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venkelos

Ultramarines -- Why No Love?

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Sorry, I was bored, and a bit tired, so I posted this before I went to sleep. It is a legitimate question I have, and can even apply to DW, if I want it to, but there will certainly be some fanboy-antics, and wtf in here, so apologies, beforehand.

 

Why do the Ultramarines get so much negative guff from fans? I thought, for a bit, that it was mostly just 1d4chan being themselves, and while I love reading their stuff, taking into account the sarcasm, it often seems, to me, that they are yet another "Space Wolves and Blood Angels are AWESOME; Ultrasmurfs SUCK!!!", but it doesn't seem like they are unique in this satire, and a lot of the other places are much more serious, for the most part.

 

"Mary Sue" seems to be the most frequent term, and while I admit, over his tenure, Matt Ward did some terrible things, and HE, at least, seemed like the only Ultrasmurfs fanboy, at the time, we're comparing them to the Blood Angels, who have to have their own unique versions of everything:

  • unique bolter pattern
  • unique swords (encarmine blades?)
  • unique armor, at least two different kinds
  • unique jetpacks
  • a penchant for stopping to gnaw on the dead, occasionally (and maybe sparkling in daylight)
  • a Chapter Master whose lasted longer than some Perpetuals, but he's basically the most celebrated hero in the Imperium, so it's allowed to slide
  • their own Librarian Dreadnoughts (don't think most other Chapters have access to Furioso Dreads)
  • Might've had, at least at once, their own pattern of Land Raider
  • special access to drop pods
  • chalices and goblets everywhere

The list might go on. They seem to have their own everything, possibly better than the other Chapters' stuff. The Space Wolves are little better, with their half-lycan features (surprised there's no feud between them, even now), beards, beards, everywhere, total disregard for rules, weird "magic ice" weapons, wolves they can ride, while wearing Power Armor, their own special Librarians, their own special Techmarines, another Chapter Master whose led longer than most Space Marines LIVE, despite being one of the most combat-dominated Chapters, and a penchant for murdering Inquisitors who are trying to make sure they aren't slipping into heresy.

 

Where in this do the Ultramarines start to look so bad? They got their Tyrannic War Vets, but I don't think they are still supported, anymore (depending on who one asks, the Nids really aren't, either). Papa Smurf can seem rather cheesy, but Marneus Calgar doesn't feel really so bad when held up to the likes of Dante, and Logan Grimnar, and since they are the ultimate "vanilla marines", otherwise, the Ultramarines needed some character added to them, especially when compared to the other Chapters so silly they needed their own codex, just to fit in all their "we're not average Astartes" bells and whistles.

 

As I said, Ward did some weird things to the Astartes, the Grey Knights, and several other codices he ate, instead, but I find it hard to understand all the negatives against the Smurfs, when compared to the Space Lycans, the Space Vampires, or even the Dark Angels, with their hooded cloaks, and their never ending quest to save their gi...kill those traitors they are still hiding from everyone else, 10,000 years later.

 

Now, to be fair, I know this isn't really a DW game question, per say, but I'm talking with a number of people who like, and who know about, Space Marines, so I'll risk it, anyway. Were I to play a game, I'd probably build a Salamander, anyway, making the point moot, but they, the Smurfs, and the Grey Knights no one can usually play, are my favorite three Chapters, so I'd consider the Ultramarines, before choosing the Salamanders Techmarine, or Librarian, if the GM was allowing psykers. Also, none of the important characters in the Deathwatch seem to be Ultramarines, so even being the most prevalent, they used a bunch of other Chapters, just to be different. For people who have an opinion, what do you think? Do you like the Ultramarines? Think they suck? Why?

 

Thanks much for getting this far, and for any opinions you choose to share. Have a good one!!!

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I think it is entirely a matter of perspective.

 

The thing is, from how the Chapters are described, a casual first glance at the Ultramarines makes them boring Mary-Sues. It is only once you look deeper that you notice there's more depth beneath the thin veneer of hyperbole and propaganda; only after reading sources like the Index Astartes you will see a more balanced portrayal that paints the Ultras not only as the standard to which other Chapters are compared to but also as a fighting force with their own history, their own methods and their own personality.

