Friday 26 January 2018

Fluff! What is it good for?

Recently my friend KhorneGuy posted a blog entry about how fluffy is your fluff? I recommend taking a look. It's good topic for discussion.

I consider myself very much a fluff player. It goes hand in hand with enjoying a narrative style of play. Probably the main reason I play Warhammer 40,000 is because of the fluff. Games Workshop, despite their various failings in the past, have given us an fantastically detailed and plotted universe. It seems a shame to me to not use that in our games.

Some people don't care about the fluff. They enjoy the game and they read the novels but they never seem to immerse themselves in the dark future. They build their lists and they look at everything in a mechanical standpoint. That by itself is a fine thing but a player doing that is just missing out.

Anyone can build a fluffy list for their army. If you play space marines or tyranids whatever it is you bring is probably going to be appropriate to that faction. But if someone is bringing a Craftworld: Saim-Hann list I would expect it to be full of jetbikes and skimmers, not rangers and loads of aspect warriors. For players like myself who do immerse themselves facing off against a list that isn't accurate is a little disappointing.

Chaos Daemons are an odd one for me though. I come from a time when in 40K the gods of Chaos would never ally with certain other gods. You would never have seen bloodletters working alongside daemonettes and pink horrors, or pink horrors with plaguebearers. Those gods did not get along in anyway. Even seeing allied faction specific chaos marines outside of a Black Legion list gets my teeth grinding. It was just not the done deal from a thematic point of view. These days the gods of Chaos seem to have put those rivalries aside when launching a daemonic invasion but it still leaves a bad taste for me.

In Khorneguy's blog entry he talks about a friend of his who uses Guilliman as a special character of his own design in his home brew chapter. I am all for following your own vision, painting your models as you want and coming up with a cool backstory to your own army. As I sort of mentioned in a reply to his post I would not be comfortable playing against that because of my immersion in the "true" fluff of the 42nd millennium. Guilliman is Guilliman, and only for the Ultramarines. Does that make me a bad player or disrespectful of someone else's vision? I certainly hope not. The player in question has made their own fluff. It's just not canonical fluff and that's where my enjoyment of the game comes from.

Lastly, there are also players who have chosen an army based on how good they perceive it. They then play that army not fluffy but decidedly mechanically. They are playing the system essentially. War games are by their nature competitive but I do think that you can play up the fluff of an army in it's composition and still remain competitive.


  1. I have a slightly different take on the proxy character arrangement colin. A few editions back I would use characters from different chapters, back when it was still ok to do so. Examples being telion for imperial fists and Calgar / Chronus for iron hands. They weren’t powerful characters at the time but they fit nicely with the background of my army.

    Guilleman is a bit trickier as he’s well known to be very powerful and, unlike scout sergeants or chapter masters, is the only loyalist primarchs character in the story. I do however feel that after a surge of customisation towards the end of 7th (angels of death etc) we have taken a step back. Maybe halter approved will address this?

    1. I used to do the same back under 4th and 5th when I was playing space marines. Lots of counts as characters.

  2. It’s an interesting point, I’ve always thought the same as you about Chaos, and I’ve reinforced that in an event I’m working on, rewarding mono-god or all-four, but picking and choosing certain God’s is wrong to my mind.

  3. I like your post and I share the view when it comes to Daemons, however the same could be applied to nids, or perhaps Necrons too. Building a fluffy army is easy when you have a structure to work with, for example a Guard regiment or Marine company, or if you have a character that you can get behind like your Ork Warboss. When it comes to factions like Daemons, Nids and Crons, yes there are characters, but everything else is basically anonymous. You could identify with the plight of an individual Guardsman, however what are the individual motivations of bloodletter 354 or gaunt 432? nor do these factions have a framework in which to build really. Daemons may be able to build to faction numbers, Nurgle taking multiples of 7 as part of a ritual to summon a greater daemon or something, but really I struggle to give such factions personality meaning building an army in a "fluffy" way is hard. Of my examples, I only collect Nids and Crons, and my fluff is simply "more!" as the waves of bitey critters swarm or Death Robots rise from their tombs.

    1. Daemons are hard to write a background fluff for. For all intents and purposes the gods release them onto a world and they just go forth and kill. There is nothing to build upon.

      Necrons I think you can build upon but perhaps you have to look at the bigger picture. Are you playing a established dynasty or a homebrew one? Established ones have a lore behind them I suppose.

      Motivation is perhaps part of the reason I have set my games as narratives on specific battle zones and worlds. I can get behind the game a lot better if I'm doing that. Just pushing plastic around a table and rolling dice would otherwise just be dull for me.

  4. As a confirmed Fluff-Head, I struggle to see any reason to include 'Named Characters' other than to make an army more powerful. In 8th I have yet to come across an army that uses these characters in a way that reinforces their established background....but here's the rub, 8th has actively promoted their use in this edition to the detriment of previously established lore. Once, they were Special Characters, now they are are just Named Characters that most armies readily use and think nothing of it.
    The game has moved away from the restrictions of previous editions and encourages people to take whatever they want, such as Named Characters and multiple Detachments. The competitive scene has embraced this and is enjoying all that 8th has to offer. Sadly, around here anyway, the narrative side of 40k gaming has become noticeably rarer.

    1. That's an interesting point of view. I don't understand why you would think that playing a special character is not in keeping with the fluff. Nine times out of ten I will play Typhus because my army is based upon his plague fleet. Likewise, if I played an army like Crimson Fists I would play Kantor. Playing the character for your army sort of makes sense to me.

      I see a lot of arguments against playing named characters but they normally just boil down to someone feeling fed up about seeing them in all games played against that specific faction. It is something I don't understand.

      I made mention in a previous post where I point out that with 8th edition we are in a new paradigm of fluff/lore. Now is the time where seeing these great heroes and villains striding the battlefield makes thematic sense. I would like to see named characters appear a lot more on the tabletop than they are.

      By your final comment there, how would you define narrative play then?


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