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Imagining Warhammer

Feb 20, 2020

A painting of a man with a bird's skull for a head
Detail from a piece featured in 28 by Ni Yipeng, a Chinese artist inspired by Warhammer

One of the reasons I’ve been messing about with the backstory behind my Genestealer Cults army is 28. This beautiful – and free – magazine was founded to celebrate a certain cadre of players who have emerged from the INQ28 scene, which is based on a much-loved small-scale and RPG-flavoured interpretation of 40K called Inquisitor1.

Its players – and those who circle around them – were inspired by John Blanche, the artist who visualised 40K’s classic grimdark world. They translate his images to narrative-driven games set in the grimy corners of the universe, playing with inquisitors and rogue traders and cultists rather than Space Marines, following themes that are scrappy and sinister rather than righteous and grand. As such, the scene is as much about modelling and storytelling as playing – probably more so.

So anyway, 28 just hit its second volume and I thoroughly recommend taking a look to get a flavour of the hacking and imagining and reshaping that creative Warhammer people do around Games Workshop’s wonderfully rapacious commercialism.

I won’t pretend my dabbling is anything like as interesting as theirs. Regardless, here’s more about my Genestealer Cult army, Advent of the Flood, this time looking at the background of where and what they are.

Agripinaa’s Blight

Advent of the Flood is a Genestealer Cult which has grown in secret on the Forge World of Agripinaa. Riven by conflict for millennia, most of the planet’s surface is scabbed over by the industry which has fed the Cadian Gate with war materiel. But many of its complexes are now destroyed, and its natural resources are almost depleted. Billions of workers are sealed into the stink of its remaining manufactoria and barracks, huddling from an unbreathably polluted planetary atmosphere.

After all, the liquid that falls from the skies is not water but deep red bromine, which causes chemical burns on the skin of humans, and delirium and psychosis if ingested.

Corruption within

Deep in Agripinaa’s mines, underhives and abandoned manufactoria swarm the Advent of the Flood. They abhor the industry which has nearly destroyed the planet, and believe that its overlords, the Adeptus Mechanicus, sin against the sanctity of the gene by adapting their bodies with cybernetic enhancements. The Advent have committed to deliver the world from this blasphemy with what they call the Flood, a wave of violent uprising which will tear open Agripinaa’s sprawling megapolis and expose all so they will be washed by the Sky’s Gift – Agripinaa’s bromine rain.

In preparation, they have worked its way into the planet’s ruling ranks by carefully selecting military leaders and industrial foremen. Some are psychically manipulated to the Advent’s will. Others are dosed with just enough bromine to sway them to the Cult’s favour, driving some mad with devotion, others with fear.

The betrayal

But the Flood is a lie spun by their Patriarch, the All Mother, a genestealer which found its way to the planet on a cargo ship of refugees fleeing from nearby Warp-born incursions. The truth is that the All Mother is waiting for its Tyranid hive fleet to come to Agripinaa, and the Advent toil to prepare the planet for its liquidation.

What the All Mother doesn’t realise, however, is that the hive fleet is never coming. Agripinaa is a dying planet, its biomass withered and tainted, and the All Mother’s psychic link with its fleet has become corrupted by the nearby Eye of Terror. In fact, the All Mother has become quite mad, its mind twisted by the Warp’s psychic howl and its isolation from its hive. Perhaps one day it will order The Flood. And perhaps the Advent will successfully take control of Agripinaa. And then, what? The All Mother has made no plan for anything that might come next.

More from the cult

  1. Inquisitor, which was released in 2001, was originally designed to be played with whopping 54mm miniatures, but fans reduced the scale to match the 40K standard of 28mm (hence INQ28) after the game was discontinued. ↩︎