[ Models | Lore | Sources | Inspiration ]
Dark Imperium is the starter boxed set for the 8th edition of Warhammer 40,000. The two armies featured in the set are Ultramarines and Death Guard (specifically the Tainted Sons vectorium), and the text below comes from the mini-codex included for the Death Guard units.
The Death Guard trudge inexorably into battle amidst the drone of endless swarms of flies. Bloated, rotten and riddled with disease, these revolting traitors are virtually immune to pain. Each Heretic Astartes is utterly dedicated to spreading the feculent blessings of the Plague God Nurgle and working the will of their cadaverous Daemon Primarch, Mortarion.
There are few sights more revolting than that of the Death Guard marching to war. Pallid flesh bulges through splits in rusting armour plate. Rancid effluvium dribbles from pipes and lesions. Maggots squirm busily in gangrenous wounds, whilst toxic smog billows thick and polluted from censers and pus-clotted vents. Plague flies swarm around the Death Guard like smoke rising from a pyre, the mindless drone of their wings mingling with the thump of boltguns firing and the tolling of verdigrised bells.
Spattered with the mud and blood of the battlefield, reeking of rot and decay, the Death Guard advance relentlessly upon their enemies like the corpses of the risen dead. Yet there is much more to these grotesque warriors than first glance would suggest. Far from cold, dead things, the Death Guard seethe with revolting life. As the favoured mortal servants of Nurgle, the Chaos God of Plagues, the Death Guard are blessed with an abundance of foul contagions, parasites and bacteria that swarm through their riddled bodies. The sacred genetic sorcery used to create the Adeptus Astartes has been perverted in these traitors, superhuman organs transformed into pulsating incubators for phages and foulness beyond measure.
Any living thing so diseased ought to drop dead within a single beat of its worm-eaten heart. Sustained by the ebullient energies of their revolting god, the Death Guard are instead strengthened by their dubious blessings. Pain and suffering are notions that apply only to their victims; fear is a laughable concept to such ghastly beings. Warriors of the Death Guard can sustain the most monstrous wounds and continue to fight, battling on with arms torn off, torsos blown open and necrotic flesh crisped black by fire. Many foes employ volleys of plasma fire or salvoes of tank-busting weaponry to lay the lumbering Plague Marines low, and even this is no guarantee of success. Making the most of their horrific resilience, the Death Guard favour grinding, attritional warfare, scything their enemies down in punishing, close-ranged fire fights.
The Death Guard were not always such monstrous beings. During the glorious days of the Great Crusade, when the Imperium sought to reign supreme over a subjugated galaxy, the Death Guard were one amongst eighteen loyal Space Marine Legions who fought at the Emperor's side. Then came the Horus Heresy. Brother fought brother, the realms of Mankind burned in the fires of betrayal, and fully half the Space Marine Legions turned to the worship of the Ruinous Powers. The Primarchs, demigod gene-sons of the Emperor himself, led the Legions. The Primogenitor of the Death Guard was Mortarion, a mighty warrior but a soul consumed with bitterness and jealousy toward his peers. Mortarion's desire for power led to the slow curdling of his spirit. It was this chink in the Legion's armour that Nurgle needed to corrupt the Death Guard, transforming them from noble warriors to corpulent plague carriers, damned forever to Nurgle's service.
Despite their cursed existence, the Death Guard revel in spreading their patron's plagues. Nurgle himself is a rambunctious god, proud of his followers' achievements and indulgent of their whims. Many of the Death Guard are so rotted in mind and soul that they share their god's warped sense of jollity, chortling wetly through muck-encrusted vox grills as they maim and slay. Others are grim and morose, hacking and blasting their way across the battlefield with no more sound than the foetid rasp of their spore-thick breath. Whatever the case, the Death Guard fight an endless war to further the plans of Grandfather Nurgle, and they will not stop until nothing remains of the Imperium but a diseased wasteland of rotting filth.
Many and varied are the diseased champions who lead the Death Guard. Amongst the most aggressive are the Lords of Contagion. Clad in hulking suits of corruption-riddled armour, wielding roaring, tri-bladed axes, the Lords of Contagion tread the most direct route to victory over the corpses of their foes.
