Is Warhammer 40K Still Effective Satire?

In case anyone isn’t already aware, Warhammer 40K began as a satirical take on Thatcher era UK society. A lot has changed in the lore & themes since the Rogue Trader days though. In 2021 Games Workshop put out this value statement in which they described the imperium as satirical, in bold no less:

Personally I’m not real sure what in the present-day lore could still be called satire but I know we got some real lore knowledgeable people on this forum. What do you all think? Is 40K satire in 2023?


Yes. It’s just no longer the funny variant.


I think a lot of the more pointed satire of older editions has been smoothed over as 40k started taking itself more seriously and continues to find wider appeal. What satire exists now is pretty broad and imo less effective because of it. You don’t find much more than the usual “whoa crazy draconian sci fi dystopia” tropes outside of a few novels anymore. I miss when 40k had more of a sense of humor but it’s fine, GW is a pretty big established company and name now, they’ve become the thing that needs to be satirized.


Cool thnx for the Post and the Link, intersting, i didnt know it started out like this. Who would have thought…?!

Other than being Xenophobe like the Emperor himself “Commanded”, and except certain Abhumans,
there will be a huge Reckoning when big E comes back. How it looks now he will be back for sure in one way or another.
Lets see what the Lion has to say to all these Cults and Fanatics. Rouboute of course was clever enough not to say anything cause they need these peopz aswell, but the Lion? Not that hes less smart, but since the Lion can be impulsive its gonna be a good time XD

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40K hasn’t really been satirical since Gaunt’s Ghosts started, and that’s for the best IMHO. It’s become a much more immersive, involving world since it matured enough to actually start taking itself seriously and become more than just another 2000 AD-ish Brit-Com black comedy dystopia.

Euphrati Keeler would like to have a word with you LOL…


It’s only satirical if it has a point. Nothing about modern warhammer is supposed to make people think about life or politics, it’s way too removed from reality for that.


yes, it just plaiyed more straight, like starship troopers if your not thinking about it or paying attention you are going to miss it.


I’d say no simply because 40K (and fantasy to a lesser extent) currently still has and attracts the occasional fascists in its community at a higher rate than most other works of fiction. Any attempt at satire has failed IMO when it attracts actual fascists that identify with the fictional fascists, and then for GW to continue to sell to and accommodate/indulge those fans.


yeah lets base our satire of of what facists think of it, if they are too dumb to understand the irony, we are facists too

how about not letting mentally handicapped people be the deciding factor, in what counts as satire or not?!

like if im being ironic and you don’t get it, thats your f*cking problem, not my responsibility to point that out to you…

if you haven’t noticed 40k sucks in every aspect, if your so dense to think that the state of the 41st millenium is something to be aspired to, then you severely lack the ability to put 2 and 2 together


Right. I’d prefer not having any such fascists in the community to begin with but it seems that whatever GW is currently doing isn’t good enough at turning them away. A twitter .png about rejecting hate barely does anything and Darktide’s writing doesn’t seem to challenge fascist beliefs either. Maybe GW needs more time, maybe they don’t care, I don’t know.

Though I didn’t mean to derail the subject by turning the question of whether or not it’s effective satire to one about the community it fosters. Sorry about that.


No, I don’t think its a good satire at this point. WH is funny because of it’s over the top stuff but that’s it.

There is a simple reason for that. The Imperium tries to be a satire of authoritarianism/feudalism to some degree, but still is it’s own thing, it really doesn’t share much similarity to fascism or national socialism, so these “fascists” you are calling out simply don’t feel satirized. They are just attracted to military stuff and WH is full of it lol.
In fact… by the way the Imperium deals with it’s workers and military, it’s kinda similar to stalinism tbh.

And even so… it’s not really a satire of xenophobia. Every species in 40k thinks they are the best so even if the Imperium were “nice” to other species on first place, humanity would still have to wage war against them because they are hostile. So… to some extent the Imperium’s xenophobic behavior is pretty much justified.

What the Imperium clearly is a satire of, it’s religion. And… it’s not really that good as a satire, as in WH gods are a real thing.


I legitimately don’t think it’s possible to satirize fascism in a way that won’t make at least a few of those morons think it’s an endorsement. GW does everything but stamp every picture of the Imperium with a big red “THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE BAD” and it still attracts them.

