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40K: How Many Marines Are Enough?

4 Minute Read
Aug 5 2020

40K has dozens of factions, but we need to get marines under control to make room for everyone else.

Warhammer 40,000 is over 30 years old, and headed into it’s 9th edition. We can safely say the game is venerable. It is one of the classics of the tabletop industry, alongside things like Dungeons & Dragons, and Battletech.  Since its 1980s beginning, the poster-child faction of 40K has been Space Marines. Back when sci-fi miniatures were new it was easy to get the youngsters excited about guys who looked like this:

Fast forward three decades and we see have a giant sprawling all encompassing universe that has everything and the kitchen sink thrown in. How many factions? Counting JUST the non-Forge World factions from the brand new Munitorum Field Guide, give us a whopping 35 factions.

35 factions! That is enormous for any game system.  If you throw in Forge World and the oddballs like the Black Stone Fortress mini-factions, you up above 40. But when you look a little closer, all that amazing faction diversity isn’t what you think. The problem is the Space Marines.  Let’s do a quick breakdown of how the game breaks down:

Space Marines: 13

  • Space Marines
  • Black Templars
  • Ultramarines
  • White Scars
  • Iron Hands
  • Imperial Fists
  • Salamanders
  • Raven Guard
  • Blood Angels
  • Dark Angels
  • Space Wolves
  • Death Watch
  • Grey Knights

Rest of the Imperium: 8

  • Adepta Sororitas
  • Adeptus Custodes
  • Sisters of Silence
  • Assassinorum
  • Astra Militarum
  • Adeptus Mechanicus
  • Imperial Knights
  • Inquisition

Chaos: 5

  • Chaos Space Marines
  • Death Guard
  • Thousand Sons
  • Chaos Daemons
  • Chaos Knights

Xenos: 9

  • Craftworlds
  • Drukhari
  • Harlequins
  • Ynnari
  • Necrons
  • Orks
  • T’au Empire
  • Tyranids
  • Genestealer Cults

It’s a Marine World

One of the things I always note is that a common quibble folks have with 30K is that it’s “just marines fighting marines”.  While 40K has 16 out of 35 factions being marines. This only leads to to conclusion that GW needs to rein in the Astartes, but in fact there are legitimate reasons to ask for MORE being added to the game. The Chaos players looking at the Imperial roster are totally right to be asking for more Chaos Legion codexes. Who wouldn’t want to see a dedicated World Eaters, or Emperor’s Children books added?

GW has indicated that the Marine Supplemental Codexes will expand in 9th to contain the remaining Stand-alone chapters, including Blood Angels, Dark Angels, Space Wolves, and Death Watch. This is a good step towards standardization, and one I hope is replicated eventually on the Chaos side.

Marines and Targets

But the 700 Pound elephant is still in the room. At what point should GW say “enough” and expand into expanding their universe with non-marine factions. The Grimdark is brimming with candidates. From Kroot Mercenaries, to Traitor Guard, to Hrud, to Arbites, all the way over to the apocryphal Squats, the possibilities are limitless. If GW wanted to, they could consolidate the myriad marines factions into a controllable number of codexes and really start to push into adding new divergent factions. One need only look at the rapid-fire diverse factions released in Age of Sigmar to see this in practice.

A Troublesome Question

But it all leads me back to one troubling question. What if none of this is GW’s conscious decision. What if in fact it has been the customers all along. Maybe just maybe all the complaints that 40K is just about marines and things for them to kill have a kernel of truth. What happens if we are the ones who will will buy up any flavor of Marines offered, at the cost of everything else.

Maybe it IS true that marines rule the grimdark, not because GW pushes them hard, but because we choose their rule. 

~Why do you think Marines are so prevalent in 40K, and how should the game handle them in the future?


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