However, for better or worse the Ultramarines have been the IP's poster boys for close to three decades, and them constantly getting shoved into peoples' faces has made a lot of fans so fed up that they don't have any interest in looking closer.

 

With the Space Wolves, I think the opposite is true. On the surface, you have a pretty awesome idea based around the appealing concept of Space Vikings, with a pretty badass colour scheme to boot. Yet the more you scratch at the surface, the more you reveal of their background, the sillier it gets. Contradictory portrayals by countless novel authors, battle reports that seem to focus on constant one-upsmanship by the writers, a distressing lack of consequence for their ongoing teen angst rebelliousness, and a "special snowflake" kind of edginess that threatens to pull the entire faction to the level of bad adolescent fan-fiction. Their most recent miniatures certainly have not done them any favours in terms of taking them more serious either.

 

It's painful to read how such a cool concept gets messed up in execution. However, 40k in general, and - let's face it - Space Marines in particular appeal mostly to a rather specific kind of gamer who may just be looking for a certain type of coolness and Epic with a capital E, and once they're committed to a faction, they stick with it like K-pop fans with their chosen band.

 

Obviously, and thankfully, not every fan is like that, but it explains how "normal" can get looked down upon as "bland". People who are fine with not standing out tend to go Imperial Guard, which doesn't leave much room for fans who like Space Marines to go Ultra. And even of those that might be compelled to, many are unaware of the Ultramarines' depth as laid out above.

 

Combined with a sports-fan-like rivalry between players, especially one where some Marine fans might try to deflect criticism towards their favourite Chapter by pointing to another, this makes the Ultras an ideal scapegoat and subject of "unifying" ridicule -- a bandwagon like, say, the crazy amounts of derision that a lot of boys direct towards Justin Bieber or whatever boy group is popular at a time because, hey, it's the popular thing to do, and all the other boys are doing it, too.

 

Myself, I like the Ultras. They are not my favourite Chapter, but I respect them, especially after I have looked deeper into the material the GW main studio has written about them. Not just the codices mind you - those tend to feature only the basics and bland "Oorah!" legendary victories for any army the codex discusses - but rather stuff like White Dwarf articles or Specialist Games features.

 

I'll also have to take up the cudgels for the Blood Angels, though. For a very long time, I saw them similar to the Space Wolves, but that was chiefly because (just as I suspect is true for venkelos) I didn't have an opportunity to look deeper into their stuff. Then I've read the White Dwarf short story about Captain Tycho's death, and only then did I notice the awesome potential for the ongoing struggle that besets them.

 

To me, what I am most interested in when it comes to 40k is not ubercool invulnerable warriors pulling in one easy win after another, but rather people struggling to overcome weaknesses, and terrible drama of heroic deaths like the Greek sagas of old or Japanese samurai movies. And so, when I look at the Blood Angels now, I don't see "pretty vampires" as they are sometimes disparagingly called, but rather warriors in physical perfection but psychological torment, struggling to delay the inevitable and constantly fighting a war against their own mind until the day they inevitably get stuffed into a suicide squad to go Allahu Emprah on the enemy, unless the entire Chapter gets excommunicated first like it happens with the Flesh Tearers and their ongoing devolution into murderous beasts. This is horror on a personal level. This is grimdark.

 

For some time I half-expected to have a similar epiphany with the Space Wolves. Alas, the more I looked, it only got worse.

 

 

Oh, and sorry to any Wolf fans who might feel miffed at my criticism here. Like I said, it is entirely possible to execute the basic premise in a more "levelheaded" way, and I've seen at least one Space Wolf character whose player succeeded in doing so, but you gotta admit the official writing is pretty horrible.

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Also, none of the important characters in the Deathwatch seem to be Ultramarines, so even being the most prevalent, they used a bunch of other Chapters, just to be different.

 

That's not entirely true.

