Any faction can win if it’s written to win.

The real matter is how much you need to stretch the situation to make that victory feasible. It can be a grueling, hard-fought story that feels rewarding (or empty!) for victor and vanquished alike (Betrayer), a cop-out where one side just craps the bed or worse, the heroes just deciding it’s time they won already because they are just that good and righteous (Sword of Truth).

Between sorcerers of reality-bending power, avatars of the gods themselves, hordes of veterans of millennia of warfare backed by endless daemons, and the insidious infiltration and corruption of the enemy, Chaos has plenty of tools to do it and look good while pulling it off.

Plenty of strengths can be easily converted into war-losing flaws. Anyone who’s read A song of Ice and Fire or watched the series knows how well fealty and honor served the Starks…

Tell us how amazingly wrong we are and how many boogers Chaos eats, in the comments!

  • SupraGenius

    lol, that photo caption. Been there, done that.

  • Joshua Overbeck

    Man, at least he didn’t reference the Cadian campaign they did years ago.

    Chaos players might have won the ground conflict, but the Imperials destroyed in the Space Conflict. Kind of hard to conquer the Imperium when you don’t have ships to conquer with.

    • BrianDavion

      the 13th black crusade is pretty much a good example of why you should never put your entire setting in the hands of your players. the results typically are hard to guess at.

      • BT

        Was terrible with Legends of the Five Rings when they let the card tourneys decide the story arc… what a mess.

        • Muninwing

          it’s an interesting concept though… it just should not be used for big things.

          a better way of doing it would be if you had a pre-existing ranking system (i know people here have debated implementing a system similar to chess or fencing), and the games played could be tracked… and there were specific pre-existing ends depending on the outcome.

          almost like a video game with multiple endings… did chaos win x? did imperial-friendly forces (the non-evils) manage to at least do this? were there enough daemons to affect this? then, with a finite number of endings, they could partially influence fluff without the whole mess crashing down over their heads.

          • BT

            Agreed, if done right it can work. The sticking point is the ‘doing it right’ part. :/

  • PrimoFederalist

    Agree. The Imperium has the watches, but Chaos has the time…

    • Bayne MacGregor

      Except if the Tyranids or Necrons win both of who stuff chaos up.

      Even in the old fluff where some Genestealers turned to chaos it was always optional as a rational choice to help a struggling brood survive and where the Genestealer hivemind was it’s own power in the warp it’d just mean the Tyranids would conquer the warp and realspace both.

      The warp feeds on the psychic emotions of things like Man. If the tyranids ate this Galaxy or the Necrons wiped out the Organics or they each got half the galaxy between them then the warp would burn up all it’s energy and be becalmed.

      Chaos was running out of time when they set off the Heresy. Now the time they bought is running out. If they don’t turn realspace into the warp in time or manage a lasting symbiosis with the realms of man saving man from these two enemies chaos will be destroyed. The Imperium will die in the process sure but chaos needs the realm of humanity like any parasite needs it’s host or predator needs it’s prey, at least until they get ultimate victory which they won’t get unless they get it fast.

      • PrimoFederalist

        You’re just latching onto two of the story lines that make 40k so grimdark. Everything is on the edge of a knife, which is precisely why it can’t be advanced. Either the Imperium implodes and the Tyranids proceed to eat the galaxy or the Star Child gambit pays off and a reincarnated Emperor saves the day. Or Chaos gets its act together… Or the Orks unify under the once and future git… Or Eldar create Ynnead…

        And when the dust settles, everyone who’s been demanding GW advances the storyline will go “well now what?”

        • Bayne MacGregor

          I’m not latching onto anything.
          Recognising that chaos is not a cert for victory because of those two encroaching possibilities is simply recognising that chaos is not a cert for victory because of those two encroaching possibilities.

          And i agree that ‘advancing the storyline’ is really ‘destroying the setting’ and if i wanted a different setting i’d play another game with that setting.

          Advancing the storyline of individual armies and conflicts can be done. I really like the Shield of Baal for example.

          Fleshing out the history works too.

          But killing the goose that laid the golden egg is a mistake. Smashing the 40k background would likewise be a mistake.

          • PrimoFederalist

            Agree to agree 🙂

          • BrianDavion

            agreed. I’ve been in games where the storyline keeps advancing, and an aweful lot of people eventually just walk away once what they liked is no longer there.

          • Bayne MacGregor

            I think you just hit the nail on the head there. That’s exactly what it is. Remove or change the bits some people like and you lose those people.

            People already like the complex diverse aspects of the 40k universe. Destroying or being rid of any of that will upset people. There’s always room for more, for expansion for more depth, there’s no need to break anything because there’s still room for more.

            And that’s the problem with ‘advancing the storyline’ because that can mean ‘adding more to the story’ but it usually means ‘make the story into something else’ and that isn’t needed, that would be a mistake, that would lose people.

