|Battle Cry||The Flesh Is Weak!|
|Successor Chapters||Brazen Claws, Iron Lords, Red Talons, Sons of Medusa, Steel Confessors|
|Chapter Master||Kardan Stronos/The Great Clan Council|
|Primarch||Ferrus Manus the Gorgon|
|Specialty||Bionics, mechanized warfare, and being assholes|
|Colours||Black and White|
"With steel we are stronger, but without a soul we are nothing."
- – Kardan Stronos
The Iron Hands were the X Legion of the Space Marines during the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy. Their Primarch was Ferrus Manus. It's subtler than GW's usual, but they have a strong resemblance to the Scottish, what with their Clans, gruff demeanor, undeniable backbone, expertise in technology, and tendency to lose despite their badassery. Their names come from a different country of clannish highland badasses, namely Afghanistan. Also, the Iron Hands are masters of mechanised warfare, boasting a great deal of tanks, aircraft and Dreadnoughts. They're basically the best armourmasters amongst the Space Marines, and are adept at both out-manuvering and out-playing their foes when it comes to land warfare. If you want really good vehicles as LSM, Iron Hands are really the way to go.
Past and Present
The Iron Hands are, like most of their fellow chapters who originated from the first founding, completely bat shit crazy. The chapter worships their ancient Father who got a bad case of worms and ended up with silver metal-coated hands (sounds a bit like the 18th century method of using mercury to cure Syphilis) and subsequently now believe that flesh is weak and as a result the marines try to copy their Primarch and replace their body parts with machinery and cybernetic implants (right down to emotion inhibitors post-Heresy), which Ferrus himself was actually against, believing that they should trust in the strength of their flesh rather than attempting to improve upon the Emperor's work. This is all part of an undoubtedly Freudian complex brought about by the loss of their primarch during the Drop Site Massacre on Isstvan V. Of course, the chapter decided to blame everyone, especially the legion whose primarch shortened Ferrus Manus by a head at neck level. Incidentally, this also includes Ferrus himself, as they came to the conclusion that it was their Primarch's own failure to control his emotions that led to the series of tactical blunders which culminated in his death.
In spite of all this weirdness and being part of the First Founding, the Iron Hands remain one of the most forgettable Chapters among Games Workshop and the fandom at large. Seriously, even /tg/ forgets about them half the time. The only chapter who has it worse are the Raven Guard, barring Kayvaan Shrike. To add self mutilation and cybernetic enhancement (insult) to injury, those who do remember them often get confused with the Iron Warriors, and these people are worse than heretics because at least a Heretic knows the difference between "corn" and "Khorne", but the term Iron seems to confuse many. Leading to much fuck'tardery comments like "Iron Within, Iron Without", these people are total bell-ends and deserve to be scorned (Or would that be, sKhorned?). With the publication of the Horus Heresy books the powers that be have finally begun to remember that the Iron Hands were one of the original Space Marine Legions, but aside from their Primarch in resin courtesy of Forge World they're still years away from getting a named character. But Iron Hands don't care they are too busy kicking arse, taking names and getting shit done. That said, they really are the Emperor's Tin Men in every sense of the word. In 7th they got their own codex supplement (providing the world at large with a certain slightly competitive character) which made them astartes army of the week, but in 8th they got back to their usual niche, causing the tournament players to shelve them again. With Deathwatch having no unit entry for Killteam Cassius any more, the Iron Hands are back down to exactly zero named characters or models.
Alternative View: The Iron Hands are the best examples of humans during grief. They feel horrible shame as a result of their Primarch's death, and so act like, and actually are, machines in order to not repeat an error they saw in themselves. They feel so horribly, bitterly afraid to fail again, that they take every precaution against failure. It is in this grief that ironically, they show feeling. It is a shame /tg/ forgets about them, because a philosophical analysis of these warriors actually reveals quite a bit about human nature during tragedy.
The Moirae Scism
After the Emperor's death, there was a bit of debate as to whether He was the Omnissiah or not and, if he was, in what capacity. Rather than debate it amoung themselves, the Iron Hands chose to glare angrily at one another until the Admech were done fighting and debating it out. The group of Hands in the minority became the Sons of Medusa and formed their own chapter. Despite the extreme levels of heresy, everyone kept a level head and remained civil. Which is a bit unnatural for 40k, honestly, and just shows how few fucks these guys have to give.