A Lord of Contagion leads his followers into battle from the front. A mighty warlord in a blade-horned helm and slime-smeared Terminator armour, he embodies the diseased resilience of his Traitor Legion. Few weapons have the stopping power to even slow a Lord of Contagion as he lumbers across the battlefield, let alone lay him low. By comparison, every unstoppable swing of this warrior's saw-bladed axe sends blood spraying in spattering fans, and reduces enemy warriors to ripped and mangled cadavers crawling with disease.
Only the most aggressive of Nurgle's mortal champions become Lords of Contagion. Many have fought amongst the festering ranks of Mortarion's inner circle, the Deathshroud. There they hone the art of reaping a toll of their enemies in close assault before rising to command their own warbands.
Whether leading Colonies, Vectoriums or entire Sepsis Cohorts, Lords of Contagion tend towards direct strategies with high body counts and little in the way of cunning or subtlety. This is not to say that they are rage-lost lunatics or unimaginative fools. Rather, the Lords of Contagion are pugnacious commanders, supremely confident in the abilities of their diseased followers to absorb any amount of punishment and still prevail. They embody the swift-spreading plague that tears through a doomed crowd, killing indiscriminately and leaving mounds of dead bodies in its wake.
The warped tolling of monstrous bells announces the coming of the Noxious Blightbringers. With every dolorous peal, splinters of madness and despair are driven into the minds of the foe, an ague of the soul leeching their vitality and leaving them nigh catatonic in the face of death.
Heralds of pestilence and misery, Noxious Blightbringers pace solemnly before the Death Guard advance. They proclaim the arrival of Mortarion's sons through the tolling of their rusted Tocsins of Misery, hell-forged bells of massive size whose peals ring through both reality and the warp.
The primary role of Noxious Blightbringers is to sow disarray and weakness amidst the enemy ranks. The dissonance of their chiming bells sends waves of entropy rolling across the battlefield to batter not only the enemy's physical senses, but their souls also. The blessings of Nurgle manifest wherever the tocsins' waves hit home, each thunderous toll wearing the foe down a little more and spreading sickness and corruption. The enemy's will to fight erodes as their muscles fester and their strength leaves them. Faith and conviction are spider-webbed with cracks of doubt. Bones and organs shudder and turn green with furring growths.
In close proximity, the empyric peals that roll from the Noxious Blightbringers torment enemy psykers. Not only must these unfortunates deal with the violent waves that threaten to overwhelm their tighty controlled abilities, but they must also face the corruption of the very powers they wield. Gnawing warp maggots wriggle into being within the minds of those psykers who show weakness, chewing hungrily upon their new hosts' sanity until the victim is driven irrevocably mad.
Where the tolling of the tocsins corrodes the spirits of the Death Guard's enemies, it instils fresh vitality in the Legion's own warriors. Mortarion's sons move with a vigour at odds with their rotting bulk wherever they follow the Noxious Blightbringers into battle, rusted joints grating and rotting guts swaying as they pound into combat.
To be gifted with a Tocsin of Misery is a great honour, bestowed by Mortarion himself upon only the most cruel and corrupt of his sons. Potent warriors in their own right, each Noxious Blightbringer becomes a living canker who revels in the spreading of disease and sorrow.
Malignant Plaguecasters fill the air with billowing filth. With every gurgling inhalation they draw lungfuls of noxious vapours from Nurgle's hellish Garden, before blowing them out in phlegm-thick clouds that can rot a man to the bone in seconds.
Clouds of diseased foulness whirl and surge through the enemy ranks as the Plaguecasters attack. Potent Death Guard Sorcerers, these vile psykers are warp-rotted from their pallid, flyblown skin to their ever-churning innards. They have bargained away what remained of their souls in exchange for Nurgle's blessings, and been gifted in exchange with the ability to channel the gusting malaise of the Plague God's foetid realm.
The bloated bodies of the Malignant Plaguecasters have become living conduits for the Garden of Nurgle's toxic miasmas. Flesh-eating spore clouds, droning plague flies, vomitous mists and plague-thick corpse gas all roil within the Plaguecasters' guts, at times straining their skin to bursting point. With retching exhalations, the Plaguecasters blow these clouds of lethal filth across the battlefield to engulf the foe.
