Games Workshop has thrown some Warhammer 40K minis down the memory hole for good reason.
Warhammer 40K is an enormous universe, now fully mature with over three decades behind it. There is a mini for just about anything, and layers upon layers of fluff and background for pretty much everything. In theory, it all fits together like a Swiss watch, with every single part filling a specific niche, with nothing out of place. There are minis for everything from the most obvious known to all – like an Ultramarines Intercessor, to the super obscure – like the Kroot Bird.
But it was not always like this. Just like every other commercial enterprise, GW had a hard scramble up the mountain to first define, then cement what the Grimdark would become. In its early years, in the late 1980s and early 1990s Nottingham threw pretty much everything they could at the wall to see what would stick. Many things would take root and grow into their own monumental forces like the Necrons, while others would fade into memory, like Chaos Androids.
But today we are here to talk about some miniatures who were either retconned out of existence or outright tossed into the memory hole – never to be mentioned again. These models may have represented ideas that just didn’t fit with a growing, thriving Warhammer 40K, or just outlived their usefulness. Some were fluff dead ends that were quietly withdrawn from production and all mention of them painted over.
40K’s Most Dangerous Minis
Marine Scout With Shuriken Catapult
Back in Rogue Trader, Space Marines were a lot more inclusive. You had the Ultramarines Chief Librarian, who had webbed feet (!), was transferred from the Dark Angels (!!), and had one Eldar parent (HERESY LEVEL OMEGA!!!). Back in this era, several minis came out that reflected this blending of the game’s races and technology. A classic example was the Space Marine Scout holding a Shuriken Catapult. Several years down the line, the Shuriken family would become the exclusive hallmark of the Eldar race. Possessing one, much less using one in battle would be a death sentence for a newly xenophobic Space Marine. We would never see his like again.
In the earliest days of Warhammer 40K, the rule was – just bring over stuff from Warhammer Fantasy and shoehorn it in. Thus – Beastmen. But in a plot twist, the entire Chaos faction was not yet fully formed, so rather than stick them in there – GW put the first 40K Beastment into the Imperial Army. They were simply another strain of Abhuman, just like Ratlings and Ogryn.
In time, even this would prove to be just one step too for the ever more xenophobic Imperium, and you just know the Commissars hated the entire concept. 30 years later we would see Beastmen return in Blackstone Fortress as part of Traitor Guard, and as a single character in Necromunda.
Imperial Guard Human Bombs
Yes, there was a time when you could spend points to buy prisoners laden with explosive vests who threw themselves into the enemy lines and were blown to smithereens. Warhammer wasn’t the only game to include such a mechanic or units, but as you can imagine, the real world quickly made such topics and models meant for a hobby game non-starters.
The minis disappeared down the memory hole, never to be heard from again. Even super evil forces such as Chaos, or those REALLY into self-sacrifice like the Sororitas don’t touch the subject with a ten-foot pole. The most amazing part is that these minis weren’t even close to the most controversial ones to be released across the industry in the 1980s. But that’s a story for another day.
Yes in the game’s early days, there were Squats. Then there were not Squats. Then there were footnotes about Squats. Then there were easter eggs about Squats. Then some Squats showed up on Necromunda. But once, there were not only Squats – but Chaos Squats. These guys unfortunately fared just about as well as the Chaos Dwarfs in Warhammer Fantasy did.
With the entire Squat race headed out of the game in a hurry by the mid 1990s – Chaos Squats were just too much of a stretch. They DID have quite a decent number of minis, all of which faded into the void. I’m sure those crab-clawed Slaaneshi-Squats partied really hard back in the day.
We finally got the real story out of an ex GW staffer on this one. Apparently, in the earliest days – GW didn’t care one way or the other about Marine gender. Some early Marines minis were put out in both male and female versions, with more females on the drawing board. But in the UK of the late 1980s, the market decided and the male marines flew off the shelves while the female ones – didn’t. And that was that. Fast forward 30 years to start an instant 40K food-fight at the very mention of the topic.
Will they Rise Again?
Games Workshop is slowly but surely changing the game. Some of the game’s more xenophobic and male-centric stances are being softened, and slowly but surely it is pulling itself towards the mainstream. We see some of these venerable and forbidden topics being reintroduced into the lore if not the actual game itself. Necromunda and Blackstone Fortress saw the reintroduction of Beastmen (who may have been part of the Astra Militarum at one point), and Squats. More intriguing is the model of Inquisitor Kyria Draxus from Psychic Awakening who is essentially an homage to both the Shiruken Catapult Scout and a female marine rolled into one mini. I think the Human Bombs are gone for good though.
~Did we miss any minis you think were too heretical to live?