Ciaphas Cain

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Hero of the Imperium, fighting the grim-derp since 2002

"Courage is not the lack of fear but the ability to face it."

– Lt. John B. Putnam Jr.

"I know he's a good general, but is he lucky?"

– Napoleon Bonaparte


Succinct summary of the Commissar’s whole career


Also a succinct summary of the Commissar’s whole career

Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM! (and of my heart and ass <3) was a famous Commissar of the Imperium and is the protagonist of the eponymous series of novels by Sandy Mitchell. The GRIMDARK Flashman to Gaunt's Sharpe. He spent most of his career in active service attached to Imperial Guard regiments from the ice world of Valhalla—most notably the 597th, and accompanied by his aide Jurgen. He retired to become a professor at a Schola Progenium later in life, but this did not mark the end of his exploits, being recalled into active service during the 13th Black Crusade. He was also called upon at many points throughout his life to assist the Ordos Xenos Inquisitor Amberley Vail, who is almost certainly his lover.

The novels are presented as extracts from Cain's personal, unofficial memoirs, edited by Amberley—published only to be kept under lock and key by the Inquisition as they present a vastly different story to all the official Imperial propaganda about his adventures. Contrary to the heroic image he cultivated to the Imperium at large, Cain described himself as a self-serving coward in his memoirs, spending most of his time trying to ensure his own comfort and survival, only becoming a hero by accident. However, despite his self-deprecation, he routinely demonstrates great bravery and compassion in the stories, leading many to believe he is a much better person than he would admit to himself.

He always subscribed to the long-term version of cowardice, often taking courses of action that appeared extremely dangerous on the basis that they gave him a better chance of survival in the long term, if not the short one(for example, he once charged a Hive Tyrant on foot and fought it in close combat with just a chainsword because he knew he would live longer fighting it than he would running from it). This is most illustrated in his dealings with chaos, from which a broad Cain Doctrine can be extrapolated as thus: It is safer to blindly disrupt the enemy's activities now, than to wait to find out what the enemy's plan actually is.

He is also well known for being one of the few commissars to earn the trust and respect of the Guardsmen he served with—aided by his heroic reputation, but mainly because he persistently demonstrated care and concern for the soldiers of his regiment. Despite repeated insistence in his memoirs he merely did this to get on their good sides and avoid "friendly fire" incidents, there's a great deal of evidence that his feelings were genuine.

Cain himself was an extremely skilled combatant, being an excellent shot with his trusty laspistol and highly proficient in the use of his chainsword in melee. Amongst other things, he defeated an Ork warboss and stood up to two Chaos Space Marines in single combat, both incredible feats for an ordinary man, especially as the only bionics he possessed were a few replacement fingers (and good ones at that, custom built by a techmarine). Not to mention going toe to toe with two Tyranid Hive Tyrants, and wounding them both before his men could help him. Mind you, even ranged Hive Tyrants can rip apart an Assault Marine and eat him without too much effort.

Further exploits include holding his own against a fucking Daemon Princess pretty well (with Jurgen's help, but still he did better than most would have), defeating Genestealers in close combat (one of which could kill two Word Bearers and severely injure a third in a matter of seconds), and standing his ground against a fucking Genestealer Patriarch/Broodlord. He also has the honour of being forever listed on "Active Battle Duty", according to official records, despite death by old age and being buried with full battle honours in the early M42's (presumably during the Indomitus Crusade); this is because, in the course of his exploits, he had been assumed to have died only to reappear later so many times that the Administratum couldn't keep up with the paperwork and simply issued a general order that his recorded status not be changed despite any evidence apparently to the contrary. Of course, his legacy is such that saying he's still in service to the Imperium wouldn't quite be wrong...

The Novels[edit]

Cain, with a cup of his favourite drink (Tanna from Valhalla).

Essentially, George MacDonald Fraser's The Flashman Papers and McAuslan stories sprinkled with a bit of Blackadder and transplanted into the 41st Millennium, though, while Cain is more of a Coward with a Heart of Gold, Flashman can best be described as a Jerk with a Heart of Jerk, Braised in a Jamaican Jerk Sauce, then Dried out into Jerked Jerk Jerky and served with a side order of colonial racism.

Cain is also infamous for being one of the more promiscuous characters in 40K. His list of conquests include a smoking hot Inquisitor - his current/probably last lover, a busty governor's daughter, a surprisingly attractive young tech priestess (not confirmed, but likely and wouldn't be surprising), and various other women throughout the series. The first book has Cain nearly put the moves on his regiment's female Colonel when the two attended an Imperial governor's party (with good chance of success), only stopping because he thought it would be better to keep it professional. Unsurprisingly this has led to multiple attempts by the forces of Slaanesh to corrupt Cain, all of which ended in miserable failure.

