Let’s talk about the Primarchs…

Hey everybody!
Wordpress tells me that this is my 800th post, which is quite phenomenal when you think I started this blog back in 2014 as a way to pass the time! Anyway, to do something monumental to mark the occasion, I’m trying to get posts out every day this week, starting with yesterday’s visit to Warhammer World. Will each of these posts be confined to the realms of the grim dark of the 41st millennium? Well, it’s entirely likely, but you’ll just have to keep checking back to see for yourself!

This blog stems back to last December (which is actually when I started writing it, but had left it as a draft for eleven months…) when the Blood Angels and Dark Angels Codexes came out. At the time, there was a lot of chatter about more Primarchs coming back in Warhammer 40k, and back then I couldn’t quite decide whether this would be a good thing or not – probably explaining why I never got round to finishing the post!

I might as well catch up with what’s been going on, along with weighing in with an opinion of my own about the whole situation. It’s certainly been an exciting time in the 8th edition story landscape, don’t get me wrong, but let’s try to make some sense of what’s happening here…


While people have been talking about Primarchs coming back for a while already, I think it was the announcement of these two that moved that talk into another realm, as people began to furiously debate whether or not Lion el’Jonson would be included in the Dark Angels book. The fact that the loyalists are currently outmatched by heretic Primarchs by two to one seemed to be a powerful indicator that the next new plastic Primarch would be a loyalist, and so that narrowed the list appreciatively, before the very fact that Dark Angels were getting a book seemed to be proof enough that the Lion would be the one.

Of course, the book arrived, and there was a distinct lack of Lion el’Jonson. For a time, it seemed, the talk of returning Primarchs died away as the much vaunted (yet almost entirely fan-made-up) year of the xenos got underway.

The line-up
For completion’s sake, the loyalist Primarchs we have are:
Lion el’Jonson – he’s said to be “sleeping” somewhere deep within The Rock, recovering from his psychic battle with Luther. However, only the Emperor himself is aware of the Lion’s survival.
Jaghatai Khan – he’s off fighting Dark Eldar in the webway, and it is unclear whether he is still alive or dead.
Leman Russ – he disappeared during a feast, some believe he has journeyed into the Eye of Terror on some quest or other. It’s possible he has succumbed to the Wulfen curse, as some mystery surrounds his disappearance.
Rogal Dorn – confusingly, Dorn was said to have died while repelling the first Black Crusade of Abaddon, though this has since been retconned so that, whereas initially his body was discovered, now all that remained was his fist.
Sanguinius – he’s dead, but more on this in a moment.
Ferrus Manus – he’s also dead, decapitated by Fulgrim on Isstvan V at the opening engagement of the Horus Heresy.
Roboute Guilliman – currently the only loyalist Primarch running around the galaxy in 8th edition.
Vulkan – a curious fish, Vulkan is said to be a perpetual, so he cannot truly die. He’s currently MIA, however, waiting for the last four of his nine artifacts to be recovered by his sons, at which point he will deem them worthy of his return. Hm.
Corvus Corax – deeply disturbed by the events surrounding his attempt to rebuild his Legion following the Isstvan massacre, Corax simply left his sons, plotting a course for the Eye of Terror.

A mixed bag, don’t you think? Some of those Primarchs, such as Leman Russ and Jaghatai Khan, are said to be waiting for their chapter’s time of greatest trouble, at which point they will return to lead them, very much in the manner of King Arthur. But there are also clearly a good number of these chaps who could be brought back into the story with no huge retcon required, as they’re merely “somewhere else” as opposed to, say, decapitated and dead. For these, it may well be more a question of “when” rather than “if”.

Returning from the dead
Last December, there was a mention by one of the writers that Sanguinius may not actually be dead after all, however. I came across this mention by Chapter Master Valrak back in the day, where the suggestion was made that the winged angel is merely in stasis.

Sanguinius, in case you weren’t aware, teleported up to the Vengeful Spirit along with his father, the Emperor, and Rogal Dorn, during the climactic battle of the Horus Heresy. Sanguinius became separated from the others, and was the first to find Horus, whereupon they dueled. Sanguinius knew he was no match for his brother, and had already foreseen his own death at Horus’ hand, but nevertheless knew he had to do what he could to help take down the arch-traitor, and it was the Blood Angels’ Primarch who managed to land a blow on Horus that opened up the chink in his armour for the Emperor to eventually get in and destroy him.

