THE HISTORY OF WARHAMMER 40,000
In the grim darkness of the late ’80s, a tabletop game spawned a vast universe. Thirty years on, Will Salmon heads to the Imperium of Man...
Return with us to the birth of the game that made any kitchen tabletop a riot of intergalactic carnage. Mum, we’re so sorry.
aming in the late ’80s and early ’90s was not what it is today. this was a time before the widespread ubiquity of the internet, where consoles from sega and nintendo were popular, but still rooted in the limitations of 8- and 16-bit architecture. the first Playstation was just around the corner and would change everything, but before then another sort of play held a tenacious grip on schoolyards and model clubs around the country. Kids and adults alike were busy collecting and painting armies of metal men: savage, green-skinned Orks; aloof, enigmatic eldar; deadly alien genestealers; and the insidious forces of Chaos. most notable of all, in vast legions of brightly coloured armour, were the many and varied chapters of the adeptus astartes – the space marines.
Warhammer 40,000 is a phenomenon. the tabletop-based miniatures wargame turns 30 this year, but rather than fading with time, it’s arguably experiencing something of a renaissance. the days of every other kid painting a Blood angels devastator squad or straining their eyesight trying to paint the checks on an eldar harlequin’s trousers may have gone, but the game’s universe is better known than ever before, encompassing novels, comics and, yes, videogames.
Before Warhammer 40,000 there was Warhammer – “the mass combat fantasy roleplaying game,” written by Bryan ansell, richard halliwell and rick Priestley, published in 1983. although far from original in its setting – this was a fantasy world lashed together from bits of tolkien, Conan, david eddings and terry Brooks – it still had depth and richness. and it had miniatures; lots and lots of gloriously sculpted miniatures, then cast in a child-unfriendly, please-don’t-put-them-in-