After the unexpectedly popular response to my last article on the “theory” of fluff writing, I thought we might take another look at it…
Let’s start (if you will again permit me the vanity) with yet another background piece I have written for one of my armies:
77th Arkanen Panzer Regiment “Shieldbreakers”
History & Organization: The 77th Arkanen Panzer Regiment “Shieldbreakers” are a unit with a respectable history. The Shieldbreakers are drawn from the planet Arkan, a Hive World in the Segmentum Tempestus known for raising formidable reinforced regiments.
Arkan itself is generally cool with abundant small seas interconnected by channels and rivers (both natural and artificial). Outside the cities and dedicated food production zones the terrain harsh and barren, with very little native life beyond mosses and lichens. Arkan was settled in early M37 during the Imperium’s explosive re-expansion after the Age of Apostasy to take advantage abundant mineral wealth found throughout the system. It soon became known for exporting high grade refined metals and alloys to Forge Worlds in the Tempestus and Ultima Segmentums, but also for the production of quality electronics such as vox systems, auspexs, and scanners. Arkan also became home to a large Schola Progenium faculty, the Schola Triarius, which finds abundant progenii candidates among both the children of the wealthy Arkanen officer class who have died in the line of duty, and sometimes the disposed orphans of the poor.
With the large population base of a hive world, Arkan is a prime candidate for raising guard regiments, and has developed a strong martial tradition. Much of the nobility of Arkan are trained from birth to serve as officers. This tradition is reinforced by the presence of the Schola and that institution’s proud tradition of training elite units and military personnel for the mighty Imperial warmachine. Veterans from Arkanen units often form a training cadre for both the guard recruitment centers and for the Schola Triarius, thus ensuring that new recruits are trained by experienced troopers, providing a solid veteran’s perspective for new regiments and reinforcement companies sent to regiments in the field.
So strong has the martial tradition on Arkan become that, in an somewhat unusual practice, the recruitment centers on Arkan operate continuously, ensuring a steady flow of reinforcements for existing regiments. While the logistics of this process are nightmarish, the benefits are telling in the discipline and long term survivability of Arkanen regiments during campaigns. Arkanen regiments can serve for centuries, slowly cycling troops. The best example of this is the 5th which has served continuously and completely unbroken for nearly 2,000 years. Most have long histories and posses considerable esprit de corps. Arkanen regiments are mixed gender, Arkanen society making little distinction between the roles of the sexes, at ratios varying from regiment to regiment.
The presence of the Schola Triarius on Arkan greatly impacts the structure of Arkanen regiments, with most officers receiving training under the auspices of the Schola, and Storm Trooper grenadier companies serving as integrated components of Arkanen regiments. Commissars, trained from across the sector at the Schola, are also commonly interspersed throughout the command structure of these regiments, further bolstering the professionalism and discipline of Arkanen units.
The 77th numbers roughly 8,000 troops at full strength (although on combat tour the regiment is almost never at this level), divided into 2 battalions; one infantry battalion composed of 10 regular infantry and 5 Stormtrooper companies (roughly 5,000 troops) and numerous APCs attached to infantry units, and one armored battalion composed of 10 armored companies and 2 companies of self-propelled artillery (roughly 400 armoured vehicles and 1,500 crew), in addition there are 2 recon companies and the recovery company (between them roughly 100 vehicles and 750 soldiers), as well as the regimental staff, signals detachment, and medical staff (all together roughly 750 officers and technicians). These numbers refer only to combat and direct support personnel, extended logistics is of course handled by the Munitorium office for a given campaign and includes many additional personnel attached to the unit for that campaign, while extraneous personnel such as cooks and camp followers fluctuate too much for any accurate counts.
This design is fairly typical Arkanen panzer regiments, and is intended to ensure flexibility and effectiveness as mobile frontline assault and breakthrough units, capable of responding to any situation they are faced with. This is designed in keeping with Arkanen military thought, which calls for high mobility and the use of mutually supporting infantry and armor. These regiments represent something of a departure from standard Munitorium regulations, as they have a fairly balanced proportion of armor and infantry. For this reason Arkanen reinforced regiments have sometimes been divided up by the Munitorium into their constitute parts to form more conventional Imperial regiments, one such example is the 56th Panzer Regiment which was divided into the 16th Arkanen Infantry, 9th Arkanen Armored, and 122nd Stormtrooper Battalion during the Gallan Crusade.
Arkan’s strong ties to two nearby Forgeworlds, whom they supply with materials and basic technical components, provides them with an abundance of armoured vehicles, and by ancient tradition the founding of a new Arkanen regiment is accompanied by the dedication of a super heavy squadron for the new regiment from one of these forges.
Experience has proved that the unified combined arms structure is, if used properly, remarkably effective in battle. On the other hand, the composite nature of such panzer regiments further compounds the logistical challenges that already exist from the reinforcements they receive. As a result, Arkanen regiments often face supply problems.
