The Tau and the Imperium

It occurred to me the other day that the Tau Empire is following a surprising parallel with the early Imperium of man.

No I’m not mad.

Anyone that’s read the Horus Heresy novels and/or the background in 6th Edition Warhammer 40,000 will know that the Imperium was supposed to be a place of enlightenment free of institutions that would divide it. During the Great Crusade the fleets would arrive at a system, give the inhabitants the opportunity to embrace the Imperium and accept the Imperial truth or face the consequences.

Am I mad or do the Tau, more of less, do the same thing? Obviously they’re a bit more huggy about the whole thing but that’s essentially what they’re doing. And when you consider that the Tau lack any real ranged warp travel but are an ever-growing Empire it begs the question what the Universe has in store for these grey skinned hippies.

Through my various shady sources I’ve found out that the Emperor had a plan for the Tau and instructed Guilliman to defend the embryonic civilisation from harm. The order got lost in the galactic postal service and has only recently come to light – in time for the 6th edition Tau & Space Marine codices funnily enough – hence why Space Marines and the Tau are bum chums.

It strikes me that the Tau, ironically, will be the saviours of humanity. According to the new fluff the Emperor is projecting a lovely cuddly duvet of protective psychic energy over the Imperium. Which I’m sure is fucking knackering. Not to mention gets in the way of the whole ascension thing.

The important details are that the Emperor was trying to create a society free of the lure of Chaos and Tau are impervious to the lure of Chaos which makes them the perfect choice to face the inevitable onslaught of Chaos. So the ideal situation would be to lace Tau units across the Imperium as well as give the Tau Astropaths and Telepaths to allow them to move more effectively across the galaxy responding to threats.

This, however, rather flies in the face of the Imperial mandate of manging all aliens in the face. As there’s no way that it would happen with the Imperium at war with itself. The Tau would also need some assurances. I suspect their protection from the rest of the galaxy would be a part of it, and I would trust Marneus Calgar to be greasing those particular wheels following the discovery of Guilliman’s missive to the rest of the Space Marine legions.

Perhaps humanities inability to trust in anything beyond what the High Lords tell them to, or the fact that the High Lords would never relinquish an ounce of power unless the Emperor himself rose from the Golden Throne, will mean that they will never use the Tau for what they were intended.  Instead maybe the Tau will become the inheritors of the galaxy. As humanity and the denizens of the warp burn themselves out in the great Second Heresy the warp will be becalmed and the Tau will be able to expand across known space.

Which brings us to two possible timelines. The first is that the Tau continue to expand, human worlds gladly embracing their new masters as salvation from the coming darkness until it reaches such a mass that the Tau can begin their own great crusade and claim the galaxy as their own. The second is the return of the Primarchs and the rebirth of the Emperor which would decree the Tau are brought into the fold. And, because the Emperor isn’t stupid, it would also completely hamstring any future expansion by the Tau.

Fighting alongside the Imperium would exhaust their military might to the point where, at best, the Tau will be reliant on the Imperium for protection whilst it recovers, or at worst, they are consigned to second class citizen status like Ratlings and Ogryns and kept as a military assest, mustered when the threat of Chaos or a Chaos cult looms. An extension, I suppose, of the Inquisition.

Musings on 6th Edition Fluff

By now most, if not all, of you would have seen the leaked White Dwarf pages that went up on blogs all over the world this week. I resisted because, well, what would be the point? Especially as so many of my fellow Alliance members had gotten there first.

It has, however, given me time to reflect on the prominence of the Dark Angels in the new edition and the slight shuffling on of the canon from the previous version.

So, based on certain rumours, the Tau are now under the protection of the Space Marines. Or at least the Ultramarines and their successors which rather suggests that the Emperor knew that there would come a time when Chaos would return to the galaxy in a level of force akin to the Heresy. It also makes me think that he was aware of and/or had a hand in the genetic manipulation of the Tau alongside the Eldar. Which if nothing else makes you realise where Alpharius and Omegon get their pragmatism from…

More over I’ve been thinking about the Dark Angels. It’s quite telling that we’re on the cusp of the 42 Millennium, the Golden Throne is failing, and the fate of the Imperium hangs in the balance and there is a sudden emphasis being placed on the 1st Legion. The Dark Angels have always been a mysterious bunch and all the evidence suggests it is because of the betrayal of half the Legion during the Heresy. And although they bear those scars with great shame, the true cause of their secrecy is the realisation that came with capturing Luther and his eventual confession. The great secret that the Dark Angels keep is, whereas the Space Wolves are the Emperor’s executioners, the Dark Angels are or will be the executioners of the Emperor.

