The Imperial Fists and Warhammer Fantasy

Posted by Matt Ragan | Posted in

...That is why we adopted - "
"We?" sneered Lexandro.
"-why we adopted the Junker model of behaviour."
Lexandro did not know the word Junker.
"Yes, the ancient Prussic code." Valence was only to happy to explain. "Named after Prusse, on old Earth. ...

- Chapter 4, Ian Watson's Space Marine

So I need to define for myself what exactly this means. As this is a Games Workshop game, I decided that first, I would reference the Empire Army Book. To my mind, the Imperial Fists are the "Empire Knights" of 40K in terms of mood and feel... mainly Reiksguard, and draws upon the Prussian Junkers subculture (or rather British stereotypes of the Junkers subculture) for filling in holes.

First of all, any serious study of this topic starts with Bolter and Chainsword's wonderful articles (linked on the menu on the right). There are 2 novels with significant Imperial Fists presence (Space Marine by Ian Watson and Sons of Dorn by Chris Roberson). More fluff is tucked away in many other books, pamphlets, flyers, and White Dwarf articles (like the Index Astartes series).

What is known:

1 - They duel. This is a highly ritualized non-lethal modification of the Academic Fencing with Schlagers (Akademisches Fechten or more commonly... Mensur). In Ian Watson's Space Marine this was a strange affair that involved blocks that gripped the Marine's feet and the duelists basically swung foils at each other until one of them got a scar. ... rather boring actually. ... not the part where they get the scar (called a SchmiƟ)... the standing in blocks swinging foils.

2 - The earliest battle honor of the chapter says "Rome" and the city colors of Rome are Red and Yellow. Fans of the Fists should recall that the yellow armor and red chest eagle are the among the few "constants" across several old editions for the chapter's coloration.

3 - They recruited from Earth once upon a time (and had a planet based chapterhouse there... was this in Rome? Who knows). Depending on how old your fluff references are, either the Imperial Palace is in England (over Nottinghamshire) or somewhere in the Himalayas (more recent fluff). Prusse is likely one of the old regions of Jermani on Earth back before the Emperor unified them.
Regions mentioned in fluff are: Urash, Urals/Terrawatt, Panpacific Empire, Yndonesic Bloc, Jermani, Gyptus, Merica, Nordafrik Conclaves, Alba, Frac, Nordyc, Britonnica, Europa, Hy Brazil). Those old regions don't really matter in current 40K fluff because of tectonic shift due to the Horus bombings and age Earth looks nothing like it does now. However, they help frame some of the oldest fluff and likely give us insight into the personalities of some of the warriors that were part of the 7th Legion (The Imperial Fists).

4 - They are a Fleet based chapter (well... planetoid based, due to the size of Phalanx), and recruit from all over the Universe now. They maintain a few chapter monasteries on a few specific worlds (Inwit, Necromunda, and others) but the most recent book suggests that when recruits are needed, they just drop onto a world and grab up young teenage boys (14 years old +/- 1 year) and put them through their paces. The survivors become Scouts.

5 - They maintain some kind of presence by the Column of Glory and Pillar of Bone on earth (in my mind, sort of a "second Reclusiam") with a Chaplain there. Likely this outpost provides Terran recruits from time to time (Lysander came to the Chapter in this manner, Shadryss was the Chaplain on Earth that brought him in).

It's also likely this is the liason to various Imperial/Ecclesiarchical/Inquisition contacts there on Earth. That's speculation, but seems logical due to other fluff that suggests that the Imperial Fists often lead Deathwatch Kill Teams (more, as a percentage, than many other Chapters); that suggests the Chapter has some political clout with the Imperium from somewhere that's over and above what one would expect from them being a first founding Chapter.

6 - The chapter seems to have a pain fetish along the lines of old Christian (especially Catholic) self-mortifcation... flails and cilice belts and whatnot. This fits with my assertion that they're the 40K version of Empire from Warhammer Fantasy. The Warhammer Fantasy army features "Flagellants" that mortify their flesh to show their devotion.

7 - According to Ian Watson (and this may be getting retconned by Black Library as it's barely touched on in the most recent book) the senior members of the chapter tend to compulsively scrimshaw the fingerbones of dead chaptermates. While 40K itself has a strong "bone/ossuary" motif I suspect that this being a psychological compulsion may be removed from the fluff and replaced with a strange chapter quirk.
In Space Marine, Watson suggests that the fleshless, cleaned hands of fallen battlebrothers are handed out as laurels and semi-battle honors to survivors of glorious combat actions. These are the fingerbones that get scrimshawed. Since one of the few pieces of Rogal Dorn to be recovered were his hands... this kinda makes sense. I guess.
The left hand, the same hand as used on the Chapter symbol, is slighly more significant/more prestigious/higher precedence than the right hand.

What I'm doing:

Warhammer Fantasy Empire Influence

1 - My tactical marines are going to have individualized markings on the right kneecap/shin and left elbow cop. This is in honor of the colorful, Landknecht inspired "slashed and puffed" style of the Empire Miniatures from warhammer fantasy. This jives with many other Codex chapter practices of marking Tactical squad affiliation with kneecaps and the like.

It's also subtle. I have no desire to put frilly cloth and floppy hats and feathers on my Space Marines.

2 - Sergeant and Officer Banners will be painted in honor of provinces, city-states, and noble families of Germany - like the Empire Regiments and their many colorful provincial flags.

3 - Depending on availability and my skill at converting, my officers will have facial hair. The "bald head" works great most of the time, however nothing screams "Empire" more than a dashing, suitably "Germanic" beard.

4 - I have a shoulder pauldron with a wing available from both Chapter House Studios as well as Games Workshop itself (the Fists command sprue). This looks very much like the old shoulder guards from Warhammer Fantasy knights. I plan to use this more often. See Sergeant above.

5 - Vehicles will have "trim" - after studying the Empire Steam Tank model kit, I plan on painting freehand scrollwork along the bottoms of my vehicles and add lots of decoration.

... in part 2 of this, I will spend more time studying the Prussian Junkers system and see how that will affect my fluff and backstory.

Comments (1)

    Wow, this is a brilliantly presented blog, really excellent work. I see you used the Resplendente Pike Regiment in the pics above. A good choice, they perfectly reflect the nature of The Empire in their livery and standards. That picture is from one of Bat Padre's many excellent Battle reports. For anyone interested you can find them here:- Padre's Fantasy Battle Reports.

    Keep up the superb blogging,

    my Warhammer blog

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