          • Muninwing

            it’s also more complicated than that… chaos is not against everyone else. everyone is against everyone.

            chaos will not win because their idea of winning still allows them to be eradicated by necrons or eaten by tyranids. if they win the long war, they’ll just lose the next conflict they’ve been ignoring.

            the meta will end, another 10k in the future, with the tyranids eating everything, or the things that the tyranids were fleeing coming into the milky way and spattering everyone.

          • Bayne MacGregor

            Tyranids aren’t fleeing anything. Originally they had eaten 11 (i think that was the number) other entire galaxies and this one was just next in line for the lunch menu. Then for a little while when the Borg were all the rage there was talk from some GW staffers that the Tyranids were fleeing a robot race even more scary than them, but then when we got the Necrons that wasn’t their story and i haven’t heard any more of the fleeing stuff since and certainly not from any canon source.

          • Muninwing

            there have been a few mentions here and there about “fleeing something even scarier” that ahve never been wrapped up. GW does not care for consistency, so they could ignore it or bring it back hamhandedly as they see fit.

          • Bayne MacGregor

            Anywhere in canon? For i have never seen it.
            The source for this as i have said to my knowledge was something some GW store reps spoke about when dropping hints about the coming Necron faction before Gorkamorka gave us clues as to their actual ‘been here all along underground’ backstory.

            And yes GW are inconsistent. But doing the ‘they are fleeing something scarier’ will immediately make the Tyranids appear non-scary, changing the Tyranid stories appeal and lose them sales on Tyranids worse than the last codex did.

          • Muninwing

            i spent about half an hour looking for the exact quote… i know it’s around 3rd ed, early 00s, and i know it’s been thrown out there in actual books, because i remember it was part of my introduction to them back in the day. plus, if you type “what are tyranids” into google, “running from” comes up right away.

            as far as the “will immediately make the Tyranids appear non-scary” comment, that’s not necessarily the case. it does cast some concern as to what else is out there that’s *that* bad, but it doesn’t make a species so immense that it eats galaxies seem like fluffy pudding as a sidenote.

          • Bayne MacGregor

            The high incidence of ‘running from’ may just be because of widespread rumour.

            And as for making the Tyranids non-scary alas a lot of people often do look at things through an all-or-nothing bias so i still think that is what would happen. Besides it transfers focus in perception. It de-natures them as villains if they are merely fleeing something else. It’s not like it would humanise them so it would just make them victims in a sense, in the eyes of the people who play them.

            And that’s what matters most to sales. Non-tyranid players may like the idea that Tyranids are fleeing something worse but i don’t think many Tyranid players do. And that’s quite crucial.

        • ReveredChaplainDrake

          I don’t see why GW can’t move the story forward. Remember that 40k Space Marine game? It actually takes place in the 42nd millennium, not the 41st (as did Dawn of War II: Retribution), and life is just as grimdark then as it ever is in 40k proper. The conflict will go on. Maybe some other great Eldar seer will take Eldrad’s place. Maybe the Tyranids will finally make their way to whatever they’re aiming their fleets at. More Necron dynasties get to come back. Maybe we can even get some new factions into the mix.

          Moving the story forward doesn’t mean that the Emperor or any of the loyalist primarchs come back to life and ragnarok it up, merrily decking Warhound Titans and Hierophants alike with glorious ceramite-plated shoryukens and such. It just means that there’s more time to play with, meaning the writers can do more things.

          • BrianDavion

            well M41 year 999 IS the dawn of the 42nd Millinium

          • PrimoFederalist

            Those games take place later in the timeline *on paper*, but there have been zero (0) substantial changes to the storyline in any of those games.

            As far as “more time to play with”, they have 10,000 freaking years to play with – they don’t need to tac on a century or two. Forge World is constantly releasing completely new campaigns that take place between the Horus Heresy and the end of the 41st millennium.

        • wibbling

          Put simply, the crusade could continue, Cadia could be over run or defended by Necrons arriving to assist then vanishing away.

          Tyranids could keep rampaging but the Imperium nobble Orks so as to prevent their organic material providing fuel, eventually burning out the Tyranid fleet.

          The Eldar and Dark Eldar could combine then to further fight the Necrons, the Emperor could awaken and stop his ten thousand year poo and beging the great crusade again, but with chaos resurgent and the eye growing it would more easily be chaos vs new imperials.

          It is an advance, but not so far as to end the timeline completely, just shifting it forward.

          There is no reason why another approach could not be taken and the Emperor actually die and his consciousness splinter, one of which fights and kills Abaddon while the others infuse specific heroes around the Imperium to start a new crusade which could cause civil war itself.

          Games Workshop invented the mythos back in the 80’s and it is very much based on British humour – the golden throne is, of course, the loo. Now they’ve this levithan of a story arc to manage and are almost painted into a corner by their own in jokes.

          • Bayne MacGregor

            Except that each of those ideas is an END to a story.
            And when those stories end people who were part of the game because of that story will leave. And so those would all be terrible mistakes.

            What you want is to look at this as a story that keeps renewing, like a legendary figure about who more stories get told not like a novel where it comes to a conclusion then is put away replaced with another book entirely.

