Thursday, 4 October 2012

A very Praetorian editorial...

Unusually for my blog I'm going to write a more analytical editorial. In the style of the the standard bearer editorial's in the old white dwarf I'm going to take an idea run with it and see where I end up...

It's no secret that Praetorians have been sharing the scrap heap with squats and other defunct units and races for quite some time. The army was initially released following the excitement of the Big Toof River mega display at Games Day 97. Classic Mordians were converted to be sporting pith helmets, such was the buzz that a special edition boxed set was created, and for many happy years gamers everywhere revelled in the sheer delight at being able to field an army of pseudo Victorian Imperial Guardsmen.

The jollity and tongue in cheekness of the early editions of 40k soon gave way to the grim, dark gritty future we find our armies in now. No longer do orks speak in cockney accents, nor do space dwarfs sporting sunglasses ride around on oversized trikes. 40k changed and sadly Praetorians no longer had a home. But why exactly did Praetorians succumb and what could be done to bring them back into the 40k universe, these are the questions I want to answer...

Why did Praetorians get scrapped?

I think there are a number of potential reasons that can be dismissed straight away. Firstly popularity, Praetorians have always been (am I biased? yes) a popular army, almost the Brazil of armies in that you ask someone where they are from, they reply Brazil and you say wow that's cool. Praetorians have bags of character and in my opinion a real lasting appeal (certainly from the reaction my army got on GW facebook pages, at tournaments and from people in general), there is something evocative about the army, something people relate to on some level coupled with the historical appeal. Anyway I'm ruling out lack of popularity.

Related to popularity is money. This one I can't be so certain but nonetheless I don't think it is why they were scrapped. Popular armies sell, while the move at the moment away from metal might mean some armies are losing out the decision to scrap Praetorians was taken many many years ago before metal became too expensive. Ebay is misleading in terms of sales as it is warped by people asking silly money and really isn't huge numbers. Mordians still exist and specifically Vostroyans who I doubt have ever been so popular (and therefore profitable) as Praetorians.

The quality of the models isn't sufficient reason to scrap them. The old guard are still awesome and the Perry twins work has serious legs. Furthermore they could always be updated! Who knows though perhaps the moulds have failed through overuse and they can't physically cast them anymore. Once again this isn't the reason why they were scrapped.

In my opinion the reason Praetorians got the can was because they simply didn't fit into the new neatly defined 40k universe. They had too much historical baggage (granted a lot of 40k has historical references, but Praetorians were almost exclusively historical and really didn't fit with the 40k universe as they were just Victorian's in space) and failed to have their own distinct identity that didn't step on the toes of another army (a situation that Black Templars may soon find themselves in with Dark Angels getting all the attention at the moment). The human element is already covered by guard in general, Mordians have the dress uniform, discipline and standing in a line thing covered while the Vostroyans have an element of steam punk. Does this mean the appeal and identity of Praetorians is based solely in having a pith helmet? Clearly this isn't sufficient rationale for GW to have a whole army (it was once as a novelty army, but now the IP of armies is clearly defined and distinctively).

How can we bring Praetoria back into the 40k universe?

The appeal of Praetorian guard armies has never been in doubt, however what has is their place in the 40k, something sufficiently distinct and yet also 40k so as to have it sit nicely next to everything else in the 40k universe.

It seems to me that where Praetorians are different from existing 40k is that they are expansive and imperialistic in much the same way as Ultramarines. I can clearly picture them having dominion over a series of systems, various naval bases, planetary governors, garrison armies, standing armies, military and merchant fleets and maybe even a forge world. These worlds would be a stark contrast from the utopia of Ultramar, forced labour would be common currency and social standing would dictate your position in the strata of society more than anything else. It is a dark place, a harsh place, but it breeds strong will, discipline and strength. Furthermore, the success of Praetoria is built upon the strength of its commerce, Praetorian merchants are skilled orators and negotiators who ensure the wealth and prosperity of the dominion.

The question is, does the above make Praetoria distinct enough to be its own army or are we just Mordians with different hats?

Where do the 4th Mechanised sit with all this?