However, during this confrontation, Sanguinius is very definitely killed by Horus. Sanguinius’ death was so painful that his death screams left a psychic imprint upon all Blood Angels through both time and space, the echo of this remaining to this day as the Black Rage. Would the Black Rage exist if Sanguinius hadn’t been slain? Possibly, but to keep Sanguinius alive in the lore does definitely cheapen his sacrifice here, and I wonder – if he were to return – how that would make the Primarch feel… Sanguinius foresaw his own demise at the hands of Horus, and yet still went through with it all, knowing he would die, because he saw the possibility that his sacrifice could help the Emperor to destroy the Arch-Traitor for good. To bring him back after that would be to lessen the events aboard the Vengeful Spirit, and would likely torture the Primarch himself, as he is once again alive while his father the Emperor is entombed on the Golden Throne.

Unless we see the Emperor return as well, but that’s a whole other barrel of monkeys…

The whole Sanguinius thing faded into memory by the time the Space Wolves got their Codex earlier this summer, and once again there was talk of the return of a Primarch. But the book came out, and no Leman Russ came with it, which did indeed seem quite odd, but it happened, and the chatter about Loyalist Primarchs seemed to ebb away. Do GW just not want to bring any Loyalist Primarchs back? What’s going on there in Nottingham? We’re 2-1 in favour of Chaos at this point! Has Duncan made a pact with the Dark Gods?

So we’re currently at the point where, for now at least, it seems like the return of any Primarch has died down somewhat. Of course, no new Primarchs on the horizon isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Though the new Imperial Fists battle force box coming out this Christmas has now got me wondering if that is testing the waters for a second Loyalist Primarch making a return…

See, while I don’t think I’m definitely in that camp, I’m certainly leaning more towards the idea that the Primarchs belong in the 30k age, and especially after having read The Beast Arises series, I think it’s good to have that sort of mythical age of heroes to look back onto. If the story made sense, then I would absolutely back the return of the Lion, or even Russ, but I don’t think we particularly need to see every single possible Primarch come back just because. They belong in 30k, because that was their time; now, I think they should only appear because the story demands it.

But Chaos has got two Primarchs now!

The Traitor Primarchs are a lot easier to bring back, as all of those surviving Primarchs fled into the Eye of Terror following the Horus Heresy. With the Cicatrix Maledictum now tearing the galaxy apart, the storyline does seem to naturally follow that we’d see more of them, and they may think the galaxy is now ripe for another incursion.

I’m very curious about this whole turn of events, though, which is one of the reasons for this blog anyway. See, Magnus and Mortarion coming into the game does kinda make sense, because both Primarchs lead traitor legions of models that are both very specific within the lore, and had models in dire need of a proper upgrade. However, I am very curious if we’ll ever see Perturabo, or even Lorgar, because those guys just seem to lead generic Chaos Space Marines. And I really doubt we’ll ever get Alpharius/Omegon (not just because one may or may not be dead). I’ve been kinda interested in Iron Warriors ever since reading The Beast Arises and Storm of Iron, and so would really like to see what they would do with a Daemon Primarch Perturabo – but there wouldn’t really be any Rubric/Plague Marine equivalents for these chaps, instead a bit of a generic CSM kit with hazard markings.

This point does beg the question, though – where are Fulgrim and Angron?

Fulgrim had been thought to be coming out prior to the Morathi model being released, as daemon-Fulgrim is a giant snake. There have been several suggestions online about a Fulgrim release coinciding with the upcoming Slaanesh release in Wrath and Rapture, which pits Khorne against the Dark Prince, and it would be entirely fitting if the daemon models that cross between AoS and 40k then led to plastic Noise Marines and so forth. I do feel that the Noise Marines in particular need an upgrade along the lines of the Rubric Marines we’ve seen, as they’re currently in the same position as the Thousand Sons, having a resin upgrade kit and some sonic blasters that are just embarrassing at this point…

At least you could, at a push, invest in some Kakophoni if you wanted to go for a more civilised look, but even these look poor when you compare them with the glorious plastics for the Sons of Magnus!

But what about Khorne? There had been rumours of an Angron model coming out in some kind of Armageddon-themed box set, World Eaters vs Orks, which would have coincided with the Ork codex. But that book is now out in the world, and we don’t have any Angron. However, Khorne Berzerkers are in nowhere near as bad a shape as Noise Marines – they actually have a plastic box, even if those plastics are really very dated now!

But where’s my Big Bad?
All of this begs the question, of course – do we need the Primarch to come out just to provide an update for the range?

From a business point of view, we absolutely need that. The promise of a huge plastic centrepiece model is what drives a lot of GW releases these days, and that’s for the simple reason that we’ve all been conditioned to want an army that is built around one big bad boy. I say that like it’s a bad thing, of course – it isn’t, at least not always. It looks fabulous on the tabletop, and it’s a bit part of building a collection for a great number of people. It also helps that they tend to have ridiculously strong rules so that, no matter how many points they cost, people still want to use them. Having these kinds of centrepieces is a badge of pride for many, and the way they’ve been designing plastic models of late really helps to draw a collection into a wonderful, cohesive whole.