 

Arius Hyzerion is the Deathwatch Keeper responsible for the defense of the Jericho Reach Warp Gate.

 

Watch Captain Prascus built the Hunting Grounds on Erioch.

 

There is also Watch Captain Marius Avincus, but I think there isn't much about him in the books, so...

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As one of Ultrasmurfs haters (well, "hate" is too strong a word, "mockery" can be more adequate) I think that Lynata is absolutely right. If you don't start to look deeper, bad first impression can stay for long - and you just don't want to look deeper because of this impression. Not very fair to Ultramarines, yes.

And as one of Space Wolfs fans I have to admit that Lynata is absolutely right in this part too ;-)

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It has been many years since I played a game of 40k, or collected a squad of space marine, but the Ultras have always been my baseline for comparison. When I was playing, I was running my own chapter based on the smurfs because it was allowed. No one would argue about rules if you were just playing "straight" marines painted up in whatever color. Try adding some of the  complications of some of those "Banner" chapters and people would be quite rude (why I don't play 40k anymore). I think it might have been 3rd (?) edition last time I played. When we first started playing Deathwatch, my character was an Ultramarine Tactical cohesion battery (I read that term here yesterday, and know the truth of it now). So I think the scorn comes from the smurfs NOT being "Special snowflakes" like everyone else, might be jealousy that they can get the job done without the mind bending special rules and lists of everyone else, or maybe the plain jane space marine is just too bring for them.

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they're vanilla. Basically nothing wrong with them but who goes into baskin Robbins and orders a vanilla cone?

That said I consider them the 'training wheels ' to a 40k RPG. A total 40k RPG virg, I might hand him a stock UM tactical marine. Pretty soon he's gonna want to try something else.

BTW, why do space marines travel in 3's?

So you have an ultramarine who can read, a blood angel who can write and a spacewolf to keep an eye on those two potential heretics...

Edited by Professor Tanhauser

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So you have an ultramarine who can read, a blood angel who can write and a spacewolf to keep an eye on those two potential heretics...

 

That sounds about as appropriate as trusting a Radical Inquisitor with hunting down a daemonic artifact. ;)

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I think much of the reason has been covered quite well in prior posts. People often respond poorly to what they see as fanboyism, often taking an opposing position. Personally, I don't hate the Ultramarines, I'm just not that interested in them. Though the Captain Ventris novels are a solid read.

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Very interesting thread and it has certainly made me look at the Ultramarines in a new way. It makes me view them as the Roman legions, as they do seem to have pretty much Roman influence over them, in the unflashy disciplined team work over the more individualistic heroic fighting styles of many of their opponents.

 

I'll be looking forward to new interesting bits about these blue marines.

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It makes me view them as the Roman legions, as they do seem to have pretty much Roman influence over them, in the unflashy disciplined team work over the more individualistic heroic fighting styles of many of their opponents.

 

While Roman influence is obvious, I think Greek and Macedonian (Alexander the Great era) roots are more basic. However, the Romans took a lot from their predecessors.

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Well, yes, the ultramarines have some similarities to the Roman republic. When roboute guilleman established the empire of ultramar he made it clear that it was not going to be a dictatorship and that the people would have some basic guaranteed rights as citizens. In face remember that Macragge and it's nearby world's are in fact not part of the imperium in actuality. They ate a separate state allied to the imperium, but guilleman Gage his word to his people ultramar would be a free republic and egennwhen the emperor himself showed up guilleman would not back down on that's he'd given his word to his people, so ultramar remained a republic. SPQR and all that. Sure by today's standards it's practical ly a dictatorship but that's the 40k universe for you, and in thswtnuniverse ultramar is a relatively free republic with more basic human rights for it's citizens than the imperium ever had.

Another thing aboiyt ultramar is that the people of macragge hage actually seen the fact that the ultramarines will lay down their lives for the people of their empire. When the 'nids invaded the people saw the lengths the UM went to protect them without hesitation.

So yes, ultramarines have a Roman republic kind of meme going.

