Why Is It 2020 and I Still Feel Grossly Underrepresented in Warhammer?
It is the year 2008 and I am introduced to a wonderful hobby called Warhammer 40k. I spend an entire paycheck from my job as a bagger for a starter army of Chaos Space Marines. I cut out the pieces, glued them together, painted them, and then played against my friends for hours on end with pride. When I wasn’t gaming, I would check out various novels on the lore because it had been so fantastic with its grimdark storytelling and nonstop action. Warhammer 40k is about the year 40,000 where the galaxy is engulfed in a war that includes space bugs, orks, zombie robots, daemons, space elves, and more. They are all fighting to either survive or to conquer. Here is a video if you’d like to learn more!
I was head over heels for Warhammer 40k and showed my affection with my wallet. However, at some point, I realized that an overwhelming amount of characters are fair-skinned. Being a proud Latino, this was a bit off-putting since in Warhammer fantasy, sure, you could justify armies being of the same skin tone due to an isolated location where that is all there is. But in the year 40,000 minorities seem to be just…gone? Even women are few and far between for Warhammer as they used to be supplement armies or very specific units but never full-fledged or equals to the iconic Space Marines.
I figured that because Warhammer 40k had been created in 1987, they did what most companies did at the time and simply catered to caucasian geeks because they believed that they would be more inclined to purchase figures that way. Whereas it was too much effort to include minorities for whatever reason whether it be financial or otherwise.
I also assumed that because so many other aspects of pop culture were trying to become more progressive and try to bring more representation, Warhammer 40k would follow suit.
Today a new cinematic trailer dropped that announced that a new edition of the Warhammer 40k tabletop game would be coming soon. In the trailer, we watch as the ever powerful and terrifying Necrons rain destruction on terrified guardsmen until a Sister of Battle comes to even the odds. What I loved about this is that they made a big effort to highlight their female warriors because in the past you would rarely ever see them used in battle. Even in the Imperial Guard/Astra Militarum where the army is made up of fairly normal humans who have weak armor and weapons but use their numbers to hold the line were all male and their official paint was called ‘Cadian Flesh’ which was fair-skinned.
The Space Marines, Chaos Space Marines, and Astra Militarum have shown such little diversity in their models when it comes to skin tone and I still have no idea why. Consumers come from such diverse backgrounds that it feels like a huge slap in the face when there has been little to no effort to include our skin tones. In doing research for this article I did find out that the Space marine Chapter: Salamanders are dark-skinned but looking at the artwork, they seem to be an unnatural dark skin tone and red eyes but still mostly have very caucasian faces that look very similar to most other Space Marines. Still, I’ll chalk it up to a win!
I did also find that A Space Marine Chapter called the White Scars are inspired heavily by Mongolians which was really cool to find!
There is also Jonah from the Dawn of War games who is the librarian of the Blood Ravens!
The problem is that I’ve been playing Warhammer video games, tabletop, and reading novels for years but I had to search hard to find representation. Admittedly I play Astra Militarum, Chaos Space Marines, and read-only Astra Militarum books so my exposure might be limited somewhat but still I should have encountered far more than by now. When I did I found that these armies had darker skin tones, I wondered why they aren’t shoved down the community’s throat like the Blood Angels/Ultra Marines/Dark Angels are. They are truly minorities while also being minorities! I’m not asking for taco-eating Space Marines inspired by Aztec tribes, I’m just asking for more variety in skin tones and genders. That way the game helps represent the players who are reading the novels, playing the games, and buying the minis.
I am super stoked because in an upcoming novel called the Dawn Approaches, there is a black Space Marine on the cover along with a woman which is already a huge jump in progression for the company.
This is such an awesome addition since it means Games Workshop IS working on bringing more representation but I feel as though more can and should be done. Right now it feels like we are experiencing token minorities instead of fully fleshed out canon characters. the lore of this franchise is so vast, so exciting, and has an immense amount of depth, surely it can’t be too hard to write in a few brown characters. Warhammer 40k is already such a huge investment financially not to mention time as you have to assemble your army and then learn how to use them. It is such a shame that there is also the aspect of a semi racial bias even in 2020.