Friday, April 8, 2016

Why Heresy?

About a month ago, my elder brother blogger Mordian 7th hit 1 million pageviews, a truly impressive number. The man, Mordian 7th himself, ran a giveaway contest over on Heresy 30k. All you needed to do was post what drew you to the Horus Heresy, and Mordian 7th would enter you into a random drawing. The winner has already been chosen - so no luck for you! - but I thought it might be fun to look at and reflect upon the reasons why the H30k community - or at least that subset who posted on the thread - decided to pursue this iteration of the Warhammer hobby.

This is going to be the point of view of a slice of a subset, so I don't expect it to represent the community at large... but that doesn't mean it won't be interesting.

You can check out the thread yourself if you're curious, but I'll provide a summary of the themes I saw in the responses, in rough descending order:
  1. The plot, setting, and characters are interesting and compelling
  2. The community is great
  3. The game is "bigger" (more explodier, more dramatic characters, bigger battles, higher stakes) than 40k. 
  4. The models and setting have nostalgia appeal.
Let's break these down a little further.

The plot, setting, and characters of Warhammer 30k are well known to many, thanks to the Horus Heresy series published by Black Library. This series, which began with Horus Rising in 2006, tells the story of the civil war that wrecked everything, starting with the closing days of the Great Crusade and the conspiracy to corrupt Horus and going... on. On and on. Right now, the series encompasses more than eighty novels and short stories. And no, they aren't at Terra yet.

I've got to admit that, for me, the Horus Heresy series definitely falls into the same category as Conan the Barbarian and other pulp literature. I'm not going to shit on it - it's fine. It's fun, things explode, people die, the villains are villainous and the heroes are, well... some of them are heroic. Some of them are also villainous. It's the slightly less grim, slightly less dark, slightly less future of Mankind, after all. But it's certainly not fine literature. Of all the speculative fiction I've read, this series probably wouldn't inspire me to buy into a wargame. I'm reading it for the opposite reason: I like the wargame, so I want to read the novels.

But hey, I'm not here to yuck your yum. If you think that the Horus Heresy novels are the best thing since sliced heretic and that's why you got into the wargame... good for you!

However, I enthusiastically agree that the Warhammer 30k community is great. I will probably always be struck by the responses to my first ever post, declaring that I was planning on starting Salamanders. No "oh they suck in this edition," or "these are the only models you need." Instead, the responses were "are you doing pre or post Istvaan?" and "GW bright green or FW drab green?" This is a community that has its heart (as well as its brain, genitals, and other organs) in the right place. They know that this isn't the best rules set by any stretch of the imagination, but that's okay. This isn't a tough, hard-minded strategy game - it's a game of blowing shit up and reenacting imaginary future space battles!

It's also pretty clear that the bigness of the Horus Heresy is reflected in the rules and the models. Super-heavies are common, squads are big, and the average game will be deadly for a third to a quarter of your army - and that's even if you win! Horus Heresy is very well designed to reproduce the feel of its setting, an apocalyptic war in which entire planets will be sacrificed as a side-effect of the enormous battles taking place on and above them.

Finally, I've got to admit that I can't really speak to the nostalgia appeal of the models, as I'm a relative newcomer to the hobby. So I'll simply leave that point alone. If anyone wants to step in and write a guest post about the nostalgia value of Heresy models, drop me a line and we'll set something up.

However you come to Horus Heresy, it's a great game, with a great community, set in a great world. There's definitely more than enough greatness to go around! In the comments, why don't you let me know what drew you to the wars of the Age of Darkness?

1 comment:

  1. Hear, hear! I have to say it's been my experience that in general Heresy gamers are more into it for the hobby and fun of playing "future historical" games, where the narrative weekend is far more common than the cutthroat hardcore tournament, and there's a real sense of playing WITH your opponent rather than AGAINST them. It's the community that makes it fun!

    From a modeling perspective it's definitely the nostalgia for me (being a Rogue Trader/Epic Spacemarine-era gamer) and I'm absolutely loving all the loving nods to the old aesthetic FW has done, as well as coming out with all sorts of characters and kits that tie in with the novels.

    Speaking of, I agree that the Heresy book series is a little uneven - there are some surprisingly good ones, and some questionably bad ones, but while the majority of 'em are not fine literature it's been pretty neat getting a little insight into the history of the 18 legions, and the broad story-lines the Black Library authors have written have been a lot of fun!

    Good stuff all 'round, man. Looking forward to seeing the Salamanders take shape!