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Yeah, judging from their Index Astartes article, the Ultras definitely have both Greek and Roman influences in their background. For example, Macragge has a Senate and Consuls, yet the Ultramarines' HQ is called "Fortress of Hera" (which is the Greek version of Juno).

 

Macragge certainly is an Imperial fief, though. Guilliman swore fealty to the Emperor, the surrounding eight systems that make up Ultramar were claimed and settled using Imperial resources, and studio material specifically calls its planets Imperial worlds. It's just that similar to the Forge worlds of the Adeptus Mechanicus and the Shrine worlds of the Adeptus Ministorum, Space Marine fiefs hold a special status exempting them from the tithe and granting their rulers a degree of sovereignty (which can be revoked, as seen with the fate of the Relictors' homeworld Torva Minoris).

 

[edit] Of course, this is only insofar what the GW studio has written -- variant interpretations may certainly exist, including in other officially licensed material!

Edited by Lynata

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The Ultramarines are a victim of their own success.  They literally wrote the book setting the standards.  Now every other chapter the gets published has to have something differentiate them from the standard otherwise they're "boring."

Spending 3 pages describing an all psyker chapter you make up is awesome.

Spending 1 sentence saying "codex approved" not so much.

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Though the Captain Ventris novels are a solid read.

 

Seriously? Deamonic steamtrain? :)

 

 

That, I grant you, was a bit nuts. I liked the characters more than the story.

 

 

What? Thomas the Daemon engine was awesome! Choo Choo Chaos! :D

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I'm warming up to the vanilla smurfs. the HH novels make them look like a cross between TsunTzu and Batman.

 

Still they are a bunch of dogmatic toadies who destroyed a beautifull city full of innocents and by the Word of Lorgar, Monarchia shall be avenged!

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I'm warming up to the vanilla smurfs. the HH novels make them look like a cross between TsunTzu and Batman.

 

Still they are a bunch of dogmatic toadies who destroyed a beautifull city full of innocents and by the Word of Lorgar, Monarchia shall be avenged!

Yeah, I think it wwas a worse crime when the emperor's dogs destroyed prospero, if you read the full account.

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I'm warming up to the vanilla smurfs. the HH novels make them look like a cross between TsunTzu and Batman.

 

Still they are a bunch of dogmatic toadies who destroyed a beautifull city full of innocents and by the Word of Lorgar, Monarchia shall be avenged!

Yeah, I think it wwas a worse crime when the emperor's dogs destroyed prospero, if you read the full account.

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Yea but that was Russ, rumour has it he'd already did that sort of thing twice before (the "missing" primarchs.)

 

The ultras are so polite about it, wich makes it worse.

 

Space wolves: "Ach! We've come ta kick yer arse an' burn ya wee planet to the grrrround, and itz your fault!, You've been a naughty boy aven't you? Come and fight back againt the Rout if ya dare ya freakin traitorous git!

 

 

Ultramarines: "Well we did evacute the city first, you know. By force. Couldn't be helped. And most survivors went blind from looking at the blast; but we told them not to do that. Not our fault they are now homeless. Just following orders! It's your own fault really. The Emperor has always said "don't worship me." and what the Emperor sais...* "

 

 

Honestly when I read the part in the book where the Word bearers arrive in orbit and find monarchia leveled...

 

Yeah full combat drop on the ultramraines. weapons live and engage!

 

Me as Lorgar: "Roboute!!! What have you doooonnne!?!" * hits him with crozius, then looks up to see the Emperor*

 

Lorgar: "Oh! Hy dad!"

 

 

 

 

 

* Good god, they really are smurfs! Brainy smurf to be exactly. :)

Edited by Robin Graves

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Actually Ido havesome respect for the space smurfs. Marneus Calgar refused to betray and murder a tau force after his force and theirs worked together to

cleanse a world of necrons.

 

Marines teaming up with xenos against other xenos seems to be all the rage these days.

 

Remember when the Blood Angels teamed up with the nucrons against the 'nids?

 

What's next? Dark angels and Harlequins vs Tau? ;)

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