            What you want is to increase stories not decrease them. With more branches, further places for chapters to spring from.

            There’s a reason that superhero comics keep getting rebooted if they keep getting too far from what people loved about them in the first place and GW needs to avoid that mistake.

            The current 40k setting allows for myriad stories without ending any of the primary key ones.

            It’s not a story ‘arc’ it never was. The golden throne isn’t just a toilet joke, it’s also a Christian allegory and a statement about bureaucracy. GW’s lore is based not just on British humour but also on strong political satire, on influences like the works of Frank Herbert (not just the Dune works either, they lifted ideas from the Jesus Incident too, not to mention some of the work of Andre Norton and E.E. “Doc” Smith) and very much on history and classical art.

            That core set of lore isn’t an arc, it’s not designed to go anywhere, it’s a framework. A hub around which other narratives are woven. It’s a solid-state structure upon the architecture of which fluid and flexible works can move around and through while still retaining order.

            The Horus Heresy was added later, it wasn’t even in the initial book. It was just another piece added into the existing frame. It’s not an arc. It goes together like a basket is woven. Pull apart the struts and the whole thing will unravel.

          • Muninwing

            as an actual counterpoint to your argument…

            i am starting an Iron Hands 30k army, despite knowing that most of them get massacred on Istvaan. in fact, i will pick up a Ferrus Manus even though i know he dies.

            the fluff advancing does not mean that the game has to fundamentally change.

            in fact, once they’ve redone all books to 7th standard, i’m hoping they come out with historical campaign books, like a way to fight the Age of Apostasy’s best battles (WH36K?), or work entirely with Ork conquest patterns in the early imperium, or a campaign book for the Forgotten Wars, or a recreation of the Armageddon Wars. there’s a reason tac mini games are often historical, even if the history is invented.

            if the fluff advances, imagine the campaign “the fall of cadia” and all the various ends that it could have. provided they don’t focus too much on special characters, it could be really neat.

          • Bayne MacGregor

            Except the Horus Heresy was made as history the whole time, and so has always been approached as something with a forgone conclusion.

            There is a different emotional perspective to something already determined as historical and something perceived as current. Even if the objective outcome is the same the feelings are different.

            And that is crucial to understanding why some changes kill games and why some things end up rebooted endlessly.

          • euansmith

            DC Comics have blown up their Universe several times only to re-establish the status quo in the next year. The first time is quite fun… but it soon starts to feel like a treadmill.

          • Bayne MacGregor


        • Or when GW starts an apocalyptic 40K endtimes, everyone will start flipping their desk because their favorite hero/faction/unit/race gets eradicated in the process.

        • deris87

          Then 90% of models get invalidated and 40k becomes a rank and file square-base game!

          • Muninwing

            so the opposite of what the fantasy: end times is doing…

          • deris87

            Yes, that was the joke.

      • A.P.

        That parasite is the Emperor on his golden throne, Being Kept alive by his Zealots much like all of the Chaos Gods, while his spirit in the warp grows to be more powerfull all of the time and will eventually erupt in to a new god kinda like Slaanesh did for the Eldar. It will be the Eye of the Emperor (not terror) in another 10k

        • euansmith

          He will slay the Ruinous Powers, calm the Warp and usher in a new Golden Age… and you can do your part buy donating only 3 credits a month to the “Make Emperor Whole” Appeal; a registered charity…

        • Muninwing

          … and then the necrons will eat all of the remains. and the tyranids will eat the orks and become stronger, and then eat all of the necron remains, and move on.

          the real end storyline is when the whole galaxy is lifeless rocks that have long been deserted by the nids. nobody wants to play that version of the game…

  • Andrew Webb

    Full of BS. The previous post was better at explaining why Chaos is screwed. This guy has no understanding of history either. Thinking the Romans had more men than the warbands? Go read some history mate. The Goth and Vandal invasions were human tidal waves.

    • PrimoFederalist

      Haha, don’t be ridiculous. Rome was the largest city on the planet and the Roman Empire controlled the territory from Scotland in the north, Spain in the west, Egypt in the south, and the Tigris and Euphrates in the east – all connected by highways. They obviously had more men and materiel than individual tribes like, say, the Visigoths or the Lombards. Those peoples had the advantage of unity of command and shortened lines of communication which gave them a huge advantage in command and control over Rome’s army of the Danube (receiving it’s orders from Rome). Furthermore, by the time they were invading Roman territory, the Roman armies by and large were no longer composed of actual Roman citizens but rather by barbarian mercenaries from the border regions. They were good enough to keep raiding parties and such away, but when faced with an actual invasion the weren’t as motivated or well trained and equipped as earlier legionnaires.

      Anyway, as far as 40k goes: Chaos is eternal and feeds off of conflict. The Imperium is sclerotic and encumbered by time and space and a massive bureaucracy. Sure, the Imperium has the manpower and the materiel to meet and defeat any foe, but the problem for them, always, is bringing their resources to bear in a timely manner all while keeping the political system from falling apart from the inside out.