From broken lips Luther told his captures that the Emperor was a true immortal, a being destined to be reborn for all eternity and by keeping him trapped within a shattered physical form humanity was preventing his rebirth and with it their very salvation. This secret was the Dark Angels’ alone to bear and with their stoicism they would see it done.

Cypher’s quest to kill the Emperor is a well established part of the background, his motivations supposedly sinister. And wherever the lost son of The Lion makes planet fall the Dark Angels descend to allegedly bring him to justice. It’s no surprise to see Divination as one of the Dark Angel psyker traits for 6th edition. In the resulting engagement Cypher makes his escape and with each new appearance he gets closer and closer to Terra. The assumption is that the Dark Angels are trying to stop Cypher but I propose that they are trying to help him by covering his tracks and sowing misdirection as on the surface the Dark Angels appear to be doing little more than thwarting heretics. But think about it, Cypher is from a time when the Emperor was not a God – a truth all Space Marines hold – and so often times Cypher is doing little more than opening the eyes of those he comes into contact with. The Imperial Creed demands action is taken. The Dark Angels prosecute the campaign as far as they need to then withdraw. His escape is assisted by the fundamental and intentional conflict within the chapter structure. Battle brothers don’t know the true extent of the Dark Angels’ role in things to come, whereas company captains are initiated into the Deathwing and so, to a point, do. They accept the grim task ahead of them with the redoubtable determination we’ve come to expect from the First Legion. As a result the Dark Angels hamper their own efforts to capture Cypher and further turn the wheels of destiny towards the inevitable death of the Emperor.

This isn’t to say that the Dark Angels are heretics or traitors. Far from it. Arguably only the Dark Angels and the Space Wolves see things for that they really are and the grim roles they must play. The Dark Angels know that the Wolves will be set upon them once their work is done. And probably deepens the resentment that runs between the two Chapters. Especially as the Wolves know they were powerless to change anything as for the Dark Angels to succeed they must fail in their most basic duty. To keep the Emperor safe. The Dark Angels understand that by allowing the Emperor’s shattered mortal form to die he can be reborn and will signal for the Primarchs to return and herald a new age of reclamation. Although I suspect that it’ll be The Lion himself that ends his father’s life as he was always destined to carry a terrible burden. Indeed there’s every likelihood that he saw this possible future which is why the weight of the Legion was so heavy on his shoulders. Combined with my note about the Tau ostensibly being anti-Chaos weapons it all seems to point quite strongly that humanity is on the brink of either destruction or redemption but it’ll come at a terrible price and its survival may come at the cost of the Imperium itself.

This is purely speculation but it’ll be interesting to see where the new Dark Angel codex will be taken and whether or not the rumoured ‘Warhammer 41,000’ will ever come out and how that follows on but I suspect a lot of questions will be answered in the coming months.

The Emperor and the Wolf

The rumour mill has been working over time today with chatter that Forgeworld will be releasing a Horus Heresy supplement in the coming year or so. This is of no surprise to me at all. If anything I’m a little surprised it’s taken them this long to do it. But the clues were there with all the power armour and pre-heresy tank variants coming out.

There’s also rumours of a supplement that, basically, is the early years of the 42nd millennium. The Emperor is dead, and his body is in the hands of the Ultramarines. The Imperiuam has been torn asunder and is now a group smaller empires controlled by the Astartes who are at war with one another. Needless to say the Ultramarines and their successors control the biggest chunk of space. Terra is in the hand of the Imperial Fists and believe the Emperor’s body needs to be laid to rest so he may be reborn. The rumours prattle on at length but the point is that the supplement, if it ever comes to light, would take 40k from 5 to midnight to about quarter past. The commercial sense is clear as the majority of players have Space Marine armies and therefore a high percentage of games are Marine vs Marine and it’s just a ‘training exercise’. This would allow players to legitimately play one another.

Anyway, I wonder how the Heresy supplement will tie in to the books. I’d like to think there’ll be rules for Primarchs and, therefore, models. But more importantly a balance needs to be found between what the Astartes were and what they become, especially in respect of the traitor legions. I’m a little apprehensive if I’m honest as the Horus Heresy novels are doing a fine job of fleshing out the events. An IA book, if allowed to, could run roughshod over everything Dan Abneet, Graham McNeill and the others have cultivated.