You could say then that satire is useless and, imo yeah, it probably is. Media consumption doesn’t change people’s politics, it just occasionally helps reinforce and justify whatever ideology they’ve already arrived at through their interactions with the world and real people. It’s why nobody’s ever had their mind changed by a political cartoon, and why most people’s politics are wildly inconsistent.


I wonder if there’s a distinction there. Fascism is core to the subject matter so asking wether it’s successfully satirizing fascism or appealing to it is germain. I think the Orks are probably still a pretty effective satirical take on football hooligans but Orks aren’t GW’s poster children, the Emperor’s stormtroopers are.

Rogue Trader came out in 1987. That was a pre-internet era and fascists of that time didn’t have access to the kinds of online tools we have today to find each other and organize. Back then it was probably sufficient to simply call society “fascist” and that was all you needed for functioning satire. The terrain is definitely different now. Now if you simply say “look, it’s fascist” you’ll find a community saying “oh, tell me more”. Maybe if they dropped the whole “everyone is bad” approach and made a “good” faction in some way it would cast the imperium into sharper relief?


Here’s a Hot Take for you, but I believe Games Workshop doesn’t quite know how to handle the rising political pressure to “show flag”.
They initially sided with these forces, but also saw that there would be a ton of backlash as the original product of Warhammer drew in quite a different crowd.

By claiming their works to be satire, I believe they try to shield it from coming under attack, since Comedy is usually a field that gets more leeway.
And the people rising political agendas now absolutely are the type to come after anything, even niche table top games with novel origins.

TL;DR: I believe it’s a defensive, economical survival strategy in uncertain times. Because looking at Warhammer, you can tell that the writers and players definitely do take it more serious than “haha, le imperial commander lasered a hole into his soldier” jokes.


Eh, that would just make the whole thing moralizing, which is boring. I think the more interesting thing would be street level stories about regular people in the Imperium, like what we’ve been getting with the recent Warhammer Crime novels which I like a lot. It’s easier to make a point about how the nightmarish repressive regime is Definitely Bad and Not Actually Cool when you see it through the eyes of someone at the bottom of the hierarchy, which is probably much more relatable to the reader. Coincidentally, a story about regular people in the Imperium was something I was really excited about seeing in Darktide, but we all know how that turned out.

Also, it’s worth pointing out that 40k isn’t satirizing fascism by itself, but instead a kitchen sink “Authoritarianism” that includes any repressive societal formation you can think of. It gets a little too horseshoe theory for me sometimes, but it’s fine, things don’t need to have “good politics” to be enjoyable.


Yeah well, the Emperor commands!

If you’re writing fiction, taking a moral, political or societal stance is often bad for the thing you’re writing.
Someone mentioned Starship Troopers, well Heinlein had a clear stance on how society should function when it comes to war veterans, and he awkwardly tried to mask it with satire and it just ended up revealing his opinion even more.

I think the fact that there isn’t a good guy in this universe is actually why the franchise is more popular, than it too easily could have been. So no, 40k is not satire anymore for sure, it’s just good old fiction, and honestly, the way things seem to be progressing in 40k world, there’s less and less space for it.

Which you could argue mirrors how the real world is right now.

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More like dystopia.

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I’d prefer not having witch-hunters obsessed with policing “fascism” in the community to begin with. :roll_eyes:

“You are either with us, or the terrorists,” said President Bush…

The Emperor also doles out major spiritual mojo to those who most faithfully acknowledge His Divinity. :smile:

I would say that, by definition, the Imperium are the good guys, since, for all their collective faults and failings, they’re still the only force in the universe that actually cares about preserving mankind (in fact, much of the narrative interest in modern, post-Rogue Trader 40K is grounded in how the Imperium is continually forced to do horrific things because of this investment in defending humanity).


Yea I think you’re right about it not satirizing actual fascism. I think the fascist nature of the imperium is meant to be the satire itself. Which is lazy and not great when you’ve got actual fascists lurking in your audience.

Maybe a “good” team is going to far but I think for it to work it should be clear that the imperium is behaving in a way that’s unnecessarily bad. Let’s see some space marines kicking in hab doors and taking children away from working families for “suspected” mutation. Punishing planets with exterminatus for trying to run things democratically. Generally wasting their time terrorizing their own citizens instead of fighting aliens. I agree stories about the domestic side of the imperium are probably the right place for this.

I recall that in one or two of the Ravenor novels the Administratum was depicted as absolute next-level bureaucratic hell which I thought was not only pretty funny but did a good job of poking fun at modern office life. The potential is definitely there.