Warhammer 40,000 and its growing fascism problem

Originally published at: Warhammer 40,000 and its growing fascism problem | Boing Boing


Are there not other examples of “creeping fascism” since Nov 2021? From the headline, I was expecting the article to highlight massed bands of alt-right weasels flooding gaming spaces. However, I can see how the article highlights the pernicious influence of capitalism on the game.

I certainly agree that the current incarnation of 40k has rather lost the plot when it comes to highlighting just how ridiculous the setting is. I prefer the Inq28 incarnation of the setting to that found in the mainstream game.

I had thought that, with the return of Roboute Guilliman and the sundering of the Imperium, that GW was going to create two separate settings for players to interact with.

The Imperium Sanctus being a setting for the mainstream game; in which everyone realizes that they’ve got to get along, team-up and fight Chaos and Tyranids. This could be more straight up Space Opera, without the xenophobia.

The Imperium Nihilus being the setting for all the nasty, grim-darkness; aimed at a smaller, less mainstream audience. A setting in which GW staff could actually be openly satirical without endangering the company’s bottom-line.


As always, the problem with satire is that some people will take it seriously and some people will embrace it. The larger the audience, the more of the latter will come out of the woodwork – especially when the wider culture emboldens them to do so. See also the Starship Troopers movies or most Michael Douglas anti-hero characters from the 1980s.

Clear rules about what isn’t acceptable is the only remedy here. The people running that Spanish WH40k tournament should have been aware of the problem by 2021 and had rules in place before the Nazi showed up.


And Fight Club :roll_eyes:


One of the things I learned about 40k in the brief time I played it was that none of the factions were the ‘good guys’ all of them had flaws. It was, as so often mentioned, a grim and dark world. It doesn’t surprise me however that there are people out there that will miss the point entirely and genuinely think the Imperium are said good guys. Furthermore, fascists are going to act like fascists, regardless of the venue.

Yup, that’s the other franchise that comes to mind where people have missed the point.


Obviously the tournament lacked a “Oh yeah, and no Nazi shit” or some catch-all clause for offensive behavior in their rules. Did they immediately sit down with their lawyer and add that for future events?

Sadly, Nazi shits are ltrying to invade all kinds of niche social groups, not just WH40k (although the grimdark and skulls make it an attractive target). I mean, furries, wtf?

It used to be that “no Nazi shit” went without saying, but now it really does have to be said and enforced.


Well, the universe is a big place, and the fascists won’t be missed.

One Spanish asshat is vastly outnumbered by the thousands of players who stand for far better ideals, like the French guy who is painting Space Marines in the colours of all the separate flags of the LGBTQ+ spectrum and standing tall amongst all the hate and stupidity as trolls ask him for crap like Straight Pride Marines. To which he laughs and says No.


Had to look that up. That’s some amazingly good painting in service of a good cause. I’ll assume the skulls on the bases are those of Carlson, Putin, Jordaddy, Rowling, etc.


This isn’t a recent problem. My wife and I used to play. Hell, I still have the first ed hardbound chaos books. Lovely books.

However, from the perspective of people that looked female, and trans? This has been an issue for a long time. Just showing up to play would invited the kinds of comments that were red flag problems. My wife continued to play until she transitioned as well, then it got ugly. I mean, she was aware of the issues, but when she looked like a man, there were less comments that were nazi adjacent, or outright fascist. When you look like a standard issue white man, they seem to keep it down. She gave up playing.

I think there is an anti-fascist reddit sub that has Sigmar in the title that I can’t recall.

This is a problem in that it doesn’t matter if it’s satire. it didn’t matter if that frog was either, or the 1940s haircut that was popular in queer circles before the tiki torch incident. These folks look for anything that they can dog whistle. Some are smart enough to know what they are doing. Others, they can’t even see the satire. For them WH40K is a celebration of xenophobia they practice in real life.

It’s not worth it to me and my wife to sink any amount of money into a game, figs, and go to tournaments as trans people to deal with this.


There’s been a similar thing going on in BattleTech fandom, especially as a lot of 40K players have been leaving that game behind due to disillusion with GW in recent years. Now of course BattleTech has had its fair share of conservative and reactionary players - it’s most popular in the US and wargames over there seems be a bastion of conservativism compared to the rest of the tabletop hobby - but it came to a head in the last few days as a bunch of LGBT fans put together a fanzine of queer stories in the BattleTech universe and the biggest subreddit dedicated to the game banned all mention of it under their “no real-world politics” rule, even though it was proving quite popular with online fandom and had been shared on social media by the game’s publishers.