      • Muninwing

        material yes, men…. that’s another story. just because you’ve conquered land does not mean that the people there will fight for you, never mind be loyal ardent supporters…

        • PrimoFederalist

          Have you never heard of the Pax Romana? The empire was stable and people were clamoring for Roman citizenship. The problem is that the Romans were so successful and became so prosperous from the trade (and to a lesser degree the pillage) created by pacifying the Mediterranean world that they stopped wanting to defend their empire and fleshed out their armies with provincials and barbarian mercenaries.

          • Muninwing

            you missed my point and proved it for me. just because everyone wanted to be roman doesn’t mean that everyone wanted to be part of the legions.

            people want peace, stability, and a lack of need for soldiers. it means they are looking out for themselves, not that they will lay down their lives for others to be brought into the fold.

      • Sure

        Ehh, China. Roman history buffs forget China. Rome was ok.

        • Muninwing

          thanks for beating me to it. Chang’an was so large it had a metropolitan area twice the size of rome only a couple hundred years after rome still thought it was da best.

          china had individual nobles during the han dynasty who could field armies of more than a million soldiers. if you want a tidal wave of bodies, look at what warfare during the seven states period of unification, or the three kingdoms period would have been like.

          • PrimoFederalist

            Rome was also sacked about four times in less than a century. Chang’an was not larger than Constantinople until about the 8th century. And as I stated above, Chang’an was a wooden city – Constantinople and Rome were concrete and marble.

            Suum cuique…

        • PrimoFederalist

          Ehh, false. Didn’t forget it: Chang’an was probably the largest city from 200 BC until the turn of the millennium. Pretty much all historians agree that Rome was the largest/greatest city in the world from the time of Augustus until around 4th century AD (when it started getting sacked every few decades), at which point Constantinople took the crown. Chang’an became the largest city again around the 8th century, I believe (and it started going back and forth between Chang’an and Baghdad).

          “Rome was ok”. Yes, well, it is hard to compare civilizations as apples to apples, but we know for a fact that Rome was built of concrete and marble while Chang’an was built of wood and straw bricks…

          Anyway, we were discussing the period of time when large people groups were invading Roman territory in the fourth and fifth centuries, so my point still stands, IMHO.

          • Sure

            That’s nice how you start your argument based on Empires then shift to talking about individual cities once the Empire point becomes questioned. You either are an attorney or should explore the option (no sarcasm, I am a practicing trial attorney and if you can’t shift the scope of an argument like that you don’t belong in the courtroom).

          • PrimoFederalist

            Haha, thanks (I think). My brother and father already are lawyers, however, after leaving the Marine Corps and going into technical sales, I plan on meandering back to academia where I can pursue a PhD in history and get over the rat race.

            Anyway, I had assumed you were responding to my very specific claim that “Rome was the largest city on the planet”. Did you miss that clause? And if we are comparing empires, I suppose you’re comparing Han Dynasty to Roman Empire: 58 million people and 6 million square km vs 60-70 million on the lower end (some arguing recently it was over 100 million on the high end) and 5 million square miles, respectively.

            That said, I don’t see what Chang’an or the Han Dynasty have to do with our comparison of Rome to the Imperium of Man, nor do I understand the weird gripe about pointing out the fact that Rome was the greatest city on earth for a few centuries.

    • Matthew

      Because the warbands could bring all of their might to bear at a single point, while the Romans had to defend all of their borders and then deal with political infighting.

      • Andrew Webb

        Not really. I suggest you read academic studies. There were mass migrations at the time. Entire nations in arms. The Romans by comparison had a far smaller professional army. Much like the later Byzantine war with Turkic invaders they were swamped.

        • PrimoFederalist

          The entire Roman army was between 350,000 and 600,000 in the 4th century. The forces arrayed along the Danube between 12,000 and 30,000. The Visigoths ranged between 12,000 and 80,000.

          Clearly, the barbarian invasions did not outnumber the massive Roman empire or its military (let alone its military potential), but rather brought more force to bear against a specific point than the Romans, at a time of civic decay in the empire, could defend against. It wasn’t a question of resources, but one of a corpulent bureaucracy and government unable to marshal the resources at their disposal.

          Kind of like the Imperium…

    • wibbling

      Roman fighting tactics were vastly superior to all nations at the time.

      Often the Roman legions were outnumbered 3 to one, especially by the Gauls and yet they triumphed due to superior weapons and tactics – specifically that they fought together instead of alone.

      The Roman empire collapsed due to hubris, arrogance and as is most often the case, over stretched supply lines. They simply couldn’t feed people.

      This is why when Britain ruled the world our first effort was to trade with the locals. It is why we ran the most successful empire in the history of man.

      • 6Cobra

        ..But we’re not talking about the Legions of Scipio, Marius, Julius Caesar, Augustus, or Trajan. We’re talking about the “Legions” of Aetius, whose armies were composed of paid-off Germans and/or Huns, fighting with identical weapons and tactics against mostly local rebels or the rogue tribe-du-jour that month in the midst of a disintegrating society.