Whilst the books are quite well-written, Sandy Mitchell is a big fan of recycling - even down to specific sentences. Hence each book is guaranteed to feature exactly the same descriptions of his aide Jurgen as all the others, someone doing something with "almost indecent haste", and about half a dozen variations on the theme, "Of course, if I knew what I was getting myself into by doing [x], I'd have rather [y]" (usually involving charged into the Eye of Terror with nothing but a rusty fork). To be fair, this is very much a comedy trope.

They are also notable for the Jurgen Ex Melta, where most of the dramatic fights are ended by the intervention of Cain's aide Jurgen armed with a meltagun and his powers as a psyker-disrupting "blank". Over the course of the series, Jurgen has racked up more kills than the rest of the Valhallan 597th put together, and has yet to have any character development whatsoever. But that's fine, because Jurgen is 125% distilled awesome.

While it's unclear if this is an issue with Cain or Mitchell, the books also can't seem to tell the difference between a heavy bolter and a storm bolter, using the terms interchangeably to the point where it can sometimes be difficult to figure out which particular weapon is actually being described.

Also features psychotic lesbian Valhallans, Orky Gargants crumpin' dose Necron gits, a grinning, friendly neighborhood Inquisitor (who you should flee from at all costs), psychotic psykers who wear dresses too small, savants that are barred from entering casinos, World Eaters getting killed by "mere" humans, surviving a starship crash, playing Space Hulk for real, blue facepainted Tau supporters yelling that you can take their lives, but not their freedom, and the Harriers getting the goddamn cup, didn't get it though. Space Daemon Werewolf Psyker Hitler being kicked over a dam by a solid boot to the arse, and an Avatar of Khaine being dynamic entry'd from a Starship right onto a greater daemon.

Cain Books and Collected Short Stories[edit]

PROMOTIONS-small.pngThis article contains PROMOTIONS! Don't say we didn't warn you.
Cain, summed up in all his glory. (The actual SCENE is from The Traitor's Hand.)
  • Hero of the Imperium (Contains For the Emperor, Caves of Ice, and The Traitor's Hand, as well as three short stories)
    • For the Emperor!
    • Caves of Ice
    • The Traitor's Hand
    • The Beguiling
    • Fight or Flight
    • Echoes of the Tomb
  • Defender of the Imperium (Contains Death or Glory, Duty Calls, and Cain's Last Stand, as well as two short stories)
    • Death or Glory
    • Duty Calls
    • Cain's Last Stand
    • Traitor's Gambit
    • Sector Thirteen
  • Saviour of the Imperium (Contains The Emperors Finest, The Last Ditch, The Greater Good, the novella Old Soldiers Never Die, as well as three short stories)
    • The Emperor's Finest
    • The Last Ditch
    • The Greater Good
    • Old Soldiers Never Die
    • The Smallest Detail is a standalone short (9 pages) story starring Jurgen, rather than Cain himself.
    • The Little Things
    • A Mug of Recaff
  • Choose Your Enemies The newest book that was just released. Has a cover on which Cain looks very smug

Units Served With[edit]

  • 12th Valhallan Field Artillery - Cain's first assignment after graduation. He was perfectly content to serve out his term in such a civilized post, flinging shells at an enemy too far away to pose much of a threat.
  • Cain's Heroes - A resistance force composed of Perlian civilians and PDF formed by Cain behind enemy lines during an Ork invasion. By the time they reached Imperial lines they'd grown to nearly regimental strength, gutted the Orks rear, and killed their warboss when he came to figure out what the zog was going on behind his lines. It was this event that caused Cain to "lose" his treasured post with the 12th and serve as a general staff commissar.
  • Reclaimers Chapter - For a brief period Cain served as an commissar liaison with the Astartes as they intercepted a space hulk.
  • 597th Valhallan Ice Warriors - A mechanized infantry regiment formed from the remnants of the Valhallan 301st (Assault) and 296th (Garrison). The bulk of Cain's career was with this unit, which was held together largely by collective awe at his reputation.
  • Schola Progenium of Perlia - After formal retirement, Cain became a commissar instructor on Perlia, where he was regarded as a local hero for his exploits a century earlier. The Perlians constructed a clock tower that would ring out the hour by having a clockwork Cain behead a number of clockwork Orks, which he thought was awful.
  • Ordo Xenos - Cain's penchant for finding trouble and surviving it came to the attention of the Inquisition early in his career, which led to him being inducted as an informal member of Inquisitor Vail's retinue during his first campaign with the 597th. Vail used him as something of a high profile decoy, and to keep Jurgen safely hidden in the guard as an ace in the hole.