The effects of such noxious clouds upon mortal victims are immediate and hideous. Warriors collapse, choking upon their own rotting lungs even as their flesh blackens and liquefies. Armour corrodes and weapons spark and sputter as they are eaten away. Even sealed fortifications offer no protection, the Plaguecaster's fumes eating away metal and stone as easily as they do flesh.
Before his fall from grace, Mortarion had nothing but disdain for those who wielded the energies of the warp. One of the cruellest ironies of the Death Guard's corruption by Nurgle was the sudden proliferation of tainted Sorcerers who rose amongst their ranks, and who have thrived there ever since. Though Malignant Plaguecasters are amongst the most commonly seen strains of psyker within the Death Guard, there are many others. From the Cadaverous Faminebringers and the Slopmaw Maggotmancers to the truly disgusting - and rarely seen - Festering Poxshamans, all of these twisted beings wield Nurgle's blessings. They aid their comrades in battle, and spread disease and desolation at the Plague God's behest.
No Traitor Legion stands as high in Nurgle's favour as the Death Guard. Swollen with the Plague God's blessings and utterly devoted to the corruption of realspace in his name, the hulking Plague Marines that comprise their mainstay despoil all in their path while chanting praise to their gruesome patron.
Plague Marines are relentless and deadly warriors, whose apparent plodding nature belies their lethality. The traitors' advance is slow but inexorable, and almost impossible to stop with anything but the heaviest weaponry.
Decaying within their armour, Plague Marines' bodies have long since become immune to pain or fatigue. Their living flesh fuses directly with their Chaos-twisted power armour, forming a disgustingly resilient whole. Blasts and bolts may crater the Plague Marines' bodies, but few will do more than slow the traitors down and splatter their tainted blood across friend and foe alike. Those who plunge blades or claws into the Plague Marines' forms will be fortunate to do any sort of meaningful damage, and may well find their weapons trapped between sucking folds of rancid fat.
In return, the Plague Marines' every blow is delivered with clubbing strength, their every shot well placed and explosively deadly. Grime-encrusted bolters roar as they spew volleys of self-propelled bolts into the enemy, mowing them down like corn before a scythe. Foul plague knives are driven into the foe, the seething toxins that befoul the blades turning flesh black with rot and clotting blood into sludge. Blight grenades loop end-over-end through the air, bursting in great showers of pathogenic spores and putrescent slime.
Like a ponderously swung sledgehammer, the Plague Marines drive unstoppably through the enemy ranks, their rusted boots grinding flesh and bone as they catch the foe in expert fire-spreads and relentless, overlapping advances. The Plague Marines chuckle wetly through clogged vox grills, flies buzzing in choking clouds about them as they bring Nurgle's wrath to their foes.
Labouring through the air on buzzing turbines, the Foetid Bloat-drone drifts towards the enemy like an armoured plague fly. Driven by the trapped essence of a Nurgle Daemon, this hideous war engine closes to point-blank range before dousing its victims in virulent foulness.
Foetid Bloat-drones are amongst the most horrific weapons in the Death Guard arsenal. More than just armoured attack vehicles, each Bloat-drone is in fact a Daemon Engine, driven by the rune-bound essence of a warp entity. Made bitter and mad by its confinement, the Nurgle Daemon turns its weaponised cage against its master's enemies with spiteful glee. The Daemon would rather butcher the Nurgle-worshipping Warpsmiths who bound it in the first place, but it will settle for the slaughter of any who stray within range. It is this cruel sentience that makes Foetid Bloat-drones so deadly.
Clad in rusting plates of rot-iron armour, their hulls overflowing with flabby foulness, Foetid Bloat-drones can withstand ferocious amounts of punishment and still keep fighting. They are designed to hover in close, drifting lazily through even the densest battlefield terrain to provide supporting fire.
