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Warhammer 40K: 30 Years Of Plague Marines

5 Minute Read
Jun 6 2024

HAIL GRANDFATHER NURGLE! We are turning the clock ALL the way back to look at the shambling history of the Plague Marines.

Nurgle has been part of the Chaos Marine range since the earliest days of Warhammer 40,000 and there have been so many editions over the years, its easy to lose track. We will start with the current models and work out way back to the olden times.

2023 Death Guard Update

Just last year, GW is keeping the Death Guard factory humming with a new set of the collectible Space Marine Heroes, starring a new set of Death Guard. In keeping with the slow move to larger scale and true-scale alongside Warhammer 40K 10th Edition, these guys look just a smidge taller and thinner than the previous models (by Nurgle’s portly standards).

2021 Death Guard

January of 2021 way a teensy Death guard update with the Lord of Virulence to broaden the Death Guard’s HQ choices. Welcome aboard our sickly friend! He’s actually a formidable beast in 10th Edition!

2017’s Death Guard

GW kicked off 8th edition with the latest Plague Marines and Codex Death Guard that features an updated design library for Nurgle. Note, not only the classics like obviously tattered armor but also new things like the asymmetrical horns, bells, Nurglings, chains & censers, medieval knight faceplate/grilles.



The fly symbols, oddly placed orifices, cables aplenty, bits of fleshy horror deep within broken recesses…

The triple skull motif, tentacles/maggots, emphasis on large two-handed scythes & executioner’s axes, Prussian Pickelhaubes, occasional cloven feet.

The Last Metals / Finecast



The previous Plague Marines are ancient, first appearing in the 3.5 Chaos Space Marine Codex from 2002. Nurgle does indeed endure… Here we see the twisted fleshy armor and damaged equipment motif, but not much else. GW has come a long way in 15 years.

Forge World’s Entry

Forge World got in on the Plague Marine action a few years back with an upgrade kit that works with the current plastic CSM kit. They went heavily with the triple skulls and pickelhaube motifs.

Back to 2nd Edition

Back in 2nd edition, we had two lines of Plague Marines. The default plastic kits of identical Death guard to bulk up your army, then a range of metal minis for special weapons and leaders.

As late as 1997 these metal guys were out there, giving your Death Guard all the melta & plasma you needed.


Step back 3 years to 1994 and we get some “default” Plague Marines in metal. These would be for variety, as the plastic ones below all have identical posing.



1994. Yes, Plague Marines USED TO HAVE their own plastic “kit”, or at least a tiny sprue! These were the models that defined the “classic Plague Marine” Distended gut, cloven feet, pickelhaubes. Ahh, the days of slotta-bases on sprues with the minis.

Rogue Trader

Now we are headed way back to the origin of the Nurgle Marines. Back in this era, everything was still in flux and heavily affected by the Realms of Chaos books from the late 1980s that initially described Chaos. We got lots of marines that were dedicated to specific Chaos gods some that you had to figure out yourselves.


We’ve arrived in 1991 and these Chaos Renegades are specifically described as being Nurgle based. You can see a horn or tentacle here, cloven feet there as the elements that would later come together to form the “Classic Plague Marine”

Going back to the generic heavy weapons from 1989 you can see 022317 in the middle holding a multi-melta. That guy has Nurgle written all over him.

Finally let’s go back to a White Dwarf from 30 years back to see some of these early Rogue Trader minis painted up as Nurgle Marines.


Horus Heresy Bonus

With the recent launch of the Horus Heresy Age of Darkness setting, we need to also include a few GW and Forge World units for completeness. Just recently in 2023, we have these two offerings for the soon-to-be Nurglized XIVth Legion, standard Legionaries and Praetors:


Here we have the 30K DeathShroud, Gravewardens, and the old school Forge World Death Guard Legionary upgrade kit. These soon to be Plague Marines arrived in 2012-2015 during the golden era of the Forge World leatherbound Horus Heresy books.

~ OK, which generation of Plague Marines are your favorite and who still has some of these rocking on the tabletop?


Author: Larry Vela
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