The Gaudinian Heresy and its results (aka: Character Assassination)
This needs some serious editing. This event appeared in the Clan Raukaan supplement and it was meant as a form of character development for the whole chapter. To understand it further one should look at one of the people that was part of it.
Iron Father Kristos of the Iron Hands was an individual that would be described as questionable in many ways. An individual that was adherent to the extreme to the Tempering (the way of thinking that the chapter followed after the death of Ferrus Manus and the Horus Heresy), Kristos was known as a legendary leader of the Iron Hands, and was in charge of Clan Raukaan after the company suffered greatly after the Skarvus Ambush and lead it to victory. Under his command the clan managed to even retreat against the Eldar on the Garden World of Dawnbreak, going directly for the main force around an excavation site the Eldar occupied and taking it, while ignoring the Catachans and civilians the Eldar were butchering (not to mention telling the General to fight on and prove his worth while he was running away like a bitch).
- Further details: The Tempering doctrine was retconned as a product of the Mechanicus to manipulate the Iron Hand's grief after Ferrus Manus' death. Had Shadrak Meduson, leader of the Shattered Legions, not died by the betrayal of a few Iron Fathers, the chapter could had become the complete opposite from today.
The questionable part with him was about the controversy around the battle for the Forge World of Columnus against the Weirdwaaagh! where the Iron Council accused him of deliberately sacrificing a company's worth of Raven Guard marines to achieve victory, which in all fairness, he did do. It was all done in such a way that many in the council accused him of not doing it out of standard cold logic and pragmatism, but personal feelings and a hidden agenda, which was also true as not only did he refuse to assist them in any way (or accept their assistance) he also blocked their communications which left them stranded and dying while he watched. The Kristosian Conclave however couldn't find anything on the Iron Father and found him and his supporters (the Kristosians) unapologetic despite protests from Captain Verox, Iron Father Marrus and the then young Kardan Stronos. That would result in the chapter being divided over their philosophy as the whole investigation ended into a revision of the Tempering. That would prove a load of horrible problems later on, only to reach its conclusion during the Gaudinian Heresy.
The Sapphire King, a Slaaneshi daemon formed out of Ferrus' rage and frustration at the time of his death and which fed on the repressed emotions of the soul-scarred Iron Hands, saw them ripe for corruption and set a trap on the planet of Gaudinia Prime in the Gaudinia system, because that always works so well. The Iron Hands sniffed out the daemon at the beginning of the 41st Millennium (presumably the Ordo Malleus was on vacation) and Iron Father Kristos (still stinking after the Kristosian Conclave) led 8/10th of the Chapter to fight on the planet while exterminating mutants and heretics on the other planets. The Emperor's Children were supposedly only on Gaudinia Prime, and to the Iron Hands' surprise, there was absolutely nobody on the planet (and even the Chaos Marines were not around). However, scans showed that large amount of bio-signatures were concentrated in the planet's southern hemisphere in the factoria complexes. Kristos took with himself both Clans Raukaan and Sorgoll and waltzed into the area despite the Iron Fathers Stronos and Verrox protesting the action, yet the writers needed him gone so he ignored them.
Down there he found one billion of Imperial citizens fused into some scary techno-organic construct with the machineries, the marines moved on while Kristos was bewitched by the whole thing. At that moment Kristos rammed one of his mechadendrites into the fleshy thing (because why not) and transformed into a cybernetic version into that whose name shouldn't be called out-loud along with the rest of the Kristosians, and those who didn't were torn apart (among them Kristos's closest ally, Captain Graevaar). Tears into reality were opening and Slaaneshi daemons were appearing en-masses and the Sapphire King himself appeared through a rift along with his Emperor's Children retinue. What later happened was a battle mixed with madness as Iron Hands had to fight against their corrupt brethren, the daemons, and chaos marines.
While the battle raged like insane, more and more Iron Hands were succumbing to the warping effects that turned the Kristosians into what they became, while others didn't succumb. Through the power of lazy writing Stronos quickly realized what was happening. He activated his vox and barked orders to the marines to deactivate their emotion inhibitors. In that moment the Iron Hands exploded with emotions that they repressed for ten thousand years. It was so powerful even Khorne felt it at the back of his skull, and was a really stupid move as daemons are supposed to be powered by raw emotion, and this should have made them a lot harder to kill. Filled with sheer rage and true determination, the Iron Hands RIPPED AND TORE their way through their corrupted brethren, the daemons and Emperor's Children towards the Sapphire King. Stronos slew the thing that was once Kristos while the Librarian Epistolary Lydriik beheaded the Sapphire King himself with the Mindforge Stave so hard that, combined with being deprived of the repressed emotions that were now free, the daemon was permanently killed for good. After wiping out the chaos forces, the remaining Iron Hands, disgusted and horrified with what they experienced, skedaddled back to their fleet and blew the factoria to kingdom come in order to wipe out any survivors left.