To this end, most Foetid Bloat-drones are armed with a pair of plaguespitters. As the Daemon Engine hovers over the battlefield, its trailing pipes and tubes suckle rot and filth with idiot hunger to fuel these revolting weapons. The Bloat-drone slurps up diseased innards and maggot-thick mud until its unnatural flesh is straining and pulsating, refining a hideous cocktail of hyper-concentrated toxic slime. Then, with a disgusting regurgitative spasm, the drone squirts the resultant soup through its plaguespitters, spraying it in great fans across the foe. No cover or defence can protect the target from this lethal rain of filth. Victims find their bodies convulsing and twisting in the grip of a thousand maladies at once, rotting and bloating until they collapse into a heap of decaying, highly infectious matter. Many are still screaming, horribly aware as they do.
Created in festering ritual-factories on Nurgle-dominated Daemon worlds, the cost in blood sacrifice to create these engines is significant, and the binding rituals are hazardous in the extreme. Yet their enduring popularity with the Traitor Legion's Plague Lords ensures that Foetid Bloat-drones are ferried in great numbers to the war zones the Death Guard fight in, and deployed in swarms that darken the skies.
Shambling across the battlefield in reeking hordes, Poxwalkers engulf their enemies in rotting tides of grasping hands, gnashing teeth and squirming tentacles. They are the cursed victims of Nurgle's plagues, transformed into unliving weapons by the cruel masters of the Death Guard.
Amongst the countless diseases propagated by the Death Guard, the zombie plague is amongst the most hideous. Its vector is the mighty Typhus, one of the Death Guard's greatest heroes and host to the daemonic Destroyer Hive. Wherever Typhus travels, this terrible plague spreads like wildfire, transmitted through bites and scratches then carried far and wide by fleeing victims and redeployed Imperial soldiery. Nurgle delights in variation, and so as the zombie plague travels it also mutates into countless strains. From the Plague of Despair to the Somnambuphage and the swift-spreading Spawnrot Fever, each has its own symptoms and effects. The Walking Pox is one such strain, afflicting those who battle the Death Guard directly.
Victims of the Walking Pox find their bodies rotting and shutting down until eventually, death takes them. Yet this is not the end. The victim remains cruelly conscious and aware, trapped within their corpse as it reanimates with a rictus grin and staggers out in search of living victims. Many Inquisitors of the Ordo Sepulturum hypothesise that the Walking Pox is a variant of Nurgle's Rot, for its victims' flesh mutates, even after death, sprouting horn-like growths from their skulls similar to those of Plaguebearers.
Whatever the case, Poxwalkers display rudimentary coordination, wielding battlefield debris as they stagger into battle. Though clumsy and slow, Poxwalkers are inhumanly resilient. Worse, the slightest exposure to the groaning cacophony that escapes their lips can afflict the souls of fresh victims, spreading the Walking Pox to anyone nearby as a spiritual contagion. In large numbers, these slouching corpse-mutants can prove incredibly dangerous, overrunning enemy lines, then gnawing, bludgeoning and ripping their screaming victims apart in bloody orgies of mindless violence.
A conquering vectorium led by Lord Gulgoth the Afflictor, the Tainted Sons are line-breakers and trench-fighters without compare. They are a warband as brutally direct as the Lord of Contagion who leads them, pouring scorn on those who concern themselves with such matters as danger or losses.
The roar of massed bolter fire and the croak of glottal war cries fills the air as the Tainted Sons go to war. Their advance is methodical and direct, a slow but unstoppable hammer blow swung hard into the teeth of the foe. Under the yellowed eye of their lord, the Chaos Space Marines display terrifying fire discipline, picking a single, priority target and engulfing it in a merciless hail of shots. Only once their first mark is completely obliterated do the Tainted Sons shift their attention, eradicating their victims with an obsessive efficiency that borders on madness.
This vectorium has lingered long in the warp, serving Mortarion faithfully during his wars within the Eye of Terror. Though they have been unleashed once more upon the worlds of realspace, Nurgle's empyric blessings still cling to these diseased traitors like a miasma. The ground curdles into churned filth beneath the Sons' feet, while unnatural spores and warp-tainted fumes thicken the air around them. Nothing natural can survive for long in the presence of these virulent Death Guard warriors. Undergrowth dissolves to blackened mulch while the flesh of foes begins to rot and break out in foul clusters of buboes.