      • Muninwing

        they were vastly superior to all they had encountered on the field. but who is to say that the armies of china at the time wouldn’t have walked over them due to numbers, tech, and training?

    • 6Cobra

      “.human tidal waves”?.. maybe the history you read shouldn’t be on the inside of heavy metal album covers. This post right here is a perfect example of why I tell people everything you think you know about the decline of the Roman Empire is probably wrong.

      • generalchaos34

        the fall of the roman empire is such a monstrously complex thing that very few historians can agree one single factor than a panoply of reasons for its collapse. We have our romanticized views because of renaissance art and literature bemoaning the loss of a great civilization (leave metal out of this!)

    • generalchaos34

      I agree 100%, theres a reason why we remember the great accomplishments of the Roman Empire and we only refer to people who spray paint walls as “vandals.”

      Sure the barbarians sacked Rome, but thats all they did, eventually they ran out of steam after they had plundered, fell to infighting or wandered off. The Romans picked up the pieces, put things together as best as they could, and continued with business. It eventually fell because internal pressures and fracturing could not cope with the constant outside forces assailing it, as unity was one of the great powers of their empire (and one of the reasons it stuck around so long).

      As for the war materiel explanation, chaos may have a few thousand war ready planets making weapons and ammo in the warp, but the Imperium has MILLIONS and they can barely keep up. Mass manufacture under debilitating conditions is an impossible task, or at least short sighted. WW2 Germany was doing a rather impressive job at manufacturing advanced arms and weaponry despite being bombed into oblivion but they eventually collapsed when they could no longer get food or supplies for their workforce and their factories had become unusable (come to think of it the exact same thing happened to them in WW1 too, just no bombings). You can make ammo in a factory filled with murderous daemons that want to eat your soul for a time until you get murdered or eaten, and in the in between time your efficiency is going to be waaaaay down, and quality is going to suffer. If theres one thing that makes a soldier better at his job, its knowing that when he pulls the trigger his gun won’t explode.

      How does this apply to chaos? My thoughts is that they can eventually topple the Imperium if it becomes internally fractured enough. This could easily be handled by mass religious heresy (See Goge Vandire), political posturing, or something as simple as conversion to the Tau way of life.

  • Christopher A. Herrera

    Pft. If we’re keeping score tyranids are the only army to waste another race.

    I mean 13 black crusades?

    In like 4-5 hive fleets the bugs have arguably done more widespread damage(and you can bring up Chaos’ inter-dimensional presence but we don’t truly know enough about the tyranid origins to claim they haven’t done something comparable) . Keep your god king of corpses and fight for his toys, the bugs will be busy putting bread on the table for their children.

    But them squats.

    • wibbling

      The crusades had a specific purpose toward an end goal. These have been achieved. The trouble is people thought they were literal crusades which were defeated.

    • Chris. K Cook

      What race did they destroy.

      If you say Squats I will slap you because they are an Abhuman Strain not a race and the the ‘Nids ate ’em’ thing was never ever canon.

      • Christopher A. Herrera

        Nah bro, the nids ate them. In one crusade. Bring on the slap, i’ll just evolve thicker skin.

        • euansmith

          Hmmm… the Hive Mind subscribes to Lamarckian inheritance?

        • Chris. K Cook

          Can you find me a canon reference to that,in a Codex or BL novel?

          Otherwise its not true.

          A flippant comment by an annoyed Jervis isn’t canon.

  • Eric

    Dude… spoilers.

  • Marcus Cabeceira

    New fluff(it might even be old fluff, I’m not incredibly well-read on pre-3.5 edition fluff) was brought to light implicating that the outcome of each black crusade was intentional on Abaddon’s part, and that he had in fact achieved what he set out to so far.

    Is chaos playing the long con, or is it just a cop-out for bad story writing?

    • ReveredChaplainDrake

      Knowing Abaddon, probably a little from column A, little from column B.

      If he’s even half the strategist that everybody’s been led to believe he is, each Black Crusade probably has some simple, easily-achievable goals, as well as some bigger, grander goals that would be nice if he could complete them, but they’re not mandatory at the moment. That way, even if he gets beaten back, it’s unlikely that he’ll have absolutely nothing to show for it. His easy goals could even include things as simple as killing off one of his dangerously ambitious lieutenants, like what happened with Ygethimor.

    • BrianDavion

      chaos doesn’t even have to be playing the long con, it’s basicly the case of chaos running a battle with certin objectives, they meet those objectives and pull back, the IoM not knowing what Chaos wanted declares victory. Pandorax is a good example of this in small scale. WE Know Abbaddon got what he wanted, as far as the IoM is concerned though the conquering heros drove off the evil black legion

    • Tj Deoliveira

      It’s not new fluff, it was stated in Battlefleet Gothic ages ago that each crusade had a less obvious goal than “kill teh Imperium”, and that Abaddon succeeded every time. It’s itritating that so many people cite that 13 crusades means 12 failed ones when they haven’t even read about them. Not you necessarily, but the Internet in general has a hard on for talking crap about Abaddon when they apparently haven’t read anything about him.

