Thursday, 28 May 2015

Chaos warbands and the pathetic aesthetic

A few weeks back I took some time to get to grips properly with the warbands rules in Slaves to Darkness, in preparation for our mini campaign. In the process one thing that stood out to me was the disconnect between the Realm of Chaos material and Warhammer Armies in terms of tone.

From second edition onwards the rules and army lists have seemed (to me at least) to emphasise the power of chaos warbands and armies, and de-emphasise the consequences. Yes, the warriors have made some perhaps unwise pacts with the chaos powers, but Look At Those Stats. Ravening Hordes and onwards toned this down somewhat with the introduction of chaos thugs and marauders but the theme remained - small, elite, hard-hitting forces.

In Slaves to Darkness the tone is, dare I say it, grimmer and darker, but done well, and before the slide into cliché. The artwork is a big part of this, but also the rules themselves. The champion has a chance of ascending to deamonhood - but will probably end up dead, incapacitated, or a chaos spawn. The warband will primarily be made up of beastmen and standard humans, with a chaos thug - never mind a marauder or warrior - being the rare elite.

With this in mind my slow progress towards a force of chaos raiders has taken a turn towards the pathetic. Or, to put it another way, I want my chaotics to encompass the mad, the bad and the sad.

The bad are clearly the proper chaos thugs - on the path to worldly power and damn the consequences. But before they get there they'll start out like the chap in the middle there - angry, violent, but not especially accomplished fighters.

The sad would rather not be in the ranks of chaos at all. But the taint of chaos has given them the choice: exile or death. Perhaps they took the job of guarding that wierd-looking crate - probably not strictly legit, but they had a family to feed! Or maybe they just woke up one morning with an extra ear. Either way, the path has been chosen for them.

And the mad - probably started off as the bad, or the sad. But now the attention of the chaos powers has overwhelmed them, and in a fight they're lucky if they remember which end of the club to hold.

In model terms, I was always thinking of mixing in various proxies along with my recognisable thugs. But I think I should also field some human "levy" types - probably eager to fight, unlike their counterparts in other armies, but inadequately armed and carelessly led. And chaos spawn, which I never really saw the attraction of before - I'm definitely going to need some of them, and some spawn handlers.

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