I’m banging on about this, because it’s an important point to be made for the Chaos Primarchs. Their armies are quite distinct from one another – you’d never mistake a Plague Marine for a Khorne Berzerker, and that’s not just because of the colour scheme. It’s therefore easier to provide Chaos Primarchs, I would think, because they each have a distinctive force to build around them. Even bringing out Perturabo or Lorgar as mentioned earlier would be entirely possible if it meant we got new daemon engines or cultists, respectively. For the Loyalists, however, most of the time they’re just different flavours of the same kit. Dark Angels may look a bit more Catholic, and there may be a few more topknots among the White Scars, but by and large, they don’t really have a great number of differences to really mark them out as unique.

In this respect, then, Loyalist Primarchs coming back are really very much a one-off release, and can pretty much come out in any kind of rag-tag box of miniatures – you only have to look at the one and only Loyalist Primarch’s release to see that… Does this mean GW will be keeping Lion el’Jonson for some random release by himself, rather than putting him in his own Codex? Well, possibly.

They’re probably likely coming anyway, so what’s the deal?
This blog is already getting long and drawn out, so I’ll try not to ramble on much longer. But I do think that GW might be keeping any future Primarch releases more for narrative-style games, rather than keeping them in the main line of the game. Let me explain a bit.

Primarchs can warp the game. There’s no doubt that Guilliman had been a problem, leading to a couple of attempts to correct him with both Chapter Approved and the Big FAQ. He’s now a significant points investment if you want to include him in your army, although at 400 points he’s still the cheapest of the plastic Primarchs to date (Mortarion is the most expensive, in case you were wondering). I feel that there is a balancing act going on with the first three, whereby GW want to make them appealing to both collectors and to gamers, and yet they don’t want to make them so powerful that it’s simply a case of a player putting down Magnus (for example) and their opponent giving up before deployment has ended. Maybe it was too much of a balancing act to really want to bother with anymore, and so the Dark Angels didn’t get Lion el’Jonson, and the Space Wolves didn’t get Leman Russ, because it was too much hassle to bring out such a potentially game-changing unit that would cause headaches for months.

Instead, why not go with the Armageddon-themed narrative box style, and release a Primarch as part of some narrative adventure thing, with the rules for that model in a supplemental book rather than in the main Codex. It would mean that they wouldn’t have to keep re-releasing Codexes and angering the player-base with a sixth Space Marines Codex in one edition, but instead having the Drukhari vs White Scars campaign book to bring out Jaghatai Khan, for example (along with plastic Incubi and a Dracon HQ choice for the Dark Kin, which will allow for a double Kabal battalion without having to resort to using Drazhar). Would there really need to be a full-on Emperor’s Children Codex, or could they perhaps just bring out some new plastic Noise Marines, and then plastic Fulgrim, and it’s a supplemental rulebook to be used alongside the Chaos Space Marines Codex proper.

I do strongly feel that, once the Genestealer Cults have their Codex, we’ll be moving into a more campaign-play-focused 40k, with Codices coming out for things like the Sisters whenever the release schedule warrants it. Stuff like the Rogue Trader release for Kill Team, and the upcoming Blackstone Fortress stuff, makes me think that we’re already seeing GW gearing up for this, and the mini-dexes we got in Rogue Trader will become something of the norm as we move forward.

Does this explain why the Lion and Russ were left out of their respective Codexes? No, not really. So let me elaborate further with my crazy ideas.

I think there was some kind of master schedule drawn up for the release of 8th edition, where GW made a list of all the Codexes they wanted to bring out, and all of the releases they wanted to bring out with them, and by necessity some armies were winners while others were, to some degree, losers. Those winners were, of course, the Space Marines and Death Guard – the focal point for the 8th edition storyline – along with the Custodes and, to a lesser degree, Imperial Knights and Orks.

I made a handy table to illustrate this, because that’s the sort of thing I do.

I think that GW had set this all up ready, and had already decided that they were going to bring out the books for Dark Angels and Space Wolves as they were – to a large degree, I think they were driven by the need to get the books out as quickly as possible, as it’s a fairly short window to release this many things in one go, after all.

If we go back to the question above, then, and assume it is a question of “when” the Loyalist Primarchs come along, I think it’s pretty safe to say that GW never had any plans to bring the Primarchs along with their Codex, as their principal driving force was to get the updated 8th edition rules out there. New models could wait for just a small handful of releases, but the majority of armies are just getting a book, and that is it. Which is fine, really, as it means we get to play games and all the rest of it.

