Playing EPIC in 28mm.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Dorn vs Gulliman - why Chapters are so small

In the wake of the Horus Heresy there were those amongst the Primarchs who recognised the need for a system of checks and balances on the power of the Legions (cf Bureau Astartes).  Despite the predicable difficulties, Gulliman figured out that 1000 Adeptus Astartes would still be a significant military force. An easy spilt of any Legion[1] using existing quasi autonomous fighting units, hiving them off from their Legion hierarchy and formally making them independent.

Sons of Gulliman

The size limit would also greatly assist those monitoring the Chapters (Inquisitors of the Ordo Hereticus) in that the Chapter would not be so great an entity that it could not be thoroughly investigated.  A politically autonomous Chapter Master would answer to no one for the disposition of his forces, but was still subject to scrutiny regarding his policies and devices.

Dorn’s argument appears to be based on the idea that the Primarchs are the Emperor’s Sons and that therefore the Astartes themselves are from the Emperor’s own genetic material; and that also they are bound by common purpose (the safeguarding and furtherance of humanity) and being beset by traitors, their motives should be beyond question and that therefore continuing to wield the power of Legion was necessary; their opponents were still theoretically Space Marine Legions and itty-bitty little Chapters would just not cut the mustard.  Dorn recognised that having unified command and overwhelming force was pivotal to military success, Gulliman believed that the combination of unified command and overwhelming force was too great a risk for the Imperium to bear; that a multitude of Chapters, all still loyal to the Emperor, would suffice.  Could Dorn's Legion have saved the Orpheus Sub Sector ?  We will never know. 

Ultramarines - not all pink and fluffy.

The level of political autonomy they have is down to compromise.  Gulliman must have had such a hard time getting (for example) Corax and the Great Khan on side that his carefully balanced to be sustainable bands of warrior monks in space that he’d given little thought to their governance.  Not enough, anyway.  Dorn’s eventual capitulation on the brink of another civil war (his ships had been fired upon by the Imperial Navy) must have given him a strong position from which to insist that that a Chapter Master should have the absolute right to deploy his warriors as he saw fit; size of force deployed, force composition and choosing who to fight and when.   

Imperial Fist - Son of Dorn

This may well have been expressed in terms of picking one’s own fights, there is every chance that no thought was given to force size and composition; there may have simply been an assumption that the new Chapters would deploy en masse, as they had before, and therefore no definitions were given for deployments; allowing later Chapter Masters to scatter their force across space according to their own whimsy.

In the immediate post heresy these new Chapters in all probability deployed as formed units; each of them being a sub division of a pre heresy Legion anyway; used to fighting as a body of 1000 Astartes plus attachments.   It is only as time passes and the Chapter Masters (perhaps the second and third generations of Chapter Master) become more used to their autonomy and begin to see their Chapter as the focus for their loyalty, rather than themselves as simply collective inheritors of the might of their first founding Legion.

Once this mindset has taken hold, that the 1000 warriors become an ideologically isolated brotherhood, each having its own doctrines and belief system that become more and more divergent over time.  Just look at the number of Chapters in the ‘modern’ Imperium who do not know who their primarch is.
After ten thousand years of autonomy,  the Chapter Masters are much less likely to risk their entire force in one engagement.  Also as their autonomy drifts to isolation, their need larger fleets and to cover more territory, which itself leads to smaller deployments and more of them.  Soon it becomes difficult to mass a Chapter for an en masse deployment; their Legion staging posts have evolved into a fortress monastery which has become the hub for the Chapter’s recruiting campaign.

All pictures randomly culled from t'interweb with apologies to the owners. 

I'm still posting on Tuesdays and Fridays, at least until the end of September. 

[1] P30 of Horus Heresy Book 1.  It is clear from this that Gulliman’s idea was not actually that radical at all.  He possibly intended each Chapter to take a larger Auxillia with it.  Oh well…

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