It's an amazingly evocative image and one that has been part of the 40k universe for a very long time, so much so that the fluff surrounding it has seemed to change somewhat! Things do change over time, but when they change in the same book, then I think it's a bit of a worry.
Today we're going to look at the Chain Axe, it's background and also the conflicting background stories, especially in the Horus Heresy - Betrayal book.
The first time we really saw Chain Axes was on the Khorne Bezerker models back in the early 90s - very evocative considering their love of close combat gore. Once this was introduced though, the Imperial force wanted to use them too, so a little retroactive fluff was invented. We then learnt that the Chain Axe was a favourite weapon of the techno-barbarian tribes of Terra pre-Imperium and during the Great Crusade it was favoured by the very same techno-barbarians (or their descendants) who made their way into the ranks of the Space Marines.
Okay, fair call - that all seems pretty straight forward and kind of cool.
It does however get a little messed up when the 30K rules start to kick in and Forge World decide to start running the fluff - fluff that's really only been touched on before in passing.
" A savage weapon that had it's origins within the World Eaters Space Marine Legion, and the black-humoured whims of it's master, the Primarch Angron".
Right, so we learn from this that the World Eaters and their Primarch developed the Chain Axe, to bring more gore and a bit of a chuckle to the battlefield. This would mean that the War Hounds would not have been armed with the Chain Axe as it was introduced into the Legion much later.
It would also mean that the background of the Chain Axe going back to the techno-barbarian tribes of the Unification Wars was also wrong, a piece of fluff that transcends the Forge World era.
Among the Caedre weapons... the Chain Axe used by close combat World Eater units like the Rampagers. Further evidence that the Forge World fluff says the Chain Axe did not come from Terra, but actually came from the gladiators of Nuceria, the brutal home world of Angron.
It's at this point that it's important to make a differentiation between fluff and the rules of the game.
Fluff makes the universe go around. Fluff brings the rules to life - but the fluff shouldn't contradict the rules and vice versa.
As War Hounds hobbyist I have decided to not have Chain Axes prominently in my Legion - the fluff isn't stable enough in Forge World's hands to equip a squad or two with Chain Axes just to find out it isn't something they could have been armed with in terms of fluff.
In fact this opens it up a bit wider - Forge World could now be saying that including Chain Axes as an option in early Great Crusade forces (as War Hounds were) is wrong - and that kind of blows the doors off a fair few people's minis... unless you do exclusively Horus Heresy or World Eaters... you can just have at it!
So what do you think? Do you agree? Do you see a hole in this thought process?
L:et us know!