Friday, June 10, 2011

6 Flashback Friday #3: Theme

The theme of a fable is its moral. The theme of a parable is its teaching. The theme of a piece of fiction is its view about life and how people behave. The theme of a 40k army is to capture history into the models. Many people simple write theme off as a fable itself but theme has deep roots that helps set your army apart from the pack.  What exactly is a themed 40k army though? How can you implement a theme into your army and what can a theme offer you in return?

Theme and 40k go hand in hand like a Powerfist and a Space Marine Sergeant. Not all of you will agree with that statement but the effectiveness is hard to deny. Theme is defined as a unifying idea that has a recurrent element in a literary or artistic work. But what exactly does theme has to do with a 40k army? Acknowledge of the fluff or an alternate idea through list composition, model conversion and painting is how a theme is integrated with 40k. Every codex goes into great detail on the history of each army and each unit that is behind that army. In there one can find various themes that can be applied to the army as a whole. This gives the army not only a new look but a unified idea that can be applied across an army. With some armies this is harder to implement than others but the effectiveness of a well thought out theme has the ability to steal the show faster than a Dark Eldar Raider can move across the battle field. Here is several examples of armies that are easily susceptible to themes:

1/ Chaos Armies: Each God of Chaos has a theme with themselves that can be preyed upon. An example would be Nurgle having deep roots in decay and rot.
2/ Imperial Guard: Highly susceptible to falling to the Gods of Chaos for traitorous extremeous armies and to historic armies of past. Examples would be an army comprised of fallen soldiers that were infected with a zombie plague or a simple but stunning Air Cavalry army.
3/ Orks: Lends themselves to conversions and thus the ability to transform them. Previous Codex alluded to their history in tribes and cults. Examples would be an a Kult Speed army which places a high emphasis on speed over numbers.
Other armies though are not without their themes but sometimes the imagination must be bribed to make the sale. An example of this would be Space Marines. Not much is different between chapter to chapter other than unit emphasis. Raven Wing places an strong emphasis on fast moving units like bikes and Land Speeders where a Salamanders armies places its value onto flamer and melta wielding units. These are themes but they straight forward and skim the surface. Others are pulled from the dark recess of truly inspired.  I have seen a Black Templar army heavily converted to represent the Dune universe.  Feeding upon the spice that makes up the Dune he was able to create giant worms that act as Land Raiders to highly converted models that act as the faction that make up the various houses in the Dune world.  A quick search through the internet and you can find some truly inspirational armies.  One such army I came across recently was a bee themed Space Marine force.  A few minor conversions and an amazing paint job have turned the traditionally bland Ultramarines into a totally new army.
I myself own a Chaos Space Marine army that has deep roots in Nurgle, Swamps and the Forest.  I achieved this by branching out into the Warhammer Fantasy model range so I could use Dryads as my Lesser Daemons.  It did not stop there though as I used GW's trees for my Defiler's extra close combat arms and my Greater Daemon body converted from yet other GW tree.  I implement countless minor conversion to help tie it all together.  Regardless of theme the first step to apply an unifying idea.  This can be tricky at times as you may have to drop certain units out of your list to help keep the theme intact.  The second one is conversions. The ability to change the look of model can drastically effect the theme. This can be down to the model itself and or to the base of model. Finally is the paint scheme. It may be subtle but the end result is one that can connect the dots.

Speaking of dots one can find their opponents and or tournament organizer placing them next to your score sheet or for best painted army. Even if your army is not the Best Painted it can have the ability, through a well thought out theme, to steal the lime light.  People are drawn instantly into armies that do not look like the rest.  This extra attention is what can have them thinking your army is the Best Painted.  In my area each of these votes goes towards Best Overall Player.  This gives everyone the ability to win this category despite their gaming performance.  Even if you are just pulling your army out for a game at your local club/store chances are that people will compliment you on your army. This attention is well deserved and your themed army is something you should be proud of. You went the extra mile to make it, now its going to go the extra mile to make you happy. The next time you are about to travel down the road of building a new army, stop for a moment and think about driving that extra mile or two down that road less travelled. The theme route will take you places that you will challenge you in many aspects of the hobby, from list making, to conversions, to painting. Yes it can mean more work but in the end it will give back to ten time what you put into. The recurring element that you implement is bound only by your imagination so let it roam free, let it explore the far recesses of your mind, let it be in the pilot seat and see where it takes you.


  1. I wrote this post a while back but Flash-backed to it due to recent articles on other Blogs about the state of the hobby. Overall I feel that a minority of highly competitive gamers have been able to negatively affect the hobby. This group pushes competition so hard that they are willing to sacrifice an entire codex for ability to win. If a unit is not highly competitive it is ignore even if it is the true to the fluff. I have grown tired of this attitude and GWs 'Ard Boyz which does not require the painting of your models. I feel it brings the hobby as a whole down as they both are two major media outlets for the hobby. Armies can be both fluffy, fun to play and competitive at the same time if you are willing to implement all three of them equally.

  2. Holy Crap! That picture with the Orkz? That was my Team Tournament Team from Adepticon 2010 - Mork Protects! :)

  3. But I agree with you, HOTPanda. It seems like the said minority has the biggest audience (not going to mention websites, of course) where people with no creativity gather to break the game and make it less fun for the rest of us... because every time your awesomely converted, well-painted and cherished fluffy army has to face a "factory gray" internet list army something inside you dies.

  4. Your Team Tournament's Ork army and display board are awe inspiring. It truly captures the spirit of Orks.

    I feel that these unnamed sights can be countered though as they are just a loud minority that is currently drowning the rest of us out. It time to fight back.

  5. We played those orks game one at the Adepticon teams 2010! They kicked our Khorne demons/marines in the teeth pretty well. A bunch of stand up guys though, it was a fun loss.

  6. I bet it was a fun game to lose. I would just enjoy sitting there admiring their models.