After the whole thing it was discovered that 1/3rd of the council was either dead or corrupted. If the Inquisition knew what happened to them, then the consequences would've been fatal for the sons of Manus. The Kristosians took the whole thing with the Tempering literally (as in completely cutting off their emotions and replacing them with cold logic), and this obsession with purging themselves of their emotions, a core tenet of theirs, was what would be the chapter's undoing, according to the author. Ironically every failing that had to do with this whole incident was directly related to getting too emotional and not from lacking emotions. In an emergency session the council babbled and argued about how the chapter should function. At this point Stronos unplugged himself while rising from his throne and, in his natural voice, spoke that the chapter was given a gift: "With steel we are stronger, but without a soul we are nothing." Words that would be eternally immortalized all over the chapter's Ironglass plaques on Medusa and beyond. It was also the first time in ten millennia that the sound of applause would be heard on Medusa. And that's something...
On that day Kardan Stronos became Chapter Master Smashfucker (and would be re-elected at every single opportunity by the council) despite the disquiet of the few remaining Kristosians (aka older Iron Hands players) that somehow survived the situation and the Voice of Mars (the seat the AdMech were retconned into having on the council so that they could manipulate the chapter), yet even with what he said it wouldn't reverse ten millenia of indoctrination. It would be a long and difficult period for the sons of the Gorgon, but it was indeed a new beginning for the chapter.
The Gaudinian Heresy wasn't an immediate character shift for the chapter, and was arguably forgotten about. The Iron Hands are still angry cyborgs operating on cold calculation. Yet the council saw the Imperium plunging into darkness and their former allies falling to madness and corruption. Thus the Grand Calculation set forth to determine where they would serve best, and their successor chapters would also be included into the equation.
There is still some hope for the Iron Hands even if Stronos bites it. An Iron Hands pilot found better performance from his craft's machine spirit once he eased off with brute logic and started feeling it a bit more.
13th Black Crusade and the Great Rift/8th Edition
The Iron Hands are no longer sacrificing their allies for total pragmatism or out of past grievances but trying to change their habits. Under Stronos, they have saved the Imperial Guard on a number of occasions.
Medusa was invaded twice, first by a large tank division of Traitor Guardsmen and later by a coalition of Nurgle-worshipping Chaos Astartes. As they were facing a chapter which excels in mechanized warfare and are living in what we can shortly describe as mobile fortress-cities bristling with guns and angry superhuman cyborgs: all of them failed.
The chapter itself is ruled by the Great Clan Council, composed up of 10 seats, each representing one of the ten clans (the Iron Hand equivalent of a company). The clans themselves are all highly autonomous and are nomadic, travelling across Medusa in mobile fortresses. Each clan nominates a warrior to represent them at the Great Clan Council and together, the ten warriors get into all sorts of debates and political shenanigans. The logic behind this is that with no central leadership role, the chapter cannot be lead astray like so many others have. This immediately makes the Iron Hands smarter then the rest of the fucking Warhammer 40,000 universe because they're smart enough to realise that having everyone led by a de facto dictator was a pretty retarded idea. Then again, they also believe that replacing their dicks with drills is the best fucking idea in the world, so I suppose your mileage may vary. (And the fact that /tg/ considers this sort of setup as fucking ridiculous based on where the suggestion comes from, so again, your mileage may vary.)
That said, they do have a kinda chapter master. When something major happens that affects the whole chapter, the council elects one of their members best suited for their current state. For example, if they're fighting orks the one who has the most experience fighting them will lead the chapter, and once done he will sit down. Making him more of a Chapter President really with checks and balances, the chapter master checks the council from getting caught up in red tape and the council makes sure he doesn't lead the chapter astray.