I’m almost looking at this period as a trial, a time period that just needs to be gotten through, and once we’ve got all the existing armies with their respective book, we can then start looking at advancing the storyline with narrative campaign boxes that bring us a few new models at a time. We’ve seen this already with the three Vigilus story boxes, and I think we’ve very much been experiencing something of a testing bed for GW as they move into that as being their primary product delivery method. These boxes appear to have done quite well, probably in the main due to the fact the new models were awesome and the actual value was quite good. Moving forward, we may see boxes that are less about a pair of new character models, but also including new units (much like the Aberrants in Tooth & Claw, although they were an existing unit that just had a massive update. Hm, Chaos Space Marines are an existing unit that could do with an update).

So maybe we’ll get one of these narrative boxes that includes some repackaged stuff, for instance Primaris vs Heretics, where we see the 42nd exclusive Primaris Lieutenant model, and maybe a plastic Chaos Lord, new plastic Chaos Space Marines, and then there will be a narrative Codex-length book available separately, and there’ll also be some models like the Marines available separately, and then we’ll get Angron as a separate release. I could easily see them doing this, having almost an army-sized release that covers two or three weekends, but rather than being a single force, we get two distinct factions seeing smaller updates respectively. The Primarch wouldn’t be in that campaign box, but it would form a part of the larger release that would still serve to drive excitement up to new-army-style levels, while not having to release a whole army for the price.

I could see that happening, certainly Jaghatai Khan could be included in the same release window that gives us Primaris bikers. Corax could come out with Primaris Vanguard or Assault Marines. (Are Reivers supposed to be the new Assault Marines? I feel like they’re more like Scouts…)

But what about…
Yes, I’ve managed to write over 3200 words without mentioning the proverbial elephant in the room. When is the new Abaddon model coming out?

As the leader of the Black Legion, he’s not quite the poster boy for Chaos anymore, but he’s certainly still a huge name in those ranks, and he desperately needs a new model. I bang on about a lot of my favourite armies and how I wish they would get new stuff a lot, of course, but I don’t think there’s anything within the realms of 40k right now that so desperately needs a new model like Abaddon does. What makes this worse is that GW have missed quite a few opportunities to do so, significantly when The Gathering Storm storyline came out nearly two years ago. He doesn’t necessarily need new rules, he just needs a new goddamn model! That finecast monstrosity just cannot be allowed to lead forces when you have models like Typhus and Ahriman running around. I would field a generic Chaos Terminator Lord before getting that bloody Abaddon model, it’s an affront to all that is amazing about Citadel miniatures right now.

I’ve talked about the time not being right for new Primarchs when I was rambling about the Codex release schedule, but I think now, as we look beyond the Genestealer Cults to the next phase of 40k releases, Abaddon should be top of the list for some new sculpting to be done. It is a very sincere hope that we will see him with a new release very soon, before we get any sniff of a further Primarch being released. He doesn’t even need to be a huge model; as a Chaos Lord who has always rebuffed the daemonic enhancements of Chaos, he’s just a regular space marine – albeit pretty huge anyway – so we don’t need anything quite so spectacular as Magnus or Mortarion.


Anyway, I think it’s definitely time I wrapped this thing up now. How are you all doing? Made it this far without skipping to the end? Well, you definitely deserve that biscuit, in that case!

In summary, I’m not a huge fan of bringing back any of the Primarchs just because they sell. If there’s a valid story reason for their return, then all 18 of them can come back, so far as I’m concerned! I do like the fact that they are models that can form the centrepiece of a collection, and so far each of them has been quite staggering in their own way. While I think they belong to the age of mythical heroes that is 30k, I still wouldn’t shout anybody down for wanting to include them in their army. My Marine armies are all Successor Chapters, so I don’t feel a particular need for “my” Primarch to come back (they’re actually Ultramarines Successors, and I still haven’t bought Guilliman yet!) but I do have a not-insignificant Deathwing army, and could see myself picking up Lion el’Jonson if and when he arrives. I suppose the look is a big factor for me, and if he has that Gothic, Catholic vibe to him then he’d fit right in with the First Company.

I did toy with the idea of getting Mortarion for all of the Death Guard marines that I’ve found myself with after the Dark Imperium box, but I’ve since decided not to go down that route and will be selling off my Plague Marines at some point. While I do still love the Rubric Marines, I actually have no desire to pick up Magnus as I just don’t love the model enough. Weird. The only Traitor Primarch I could see myself picking up would be Lorgar, as I think we would fit in well with the ideas I’ve recently been talking about for a Chaos Cultist army. But I suspect he might well be a very long way off…

Anyway, at 4000 words, it’s now time to stop typing, I think!