    • Muninwing

      Abby’s got a problem: to win he has to play the long game, but as time goes on the long game is harder and harder to keep under control. and that’s for anyone, never mind trying to round up the disparate elements he has to work with.

      Khorne has no long game, besides “find next thing to kill when this thing is dead,” slaanesh is all about immediate gratification instead of stopping the psensation long enough to make something better, and tzeentch is all about losing track of the long game as new plans turn into new long games and new gambits and now i need a plan for this new idea. so we have a continual unthinking rage, a nonstop party, massive galaxy-sized ADHD, and then there’s Nurgle, who is the only one who is patient, but who is also the most likely to step back and allow events to follow their course instead of actually trying to achieve a goal.

      each crusade might be a success, but that doesn’t mean it’s the movement forward of one plan. more likely, each one achieves a needed goal, but each goal might no longer be valid by the time the next one is successful, they may contradict each other, or they might merely achieve prolonging the end of his party by a few millenia. 12 wins doesn’t mean 12 wins in the same league, playing the same game, or even 12 equal victories.

      the longer chaos is chaos, the less that chaos is functional and organized and able to achieve its end goal through straightforward means. and that’s only by human nature, not by the effects of the warp, the madness of the devotees, or the changing of the outside world…

      • euansmith

        I guess Nurgle will win… he has Thermodynamics on his side.

  • Mustafa Hajjar

    Chaos is a meritocracy after all.

  • Chris. K Cook

    “((Small aside: the reason the Talon of Horus doesn’t have the same stats from 30K to 40K is not degraded tech; the Black Legion has far more access to tech than the average warband, and in fact than most chapters. It is stronger when worn by Horus for the simple reason that the Heresy devs realized that giving a primarch an AP3 weapon would be a joke, and doubling a Strength of 7 means gaining only 3 points, making it a very lackluster melee weapon for its job))”

    York Necromancer was trying to give a ‘fluff’ justification for this rules based decision, all you are doing is stating the obvious. How is this contributing?

  • Enrico Rossi

    By reading GW bg and fluff, it’s clear that tyranids are by far more dangerous and more threatening to the Empire of Man than Chaos could ever be. I mean, have you read the Shield of Baal campaign? Where a single tendril of a single hive fleet completely wiped out a fortified system with at least 3 layers of impregnable defenses, manned by BILIONS of IG; adepta sororitas, 2 whole companies of BA leaded by Dante, Mephiston and Corbulo (!!!!) in 3 (yes i say 3!!!!) days? While Chaos after 10k years and 13 whole crusades is still trying to break through Cadia? I think it’s simply ridiculous, but that’s it, Chaos and Empire should ally to beat Tyranids, or soon there will be no galaxy left to contend, just barren rocks orbiting dead suns.

    • dubhgilla

      Necrons and Empire, you did read all of Shield of Baal right?

      • Enrico Rossi

        of course, what i meant is that chaos should worry about tyranids as much as the empire does. if all life forms are wiped from the galaxy there will be left no chaos gods either…

        • Cary Gould

          The Tyranids are set up for the big attack the Imperium has not brought its full force to counter it, as that would not be a good grim dark story. Tyranids are a threat but not the “nothing can beat them” enemy bug fans believe. All the army books and propaganda imply it to some degree. What good are villans if there not dangerous.

    • PrimoFederalist

      I believe it was 9 million, not billion, guardsmen.

  • BT

    I agree that GW should just write the ending, after all, that is what people really want to know. Who wins, who loses, who survives… it really doesn’t matter to gamers in the end because they will keep on gaming.

    I play Lamenters, played them since Rogue Trader because I thought a heart would be easy to paint… but those damn checkers! So I look for it online for ideas, figs, paint jobs, Ebay, whatever. There are /a lot/ of people who seem to play a Dead chapter. It is really crazy to me, but I can go ‘Hey… I play those guys too!’

    Same thing with Flames of War and Bolt Action. Hey, you play Axis, you know who is going to win the war. This doesn’t stop people from playing Germans. I mean, give the community /a little/ credit.

    This is why I don’t like what is happening in Fantasy (and I am not even a player). I think it is cheap… even worse, it is GW being a sniveling coward because they are just to afraid to end it properly. What do I mean? Let someone win. Let /them/ become Rome for a bit, let /them/ hold onto the prize and see who can take it from them. People would love that… then each new edition is seeing who is the new top dog.

    People /love/ to play the under dog. The actual worse thing GW can do is make people’s figs become invalid by getting rid of armies. Change them…fold them into another group even… but do not outright get rid of them. That is all gamers really ask, IMO.

