|Battle Cry||"Iron Within, Iron Without!"|
|Champion||Possibly Honsou or Shon'tu (Don't forget --Falk-- THE WARSMITH)|
|Strength||Legion Strength (Divided by Grand Companies: Typically 500 to 4000 per Grand Company)|
|Specialty||Artillery, Attrition,breaking enemy defense|
|Colours||Black, gold, silver, hazard stripes|
"Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured."
- – Mark Twain, having never seen the Daemonculaba
"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are stronger in the broken places."
- – Ernest Hemingway
"I DEMAND TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY."
- – An Iron Warrior putting their Legion's impetus for turning traitor into simple words, courtesy of Albufasa
The Iron Warriors originated as the fourth of the Emperor's legions of Space Marines, and are today the siege specialists of the Chaos Space Marines.
To your average Imperial citizen or Chaos cultist, the Iron Warriors are the most inhuman of the Chaos Marines. They aren't crazy berserkers or rotting hulks, but they're just as terrifying because of their cold pragmatism. Yet this pragmatism hides the true terror of the Iron Warriors: the total abandonment of hope, virtue, and belief in good. They're masters of siege warfare. Instead of sheer ferocity or divine intervention, they rely on firepower. Instead of using prisoners for orgies, they use them for mine clearance and trench digging. They can build fortifications as elaborate and defensible as the Imperial Fists, if not more, and are the best Legion at storming them. Now that they no longer serve the Emperor, they are inscrutable monsters in grey plate who arrive on your world, kill your protectors, and force you to work against the Imperium you believe in. Then they discard you once you're no longer useful, and the last thing you'll see is their ugly, jagged fortifications claiming your home. And the only reason they had you live through it was because they wanted to let you know how much they hate you and your ideals in a higher purpose. It's not enough for the Iron Warriors to reject the Imperium and destroy it; they have to drag it through the same mud they had once been made to fight and die in.
They had a vision, once. Before the Heresy, it was a vision of a beautiful and peaceful Imperium, but that dream was shattered by Olympia's destruction. Now they want to build a twisted and oppressive empire of their own. The Iron Warriors still count on their old wargear, and generally are distrustful of the Chaos gods. They have a bitterness, a rage that they suppress with cold logic. The specifics of their goals vary among their number, but they're all hell bent on destroying the Imperium.
They also have a fetish for hazard stripes, which they make liberal use of in their colour scheme. It is as though they wish to say "do not use the side of my bolter as a step" or "touching my pauldron may result in crushed fingers." Then again, considering who these guys are, these would actually be good warnings to heed.
GW can't quite seem to figure out what they're supposed to be, so we've taken the liberty of choosing the more in-depth choice for them.
If you like the idea of siege warfare, heavy artillery, bionics, living cannons, and building your own empire, you'll probably like the Iron Warriors.
"No son, you let 'em finish, then you smash it."
- – Kearney Zzyzwicz, The Simpsons
A Chaos Legion specializing in breaking sieges (as in, taking a fortified location, though logically this should mean that they can do this and break out of a siege) which is shown in their love of artillery and greater focus on ranged combat, which stands in contrast to the other Chaos Space Marine legions who are far more disposed to melee combat (that doesn't mean that Iron Warriors won't punch a few skulls out, though!). Their troops are excellent close-range fighters and close-quarters combatants, and they often make use of special weaponry.
Iron Warriors are also fond of using hordes of human conscripts as cannon fodder, no doubt recruited from conquered worlds and slave populations on Medrengard. The conscripts are described as wearing red uniforms and bits of black armor, and armed with assorted bolt action rifles, lasguns, and autoguns. The Iron Warriors basically zerg-rush thousands of them at enemy strongholds to play fun games such as "find the minefield", "absorb the gunfire" and "reveal the artillery emplacements". They are one of the few Chaos legions that do take prisoners, but only to send them in the first wave instead of their conscripted slaves, who are considered to be slightly more valuable due to their ability to dig decent trenches and mines. It's Also worth mentioning that they LOVE Instant fortifications and makeshift cover, which allows them to FORTIFY THEIR POSITIONS wherever they launch an attack, along with boxing-in whatever poor enemy position they may lay siege upon.
They also have a lot of Obliterators, which are a bunch of muscle blobs armed to the teeth on top of their heads (being Chaos guys, they have shit like that). Literally. They themselves are a walking arsenal, because they can MAKE WEAPONS OUT OF THEIR BODIES!
Enough to disgust even the Dark Eldar, the Iron Warriors are also the batshit insane sickfucks behind the Daemonculaba, one of the most disturbing things in the galaxy. They're the only Chaos Space Marines who don't break down in maniacal laughter constantly, as they see this as a sign of weakness. They're not terribly fond of Daemons (like the Word Bearers or the Black Legion are), though they will make use of them (unlike the Night Lords, who don't even like Chaos), and they aren't closet loyalists like the Alpha Legion.
Basically, the horror of the Iron Warriors is simply that nothing gets in the way of their pragmatism. No matter how horrific or monstrous. And the Warp has plenty of pragmatically available horrific monstrosities of atrocities available in easy reach.
