GW Solves a 28 year Legion Mystery


I love it when GW goes WAAAAAAY back in their archives and solves little mysteries.  A 28 year old one has been solved this weekend!


Let me tell you a tale of adventure.  Way, way, way back in 1989 GW released the first edition of SPACE MARINE, which expanded on Adeptus Titanicus and took it into the Horus Heresy with vehicle and infantry additions.

Way back then, there was no previous information on the Legions and their heraldry. Luckily for us the inside of the box had a bunch of legion schemes for gamers to select.

But they were strange…


Nothing too crazy here…


Dark Angels in their original Heresy Black


Blue Ultra and dark green Salamanders

Now onto the traitors….


Ok, black Sons of Horus and dark blue Night Lords


Purple Emperor’s Children and Dark blue World Eaters


Then came the real mystery to modern eyes – the funky asymmetrical white and red Death Guard and the giant “M” Thousand Sons.

A few years back Forgeworld solved the Death Guard mystery with this:


The original pre- Great Crusade Legion scheme of the Dusk Raiders before they were renamed Death Guard by Mortarion.

This weekend we see the last of the big 1989 mysteries solved with this image from the INFERNO book:

original-thousand sons

The original Thousand Sons scheme, presumably before they discovered Magnus on Prospero. This would be the perfect scheme for you gamers wanting either an OLD pre-heresy army, or perhaps the scheme for a group of Thousand Sons “blackshields” who stayed loyal and reverted to their original Terran scheme.

~Nicely done Forge World – nicely done indeed!

  • Sythica

    I’m not sure what the mystery was. The Roman numeral? The paint scheme isn’t even the same.

    • Horus84cmd

      I’m not sure either….

    • Muninwing

      that was the mystery — why, when they were first released, were they pictured with a huge M, then alter changed to what we know now?

      the real answer is that they didn’t care much for consistency back then.

      i wonder if the idea for Magnus as a primarch came out of this… and really it was just that M=1000 in roman numerals that gave us this silliness. if not, it’s a good story now even if it’s a retcon.

  • Parthis

    Highlights Red, Black and Yellow with a giant Black M design and then points to White Blue and Yellow with a giant Blue M… and the “mystery” is solved…

    … aside from the colours being off, the unifying feature is “M”… on the shoulders of a legion lead by a character named Magnus…

    … a legion, in a scheme based on the Romans, where M in numerals means 1000…

    … the real mystery is whether there is indeed a mystery…

  • SilentPony

    So…the Brotherhood of a Thousand are a loyalist Thousand Sons chapter…

    • D. B.

      Might be. Who can really say what’s up with those guys?

  • Michael Linke

    Either way, this plate caused me to run over to the Forge World booth at LVO and pick up ten Mk II marines to add to my Thousand Sons army as a white armoured vet squad.

  • MechBattler

    What the what?

  • Iconoc1ast

    The real legion mystery is the two missing legions….

    • Donald Wendt

      Which, hopefully, remains a mystery. It allows players to make their own Legion for 30k.

      • Iconoc1ast

        Everyone is free to do that anyway. When you buy your minis, there is no strict code that you must adhere to.
        People make up there own stuff in 30k and 40k all the time.
        I mean understand why they have written in the mechanic and i certainly wouldnt stop anybody from fielding something that they had invented(as long as it was fun).
        Im just nosey…..

  • Red_Five_Standing_By

    So my head canon:

    The Thousand Sons started with white, blue and orange armor with an “M” symbol.

    The Emperor finds Magnus and the Legion adopts a Red and Black color scheme but retains the M symbol.

    After Magnus becomes entrenched and lots of new marines are forged from native Prospero-an stock, the character of the legion morphs. The color scheme changes to predominately Red and Gold, with more Egyptian motifs and the symbol of the legion is changed to the star symbol.

  • Sonic tooth

    “stayed loyal”….the heresy thousand sons WERE loyal

    • Horus84cmd

      How where they be described as anywhere near loyal when they disobeyed the edict of Neikia, even after several warnings? Magnus may of have genuine positive intentions to warn the Emperor, but he still broke it and still opened the door to allow Chaos to sow the discord through dis-information.

      • SilentPony

        To be fair, lots of the legions disobeyed the Edict. They were hardly unique in that.