The talk of the Horus Heresy supplement got me thinking about, once more, the fluff. Specifically about the Space Wolves as I think they’re probably one of the hardest Legions to capture in game and more so for Warhammer 30,000 (as it’ll inevitably be dubbed) – the chapter of the 41st millennium being fairly different from their Heresy incarnation. More than that I started thinking about the Space Wolves and their relationship with the Emperor.

We know that the Space Wolves were the Emperor’s executioners. His attack dogs. It’s also fair to assume that the other Legions were aware of the the secondary role the Space Wolves had beyond prosecuting the Emperor’s Great Crusade. But the question I’m throwing out there is what was the extent that the Primarchs and the other Legions aware? Did they believe that the Space Wolves were given the task because they were eager to please savages or because they knew the strength that the Space Wolves possess.

Those that had read the Horus Heresy novels will know that the Wolves were unleashed on three separate occasions. Once against each of the lost legions, the third time against the Thousand Sons obviously to great effect. The thing that has always made the Space Wolves more dangerous than the World Eaters was their self control. Their savagery in combat was always tempered by strategy and an awareness of the violence they unleash. It’s almost a grudging acceptance of their savagery. They see a problem and their mind immediately leaps to the most expedient way of dealing with it. Such as throwing a space station at planet. It’s brutal, mind bendingly violent but the undertone of logic is what makes them so terrifying. Whereas the World Eaters would and did descend into mindless slaughter. The World Eaters were content to wreak havoc for havocs sake. To butcher all before them because they liked it.

The Space Wolves were designed to be able to take on any of their brother legions. They’re psychically resistant, their ferocity and lupine heritage makes them difficult to scare and even hard to put down. Their tactics are uncompromising and unpredictable and their savagery tempered by reason and cold logic. It is a terrifying cocktail of traits. And makes me ask the question; to what extent was Leman Russ truly a brother to the other Primarchs?

All the other Primarchs possess obvious facets of the Emperor’s personality. Some even share traits. Roboute Guilliman, it is said, was almost a straight up clone. I’ve always thought that Leman Russ possessed the animal, bestial nature of the Emperor that lurks within all of us. But the more I’ve thought about it the less I’m sure. Considering the task that the Emperor had in mind when he created Leman Russ and the Space Wolves it would make far more sense for Leman Russ to not share the same familial bonds to make his task that much easier. His loyalty had to be, first and foremost to the Emperor.

It tracks as the Legion/Chapter is fiercely loyal to themselves and the Emperor. They had disdain for the bureaucracy of the Imperium as a whole and although close to his brothers Leman Russ never shared the kind of bonds of kinship that, for example, Fulgrim and Ferrus Manus shared. Granted that didn’t end well…

It makes me wonder what the Emperor had in mind for the Space Wolves after the Great Crusade. Or all the Legions for that matter. It makes me suspect that the Emperor intended for the Space Wolves to be a galactic patrol force. A force brutal enough that it would quell insurrection and keep the other Legions in line.

However the far more likely thought is that the Emperor created the Space Wolves because he always suspected something could go wrong, whatever that may be. The Space Wolves were an insurance policy, for want of a better term. But it all comes back to that decisive moment when the Primarchs were scattered denying the Emperor the chance to nurture the Primarchs into what he needed them to be. But I suspect that Leman Russ was created exactly as he was intended to be. He was the Emperor’s greatest creation and most devastating weapon.

It occurs to me of all the loyalist Legions the Space Wolves would have been most feared by the traitors. As not only were they the most capable to bring the fight to the traitors but they already had experience of doing just that. They would have also been fired by a righteous indignation that the Emperor was defied, rather than the hurt of a brothers betrayed.

The funny thing is that the Primarchs spend an awful lot of time not trusting the Space Wolves because of their tribal nature, unkempt appearance and savagery in combat, but of all of the Emperor’s creations they were the only ones that ever acted with wholeheartedly the Imperium’s best interests in mind, the Emperor’s fullest support and his unwavering approval. For all the power games, manipulations and rivalries that went on amongst the other Primarchs, Leman Russ was the most trusted and equally the most loyal of all the Emperor’s sons. This despite Leman Russ never seeking it out or even acknowledging it. If anything I rather feel that Leman Russ, incorrectly, believed the Emperor tolerated him in the same way a father tolerates a dog bought to keep the children safe. A necessity rather than something to be loved.

I suspect the opposite to be true. He loved Leman Russ precisely because he was the immovable rock beneath his feet. He knew that Russ would do what he could not – to protect his children and his subjects, even from themselves, no matter the cost.