40K: Satire or not Satire


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Is Warhammer 40k a satire, or not?

Poll ended at Wed Feb 28, 2018 10:51 am

Warhammer 40K is a satire.
12
100%
Warhammer 40K is not a satire.
0
No votes
 
Total votes : 12

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Post Wed Feb 21, 2018 10:51 am

40K: Satire or not Satire

Having had several conversations about this over the last few weeks, both here and elsewhere - and it does seem to be recurring theme in 40k fandom. I thought I'd ask to get a general sense of what people think regards Warhammer 40K and satire. I'm purposely leaving the question open whether you're considering WH40K:RT or 8th Edition or any flavour in between, and letting your definition of satire - which might include parody or farce, or might be more rigorously codified.

Feel free to expand on the comments!
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Post Wed Feb 21, 2018 11:37 am

Re: 40K: Satire or not Satire

I don't think there was any doubt (from interviews and my conversations with staff) that it was meant to at least include some satire, certainly in the beginning, there was a lot of humour written into the RT rulebook and subsequent fluff, both blatant and more subtle.

I think what did happen is that at some point after 2nd/3rd Ed 40k, (it's difficult to pin down accurately, but at some point in the 'Red Period') it sort of lost it's way a bit and became this ultra-serious almost parody of it's own original background.

What's interesting to note is that the humour and satire has returned with a vengeance in the last few years.

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Post Wed Feb 21, 2018 11:41 am

Re: 40K: Satire or not Satire

I agree with dieselmonkey. Originally it had a large dollop of satire. However as new editions came out, the % of satire dropped to the point where now There Is Only War. And business.

I have not voted on it I am afraid due to this as the vote is if he has or not. You need to add an option for "it use to have"

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Post Wed Feb 21, 2018 12:51 pm

Re: 40K: Satire or not Satire

Berkut666 wrote:I have not voted on it I am afraid due to this as the vote is if he has or not. You need to add an option for "it use to have"


I understand that if you just look at WH40K:RT you might come away with a different opinion to if you just look at 8th edition - and it's a fair comment that these things aren't the same. I accept that understanding satire has a lot to do with interpreting the intent of the author, but I suppose if you voted in terms of 'when you do 40k is it in a spirit of satire or not?' then the vote would reflect your understanding. Really I'm just looking for a general direction, to see which way the wind is blowing.

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Post Wed Feb 21, 2018 1:17 pm

Re: 40K: Satire or not Satire

Zhu Bajie wrote:
Berkut666 wrote:I have not voted on it I am afraid due to this as the vote is if he has or not. You need to add an option for "it use to have"


I understand that if you just look at WH40K:RT you might come away with a different opinion to if you just look at 8th edition - and it's a fair comment that these things aren't the same. I accept that understanding satire has a lot to do with interpreting the intent of the author, but I suppose if you voted in terms of 'when you do 40k is it in a spirit of satire or not?' then the vote would reflect your understanding. Really I'm just looking for a general direction, to see which way the wind is blowing.


Ah ok that is fair enough! And great clarification. Then in that case, its a yes. Although with that said I have not actually played WH40K since the second edition so my judgment may be clouded by the passing of many years! Very interesting topic though.
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Post Wed Feb 21, 2018 2:02 pm

Re: 40K: Satire or not Satire

Satire was obvious in RT.
2nd Ed seems - to me - to have lost the satire and focused on the dystopian background.

And it seems to me that as time went on more over the top heroics punctuated the background.

I’m not sure if satire has been woven back in. I don’t follow the current stuff much.



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Post Fri Feb 23, 2018 2:13 am

Re: 40K: Satire or not Satire

It's so weird because 2nd ed has aesthetics that are so hard to take seriously.

I think 1st Ed is pretty inconsistent in that regard as from one side you have great illustrations by Will Rees and Ian Miller that absolutely ooze atmospheric humourless GRIMDARK, on the other hand there's lots of lighter or downright comedic stuff from other artists and of course stuff like Inquisitor Kenobi XD .

Personally, I was mostly interested in the darker side.
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Post Fri Feb 23, 2018 2:02 pm

Re: 40K: Satire or not Satire

Early 40K certainly included humorous elements - although I don't think that humour necessarily qualifies as satire, making this a more specific question. Some bits definitely seemed to undermine and mock its own core background concepts in a satirical way. One of my favourite early 40K marine epithet was "If a job's worth doing, it's worth dying for" (sorry can't remember exact source). It makes me think of a bloodstained marine staggering back in with a pint of milk - 'we lost half the squad but we got the groceries'.

Then there's the famous Helsreach marines policing punk graffiti - looks like a reference to Monty Python's 'Romans go home', and presents the marines in a slightly absurd situation. On the one hand it gives us a desperate grim dark struggle where everything is awful, but then picks it back a bit round the edges and says "really?" Reminiscent of Spinal Tap - it almost is the thing that it parodies.

40K in any edition doesn't seem as though it's a fully realistic portrayal of this world or any other. It just doesn't work consistently enough - the endless war, the techno-barbarism, the close quarters combat. I don't think this is a convincing universe - they fight in a way that is basically early 20th century, and already we are seeing the first signs of weapons that make this completely obsolete. Drones and smart stand-off weapons will soon dominate. Even when it was written 30 years ago, the internal contradictions must have been obvious.

I lost track of 40K when 2nd edition came out so I can't comment much on what happened in later editions, but my understanding is that it became increasingly straight and humourless. If that's the case then I don't think that rules out satire. The Starship Troopers film is a satire, but one so deadpan that many people don't read it as such. Can it work on two levels - both a straight representation of grim heroics, but also one that gives a knowing wink to its audience? It feels as though as GW increasingly invested in the IP and fleshed out the background, the suggestion that it was on one level all a bit silly became too subversive, or perhaps the perspective of those working on it changed; they forgot the antecedents such as 2000AD's Torquemada and started to believe that having an organisation called the "Inquisition" was a proper, normal thing to put in your fictional world.
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Post Fri Feb 23, 2018 10:46 pm

Re: 40K: Satire or not Satire

I have read more of the Rogue Trader book than any other version of Warhammer 40K, and while much of it comes across at first glance as a grim, dystopian nightmare science-fiction setting, there is certainly a lot of "dark humour" and I dare say cultural/political satire present. There's probably enough to suggest that 40K began with a deep satirical undertone, even if it wasn't intended to be one big satire in its entirety. I'd also suggest there's a lot more satire that can be "read into" it than perhaps was originally intended by the authors, but I could be wrong.

I haven't followed the history of 40K in great detail, as it never interested me as much as Fantasy, but I remember there being all kinds of "British humour" going on, even in the late 90s, in the White Dwarf articles that I read. In particular I remember how one of the gangs from the Necromunda expansion had names which were crude imitations of Native American ones, such as "Dripping Pipe" or "Rusty Fence" etc. Something you'd be unlikely to see in print nowadays, I imagine, in our very PC-sensitive climate.

I lost interest in Warhammer entirely at the very tail end of the 90s (probably due to a series of nervous breakdowns which I seem to remember, at the time, as partially attributing to my interest in Warhammer, weirdly). But when I regained interest in it all about 7 years ago now, judging by the more recent marketing and artwork I've seen, there is far less humour present now and way more of an impression that 40K is supposed to be regarded as a major culturally and commercially important science-fantasy setting that ought to be taken as seriously as, for example, Star Wars.
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Post Sun Feb 25, 2018 3:19 pm

Re: 40K: Satire or not Satire

Does anyone else here un-ironically use thoughts for the day in conversations :D ?
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