Considering his womanizer record we can easily conclude he looked this good (the high rank helps too. And while he never had a shield, he would've really appreciated one. It's a good artwork nonetheless.)
  • He is essentially the "Edmund Blackadder" of the Warhammer 40k universe. More specifically, he is the Captain Edmund Blackadder of Blackadder Goes Forth for Warhammer 40k universe. Like Captain Blackadder, he is always trying to avoid combat, escape death, and retire from the Imperial Guard. Jurgen can be considered as Cain's "Baldrick" - dirty, disregarded, not all that bright but a good dogsbody to Cain. (Though a slightly more intelligent and significantly more badass Baldrick; think a cross between Baldrick from series 1 and the later Baldricks, but with a Meltagun. Also, Cain respects Jurgen.)
  • Alternately, he is the Sir Harry Paget Flashman (VC KCB KCIE) of the 'Flashman' series of novels for the Warhammer 40k universe. Flashman was a key inspiration for Edmund Blackadder (although not of the first series; that was different). Seriously, look those books up. They're fantastic. Racist and sexist as hell, (it’s satire, but pretty prolific for more sensitive readers) but fantastic.
  • Jurgen can be thought of as Fraser's other classic character Private McAuslan, J., 2nd Gordon Highlanders, Dirtiest Soldier in the World, the Tartan Caliban and the Highland Division's Answer to Peking Man. Think Pigpen in a kilt. Jurgen, however, appears to be smarter and has a Bristolian rather than a Glaswegian accent, which makes him sound inbred as hell - which might explain his psychic blank-ness.
  • According to the narrator of his books (no, really) he uses the Lord Commissar rules on the tabletop, but this has become impossible in 8th edition since Lord Commissars (and normal Commissars) cannot wield chainswords or laspistols. Also, Cain wasn't a fan of the Lord Commissar honorific even though he himself was entitled to use it.
  • Cain was so awesome that for decades he was the only entity in the galaxy to slip past Games Workshop's chrono barrier on moving the setting into the 42nd Millennium. Then Gathering Storm happened, but then it cheated by saying no one knew what the real year was anyway.
  • He is permanently marked as being on active duty because of the number of times he was believed to be dead only to come back from Emperor knows where. Notably this was not rescinded even when confirmed dead and buried in front of thousands as a war hero, he is just that awesome. To be fair to the Imperials, this hasn't stopped people in the past.
  • A pretty good fanfic called Tales from the Black Millennium has Edmund Blackadder in command of an Imperial Guard regiment. Its sadly unfinished sequel More Tales from the Black Millennium drags Ciaphas Cain into the mix.
  • There is a small section of the Tallarn Desert Raiders that think he is a Prophet of the Emperor. Which is at the same time hilarious considering Cain's personality and perfectly understandable after a couple of them seeing Cain challenge a World Eater and prevail over a Daemon Princess! The entire thing is the result of Emps himself trolling one of Cain's old classmates, Beije, who hates Cain but is stuck in the same unit as the Cain-worshipping Tallarn.


Commissar Ciaphas Cain, Hero of the Imperium![edit]

Pts WS BS S T W I A Ld Sv Unit Type Composition
Ciaphas Cain 175 6 5 3 3 3 3 3 10 4+ Infantry (IC) 1 Lord Commissar
  • Unit Type: Infantry (unique) ((uses the Lord Commissar special rules along with those listed here.))
  • Wargear: Carapace armour, Laspistol, Cain's Chainsword, Refractor Field.
Cain's Chainsword +2 3
  • Special Rules:
    • Aura of Discipline, Eternal Warrior, Independent Character, Night Vision, infiltrate
    • Hero of the Imperium!: Ciaphas Cain's heroic reputation (regardless of whether it is fraudulent or not) inspires those around him to follow his example. When accompanying a unit, Ciaphas Cain, and the unit he accompanies, are Stubborn. Additionally, all units within 12" of Cain (including one he accompanies) automatically pass tests to Regroup, and may move, shoot (or Run), and declare charges normally in the turn in which they Regroup.
    • Leader of Men: Even though he is a Commissar, Ciaphas Cain can never use Summary Execution, as this would mean one less body standing between him and danger. He may still execute a Psyker that failed Perils of the Warp test, as per the It's For Your Own Good rule.
    • Pintle Gunner: While Ciaphas Cain is embarked on a transport vehicle, that vehicle may fire one pintle weapon using Ciaphas Cain's Ballistic Skill, even if the weapon would otherwise fire at Ballistic Skill 1 (firing snap shots, for instance). The other weapons it is normally allowed to fire do so at their normal Ballistic Skill.
    • Survival Instincts: Commissar Cain's focus on personal safety, and experience in surviving dangerous situations allows him, and any unit he joins, to avoid danger. Cain and any unit he is attached to add 1 to their cover saves. This operates as, and stacks with, the stealth special rule. When he is embarked on a transport, the transport gets the same benefit. The transport may not gain 6+ cover save if it does not have one.
    • Defensive Fencing Technique: Ciaphas Cain developed his own unique fencing style, which revolves around defensive stances, evasion, counter-attack, and running away. Ciaphas Cain adds 4 to his WS when determining how difficult he is to hit in melee. Furthermore, anyone attempting a Glorious Intervention to get him out of a challenge automatically succeeds.
    • Run Like Frak! - Ciaphas Cain, and any unit he is attached to, has the Hit and Run special rule, except that they only roll 2d6 inches for the fleeing distance (he can only run so fast!) and always use Cain's Initiative +2 for the test (he's *always* ready to leg it).
  • Options: Commissar Ciaphas Cain may be accompanied by Gunner Jurgen (130 pts.)
  • Transport: Commissar Ciaphas Cain may take a Chimera or a Salamander as dedicated transport.