The mods published a mealy-mouthed apology that satisfied nobody and then privated the subreddit as the publisher rushed to set up an official one as part of a new social media policy, only for the original subreddit’s creator to return, remove the entire moderator staff and work with the publisher to create a new, inclusive community.

Since then a lot of reactionaries and culture-war types have been yelling about it online but the publishers haven’t paid it any heed, thankfully.


The WH40K community is full of awesome people. If you read through the essay, though, it argues the problem is with how the setting is currently being written – while in theory all the factions are horrible, more and more they have been making the fascist forces the heroes in a world where endless struggle is the only way to survive, without anything saying no this would not actually be cool. And so it’s been attracting people who do think it would be cool. I think it makes a good argument there’s a problem even if most of the fans aren’t.


It’s become more of a problem since I used to run tournaments for them a few years back.
There was a company-wide ethos that these were just toy soldiers and the game setting was deliberately ridiculous. The thing is, if you don’t constantly remind people in every new book and release that this is not an ideal then some fucking idiot will take the idea of White Power Marines and run with it. Online spaces let this happen far more than IRL spaces, because nobody would let him get away with it in a store or club.
The bigger problem, as ever, is assholes, twisting an idea to fit their horrid ideals.


I’ve been saying something similar for a long time. The earliest 40K books were black comedy, and always had a few absurd moments to remind you that this wasn’t to be taken seriously. The Rogue Trader rulebook cites Planet Birmingham as one of the darkest, most violent hellholes in the galaxy. There’s an Inquisitor called Obiwan Sherlock Cluseau. The original Land Raider writeup in White Dwarf mentions giving it a good whack to get it running, as chronicled by Scotti the Engineericus.

And over the years, that comedy element fades as the game becomes more and more commercial and more toyetic. Now 40K is more of a product, it’s blander is a lot of ways and the selling point is how IN THE GRIM FUTURE OF THE 41ST MILLENNIUM THERE IS ONLY WAR. With the implication that’s it’s cool, and not that it’s terrible. A big part of that commercial decision makes the setting and game more appealing to a lot of horrible people and GW has little interest in pushing back against them.


That’s why I don’t get the reason why GW didn’t work with the creators of What if the Emperor had text-to-speech. That series literally is just the best for mocking all the fascist side of fandom by mocking the absurdities of the settings. Such content would be great at deconstructing the setting while giving folks some laughs that isn’t at the expense of decent folks (fascists ain’t decent folks of course lol).


So Games Workshop failed the Nazi Bar test.

Nazi Bar parable


Hell, the Galactic Empire in Star Wars is a genocidal, fascist organization that was explicitly described as “evil” in the second sentence of the first film’s opening crawl, and you’ve still got conservatives making the case that they’re the good guys.


That’s pretty cool that you ran tournaments.

I wonder if the fascists are adding some of the 40k imagery to their Amazon-purchased tactical vests - much like we saw some ahole cops do with the Punisher logo?

I see you can buy those patches online but haven’t found evidence they are being used by Proud Boys or other morons.

I think this would pretty much confirm how the brand is perceived by the far right.


Oh, that’s a whole other kettle of shitty Games Workshop fish. They’re trying very hard to scrub the identity of their creative staff from public view. Game writing is credited to “Games Workshop Studio”, art is only listed with a GW copyright and no artist names. Their painting videos online no longer show people’s faces, and so on. Speculation is that they don’t want another situation like Duncan Rhodes where he was one of their major figures on social media and he quit to set up his own YouTube which was highly successful and he’s now selling a competing line of paints and brushes.

As a result of all this they basically gave a bunch of the popular 40K fan channels on YouTube an offer to become part of their new subscription service and gain official recognition or remain on the outside. And a lot of the ones who signed up have been smoothed into anonymity now


Straight out of the playbook. Wedge!

(The video is offensive to neo-Nazi, so you have to watch it on YouTube.)


In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a mod on the official BattleTech website’s message boards and we also have a no real-world politics policy, but we don’t selectively enforce it like the old reddit mods seemed to.