This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
In the grim darkness of the 41st century, there is only war. Well, war and the slimy, scuttly, tyrannical Things that wage it against the Adeptus Astartes space marines.
Some of those Things are spectacularly disgusting, disturbing, or even transdimensionally Evil with a capital E. There’s a lot of strikingly nasty creations in the world of Warhammer 40k, even when rendered as a 35mm miniature.
Here are some of the most nightmarish ones; things to put on your tabletop if you want your battles to capture the full depth and breadth of 40k’s awesome, pitch-black intensity.
If you live in the present day or even some kind of mythical past, it might surprise you to know that the future of Warhammer 40k features Orcs. Or, more properly, Orks, and other orkoid, greenskinned things too. Lots of them, and they all smell really awful.
Amongst the smallest of these are the Gretchin, thieving little goblin-types that scuttle about, grasping and crooking, impossible to trust and almost as tricky to look at. They won’t do too well when they run into a tank, maybe, but watching a squad of Gretchin get torn to sticky red-green ribbons as their Runtherd just hooks them up and throws them into the crossfire is disturbing enough.
2. Tyranid Hormagaunts
None of the Tyranid species is something I would like as a pet (your mileage may vary) but perhaps the Hormagaunts least of all. With strong back legs that can get them up in your face within seconds, and four horrendous, toxin-coated claws they’ll put to “good” use when they get there, these blighters certainly need swatting with some expediency. What really makes their extermination tricky, however, is the sheer number of the things. It seems like they just can’t stop multiplying, like some kind of torture porn remake of The Trouble With Tribbles.
And while we’re talking about Tyranid reproduction, if we must, do save a space in your night terrors for the Norn-Queen, the ones who spew out all of the other disgusting creatures to start with. These are the mothers, so to speak, who swallow up all of the biomass they can, then rewire it genetically to produce more Tryanids, more Tyranid bioweapons, more Tyranid spacecraft.
These queens are simply too vast to appear in battle – they’re so huge as to be living battlefields rather than battlers – but the same sort of disgusting disgorgement can be witnessed when a Tervigon comes into play. A scuttling incubator that carries Termagants into the theatre of war, ready to spawn them into the crossfire and chaos, this hard-armoured, claw-wielding midwife will enrich the Tyranid masses with every fresh expulsion and regorgement.
Especially nasty, I think, are these nasty things with their wriggling sacs packed with more nasty things. I’m never pleased to see one of these killer wombs lurking near the backline.
The Tyranids share a horrendous hive mind, a collective will to destroy and purge and spawn. This power is channeled by the Zoanthropes, one of their strangest, ugliest varietals, ice-cold psyker killers that fire warp blasts drawn from the Tyranids’ sheer collective malice.
Just about physically useless, a Zoanthrope can only move itself through psychic levitation, but unluckily for everybody else, it’s really good at such mind over matter shenanigans. It’s also powerful enough to protect its useless, even pathetic body with a strong psychic shield. These are like Extremely Bad Moods made flesh, able to hurl bolts of warp energy like they’re just chucking out violent insults.
5. Grukk’s Boss-mob… complete with Squig
Squig is short for Squiggly Beast, which just about covers it, don’t you think? For the cherry on top, consider this: squigs are a basic, mentally and phyically simplified Orkoid, but also the major food enjoyed by bigger, more intelligent Orks.
40k players can’t buy Squig units – it would be like buying the smear on the bottom of somebody’s boot separately from the boot – but they do come as upgrades. You’ll find one in the Boss-mob of Grukk Face-rippa, for example, where it serves as an upgrade-serving unit amongst the more obviously death-inducing, bigger, killier ones.
6. Daemons of Khorne
Beyond the cruel indifference of the universe lies the Warp, a parallel plane of tortured existence. Believe it or not, it’s even worse there, where the chaos comes from.
Mankind knows about warpspace and gives it fancy names – The Immatereum, maybe, or The Sea of Souls – and exploits it for magic and faster-than-light travel. But it doesn’t understand it.
The agents of the Warp are Daemons, and they are many and varied and chaotic to the core. These Neverborn were made by the Chaos Gods from their own essence, and fashioned into minions of no free will. In the Warp, they have no presence, but in the physical universe of Realspace, they do. And what an unpleasant presence it is.
If you’re one of those people living in the past or the present, surprised by the existence of Orcs in the 41st century, you’ll probably think the Daemons of Khorne look quite familiar. It’s the horns and cloven hooves that most probably give it away.
7. A Genestealer Broodcoven
Genestealers can spawn in cycles, infecting the DNA of another species so that they birth hybrids. Four generations down the line, as the infection spreads and the balance of hybridisation tips, the new offspring will be pure genestealer stock and so the cycle can start again with another, fresh wave of infections.
Between the Purestrains, then, there are a lot of hybrids, usually collected into a cult, and devoted from their DNA outwards with a fanatical loyalty to the genestealer way of life. On the surface, this devotion lends the group an air of religious or political devotion, but at its core, the cult is all about reproduction. I’m sure this sounds familiar.
8. The Dark Eldar
If you’re seeing plenty of parallels between the harsh realities of the grimdark and the fantasies made popular by JRR Tolkien and his ilk, here’s another: the Eldar are like elves.
And the Dark Eldar are like pirate elves who like to be extremely cruel. For kicks.
Eldar units might not be too well armoured, but if too many of your shots miss and they do get their slender, sadistic little fingers on you, you’ll certainly know about it. What happens next will no doubt be sheer hedonistic pleasure for the Dark Eldar… but only the Dark Eldar.
Use your imagination, then double down on the least pleasant thing you just thought of. Now try to forget it and get on with your day.
9. The Necrons
Dying quickly can be merciful. The Necrons wield weapons that will completely bypass such childish concepts.
For example, these cold, metallic monsters, with their distinctive robo-gyptian looks, might just want to take you apart, atom by atom until all that’s left is the white-noise hangover that used to be a living thing. Unfortunately, they have exactly the weaponry to do this. You don’t invent weapons like this when all you care about is efficiency, I promise you.
You’ll usually find the Necrons attacking from maximum range, huge hordes that will disassemble their enemies from a safe distance – safe for them, of course. Even up close, however, you’ll find a Necron Overlord can take his Warscythe and swiftly rewrite your plans into what becomes a rather stomach-churning obituary.
10. The Space Marines
Now, let’s get to the crux of the matter. Unfortunately, and much as it is today, the worst of the lot is very probably the humans.
And I don’t mean the poor, blighted abhumans, dejected by millennia of genetic abuse. I mean the holier-than-thou Space Marines.
Serving an Emperor who might never have existed, who is almost certainly dead, and wouldn’t deserve the worship anyway, these crusading clerics in combat gear have ripped a path across Realspace on a mission to purge the other, spread The Imperium and do “good works.”
And this is in a time where the doing of “good works” is almost always, not just occasionally, envisioned in the military terms of boots crushing skulls.
For outside reading on why The Space Marines might not be the heroes of the Warhammer 40k universe (spoiler: there is no real hero species or creed in the Warhammer 40k universe, because realism in gaming can be ‘fun’ sometimes) try hitting up Wikipedia for The Spanish Inquisition.