Gurgling their vectorium's motto, 'All will rot', the Tainted Sons mow down enemy battle-lines, sweep chamber to chamber through bunker complexes, and overrun the desperate defenders of starships and shrine fortresses alike. Their reputation for close-quarters brutality is well earned, and their tenacity is second only to their unnatural virulence.
Those warriors that have fallen under the sway of the Plague God show their blasphemous devotion by emblazoning their armour with his sigils and marks. These include variations on the three skulls motif of the Death Guard, the three circles of Nurgle, and the sacred symbol of the fly. Countless other profane icons have been adopted by the many warhosts who devote themselves to Grandfather Nurgle.
Sickness, disease, plague and pox, suffering and the slow, living rot. Such wondrous gifts does Nurgle seek to bestow upon the unworthy human cattle of the Imperium. We are merely the vectors by which his virulent beneficence may be spread to the undeserving masses.
— Urgloth Rotheart, Plague Champion of the Death Guard
Ruthless and utterly implacable, the corrupted warriors of the Death Guard are the favoured sons of Nurgle. Each of the Legion's disparate vectoriums prosecutes the Long War in its own unique manner, though all live to spread the pestilent influence of the Plague Lord across the galaxy.
Masters of the armoured assault, the Pallid Hand employ a greater number of Chaos Predators and Land Raiders than almost every other vectorium of the Death Guard. Those enemies that are not crushed beneath their rusted treads are blasted apart by pinpoint artillery bombardments.
Before the Apostles of Contagion step onto the battlefield, they fill the air with billowing gas clouds that melt flesh from bone. Those unlucky few who survive the putrid assault are left horrendously mutated and unable to fight as waves of Plague Marines wade through their defences.
Whenever an agri world is infected with a sample of the innumerable poxes of Nurgle, the warband known as the Fecund Ones are often the culprits, as they delight in sowing the gifts of their putrescent lord among the food supplies of the Imperium's oblivious masses.
The Glooming Lords are a morose band of killers who march into battle surrounded by colossal clouds of droning black Daemon-flies. They harbour a particular hatred for the sorcerous warbands of Tzeentch, whose vibrant, colourful vigour they regard as insufferable.
The Putrid Choir's march to battle is always signalled by the baleful toll of the vectorium's tocsins of misery. Accompanying this maddening percussion is the sound of scores of pus-filled throats bellowing discordant battle dirges in honour of Grandfather Nurgle.
To the Plague Marines of the Pox Mortis warband, the brewing of blight grenades is nothing less than an art form. The warrior that can blend the most gloriously festering concoction, and successfully demonstrate its effects upon a worthy foe, is held in high favour indeed.
The Mouldering Claw delight in the brutality of close-quarters combat. They like to close with the enemy line as quickly as possible before carving them apart with jagged plague knives. Even a single cut from one of their toxin-laced blades is certain to cause an agonising death.
The Weeping Legion are so named because they enter battle covered in the foul ichor of their own continuously dripping wounds. With each layer of rancid filth that encrusts their armour, these pus-slicked warriors of the Death Guard become even more resistant to damage.
Vast hordes of Poxwalkers screen the advance of the Carrion Hounds. The warriors of this vile host hold a great affection for the shambling monsters, and often assemble morbid 'collections' of infected souls, such as defeated Astra Militarum regiments or entire noble families.
The Heralds of Despair revel in prolonged sieges, and are obsessively methodical in their approach to warfare. After heavy bombardments and the severing of supply lines, they will seal an enemy force inside a fortress and watch as rot and hopelessness take hold of the inhabitants.
The Corpsemakers see the destruction of the Imperium's grandest strongholds as their profane duty. Burrowing into the bedrock of enemy bastions like maggots through flesh, they undermine and corrupt the foundations so that the entire structure soon falls.
A great wound in the stars has torn open, and now all can be blessed with Grandfather's afflictions. The corpse-worshippers come to fight that which they cannot understand, and through their blindness they try to form scabs to hold back Nurgle's sacred disgorgements. Oh, how we have been favoured, to be able to pick at the clotting bodies, to be able to savour the sores that will never close.
