The Warhammer Crime Case Files

After Chris Wraight kicked off the Warhammer Crime book line with BloodlinesNo Good Men comes along to give us a cross-section of looks at the crime genre-oriented fiction line’s setting, the hive-city of Varangantua in the Warhammer 40,000 setting. No Good Men is a title which invites the question “What about the women?”; they are here, and they are in significant supporting roles, but as we’re going to see they don’t exactly get much of an opportunity to take the lead role in a story.

Aberrant by Chris Wraight is another Agusto Zidarov story; set before Bloodlines (since his daughter has only just headed off to the schola here), it finds Zidarov asked by the Ecclesiarchy to track down some suspected mutants. Of all the three things the Imperium hates most – mutants, unsanctioned psykers, and xenos – mutants are the ones which are best-known in Varangantua; psykers are very rare, and the world is far enough away from most conflict zones that its inhabits question whether xenos even exist, but mutation appears everywhere in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, and Imperial propaganda has primed Zidarov – and more or less everyone he speaks to in this story – to fear and despise the mutants.

This time around, the mutants Zidarov is tracking down – who are being used as slave labour – all have rather similar characteristics. It is remotely possible that they are Eldar of some variety (perhaps tricked into slavery by a Rogue Trader), though it feels more likely that they are a stable divergent strain of humanity like ogryns, squats, ratlings and other sanctioned abhumans – the sheer numbers of slaves, for one thing, suggests that we’re talking about more than a few renegade lone Eldar picked up here and there. Either way, the consistency of their features means that their mutations are not a sign of the favour of the Chaos Gods, making their persecution even less justifiable from an out-of-universe perspective. Heck, even Chaos mutations don’t necessarily mean someone is collaborating with Chaos – but in the setting the Imperium conflates correlation with causation.

(I guess they could be Genestealers – they have a unit called “Aberrants”, after all – in which case Zidarov has doomed his world through this call. I tend to think not. The consistency of the mutant features would not show up in a mass of Genestealers unless you happened to get a crop all from the same generation, and even then there’s significant variation within generations – the Aberrant units among Genestealers certainly would look far more monstrous than these mutants. On balance, I suspect Black Library would have opted against having the Warhammer Crime setting implicitly doomed by a Tyranid invasion as a result of decisions made in one of the first stories; if nothing else, Tyranid invasions are poor backdrops for the sort of crime story the line is meant to be about.)

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Anathemas Or Apologies?

Black Library continues their output of Warhammer Horror short story anthologies with Anathemas, the follow-up to Maledictions and Invocations. Whereas Maledictions had 11 stories split between 4 Age of Sigmar tales and 7 Warhammer 40,000 stories, Invocations flipped the proportions somewhat, providing 12 stories with a 5 Warhammer 40,000/7 Age of Sigmar split.

The pendulum swings back in Anathemas, and if anything it swings further: of its 14 stories, 5 are Age of Sigmar pieces and 9 are Warhammer 40,000, which only further cements my view that Warhammer 40,000, since its baseline axioms are darker and less prone to epic heroism than Age of Sigmar, is a bit of a more natural home for horror than Age of Sigmar – at the very least, it seems like the creative juices are flowing a bit more freely on the Warhammer 40,000 side of the equation.

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Dungeon Crawls In Space Are More Fun To Play Than Read

Blackstone Fortress is a tie-in novel. OK, all Warhammer 40,000 novels are tie-in novels by definition, but some are more tie-in novels than others. Whereas many pieces of Warhammer 40,000 fiction take inspiration from the game universe and its various sources of lore, Blackstone Fortress by Darius Hinks is intentionally crafted to coincide with the release of a specific Games Workshop product.

The product in question is Warhammer Quest: Blackstone FortressWarhammer Quest, back in the day, was a sort of followup to the classic HeroQuest boardgames which had such memorable TV advertsHeroQuest itself was Games Workshop’s take on the “dungeon crawl” subcategory of boardgame, which for a long time HeroQuest was the most famed and widely-played example of until it fell out of print, Warhammer Quest superseded it and then also fell out of print, and then new games in the same vein like Descent or Gloomhaven and the like arose to fill the vacuum.

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