With my army I have always thought it is first and foremost a 40k Imperial Guard army. The army needs to be a 40k army; this means it works with the fluff, it looks 40k and is immediately recognisable to any outsider that it is a 40k army. I don't want to collect a sci-fi victorian steam punk army, nor a historical zulu war British army, I think the influences are great and they certainly provide me with inspiration but they are not allowed to detract from the fact that my poor guardsmen line up and die in the service of the immortal God Emperor of mankind.

I like to include imperial iconography wherever possible and don't give everyone a pith (as much as I like them) helmet unless warranted - priest, psyker, techpriest etc.

Any fluff I write or think of always has to fit in the 40k universe and steer (as far as possible) away  from the Victorians in space stiff upper lip, bah humbug, cliches. Make no mistake my guardsman are strict, sticklers for the rules but at the same time they conform with the grim dark future of 40k willing to send tens of thousands to their deaths, execute soldiers for breaches of regulations and mercilessly destroy indigenous civilian populations as the Emperor's will dictates. Furthermore they have fought in 40k campaigns and notably served on Armageddon.


Well I imagine I have been rambling on quite enough now and perhaps a conclusion would be best served by some discussion. What are you thoughts on Praetoria, its place in 40k and why (or why would you if you don't) you have a Praetorian army. Does it have a place in 40k, or are we just Mordian's in funny hats.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my musings, I promise not to do it too often! My next post will be about miniatures I've painted don't worry!

Please comment, I'd love to hear what you think!


  1. I have to admit to being completely mystified as to why the Praetorians went "out of print"... Saying that, I bought a LOT of them when they went into the GW bargain bin through their online sales, so I still have a number in the blister... In terms of actual sculpts, they were really quite good. Well proportioned, nice crisp uniforms, etc... No plasma weapons though :-). So, basically just another Praetorian collector/player puzzled why they were removed...dropped...

  2. It does seem rather silly to be that the main focus should be Cadians.

    I mean realistically speaking they could make a mint off bringing back Praetorians. Imagine selling the current Basilisk model, but also sell the Praetorian crew members in a seperate "upgrade pack". I better shut up before they try this with the other races.

  3. I don't think it has anything to do with how old the models are (as pointed out they hold up with any of the classic metals which, bar those which have been updated are still in production), nor with their earning potential. I believe I'm correct in remembering that a studio source, possibly Jervis came out and mentioned that this was'nt the case with the Squats either, they sold, besides which the real outlay cost is in design and mould production phase, note in maintaining that production.

    In my opinion its probably all to do with attitudes within the company, and indeed the studio - an attitude which is possibly best summed up by Pete Haines, an ex-studio worker. Reportedly while in the studio, he responded on the subject of Praetorian's that they were 'a joke that went too far'. From that we could take that there is a feeling that they don't fit sufficiently in the grim darkness, were altogether too cliche, and so dropped. Obviously one mans opinion does'nt mean that they all feel similarly, but to me its the most likely indicator. Either there is a dislike for them, or a lack of enthusiam amongst those who make the decisions.

  4. Hi Mate,

    I like what you are doing here and your thought process. I alway's wanted to collect Praetorians ever since they were first introduced in 97 as I liked the look and feel to them. The only reason I didn't start collecting then was I was not earning enough to start collecting them. So I went the cheaper option and got Space Marines. I must have started collecting them about a year to year and a half before they vanished. I feel they do have a place in the 40k world and why shouldn't they. They are no diffrent to say Vallhalans which look like WWII russians, or the Talleran which look like WWII Arab fighters. These have not been dropped and can still be brought today.

    The day they dissapeared was the day I was trying to order some new stuff when I had found out they had gone. When I asked why they had dissapeared on the next Games Day I was informed that 1) the mold have degraded and the quality of minatures being produced was of a low quality. To this I can confirm as some of my latter minatures did have problems with them espeially the standard bearers. 2)They were only meant to be a limited edition release and were not intended for a long term release. Hence the reason why their was only ever a short fluff on their homeworld.