— Gulgoth the Afflictor, Lord of Contagion of the Tainted Sons
One of the most renowned and feared of the Death Guard vectoriums, it is said that the Tainted Sons have earned the favour of Mortarion himself, having fought alongside the fallen Primarch during his endless campaigns within the Eye of Terror. Finally unleashed upon the ailing Imperium, Lord Gulgoth the Afflictor and his bloated, hideous warriors embody the implacable fortitude and relentless aggression of the XIV Legion, Nurgle's favoured mortal followers.
This section also includes photographs of all the new models released in this boxed set, painted as members of the Tainted Sons.
|Warhammer Fantasy||Third Citadel Compendium; WFRP (1st ed); RoC: Slaves to Darkness; RoC: The Lost and the Damned; Beasts of Chaos; Blightwar; Malign Portents website|
|Man O' War||Plague Fleet|
|Mordheim||Empire in Flames|
|Warhammer 40,000||Warhammer 40,000 (1993); Codex: Chaos (1996); Codex: Chaos Space Marines (1999); Chapter Approved 2001; Codex: Chaos Space Marines (2002); Codex: Eye of Terror; Chapter Approved 2004; Imperial Armour 5; Codex: Chaos Space Marines (2007); Imperial Armour: Apocalypse (2007); Codex: Chaos Daemons (2008); Imperial Armour 6; Imperial Armour 7; Imperial Armour: Aeronautica; Codex: Chaos Space Marines (2012); Codex: Dark Angels (2013); Codex: Chaos Daemons (2013); Stronghold Assault; Codex: Imperial Knights (2014); Dataslate: Helbrutes; Codex: Militarum Tempestus (2014); Imperial Armour 13; Codex: Imperial Knights (2015); Codex: Chaos Daemons (2016); Codex: Traitor Legions; Warhammer 40,000 (2017); Dark Imperium; Index: Chaos; First Strike; Codex: Space Marines (2017); Codex: Chaos Space Marines (2017); Codex: Grey Knights (2017); Plague Brethren; Codex: Adeptus Mechanicus (2017); Codex: Chaos Daemons (2018); Codex: T'au Empire (2018); Tales from Vigilus webpages|
|Epic||Adeptus Titanicus; Space Marine (1st ed); Codex Titanicus; Renegades; Titan Legions; Epic 40,000|
|Kill Team||Dolorous Strain|
|Warhammer: The Horus Heresy||The Burning of Ohmn-Mat|
|White Dwarf||Oct 1988 (#106); Dec 1988 (#108); Jan 1989 (#109); May 1989 (#113); Jun 1989 (#114); Nov 1989 (#119); Jan 1990 (#121); Feb 1990 (#122); Apr 1990 (#124); May 1990 (#125); Dec 1990 (#132); Jan 2002 (#265)|
|Citadel Journal||Jul 1994 (#4); Mar 1995 (#8); May 1995 (#9); Dec 1995 (#12); Sep 1996 (#17); Nov 1996 (#18); Aug 1997 (#21); Apr 1998 (#25); Jun 1998 (#26); Aug 1998 (#27); Oct 1998 (#28); May 1999 (#32); Jan 2002 (#48)|
|Battlefleet Gothic Magazine||Nov 2002 (#12); Aug 2003 (#16)|
|Black Library Novels|
|Warhammer 40,000||Ravenor Returned; HH54: Buried Dagger|
|Fantasy Flight Games|
|Dark Heresy||Shattered Hope; Dark Heresy (1st ed); Disciples of the Dark Gods; Creatures Anathema; Radical's Handbook; Daemon Hunter; Dark Heresy (2nd ed); Game Master's Kit (2nd ed); Forgotten Gods; Enemies Within; Enemies Beyond|
|Rogue Trader||Rogue Trader; Citadel of Skulls; Battlefleet Koronus; Koronus Bestiary; Navis Primer; Stars of Inequity|
|Deathwatch||Mark of the Xenos; Achilus Assault; First Founding; Jericho Reach; Rising Tempest|
|Black Crusade||Black Crusade; Game Master's Kit; Hand of Corruption; Tome of Fate; Tome of Blood; Tome of Excess; Tome of Decay|
|Only War||Enemies of the Imperium|