        • Red_Five_Standing_By

          Seriously, Khan sent a guy to the Council and told him, “if the ruling goes against Psykers, you cannot come home because I don’t want to know about it.”

        • ZeeLobby

          Ahem, Space Wolves, Ahem…

        • Horus84cmd

          Did they? Willfully? Are you sure about that? or just in dire circumstances and reluctantly

          • SilentPony

            Yeah the Night Lords, World Eaters, and Alpha Legion never stood down their librarians, the White Scars never did, the Space Wolves always claimed their Rune Priests were magic shamans, not psykers, the Death Guard, Emp Children, and Iron Warriors never had any.

            And all the others reinstated their Librarians almost instantly.

          • victorpofa

            The Death Guard did have Librarians for sure. First Captain Typhon was also the Chief Librarian. I don’t know if their Librarius was shut down before the Edict as Mortarion hated psykers, or after, but they did have one.

            Don’t know if the other two legions you mentioned had a Librarius or not. I would like to know as I plan on making an Iron Warriors 30K army eventually, and Librarians can be fun.

          • Jared

            The Dusk Raiders had a Librarius. Mortarion shut it down pretty much as soon as he was given control of his legion and re-branded them as the Death Guard.

          • victorpofa

            Thanks for the info. I did not realize Typhon was that old.

          • euansmith

            “Your Legion is still fielding Librarians; explain your self!”

            “It was dire circumstances.”

            “What dire circumstances?!”

            “We didn’t have any Librarians.”

      • Red_Five_Standing_By

        Magnus had the best of intentions. He was tricked by Tzeench.

        • Horus84cmd

          You can have the best of intentions that are also disloyal ones.

          • vlad78

            Come on, Magnus was tricked all the way by tzeench. The Emperor never ordered the space wolves to destroy prospero but only to bring Magnus back to earth to put him on the golden throne as punishment, something only he and Magnus, the two most powerful human (or linked to humanity at least) psykers in the galaxy, could handle.
            Only Horus twisted that order and made sure the TS would be forced to side with him.

            So yes Magnus did foil unwillingly the Emperor’s plans but he could have redeemed himself (and wanted to) and was stopped from doing so by Horus’ schemes. You can’t say the TS were traitors all the way only because they disobeyed to the edict.

            The Emperor’s control of the legions has always been a bit loose as long as they were useful.
            SW were not traitors because they kept shamans. Same for the WS.

      • ZeeLobby

        I mean it was an edict put in place by Chaos interference to purposely hinder the legions when Chaos struck…

      • Graymantle

        Loyalty and obedience are two very different things.

    • Mark Howarth

      He had already made a deal with tzeetch to stop the flesh change…

      • Sonic tooth

        he didnt know it was tzeentch or that it was evil. this is stated very clearly in thousand sons. in prospero burns, the daemon taunting kaspar even sais magnus was always loyal, just “misguided and would never turn on the emperor”. horus said something similar. magnus was the one who tried to stop horus turning to chaos.

  • Rafał Pytlak

    Hmm… original TS look much like Astral Claws. Me gusta

  • Krizzab

    oops the nostalgia, bring back epic 40k!

    • Hedwerx

      No offence, but Epic 40k can do one. Bring back Epic Space Marine.

  • Sean Maroney

    And you call yourself Veterans of the Long War… This has been known since White Dwarf Vol. 1 Issue 120’s inside back cover. There is no mystery, just forgotten knowledge… so much has been lost… If you had just asked the right question, I would have given you your answer… but you were too smitten with fancy new ouroboros gylphs and vague chaos stars (not chaos stars) for your Thousand Sons heraldry… Now excuse me, I have to be even more curmudgeonly and the squigs off my lawn… damn hoppers…

    • Red_Five_Standing_By

      Awesome pic!

      Clearly the intent has been altered now that the M symbol was re-designated as the Thousand Sons’ original symbol.

      Maybe Magnus kept it around as his personal banner after he changed the Legion’s symbol? It is fitting as M is both 1000 in roman numerals and the first letter of his name.

      • Sean Maroney

        Well for me, Magnus kept it. I have 30 custom dice with the M symbol on it. Its that cool.

    • ZeeLobby

      Yeah, that’s super cool.

