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Warhammer 40K: The Age Of Strife

6 Minute Read
May 10 2024

Come loremasters of the grimdark, and learn of when darkness first fell, mankind lost everything he had become – and came to fear the long night.

The Age of Strife, aka the Old Night, was a destructive, anarchic, and regressive time period prior to the forming of the Imperium. It followed the Dark Age of Technology, which by all accounts, was an age of great prosperity. Depending on sources, the Age of Strife began between M23 and M25 and ended in M30.

History of Old Night

There were multiple factors that led to the end of the Age of Technology and the beginning of the Age of Strife: the first was the sudden appearance of psykers on every human world. This was compounded by massive and persistent Warp storms erupting around the Sol System and other parts of the galaxy.

In addition, records report that a great war with the sentient machines began, with humanity battling vast robotic armies, which would, in turn, rebel and lead to a ruthless war against the Men Of Iron. The catastrophic losses and lessons of this war still live in on the superstitions and prohibitions against AIs by the Adeptus Mechanicus into the 40th Millennium.

The Psykers Threat Emerges

Psykers first appeared within humanity towards the end of the Dark Age of Technology. While persecuted as witches on many planets, on the most enlightened and progressive worlds, they were at first accepted and allowed to explore and develop their powers.

As it happened, uncontrolled psykers proved to be a dangerous threat to humanity, and many worlds fell under hellish dominance as the minds of these psykers became the gateways through which Warp entities were able to enter the material universe. Only worlds that had rigorously suppressed psykers survived this fate.

Galaxy-wide Collapse

The Dark Age of Technology ended catastrophically, as widespread insanity, daemonic possession, and inter-human war suddenly took hold throughout the human worlds. With the emergence of Warp storms through most of the galaxy, travel through the Warp became increasingly dangerous until it was all but impossible, isolating many planets.

Several worlds, particularly Terra, dependent on the export of other worlds to feed their enormous populations, suffered massive famine. Several alien races, such as Orks, sensing mankind’s weakness, raided and devastated many human-colonized worlds. Mankind battled itself, daemons, and aliens.

Human Isolation & Evolution

Over the long period of isolation, new species of humans began to evolve, adapting to suit their new environment, becoming the Abhuman races: the Ratlings (adaptation on bountiful worlds), the Ogryns (harsh, cold, and barren worlds), and the Squats (the barren high-gravity worlds towards the galactic core). The Age of Strife was a time of anarchy, destruction, and regression, lasting thousands of years. Mankind’s successes in the Dark Age of Technology were lost, and many human worlds regressed to the level of barbarity.

However, some isolated pockets of human civilization managed to survive and even thrive, mainly those worlds and star systems that were, or became, completely self-sufficient in all vital aspects. Sub-light travel was still possible, and some star systems had several colonies to trade and share resources.


Warp jumps could be made on occasion as the storms waxed and waned. Some few fortunate star systems were even quite close to each other, and tiny “pocket empires” were formed. A known “pocket empire” is the domain of the Interex. Another is the Squat homeworlds.

Terran Isolation & Devolution

Terra and the rest of the Solar System were surrounded by terrible Warp storms, isolating the human homeworld for several thousand years. Control of the Solar System shifted constantly between Terra and Mars during the first half of the Age of Strife. By the 28th Millennium, almost all traces of civilization on Earth were long gone; instead, techno-barbarians battled one another over the scraps of the ancient culture.

Little information remains from this dark time, but it is known that warlords such as Dalmoth Kyn of Hy Brasil, Kalagann of Ursh, Cardinal Tang of the Yndonesic Bloc, “the half-mad half-genius” Narthan Dume of the Panpacific Empire, and Daival Shan ruled during this age. Other known nations include Freinc, Jermani, Gyptus, Merica, the Nordafrik Conclaves, the Terrawatt Clan, and Albyon. Another race mentioned is the “Nordyc” people.

The Emperor Emerges

Terra became a battleground fought over by warlords and techno-barbarian hordes. This only ended when a great warlord, later to be known as the Emperor, used the first genetically modified humans—little more than a unified force of techno-barbarians—to conquer the planet. Founding the Imperium, he set about creating his Primarchs, who would lead his forces in the Great Crusade.

Unfortunately, all of them were somehow spirited away by the Chaos Gods, who, although unable to destroy the infant Primarchs, still managed to scatter them around the galaxy. Retaining the Primarch’s DNA samples to continue the production of genetically engineered warriors, in the Wars of Unification, the Emperor used these early Space Marines known as the Thunder Warriors to conquer and unify Terra at last.


Mars Endures & Mechanicum Evolve

Mars underwent a very different transformation. After brief anarchy, the Tech-priests of the Cult Mechanicus emerged victorious over the mutants and unified their homeworld. The Tech-priests then visited Terra, sometimes raiding it for remnants of technology they could take home and adapt to their purposes. The Tech-priests were appalled at the destruction on Terra and saw nothing worth saving. Instead, the Martians studied the Warp and, after many lifetimes, learned to detect “lulls” in the Warp storms. At the same time, the immense fighting machines known as Titans were created.

For over a thousand years, the Cult Mechanicus watched and waited. Whenever a break in the Warp storms occurred, an expedition was sent, complete with a full Titan Legion and thousands of Servitors and Techpriests. Some of these expeditions were lost in the Warp or died on faraway worlds. Others succeeded in establishing “Forge Worlds” – replicas of Mars. Broken messages were transmitted to Mars, but it was not until the time of the Great Crusade that the Forge Worlds and Mars would be reunited.

Mankind’s Rebirth

The Warp storms continued to increase for a reason: the birth of Slaanesh, caused by the Fall of the Eldar. As Slaanesh was finally born the Warp storms ended with a single storm of massive proportions. As the Warp was becalmed, the Emperor was able to lead his Thunder Warriors and later twenty Space Marine Legions from unified Terra to reunite humanity, beginning the Great Crusade that would create the Imperium.

Praise the Omnissiah for his benevolence, and may He guard us from such a terror forevermore.

Author: Larry Vela
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