Greetings Deathwatch fans!

Just thinking of the term “Space Marine Chapter” brings to mind a host of images, from the colonnaded halls of Macragge (for the Ultramarines) to the cavernous depths of the Rock (for the Dark Angels) to serried ranks of Adeptus Astartes preparing for battle and chanting a prayer to their Primarch. During the development of Deathwatch , I felt it very important to get all the details right for the Space Marine Chapters—it would be vital to make sure the reader understood just how important the Chapter’s history, traditions, beliefs, and gene-seed are to each Battle-Brother who wears that Chapter’s heraldry.

The Chapter looms large in the life of all Space Marines. In the Deathwatch , it is a unique situation where you have several Space Marines working together who are all from quite different Chapters, each of whom is used to going about things in some very different ways!

One of my greatest resources for working with the deep and complex lore of Space Marines is Games Workshop. Getting a chance to ask questions and have involved discussions about all things Space Marine with the very people who created them made an incredible impact on the development of Deathwatch .

In fact, I am pleased to present a special bonus for this week’s designer diary, straight from the pen of Alan Merrett, Head of Intellectual Property for Games Workshop:

Genesis of the Space Marines

Sometime in 1985 (in the summer I think) Citadel Miniatures (the miniatures branch of Games Workshop) released a curious science-fiction warrior under the title ’LE2 Imperial Space Marine’ with the intention of ‘testing’ the market for a subject that wasn’t a traditional fantasy model. Fantasy absolutely dominated the world of hobby gaming and miniature figures in the early 80’s, science-fiction games and miniatures rated a poor second at best. The model was unencumbered by any fictional narrative or game rules – it was just a stand-alone white metal model. We were therefore understandably cautious about the impact LE2 would have and our expectations for it were quite modest. These expectations were quickly surpassed by the unprecedented demand we faced for the model when we released it. In fact so popular did it prove that we immediately set about commissioning a complete set of ‘Space Marines’ – which lead to August 1986 and the release of Citadel’s ‘C100 Imperial Marines’. Remember this was more than a year before the release of ‘ Warhammer 40,000 – Rogue Trader ’.

The release of that seminal product was accompanied by the first Space Marine plastic miniatures (the ultra-famous boxed set RTB01 designed by Jes Goodwin and Aly Morrison) and firmly cemented the Space Marines at the heart of the human struggle to survive in the dystopian war-torn universe of the far future. It is a position they have been unwont to relinquish every since.

  The Ultramarines

It is difficult to talk about Space Marines without referencing the venerable and famous Ultramarines. This heroic Chapter has its home in the realm of Ultramar, an empire of beautiful and prosperous worlds acting as a bulwark on the Eastern Fringe of the Imperium. The Ultramarines are noble and devoted warriors who have turned back the enemies of the Emperor time and again over the course of their much-honoured history. Here are some words from the talented pen of Andy Hoare about these Space Marines and their role in the Deathwatch:

“We follow in the footsteps of Guilliman. As it is written in the Codex, so shall it be.”
–Marneus Calgar, Chapter Master of the Ultramarines

Of all the thousand and more Space Marine Chapters, it is the blue-clad Ultramarines that, in the mind of the countless billions of the Emperor’s subjects, personify everything that the Adeptus Astartes stands for. The Ultramarines and their many successor Chapters have stood at the very forefront of the war against the traitor, the alien, and the fiend since the very foundation of the Imperium. Across the domains of the Emperor, the Ultramarines are recognised as heroic, virtuous, and noble defenders of Humanity, their deeds celebrated in devotional works the length and breadth of the galaxy.

Even amongst the Space Marine Chapters themselves, the Ultramarines occupy a position of special honour. The gene-seed from which the original Ultramarines Legion was founded is considered the purest, and it is estimated that some two-thirds of Chapters share their inheritance, being either direct successors or created from tithed Ultramarines genetic material. This shared inheritance often ensures that when the Ultramarines go to war, they are supported by many other Chapters, and that when Space Marine commanders gather to consider common strategy, the counsel of the Ultramarines is greatly valued. Often, the presence of even a small number of Ultramarines units in a larger military undertaking will ensure the participation of many more Chapters, so highly are the sons of Roboute Guilliman held in their brothers’ esteem.

In all of their duties, from battle to study, the Ultramarines are thorough, analytical, and attentive to every detail. They are slow to anger and rarely make a rash decision. By constant recourse to the articles of faith enshrined within the Codex Astartes, the Ultramarines are able to face any eventuality with well-practised battle drills and established doctrine.

In their dealings with Battle-Brothers from other Chapters, Ultramarines often fulfil the role of facilitator and peacemaker. While the Battle-Brothers of some Chapters display extremes of character, from hotheaded to taciturn, the Ultramarines are balanced in their approach, and often able to broker agreements between wildly differing points of view. This is evidenced in the fact that a high proportion of Deathwatch leaders are drawn from the Ultramarines and their successors, a fact that has more to do with their outlook and character than it does with their numerical superiority.

Deathwatch is a roleplaying game in which players take on the roles of the bio-engineered super-soldiers known as Space Marines. United with their battle-brothers, players will complete extraordinary missions involving some of the greatest heroes and deadliest opponents the Warhammer 40,000 universe has to offer.

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