    • Abe Killian

      Dude – i just posted a shot from my issue #120. So glad to see other Beardy knowledge out there! Thank you for not making me feel like the only one.

      • Sean Maroney

        I don’t have a big White Dwarf collection. (Too many moves and shedding of plenty of books has see to that.)

        I stumbled on the page while rifling through my friend’s WD collection looking for RT era Thousand Sons lore that went beyond the Realms of Chaos book. I won’t lie… I freaked out at the awesomeness of the image when I realized what it was. My friend had recently acquired the issue. He gave a smile and handed me a spare copy of the issue and said, “I thought you’d want a copy for yourself.” O.o

        It was a tough time for me I’d just lost my job and was looking to move back into the area, so the gesture was seriously appreciated. The sucker punch was when he said, “You remember that eBay auction of the 9 Rogue Trader Flamers you showed me a couple of months ago?” I did. I was super excited about seeing them, but my state of employment had ruled out bidding on them. “I won the auctions for them too.” He handed me nine fungus flamers.

        Friends like that is why I love this hobby.

    • Iconoc1ast
  • david

    Some of the original metal space marines,including the now reworked metal 1st space marine had the stylised M on the shoulder.

  • carlisimo

    I assume this new color scheme (which looks like something you’d see on a racecar) has been introduced to try to explain why Arhiman’s Thousand Sons repainted their armor in blue and gold after the whole Rubric thing. They didn’t bring back the M, just the colors.

    And they didn’t bring back the primary color because they didn’t really think of it as their color. All the legions seem to have started out in bare ceramite or a shade of gray (including white and black). Then they started adding decorations, and those ended up taking over the whole color scheme.

    I think it’s a nice little retcon to explain a strange color change.

    • Jared

      There were other Thousand Son exiles other than Ahriman who did bring back the original ivory color scheme. They are involved in the novel Ahriman: Sorcerer.

  • wavelover42

    The Dark Angels still look dark green. It is not a complaint. I just looked closer and noticed it. What is really cool is if you look close at the land raider, it has dark green and black tiger stripe camo! I guess the the Lion stuck his big middle finger at the big blue Guilliman, and told him to fudge off about the whole camouflage is cowardliness nonsense. I would actually like to use it for mine In the end people would just cry heresy.

    • The Ultramarines ALSO used camouflage, as did all the legions in that game. It’s not specific to the DA and certainly not a finger to the almighty codex. The White Dwarfs from that period were filled with camo marines of all names.

      • wavelover42

        I know i have the old Rogue Trader. The old Badab War had pics with Marines with various camo patterns . I was only joking, and meant no offense. I guess it was a bad joke.

        • no worries. There’s alot of youngbloods out there that don’t know any better. Plus, I’m a sensitive little Macragge-y snowflake, so I gotta defend that holy tome of colours… 🙂

          • wavelover42

            I completely understand. I also have some Ultras, and(unrelated) i for one, am excited for Guilliman returning, and plan on building and painting him.

            After re reading my post, i guess it came off as insulting to Ultramarines. That was not my intent. It bugs me when people call Guilliman, Girlyman, Rowboat or whatever(
            Even so i am sure half of the people who do it probably are not being malicious about it).

            Considering all the trolling and vitriol online, just conveying honesty , and intent is difficult online. It would be easier if the telling of my lame joke would have been face to face instead of being some faceless person who you, i, or anybody else would have a hard time judging the harmlessness, or sarcasm of the comment.

            I do not think you are a special snowflake(Your opinion is not any less important) . I am assuming you have put a large amount time and effort in to building and painting your army? I also assume you have put a lot of love and dedication into it. I can understand, and respect that. No one wants, or likes to have jabs taken at them, or about the activities they find enjoyable. I should have taken that into consideration. I know you said No Worries. I just wanted to explain myself and acknowledge your view point.

  • Abe Killian

    Take it from a Beardy – the mystery comes into play from, the back of #120 of White Dwarf which showed a number of Thousand Sons shoulder pads and banner including the original scheme of the Thousand Sons.
    The M was seen in many incarnations, this was the main one at the time …

  • carlisimo

    Were images of the Iron Hands and Iron Warriors present on that box?

  • ieyke

    Thousand Sons used to be red….and their symbol was a giant M.
    We were pretty clear on that.
    What was the mystery?