    I did speak to Forge World to see if they would ever release some Praetorians, and they told me it is not out of the question but it would be many years away. Also they would have to build up enough information on them. If we can get this project completed by Col Gravis then may be we can send a copy to Forge World to see if they would take on a project of producing some new models.

  5. I'm not going to comment particularly on why they were cut from the range, I find GW business strategy baffling at the best of times, but I expect Gravis has hit the nail on the head as the decision to shelve them reeks of an aesthetic problem rather than a true business decision.

    In terms of whether their narrative makes them truly different enough to justify there existence, I think it could easily be expanded to be so, and anyway, when you look at Guard regiments there are many that have very close synergy or little that massively derives them from any other regiment really. Are Valhallans hugely different to Vostroyans? Are Steel Legion and DKOK massively apart?

    I actually enjoy the lack of Praetorian background, it allows you to have your own vision where so many other armies in 40k are very pigeon holed before you arrive. I had written a load of background for my regiment (but haven't posted it as wanted to do so with finished models) and I found myself expanding into my thoughts on Praetoria as a whole. I modelled those thoughts on history of the British Empire transposed to 40k and actually I think it fits very well within the grim dark futures universe. An ever expanding empire fuelled by trade and the pursuit of wealth, a ruling royal family backed by a rich upperclass and the material and martial power of the billions of downtrodden. I imagined an East Praetoria Company (complete with trade ships and own soldiers) with its letter of marque as a rogue trader expanding with the help of the main Praetorian imperial guard army regiments and a praetorian navy (which while nominally under imperial command when called upon, protects the trade fleets and helps expand the empire). As long as the tithes are paid the Praetorian expansion in the emperors name is encouraged and blessed.

    While not a particularly accurate history of Britains Empire it is very much in keeping with the dastardly version people like to sight!

    Thats the universe in my head in a nutshell, and it doesn't seem to differ massively to yours. Slavery doesn't seem the way ahead to me though, why have unruly slaves (who have to be fed, clothed and sheltered) when the masses will do pretty much as there told for the money to do that themselves, with little difference in personal freedom but the perception. Thats the Praetorian way for me!

    But the beauty of little official background is, in my opinion, there is a unique army that we can imagine as we want to and are not totally chained to canon.

  6. Not chained to canon... The thing is though we pretty much all do keep to the same canon, its just not written down. We understand what Praetorians are, and what we should and should do with them. I mean I'm pretty sure you didn't paint yours green for a random reason. I think we all do something different with them - Gravis's are more historical then Winterborne's, but the fluff while not official is clearly there.

    Its so silly because so much in 40k are cliché. I'll try not to just repeat what everyone else has said.

    And I'll try not to rant but seriously dark elder became manga and that not grim dark!
    Necorns, yeah I've seen Terminator. The original Tyranids and Cadians, yeah I've seen Aliens too! Everything was a bit of a joke in 2nd ed 40k.

    Dave, I say DON'T give FW any encouragement to do Praetorians. We have all been on them for years and they didn't do it and now we have Vic Miniatures and Curious Constructs to fill the void.

    Great post Winterborne, hearing everyone's thoughts is really interesting!
    In truth, I wouldn't have ever gotten into 40k if it wasn't for those pith helmeted fellows.

    1. I disagree a little bit. Yes we all no what they are based on, they are Victorian British soldiers in space, and your right mine are getting painted green because they are riflemen and I still long to paint some redcoats for the historical pull. The point being, while we all imagine along roughly the same lines what Praetorians represent in a more detailed context (Victorian Britain in Space), as soon as you start making detailed background official, purists would say you can't deviate from that canon, that's why I actually like that there really isn't anything so you can have your own take on the very obvious subject material.

      The fact that me and Col Winterborne disagree on slavery as a labour medium being a case in point. I want to make a Space Wolves successor chapter, its a free country I'm more than welcome to do so, but I guarantee if I did the vast majority of 40k fans would point out to me that that doesn't fit with canon as they have no successor chapters. I totally understand what you are saying but I have a very realised idea in my head and written of what Praetorians are to me, I'm not sure anyone else, while probably very similar due to the influence for them, has 100% the same idea of every detail.