Organisation and doctrine wise, the chapter follows the basic idea of the Codex Astartes, while changing all the bits they don't like or cannot follow due to the heavy losses/destruction of equipment at Isstvan V (yup 10,000 years later and the Departmento Mmunitorum has not yet resupplied them, fucking REMF's). Each company is called a "Clan" and there isn't a specific company for Scouts; instead each Clan recruits their own Neophytes. Once the recruit is indoctrinated, his left hand is replaced with a cybernetic replacement. As an Iron Hand serves his Chapter he gets more and more augmented: appendages, limbs, organs; the whole shebang until the Marine is little more than a brain in a shell. There are also rumours that dead warriors are instead replaced with automatons rather then new Neophytes. Because of their extensive augmentation the Iron Hands are amongst the strongest Space Marines: strong enough to dual-wield weapons that regular Space Marines would need both hands for like the Multi-Melta. Due to the destruction of equipment at the Drop Site Massacre, the chapter lacks in Terminator armour. However veterans are often given suits of Terminator armour and placed in charge of leading squads, called "Klaven", of Tactical Marines, who see the suits giant pauldrons as inspirational. Additionally, Dreadnought chassis are highly revered and sought after pieces of equipment, and being entombed within a Dreadnought is the considered the best fate possible for an Iron Hands Marine. Finally, due to their shared love of machines the Iron Hands and Adeptus Mechanicus are pretty much bros 4 lyfe, with much Bromance and fist bumping. 10011001010111001001110011001000000011010001101100011110010110011001100101001000000011110000110011- Mhu Rho 6
In combat they are utterly unforgiving and relentless, hate Daemons and the warp with a rare and intense hatred and utterly despise heresy and cowardice. During one particular campaign involving the rebellion of an entire sub-sector, the Iron Hands got in and fucked shit up so bad that they executed a third of the sub-sector's entire population. That is not killed. Executed. As in the ones they did not kill in battle, and those who surrendered and begged for mercy. Despite this they are seen as a wholesome and pious chapter, unlike some others that murder everything within sight regardless of whose side they're on or level refugee camps because there are hostiles within the perimeter. Either way, don't piss them off lest you fuel their murderboner; and whilst on the subject of boners, it is believed they hate Slaanesh with the intense hatred of a billion Æonic Orbs because she's the Prince of Excess and the Iron Hands believe THE FLESH IS WEAK (the previously-mentioned one-third-of-a-subsector-getting-blammed was because of Slaaneshi orgies and daemons). This could mean they are more apt at fighting the minions of She Who Thirsts, but there is, as all things Iron Hands related, not much to elaborate on this except they are getting shit done. (It could also be due to their particularly strong hatred of the Emperor's Children, for a long list of reasons that include a certain Primarch decapitating a certain other Primarch.)
In the Book "The Eye of Medusa" by David Guymer there is a description for "Helfathers", the Honorguard of the Ironfathers and the best of the best. They're clad in black, bulky and heavily augmented suites of Terminator Armour. They have neither Clan nor Klaven-Ensignia on their armour and even their bionics are darkened and ancient. There is the superstition that the attention of an Helfather is bad luck, even among Iron Hands. Kardan Stronos, at the time squadleader told his accompanying tech adept:"The Helfathers aren't even human in the the way I am human. I don't know how many of them exist. I never heard any of them speak. As far as I know, they don't even have names. And believe me, Melitan Yolanis, I don't wish to know any more". It's also said that they rarely, if ever, leave Medusa, so we won't see any rules for them anytime soon.
Unless we already did... in two Heresy short stories by John French, an Iron Hands warband starts using the "Keys of Hel". This was Meduson tech that Ferrus himself had forbidden and sealed away, including the means of "true mechanical resurrection". The narrator in the second refers to his multiple deaths. So this suggests that the Helfathers may be renowned warriors who who haven't just been wounded unto death, but outright killed and brought back.
Good news is they got a much needed bone in 6th edition. Robin Cruddace realized how stupid it was for a chapter with close ties to the Ad-mech to not have a lot of gear; they're now loaded with tanks, aircraft, and dreadnoughts. Their variation of Chapter Tactics gives all marines 6+ FNP (which is a great bonus that will save a few marines here and there, but is not something to be built around), all of their characters and vehicles get It Will Not Die, and Techmarines/Masters of the Forge get +1 to Blessings of the Omnissiah. The strength in this particular set of Chapter Tactics is that basically every single model benefits from it, allowing you to play a wider selection of builds while still playing to its strengths.
