Playing EPIC in 28mm.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Bureaux Astartes Post One of Two

Ok, this a post about Space Marines where I will not be calling them ‘Spaze Muhrines’ as I normally do.  My apologies to the rest of the Galaxy. 

A Chapter is theoretically composed of 1000 marines, almost always in ten companies of 100.  Now, even power armoured gene engineered super warriors are not invulnerable; just look at the Batreps on the ‘net and the amount of famous last stands in the fluff.

In HR terms, a SM Chapter has a high ‘churn’.

Selection is from limited populations; the candidates have to be young enough for indoctrination and to make it worthwhile in terms of potential longevity (ie if it takes 100 years to get a marine fully trained and into first company, you don’t want that to be at the very end of his useful life), but old enough to actually be worth testing for the physical, mental and emotional attributes needed for SM neophytes.  So these candidates are extremely unlikely to be very young – and they can’t be too developed otherwise the physical alternations wouldn’t take.  So they have to be on the very cusp of puberty.  And there are likely to be self imposed restrictions on the populations selected from – the fluff is full of examples of this.

So recruitment is a problem.  On to the next HR bugbear – retention.

The first retention problem is the recruitment process itself, this has the following outcomes:

  • ·         Failing to take the genetic modifications resulting in death or servitortude.
  • ·         Acts of rebellion or displays of individuality resulting in death or servitortude.
  • ·         Training accidents resulting in death or servitortude.
  • ·         Failing to make the grade training wise or devotionally, resulting in death. 

 Congratulations, our neophyte is now a scout.  

The next retention hurdle is death in service.  Let us assume that the battle brothers all share a similar in service mortality rate.  Death in battle is actually quite likely – continued use a shock troops and forlorn hope troops make long term survival prospects unfavourable to say the least.  In a given battle, a greater number , literally or pro rata, of Iggies may die in combat, however that regiment will spend longer on garrison duties and on furlough and less time in actual battles, even when on an operational campaign, whereas the SM are propelled from front line to front line at the best speed their technology can manage.  

However, we should not underestimate warp travel; like driving is for us, so warp travel is fraught with risk for the fictional denizens of the 41st Millenium.  Put simply, the higher your mileage, the more likely your unplanned demise.  And as these SM are constantly moving from war zone to war zone, so they are clocking up the mileage.  We know that they usually deploy in small fast transports which only carry a couple or three squads and small strike cruisers with a slightly larger contingent and a modicum of support equipment or vehicle or two.  

So most of the Chapter’s combat power is spread out across a vast area of space chasing down these often very modest missions to bolster non-superhuman local forces.  The time spent in warp travel is considerable.  

Having consigned his battle brothers to the warp one of the most important tasks of the Chapter Master, possibly in concert with his Masters of the whatever and taking advice from the ex brothers in their canoptic jugs, is to decide when to declare any of these penny packets of his chapter lost and transfer their names to the rolls of honoured dead. 

It does not seem unreasonable, given the time and distances involved, for a particularly active Chapter to loose as many to the warp as to combat.  And this gives the Chapter Master a particular problem.  He has to try to maintain a Chapter of 1000 battle brothers.  Which means constantly over recruiting.  The most important functions of the Chapter are recruiters and the Apocatharies, without whom the Chapter will simply wither away. 

As for the third, unspoken, retention hurdle, the fall from grace, this may well be a larger factor than anyone cares to think about.  But the Adeptus Astartes are unlikely to even share data on this delicate subject.

I’ll look at the over recruited Chapter in a later post.


  1. This is the one point that makes me think Space Marines can't work - the recruitment issue - how can you go from inductee through scout to full Marine, with the mortality rates they have and endless war they are put through and maintain chapter numbers.

    Reading the Iron Warriors omnibus at the moment and a company of Imperial Fists are getting culled left right and centre. Now these are full blooded brothers so 10+ years in the making already - how do you replace them quickly - and this is but one warzone - so unless the scout company is around 1,000 Neophytes and there is another 1,000 inductees in the pipeline to Neophyte status, I cant see how a Marine chapter can maintain its numbers.