    • Cary Gould

      There is a real danger in progressing a 3 minutes to midnight plot line like 40k. A little role play system called White Wolf ran a popular set of games based on supernaturals like vampires, were wolves, wraiths…ect, and they also ran a everything is about to burn 3 minutes to midnight setting and they did just what some think should happen and had the clock strike midnight. Frankly many were disappointed with the weak ending, and even more were offended with the remake and reimmaging of the game and White Wolf became a shadow of it’s former self.

      • BT

        I was a huge Vampire player, so I understand that. The fatal flaw with White Wolf though was the rules. The fluff was awesome, the rules sucked. Then when they ended it they ditched the fluff and didn’t quite nail the rules either (Generation was terrible in both).
        The true insult was then keeping stuff from the old game and /not/ doing a real cross-over so you could play the old game with the better rules. That is not giving your players what they wanted, and that is really what killed WW. That and the idiot way they went after Underworld in a case they should have won.
        Using WW as a cautionary tale fits, but if anything GW has good rules and good fluff, they are already a step ahead.

        • PrimoFederalist

          You place a lot of trust in the *GW* development team…

          • BT

            Have to believe in something sometimes.

  • John Bower

    Ultimately if you go by fluff the Tyranids will win all the way; they will devour the galaxy; the hive mind pretty well shuts down the warp; which the Daemons need to survive. Even the Necrons at best will find themselves waking up to dead and lifeless rocks instead of worlds. And tyranids move on and eat another galaxy, and another until the universe ends.

  • Oliver Grimwood

    Chaos has already won, the Great Crusade failed the Imperial truth no longer exists. The imperium is a dying entity. The Alpha Legion were shown a vision of what the Imperium was to become so they decided to try and destroy it utterly to stop it happening. Chaos is its own end

    • Cary Gould

      I just finished that book “Legion Secrets and Lies” never occured to you the vision was a sham played by chaos through “the Order”. All the fallen legions were tricked to betray the emperor by the chaos powers, that was just Alpha Legions story of how they were. The Order I’m sure were tricked to deliver that vision and it’s not the first time the Eldar have been used by the chaos powers.

      • Oliver Grimwood

        It doesn’t really matter if the Cabal was tricked into it, the vision was a true representation of the imperium in the 41st millennium (we do have the surly of hindsight) and they decided that it was so bad they need to stop it occuring but regardless Chaos still wins because chaos is their only objective

  • Rhaen

    Why should the dark mechanicum be able to produce better equipment? Because they are unrestricted? But they’re also insane and their lack of restriction means they don’t have any need for, loyalty to, or interest in the warbands.
    More than making them more interested in fusing daemons and machines because it’s grimdark it sounds logical they would be more interested in an entire new field of engineering rather than minor improvement of already done theories.
    Also, AI that pilot fleets?
    AI has been tried in warhammer already, it didn’t end pretty, can’t imagine adding chaos into that mix would make it any better.

    • Azrell

      Why bother programming AI when you can just use DI (Daemon Intelligence)

      • Wraith

        WS3/BS3, dude. That’s why. 😛

  • TimW

    Way more convinced by the previous article…but this lead me to an interesting line of googling about Rome. Seems like it was more a waning of agricultural production that began to cause problems for Rome, which eventually made them vulnerable to raids and invasions. Resources are generally the basis for wars and the reasons one side loses. The Imperium has a lot more access to resources than the forces of chaos. though one could argue that the eye of terror is an unlimited supply of energy…just not sure you can fuel your vehicles on it during a incursion of the Imperium.

  • deris87

    More cogent than the other one. Nice read.

  • Id rather join the Slaanesh book club.

    • Azrell

      You say that now, but wait till you find out what they use for books.

  • Sure

    If you go by codices, Chaos is not a threat and the Eldar are making a comeback instead of dying. Darkangels were good for a moment but then they got told storm shields and cyclone missile launchers are the devil’s config.

  • Muninwing

    first article: here is why x and y and z are to be pondered
    not-really-a-counterpoint: x is silly, y is wrong, and z is actually a q… and here’s why i love my own army!

    a counterpoint looks at an oritginal argument and argues with it, point by point. it’s why it’s called what it is. fanboying it up with an alternate take is not a counterpoint. and this one, while interesting, just doesn’t bother to address half of the original argument without jumping to conclusions.

    they are both interesting. really, though, neither one is exactly true.

  • benn grimm

    Yeah, good attempt to cash in on the popularity of the post Mr. Yorknecromancer made, shame it was about half as well written and less than half as interesting. Kind of sad really, maybe you should come up with your own stuff, rather than blatantly riding on the popularity of other people’s ideas eh?

    • euansmith

      I giggled at bits.

      • benn grimm

        Me too and I havnt done that on BOLS in ages. It was a breath of fresh air tbh, this one is more like stale nurgle breath in the morning…;)

  • euansmith

    In the end, Entropy wins…

  • EwanPorteous

    Whilst this article and the one stating that chaos caw it win are both very good, they both miss one vital point…

    Chaos has already won.

    All the chaos gods want is an unending “forever” war, and they achieved this with the conclusion of the Horus Heresy.

    They don’t care what the individual players want or strive for, the Chaos gods have exactly what they want.