...and then they get their own supplement. Interesting, it would seem GW is dealing with not knowing what to do with them by portraying the Chapter as full of contradictions, such as despite the clans being autonomous they do act like Codex companies. Apparently the Codex Astartes was simply "more logical" than the admittedly terrible idea of telling Guilliman and Dorn to go fuck themselves.
Also, the codex kinda skimped on the fluff. The Contquol campaign is pared down to mostly just the final battle on the Shardenus hub, and Supplement: Raukaan skips it entirely, instead introducing the Gaudinian Heresy (see above). It's also deeply suspicious that for a Chapter which must absolutely revere their Apothecaries, potentially folding them into their Techmarines like Space Wolves and Blood Angels do with their Chaplains, since they'd be the ones in charge of installing new cybernetics, their fluff consistently yammers on about their Techmarines and just doesn't discuss their Apothecaries at any great length.
Crunch-wise in 8th edition, it doesn't seem so crap. They've kept their 6+ FNP from 7th edition although as of the rulings on Disgusting Resilience they have to roll it for each point of damage, not wound now. That said, ignoring 16.6% of all incoming damage is helpful. Like all chapter tactics however the rule doesn't effect vehicles and the Iron Hands no longer gain a benefit to fixing tanks either.
While each Clan Company has its own rituals and traditions, the following should be considered an outline of the Iron Hands daily routines:
- 04:00 - Morning Prayer: The Iron Hands of the Clan Company are awoken from their power stations and reconfigure their Power Options for best performance, ready for the Iron Father to lead them in sermon which is completely told in Binary.
- 05:00 - Morning Firing Rites: The Iron Hands engage in fire practice. The targets will typically include cutout or actual slaaneshi cultists.
- 07:00 - Battle Practice: The Iron Hands gather for practice in the cages. Often the Iron Hands end up repairing the damage they inflicted on the practice servitor themselves. On more than a few occasions Chapter serfs have been unable to tell the difference between a battle-brother and a servitor.
- 11:00 - Morning Maintenance Rituals: The Iron Hands polish and repair their wargear and augmetics.
- 13:00 - Midday Meal: A light meal is prepared by the Chapter serfs and occasionally accidentally given to a Servitor. During the meal, the Iron Hands repeatedly watch animations of their primarch dying in battle, fueling their rage.
- 13:30 - Tactical Indoctrination: The Clan-Commander gathers the Iron Hands for a tactical sermon on potential enemies, pointing out the vulnerable weak flesh to fire bolters at. They also will take turns using an ancient combat simulator named "War Thunder" to keep their mechanized warfare skills sharp.
- 14:30 - Land-Behemoth Maintenance: The Clan Company assists in repairs to the Land-Behemoth which serves as the Clan's mobile fortress-monastery. Mostly because by this point the vessel has taken on too much ash and soot from Medusa's volcanoes to continue moving. Raising questions about whether this means machines are weaker than flesh earns a battle-brother one hundred days of penitential duties.
- 16:00 - Evening Battle Practice: Having gotten the Land Engine working again, the Clan Company assembles for evening battle practice. Again, they will often repair any damage they inflict on the practice servitor.
- 17:00 - Evening Firing Rites: The Iron Hands will use any ranged weapon possible to destroy their targets, from predator cannons to storm Bolters. Interestingly, their targets will typically be painted pink and Urine yellow.
- 18:00 - Evening Prayer: The Iron Hands gather for the Iron Father to preach to them. Areas frequently covered include the sinfulness of still having your own kidneys, why washing machines are superior to many humans and mortification of pathetic, weak flesh by poking yourself repeatedly in the eye.
- 20:00 - Evening Meal: A feast is prepared by the Chapter serfs. Overcooking or undercooking the food will result in the serf being banished to the Enginerarium decks (trust us, for people born on a half-frozen planet, nothing is worse than the heat of the Enginerarium decks of a Land-Behemoth). Cooking the food just right will see the serf rewarded with being made a cooking servitor.
- 21:00 - Evening Maintenance Rituals: The Iron Hands spend the rest of their day overseeing maintenance of their wargear and augmetics with adjustable Spanners, Watchmakers and ratchet Screwdrivers. Many magnetic heads are lost on the Marines Armour in very hard to reach places, Rare Earth Magnets are banned.
- 00:00 - Rest Period: The Iron Hands retire to their power stations for the evening where they configure themselves to low power mode