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    3. I hear what you're saying, I just see fluff as a Smorgasbord. I more than anyone am happy to push any official fluff beyond acceptable limit, and I enjoy it when people say "hang on you can’t...". I see it as a chance to say "arrr well.." and then launch into an elaborate story about how I can because this army is the exception and that makes them even cooler.
      For example with your space wolfs I'd start by saying "arr well, there are no 'officially recognised' successor chapters" then you start to think well if there were and for some reason the chapter and Imperium deny that they exist why is that? Do they have some dark secret? Did some flaw appear in the gene make-up? anyway you see my point.
      I complacently agree that nobodies idea will be 100% the same as yours, but that is also true about even real things. Currently I am writing science and frequently myself and someone else will write a paper on the same thing, both based in facts, but our perceptions are so different that they seem at odds.
      In a way, working in fact is almost easier than fiction. For example it was a fact that all swans are white until Europeans rock up in Australia and found black swans. It's no good saying "no no, all swans are white" when these ones are black. But if I rock up with pink Ultra Marines people will say "no no all Ultra Marines are blue" - even though these ones are clearly pink.

      Anyway what I wanted to say is, yes I agree with you. I think the difference is that no one's fluff (official or otherwise) will or should stop me from doing what I want with my minis or the way I think about them (In the same way that I know a few people that ignore James Swallow's take on Blood Angles because it is not how they work in their mind). But if I do come across some cool fluff that I like and that expands the way I think about my mini's that is a good thing (like Richard Williams take on Praetorians - oh I mean "Brimlock Dragoons").

  7. I agree with Buffer about the complete freedom to develope our own microcosm in the grand universe of warhammer 40k. I can also say that while their lack of grim dark may have lead to their drop from production, that I enjoy being able to joke about my army. It's not an accurate history but it's one that is recognizable and allows me to stand out from the rows of cadian plastic triple hydra win at all cost guardsmen.

    People look at my army and see the work that has gone into collecting them and it becomes easier to realize that I like playing toy soldiers more than smashing faces in at tournaments.

    When my squads break I can imagine, in proper monty python voice and cadence, my troopers calling out things like "I should have stayed in the rookery" or an officer sitting on a backfield objective voicing concern over lack of good tea in this warzone. I love the idea of Col. Soulban fuming over having to outfit the companies ratlings in crimson tunics and their apparent disregard for keeping said uniforms clean.

    So to sum up my rant, Praetorains do it for me. some people love the feel of other Imperial guard armys but for my I like the tea stained helmet and the brilliant red coat calling out every other army in the game an saying "we may not survive the day Gents, but damned if we don't look good on our way out!"

  8. Some good points made. For me, the Praetorians tapped into the ZULU vibe created during my early years. To explain, there were only 3 TV channels and the film was always a Christmas or Easter visual treat and I certainly remember watching it before I turned 6 (35 years ago). Why was the range let go? Did sales via GW justify the creation of new moulds? Lack of inspiration? This is the reason why Squats went. Jervis Johnson has stated that nobody could think of how to get them past "Hairy Space Bikers" or "Short Vikings in Space" (the direction they appeared to be going in from pictures of unreleased models in the 2nd Ed book). The lack of official GW support does not particularly bother me. I have enough GW models to play in their stores and Vic and Col Gravis are allowing me to expand in other directions. As a result, many of us have Praetorian armies but none of us appear to have identical Praetorian armies and that is certainly not a bad thing.

  9. Thanks for the comments, good to see it got everyone thinking!

    Also to clarify my praetorians don't use slavery per se but certainly press gang people into service (ratings in the navy for example) and know full well their race and standing makes them better than other humans and certainly the xenos.

    I've certainly heard that 'joke that went too far' argument before. The death of Praetoria it seems will remain a mystery for some time to come...

  10. Being a firm fan of Squats from before Praetorians were even imagined, I can sympathise with your sentiment. Col. Gravis hit it on the head though when he mentioned that "Joke that went too far" comment. It's true for the Squats (For which I am and will remain eternally miffed.) and also for the Praetorians in the current 40K design. Both really - aesthetically at least - are not grim dark enough for the over-the-top grim dark that 40K has morphed into at this date.