Gunner Jurgen[edit]

Pts WS BS S T W I A Ld Sv Unit Type Composition
Gunner Jurgen 130 3 4 3 3 2 3 1 9 4+ Infantry (IC) 1
  • Unit Type: Infantry (unique)
  • Wargear: Carapace armour, Lasgun, Meltagun, Frag and Krak grenades.
  • Special Rules:
    • Look Out - Aargh!, Preferred Enemy (Orks)
    • Commissar's Aide: Gunner Jurgen counts as an Independent Character, but must always accompany Ciaphas Cain, joining and leaving units together with him. If Cain is removed as a casualty, Jurgen drags him off the field, and is also removed.
    • Inconspicuous: Gunner Jurgen may not issue challenges, or be the target of a challenge. He may only enter a challenge via the Stand Back, Commissar rule below.
    • Robust Driving Style: While Jurgen is embarked in a transport vehicle, that vehicle is not required to take difficult terrain tests, and treats dangerous terrain as difficult. Additionally, the vehicle may move an additional 3" during its movement phase, and is a Tank if it was not one already.
    • Robust Body Odor and Psoriasis: When a unit successfully Falls Back from melee with Jurgen or a unit he is attached to, it adds 1" to the distance it flees.
    • Psychic Blank: Psykers and Daemons, friend or foe, within 12" of Gunner Jurgen have -3 Leadership, do not generate any Warp Charge (i.e. they do not add dice to their owning player’s Warp Charge Pool in the Psychic phase) and only harness Warp Charge points on a 6.
    • Stand Back, Commissar (aka Jurgen Ex Melta): Gunner Jurgen may not enter a challenge other than through Glorious Intervention to replace Commissar Ciaphas Cain, and he automatically passes the Initiative test to do so. Instead of making a close combat attack, at Jurgen's Initiative turn, he may make a ranged attack with his meltagun. Note that since the enemy will be within 2" of Jurgen, Melta rule for target within 1/2 weapon range applies.
    • Scrounger: Jurgen's voluminous collection of odds and ends can come in handy for offering that one unexpected edge. Once per game, Ciaphas or Jurgen may reroll any one die they are called upon to roll.

See Also[edit]

If I Had Known... - A tentative story about Warhammer 40k's three most famous Commissars (Incomplete: Still at Prologue)

External Links[edit]

Famous members of the Imperial Guard
Commissars: Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt Commissar Ciaphas Cain
Commissar Holt - Commissar Severina Raine - Commissar Yarrick
Senior Officers: Colonel Greiss - Colonel "Iron Hand" Straken - Knight Commander Pask
Lieutenant-Colonel Mikail Leonid - Lord Castellan Ursarkar E. Creed
Lord Solar Macharius
Junior Officers: Captain Al'Rahem - Commander Kubrik Chenkov
Enlisted Guardsmen: Arden - Colour Sergeant Jarran Kell - Gunner Ferik Jurgen
Mogul Kamir - Nork Deddog - Ollanius Pius - Sergeant Harker
Sergeant Lukas Bastonne - Sly Marbo
From Dawn of War I: Commissar Anton Gebbet - Colonel Carus Brom - General Sturnn
Vance Motherfucking Stubbs - Governor-Militant Lukas Alexander
From Dawn of War II: Commissar Lord Bernn - Lord General Castor - Sergeant Merrick