Official female Space Marines sees Warhammer 40K fans go berserk

On the weekend, Games Workshop released the brand new lore and rules handbook for the Adeptus Custodes army, a force of elite genetically engineered super soldiers, even more elite than the already super-elite series mascot, the Space Marines, and players of Warhammer 40K, and many fans of its expanded universe reacted with ardent vitriol to the addition on social media.

Why? Because of a story in the new rulebook expanding the lore of the Custodes, which received its first minis in 1987, by saying that there exists both male and female Custodes. The malding has been so intense that the official Warhammer X account is handing out blocks like Imperial Primers.

The brand has yet to address the backlash officially, which from an outsider’s perspective may seem misplaced.

Why no female Space Marines, huh?

For the longest time, the official lore of the series states that since Space Marines – which Custodes are an improved version of – are made when a human undergoes vast amounts of surgical, genetic and hormonal changes to become a super soldier, that no woman can undergo the change successfully.

โ€œ[Space marine applicants] must be male because the gene-seed zygotes are keyed to male hormones and genetic structure,” reads the official reasoning from Games Workshop, written decades ago. It’s a bit more complicated than that with the whole gene-seed thing. Basically, all Space Marines are genetically linked to the Emperor of Mankind, and since he is a man, they must all be men.

Games Workshop actually released two female Space Marine models in the 80s, but they sold poorly according to a fantastic write-up from Medium, and since then the Warhammer 40K lore was adapted to express a marketing decision to only make male Space Marine models.

Battle lines

There are two camps in the fight currently boiling over on social channels across the Grim Darkness of the internet. The first, which also includes people just raging for the meme, believes that the introduction of female Custodes goes against decades of established lore, and the change is a means for Games Workshop and its writers to pander to the “woke mod” and “lore tourists.”

Basically, poser fans of the series that haven’t read any of the books, devoted hundreds of hours to the games or painted a single mini in their miserable, filthy lives. Degenerates, essentially.

The second camp is comprised of people who want Warhammer 40K to be more diverse. “Why can’t there be female Space Marines? Look, I’m just going to kitbash a woman’s head unto this model of an Ultramarine, what are you gonna do about it?”-types.

These are the types who want more representation in the series, and to that, the lore diehards and anti-wokers say that 40K already has representation of powerful female characters. For example, the Sisters of Silence is an army of basically female versions of Custodes, but they are extra potent against Daemons and they don’t talk.

There are also female Inquisitors that can wield huge amounts of political power, female Elder (think Space Elves) warlocks that can level entire battalions with only their minds, female Guardsmen who are the front and centre grunt troops for the Imperium, the main human faction.

In fact, most factions in the series have one-to-one female representation, except for the Space Marines, and their evil counterparts, and the Tyranids, mindless swarms of aliens hungry for human flesh and just about anything else.

Bad takes gallore

But the problem is that some of the lore diehards are hiding their real opinions behind the veil of “We need to stick to the canon!” Some of the takes from these people are verging on the absolutely insane.

Others are your run-of-the-mill “Bros, it’s so over” posts because the company wants everyone to buy its stuff and says that prejudice won’t be tolerated in the community.

While others are cancelling their subscriptions to Warhammer+ in protest.

There is now a wave of players that are saying they will continue with the series and not accept the recent lore changes. These are the #OldHammer lot, and they are, again, simply masking their real opinions. Lore is supposed to change, and to adapt, and the series is no stranger to people hating on official canon.

For example, the sweeping changes to the Necrons and other armies in the 2010s by Games Workshop writer Mat Ward sent the fanbase into another tailspin. Now, 12 years later (God, I’m so old), the changes are well-established and well-received by the players. But that was long after Ward had to take a two-year break from writing because he was receiving death threats from the community.

It’s almost like Warhammer 40K has always been a dynamic setting purpose-made to suit any player and their needs. But just like the merciless future the setting portrays, the die-hard fans of the series resist any additions, like female space marines.


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