    Do I agree with this? As you've described all too well, that's all down to how each faction has been taken on, given real life and the amount of effort the designer has been bothered to put into said project. AS far as I'm concerned, Eldar are one of the stupidest looking and dullest factions in the 40K universe, but they got to stick around.

    Praetoria's sons will live on, through the works of yourself and other lovers of this ideal. Through 3rd party sculptors like Victoria Lamb and Col. Gravis and others.

    When a Squat lover like myself will only be able to represent their faction using inappropriate rules sets and counts-as armies, I think Praetorians are sitting a little more pretty though in the end. :)

  11. This topic makes for an interesting discussion and my opinions on what could have been and what we got are nicely summarized by Buffer and Malkavschilde. Praetorians had the potential to make a valid contribution within the retcon "canon" that is "grimdark". In addition to the possibilities offered up by Buffer I'd like to add that accentuating the worst characteristics of Victorian era (grimdarking them) you are left with a throughly reprehensible, elitist society with a xenophobic and expansionist "galaxy view" that very easily makes the grade.

    Fleshing a homeworld and military structure for such a regiment should invoke images of flogging, "gentlemen" officers, and false promises delivered to potential recruits so they might take the emperor's coin. Cornwell's Sharpe (admittedly Napoleonic) are rich with this sort of stuff. Also consider Alan Moore's "From Hell" (As comic or movie) or even "Sweeney Todd". Foggy overly industrialized hive sprawls and wretched lives as menials or "glory" in a bright red tunic with fine brass buttons. A final note on this tangent was that the Victorian area spawned Phrenology (dad of eugenics). Grimdark; Hell yeah!

    What killed it? Pip! Pip! Spot of tea. And that loud guy who quotes Monty Python like he wrote it and is presenting his material for the first time every time he does it; Usually every five minutes if this person remains in the proximity of a Praetorian army. I'm sorry Malvachilde but I believe the very thing that attracts you to the army is just what made it never meant to be. An armie's rep can't recover from that sustained kind of beating because every gamer who has a love of things Python (many) will go down this road and not be shy about sharing their observations with everyone within shouting distance. Pete Haines just hated the guard as a whole because he thought the Iron Warriors deserved all our stuff:).

    Disinterest on the part of active designers was probably the more significant factor (orks recovered from their cockney roots quite handily). The bulk of guard friendly designers seemed to ship out to imperial armour and later forge world. Even these guys were predominantly treadheads and suffer from the misconception that warfare didn't matter until the advent of the tank. Of the offerings availible in a local GW off the shelf it is a sad statement that the armoured vehicles have more character and variation than the infantry variants. I don't think that GW shareholders care to see cash sunk into development or production of cool infantry because market research tells them Guard is fourth fiddle(a shot in the dark number) and the majority who gravitate toward them like tanks and don't give a fig for the bloody infantry. "Praetorian" has such a pseudo Greco-Roman air about it; I'm sure the word would be better spent gifted to some Space Marine chapters and the Necrons :(.

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  12. Now they're a few interesting points to consider.

  13. Yes, there are. But i know one thing, that can never disguise:
    The Praetorian Community in the great Familiy of GW and SiFi Tabletop is
    still allive.

    And till one time, GW must, must recognize that it is so.
    Praetorians never die!

    Cheers and so long

  14. I love Praetorians. Always have. And I love what you've written - heartfelt and engaging: thank you!

  15. For myself, the Praetorians were the only guard army I was ever going to do. I had started on Steel Legion, but that was only because GW had stopped supporting the Praetorian range. As soon as I had the money, I hit ebay hard and got my hands on everything I could, to build my army. In some ways im glad that GW doesnt make these guys anymore. Because when I take these guys to a tournament, its pretty safe to assume that my army will be the only one of its kind attending and because of that it draws a huge amount of attention by other players and onlookers. Ill never sell my Praetorians.