  2. Good thinking matey - good thinking.

  3. Rouge Pom is right, the only way a SM Chapter can sustain itself without sufferring the censure of the High Lords of Terra is to consistantly over recruit and punt it's manpower through the warp and hope that whenever it's audited, there are only about a thousand Battle Brothers on the books.

  4. Hehehe superb, I just made my Marines very cowardly so don't have to worry about pesky things like the enemy...

  5. haha, brilliant, never stare at the official fluff too long or the cracks massively appear. Space Marines make zero sense from a logistical point of view as you have pointed out. Why on earth did a legion of a 250,000 (the size of the Ultramarines at the start of the heresy apparently) drop to a thousand troops and everyone thought this was a great idea?? Bit overkill surely, it makes them strategically irrelevant unless they fought as a whole unit, which they don't. It doesn't matter how good they are, and the fluff suggests great but not invincible, 100 troops cannot have any meaningful effect on a battle containing millions as many in the 40k history do. Yes they can do sterling work at capturing/destroying single objective, or hit and run missions. But the fluff suggests they still pacify worlds or have heroic stand against innumerable enemies such as Tyranids or Orks. It makes zero sense. They should have had Chapters of 10,000 with 1,000 companies and then their deeds and use throughout the imperium would make more sense. Well done Space Wolves, you got it right!

  6. Buffer.. they lowered the numbers to limit the power - so the Heresey could never happen again on such a scale.

    one man (chapter master or primarch) with so many gene-altered warriors at his disposal makes an unopposable despot too easily.

    I'll agree it seems to make little logistical sense, the SW and the UM hold up most to scrutiny imo, the SW having one world, a steady flow of acolytes of a more mature age already hardened by thier planet (sounds like someone read Dune) with an attrition rate that high though, you're right about the numbers..

    which is where the UM come in, so many worlds, such a large recruitment base.. but then logistics kick in and you're back to favouring the SW model..

    I always fall back on J W Strazinski's words when faced at a con with a question about accurracy in fluff...

    he was asked "in episode blah the starfury was able to cover x AU in y time.. but in episode fleah it wasnt.. can you confirm a starfury's top speed?"

    the writer responded -
    "all my ships move at the speed of plot. if i need them to be there in time, they are.. if i need them to be late, too bad they didnt make it."

    1. Karitas, I understand the fluff reason it was done it just makes little logical sense. If your telling me in a galaxy of worlds, with hive worlds of billions and inumarable human beings in that galaxy, that a chapter of 1000 warriors however special can make any significant difference to any conflict? And yet 10000 under 1 mans control can plunge the galaxy into jeopardy? Please, it's increbibly poor background writing and drives a massive truck through the 40k universe believability for me. It's not just some small questionable element of one story, it's the basis of this entire universe they have created and it makes zero logistical or practical sense. I can believe 250000 genetically enhanced warriors would be worrying if they went rogue, but why a need to reduce the numbers by 249000 to be less of a threat? You don't think that's a) overkill b) makes that unit and it's 100 strong companies insignificant?

    2. This is where my two posts are going; The Blood Ravens chapter master and his inner circle are constantly recruiting and sending strike teams out in to the galaxy to try to find artefacts of their unknown Primark. Now, seeing as they keep finding planets where THQ have invited all other races of 40K for a party, only very rarely will one of those strike teams come back. So there are possibly thousands, maybe even tens of thousands, or Blood Ravens out there, crashing about and indescriminately attacking planets with an almost Khornate negligence (all in the name of the Emperor and the Unknown Primark).

      The Chapter Master however, is always careful to make sure that there are less than 1000 on hand at any one time, just incase the Breaux Astartes. The way this has to work means that, given the vaguarities of Astropathic communications, he should still be able to be out of communication with almost all of the others.

      So, if anyone asks, there are only 1000 Blood Ravens and the official records reflect this. However, comma, due to their poor luck on landing on planets previously visited by EA Games, they have to over-recruit to counter their attrition rate.

      Interested in your thoughts on the Breaureax, gentlemen.

    3. I've greatly enjoyed this little discourse - worth a bit of a giggle. I can just imagine some little dweeb in the Beaureax stressing about a carried over Marine - working for the government counting widgets that don't always tally I can imagine his exasperation.