    • Muninwing

      i’m not so sure that that’s exactly right…

      if you’re at war, Khorne is winning, because he only cares that more get killed.

      but if you’re fighting, you’re not loving, and you’re not experiencing anything new after the first battles makes you a hardened veteran. Slaanesh gets gypped.

      and you’re also not learning. sure, plans within plans can be enacted on the battlefield, but it’s not really Tzeentch’s bailiwick, more like a better-than-nothing.

      and what about Nurgle? if there’s still something to fight for, there’s still things to hope for, and still heroes to be made. the god of despair gets robbed the most. and yes, there are horrors of war and dead bodies to rot, but that’s a consolation prize to the embodiment of despair, not his goal.

      by their very nature, they want different things. so if one is getting what they want, you can be sure another is getting shortchanged, or ignored entirely.

    • ReveredChaplainDrake

      I think both authors were referring to Chaos *Marines*. The chaos gods themselves can’t actually win because ultimate victory means no more sentient living things to dream them up. They probably can’t even comprehend an ultimate victory because an endgame would be antithetical to them.

      • EwanPorteous

        Yeah, hadn’t considered that the authors were coming from the perspective of the mortal inhabitants of the 40k universe. 🙂

  • yorknecromancer

    An interesting read.

    One thing, though. You say: ” “A gang leader can be as crazy as he likes, but he can never afford to be dumb”. Warbands with dumb leaders get eaten by those that are as brilliant as they are insane.”

    In my original piece, that’s almost literally the first thing I said! If you go back and check, one of the key points of my piece is that Chaos is the side with FAR superior leadership. It’s completely inarguable.

    My argument was that this superior quality of leadership is simply not enough. YMMV, of course.

    Now, I completely agree, a good leader will allow a warband to rise and prosper. Completely agree, they will be a thorn in the Imperium’s side… But take down the Imperium?

    As I said in my original piece: Horus didn’t manage that, not with half the Legions (LEGIONS, not chapters!), their Primarchs, and the backing of all the Chaos Gods. As a result, all the claims that there could be a chaos lord who arises and tears down the Imperium… It’s not an impossible claim, but it’s not hugely credible.

    If you’d said ‘The Imperium will destroy itself’, now THAT I agree with. Collapse from within? No doubt, that’s how the Imperium goes down. But not to some jabroni Chaos Lord.

    Could there be a 40K equivalent for Horus? I see no reason why not; the trouble is that there isn’t really a big marquee name (like, say, Nagash) in 40K that there is in Fantasy.

    An End Times for 40K would need someone better than Abaddon, because currently, he’s the victim of The Worf Effect and needs rebuilding before he can be a credible threat – that’s if the writers can ever get over the fact that, at the end of the day, he’s just a poor man’s Horus.

    Really, to End Times 40K, they need to bring the Daemon Primarchs out of the Warp and back into things, because those guys? They have a credibility that Abaddon never will.

    And if you disagree with me, ask yourself: who would scare you more across the battlefield: Abaddon, or Daemonically-Ascended Angron?

    Abaddon just gets lascannon to the face. Angron? If I had to face Angron as he is in in the 41st millenium, appropriately statted and with all his Powarz? There would be tinkle in my pants.

    • Oliver Grimwood

      All good stuff and I agree Abaddon ain’t really on the same level as Angron or the other Daemon primarchs. However I’m not to sure about the defeat of Horus being evidence of the ultimate failure of the Black Crusades, because although Horus did loose with half the legions and their Primarchs he did so against a force that no longer exists.

      The loyal Primarchs no longer exist and the emperor isn’t going to be fighting anyone in single combat. The loyal legions are split across the whole galaxy in small chapters that don’t really cooperate that well. Even the imperial army has been split into 2 less effiecent units who don’t work well togeather. The whole imperium is a shadow of what it was at the start of the Heresy.

      Yes Abaddon can’t call upon the resources of Horus but neither can the imperium call upon anything like the forces that defeated him. Lorgar still exists and could may be conjure up another ruinstorm and Abaddon get a crack at Terra except this Dorn hasn’t fortified it and there aren’t three legions and their Primarchs to stop him.

      • Wraith

        Perhaps one day Abaddon will reach his endgame and finally ascend. Perhaps they will pair his story to one such as Archaon – 13 crusades for 13 artifacts. Overly simplified in my initial proclamation, however the gist would be written considerably better, indeed.

  • Drew_Da_Destroya

    You’re missing an important point, though.



  • Peter Anckorn

    Tau win 40k eventually. They already have better tech than everyone else (in a lot of regards-not all) and are the only faction to be improving at any real speed. I don’t particularly like or dislike Tau as a faction-this just seems likely to me (unless they get wiped very soon by one of the other factions-before they overtake all the others in technology and numbers). If they do end times for 40k I say they let the Emperor die and then come back-he can then kick out all that religous nonsense and humanity can get back to doing what it was before the heresy (though the setting would be far less visually interesting if all the religious iconography got binned).