There’s been a fair bit of chatter recently regarding the possibility of Games Workshop adding some new alien races to 40k, and this has me intrigued. Where would one find a new Xenos race? What could inspire it? And how could it develop? In a series of two articles, I’m going to look at where this potential new threat to the Imperium could be drawn from, starting with the Xenos races that already inhabit the galaxy in the 41st Millennium. But first, let’s start with a technically-not-Xenos race who always have to be mentioned when one is talking about new factions for 40k…
There. I said it. Just to get it out of the way really. You can reset the counters, etc. But this is a fair point to make. While on the one had Games Workshop’s reaction to the Squats is typically to stick its fingers in its ears, close its eyes and shout “NEVER HAPPENED! NEVER HAPPENED! LALALA!” they do represent a genuine possibility. Some of you will be shaking your heads and saying that they are abhumans and not true Xenos, and while you’re technically correct, they still could have an alien feel to them, and represent something outside, or on the verges of the Imperium that is not affiliated to Chaos, so I’m giving them an *. Perhaps unworthy of the title of Xenos, these *Xenos would still be something very different to the Imperium, with unique designs, no Aquila, and some massive tanks too.
A high toughness/low movement army (apart from the bikes) with a techno-celtic Imperial allies feel to them. …yeah, it’s not going to happen. They really do belong in the game’s past and while it’s conceivably plausible that GW might release a single unit of dwarf-like abhumans, the idea of a Squat army ever coming back to the table belongs inside a Tyranid’s belly along with all the other squats. And, given their technically abhuman status, they might end up just being another Imperial army (even without the Aquila) and we have more than enough of those at the moment.
And really, when we look at the past, this would be the only option. We now have the Genestealer cult back in the game and they were the only other contenders up until their release to make such a huge comeback. But Squats are just dwarves in space, and if you really want to play them, you can take some Khadra- Karard- Kokora- Steam Punk Airship Dwarves from fantasy and give them bolters and lasguns. That’s as close as you’d get I think. In terms of whole armies, this was your only option and it’s not an option. I shall eat my hat if they ever make a reappearance on an army-level scale.
But that doesn’t mean that all from the past is a no go. GW, in a post on one even recently brought up the Ambull, a creature which only lives on a small smattering of planets and lives underground. Hmmm… not too promising if you ask me.
Then there are the Hrud. While early editions of the game painted them as rat-like (just say ‘Space Skaven’ – it’s easier), that used plasma tech and sniper rifles, they were eventually evolved into the strange, long-limbed, scale-covered creatures with black orb eyes that were more in line with classic alien-types from Science Fiction. I don’t see Skaven making the jump across from fantasy (despite the character at the bottom left of the above image), but these large aliens could be a winner. But is there an army in them? How could GW make them an interesting, in depth and varied army?
Or do they need to? Why not just a unit or a single model? They could ally with certain races and not others. This could be done with any amount of Xenos. I suggested a couple of years ago that we could have single unit races that served purely as ally options and I stand by the fact that this could work. Introduce an army’s worth of units that aren’t an army. Hrud, Ambulls, Dog Soldiers… perhaps there are even some Laer that survived Slaanesh somehow. And what if they’d be willing to fight for the Greater Good® with the Tau? Or enslave Orks? Or exist as a parasite to the Tyranids? All plausible, and all sensible. What’s more, if any unit or race proved particularly popular, GW could then work on the introduction of a full army later on. After all, there’s only one Vespid unit in the game…
While this sort of approach could happen, I’m sceptical that it ever would. GW like their army releases to be full armies, and these odds and ends wouldn’t really fit in with current practices, but while it’s unlikely, it’s still a lot more plausible than the Squats coming back.
When Rogue Trader launched way back when, GW instinctively looked to the Fantasy world to try and flesh out the 41st Millennium with Xenos species. So is there anything left? No, is the simple answer. The Undead are covered by Necrons, of course we know about all the Elves, Orks, etc, the Ogres are Ogryns, and the Dwarves got squatted. If one were being generous, one could even say that the Sigmarites and Primaris Marines share a little bit in common. This cupboard is looking particularly bare these days.
So it looks like there’s not really much of anything to choose from when it comes to the bows and arrows brigades.
So What’s The Answer?
Well, indeed. What is the answer? This may be one of those rare occasions when GW looks truly beyond its walls for something new. It appears that there’s not much old and original IP left to plunder so, like the inventions of Tyranids and Tau, it may be time for the chaps in Nottingham to look beyond the 41st Millennium. But where would such inspiration come from? In my next article, I’ll look a bit more at the sorts of aliens we could, should and wouldn’t want to see in Warhammer 40,000. Until then; Onwards!
NB – Since originally penning this piece, I’ve noticed, both in White Dwarf and on the Warhammer Community website that Games Workshop have done something amazing themselves – mentioned Squats! This is either tongue-in-cheek, deliberate trolling, or could some plans be afoot? I’m not holding my breath, but it’s intriguing nonetheless…