The 77th was re-founded (after its complete and utter destruction down to the last trooper centuries before in the brutal sieges on the frontlines of the Sabbat Crusades) in 823.M41 to answer the increasing unrest across the Ultima and Tempestus Segmentums in the wake of the First Tyrannic war. As such, the 77th is “young” by the standards many Arkanen regiments, though it’s battle history is still a long one compared to most Guard regiments. The regiment has served in many conflicts across these two Segmentums, ranging from small “brushfires” to larger campaign actions, including garrison and rapid reaction deployments during the Badab War while over a dozen Astartes Chapters were drawn from other duties into that conflict. The regiment acquitted itself ablely, though failed to dramatically distinguish itself for some time. It has only been in recent years that the regiment has earned true notoriety for its capabilities and exploits.
Currently, the regiment is commanded by the redoubtable Colonel Maximilian Rhiane. Rhaine is a very skilled commander with considerable experience, and is known as an extremely capable tactician and very aggressive commander. His tactics are generally typified by aggressive probing strikes followed instantly with vicious full scale assaults against revealed weak points by armored elements heavily supported by infantry. His career has been slightly marred by censures for repeatedly overextending his unit with regard to overall strategic plans, often driving his regiment miles ahead of the general advance. Considered the “heart and soul” of the regiment, it was under his command that the 77th breached the resolute defense line of the traitorous defenders of Sarpidon XII at the Battle of the Majov Breakthrough, cracking in under 3 weeks a defensive position that had held back the 56th Imperial Army Division for a year and a half, and earning the 77th their renowned sobriquet of “Shieldbreakers.”
Colors: green fatigues, black flak armor, white embellishments on troopers, gold on officers.
Now previously we addressed some very general ideas about how to approach the writing of army background, in this case let’s take a (brief) look at some specific instances of its application, in this case the idea of a unifying or guiding inspiration or theme.
In the case of the 77th this was found somewhere that I’m sure many Imperial Guard players and our friends among the Flames of War gamers can readily understand; the history of the Second World War. I have always been something of a WWII history enthusiast, and have read fairly extensively on the subject, and as a “treadhead” I had always liked the idea of a combined arms tank/infantry regiment for my Guard. When these two concepts met, the obvious point of connection is in the German Panzer Divisions. Therefore I set out to capture the “feel” of the Panzer Divisions in my guard army.
In order to do this I decided to break down what the “idea” of a Panzer Division meant to me, while I am generally interested in historical accuracy when it comes to history itself, I was conscious of the fact that in this case it was more important to carry over the idea, rather than simply regurgitate facts. I ended up breaking it down into a few key concepts; unified combined arms (the core concept of a Panzer formation) including the very heaviest tanks of the time, a proud elite martial tradition, strong discipline and professionalism, and the employment of the very heaviest troops.
The next step was to relate this to 40k in my own way. The first was in a way both the easiest and the most difficult, simply including a combined infantry and armour design was easy enough, but this seemingly goes against the strictures of the Departmento Munitorium. However, the one constant rule of 40k in general and the Imperium in particular is that there is an exception to every rule, no matter how absolute it was. After perusal of the Imperial Armour books, it became clear that at least some Armoured Regiments did contain infantry, and with the existence of oddities such as Phantine flying regiments, I was satisfied that while an anomaly, this was not an impossibility. Nevertheless, I felt that it was necessary to address the issues that a regiment with such an unusual organization might face.
The concept of the proud military tradition I sought to address by establishing not only that their homeworld itself had martial traditions, but that each regiment had a long history and at least their names could serve indefinitely. In addition, nothing in the Imperium screams “elite military” quite as much as the Schola Progenium, so I sought to work that institution into my regiment’s background. This also segued rather well into the idea of a highly disciplined and professional force, add a sprinkle of Commissars (also having nice parallels to both their Russian namesakes on the Eastern Front, and to the infamous SS) and Storm Trooper grenadiers (remember, it was Germany in both World Wars that coined the term “Storm Trooper”) and viola! There we have it.
As a final token of WWII inspiration, I could not help but notice that many commanders of the time were very much larger than life so to speak, and that both their armies and in different sense their enemies tended to form what amounted to cults of personality around then. Consider Erwin Rommel and General George S. Patton as prime examples on opposing sides who became legends to both their men and their opponents, so much so that both they and their armies were sometimes attributed with near superhuman feats of strategic, tactical, and combat ability, and in a surprising number of situations they a actually seemed to live up to their legends. As the idea of larger than life commanders is 40k dread and butter (re Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt, Captain El’Rahim, Lord Castellan Usarkar Creed, and Colonel “Ironhand” Straken to name only a few), I decided to give my regiment its own “larger than life” leader to complete the effect.
Can you see any other ways that my stated theme has influenced my background? What about yourselves, how do you go about working a theme into your army background? Are you sure you’re not all offended by my shameless showcasing of my marginal writing abilities?
If you have a favorite corner of the 40k lore that would like to see featured, or just a lore question you think would interest the community, let me know, you can even PM me on the forum if you like. New ideas are always welcome.