Back in the old pre-Heresy days, no legion ever got shit on more than them. Things were a tiny bit promising at the start when Emps led them, but when Horus took over they got assigned all the dirty, exhausting trench and ditch fighting, and got no respect for it. There is a passage when, whilst shoveling up earthworks in preparation for the Drop Site Massacre, one of the Sons of Horus literally turns to one of the Emperor's Children and asks, "Hey, why aren't the Iron Warriors doing this?"
Well, technically no one was forcing them to do anything. Legions asked the Iron Warriors to garrison worlds and the Iron Warriors chose to use sieges. You know what every other Legion did? They used the Imperial Army for garrisons and didn't use sieges in the first place instead of using super-heavy firepower, transports, etc. to smash face. The Imperial Fists were so famous for their skill at using this tactic that it's why they're named the Imperial Fists. In other words, ALL of the Iron Warrior's gripes were their own damn choice. Which they then rebelled over.
Even when they were rejoined by their Primarch, it didn't get any better. In fact, it was that at that very moment that things really started to go downhill. When united with his legion for the first time, he looked upon them and saw that they were not all they could be and so he decided that they needed a bout of decimation to motivate them properly. So he had 10% of his entire legion sentenced to death.
This actually worked and changed the character of the legion from "work-horse" legion to "meat grinder" legion; Perturabo's trick taught them that casualties do not matter, only victory does. They became a legion of mathematicians, where battle strategies could be determined using formula based on available weaponry and expected attrition rates. Fortunately for them, Perturabo was expertly skilled with numbers and logistics and organised his legion extremely efficiently, therefore his legion was able to absorb such losses due to maintaining very high numbers, second only to the XIIIth Legion. In fact they could have possibly overtaken any other legion in numbers if they did not continually suffer such high casualty rates.
This casual attitude towards attrition unfortunately created an atmosphere of paranoia amongst the officer cadre, where the only way to guarantee survival was to get promoted into a position of usefulness and never, ever get into a position where something bad could be made to stick to them. Therefore their officers suffered incredible Nerdrage whenever things did not go according to plan and scrambled over each other attempting to gain the attention of their superiors.
Also, their reputation suffered amongst the allied Imperial Army auxilia, who gave the Iron Warriors the nickname Corpse Grinders, as units that were assigned to them tended to get used as cannon fodder for softening up the enemy. This tendency eventually led to the Council of Terra to only assign the Iron Warriors support from penal brigades of poor quality expendable troops, causing the reputation of the Legion to spiral further downwards. Oddly enough, the Iron Warriors were notable for having some of the most disciplined auxilia during the Horus Heresy, due to further freedom in organizing their allied forces.
This new-and-improved attitude still didn't endear them to their brother legions, though, and, eventually it was this complete lack of anything remotely resembling respect from anyone at all that would finally lead to their Primarch flipping his lid.
As the Iron Warriors ground on, feeding soldiers into meat grinders like a gambling addict at the Las Vegas slot machines, Olympia became unruly. Eventually, the nobility revolted. Perturabo snapped so hard that he had his Legion assault the world, enslaved the entire population and founded an "Iron Empire" around it to feed his war machine. Then he had a breakdown about what he'd done, which was all the leverage Horus needed to bring him on side for the Traitors. The Iron Warriors duly went to Isstvan V and took part in the Dropsite Massacre.
After that, the next step was Phall, where a large chunk of the Imperial Fists fleet was becalmed. To the Iron Warriors this was everyone's birthday and Christmas thrown together, but even though they nearly destroyed the entire fleet, Alexis Polux spoiled the party somewhat by ordering an attack on the Iron Blood. Perturabo himself came under attack by Imperial Fists Terminators, which only helped to turn his paranoia up to 12. The Iron Warrriors' most rational commander was also backhanded into a Dreadnought by the Primarch when it emerged that Sigismund wasn't leading the fleet. Soon after, the IV joined the Emperor's Children on a campaign where Fulgrim tried to use Perturabo's life force to ascend to daemonhood. Things were looking like business as usual.
Where the Legion had its biggest successes, they were mostly on the Loyalist side. At Paramar, Kyr Vhalen's Grand Company met an Alpha Legion force invading their favourite Forge World. The Alpha Legion told them to get with the program. Kyr Vhalen told them "do one" and while Paramar was taken, the Iron Warriors inflicted serious losses on the tricksy bastards and some lived to fight another day. The old Warsmith Barabas Dantioch humiliated his successor at the Schadenhold, Auric Saxton killed off Lord Commander Iddinam of the Emperor's Children. Later on in the Heresy, Consul-Praevian Nârik Dreygur and the remnants of his Grand Battalion switched back to Team Imperium during the Battle of Mezoa after getting sick of the Alpha Legion using them as cannon fodder, thus ensuring a loyalist victory.
As the Heretics drew close to the Sol System, the IV Legion came into its own, crushing fortress after fortress on the world to Terra. Finally the Iron Warriors were having a good time, and it only got better on Terra as they pulled down whole square kilometres of Dorn's works. Until, of course, that big brawl happened...
Taking inspiration from their Primarch, they display great facility in setting traps. The most notable of these was the "Iron Cage incident" at the close of the Horus Heresy, where the Iron Warriors built a twenty square kilometer fortress on Sebastus IV with a massive fortified bunker at the center. They leaked information that allowed the Imperial Fists to track them there and Rogal Dorn himself promised to bring back Perturabo in "an iron cage". The Fists assaulted the fortress, taking huge casualties in doing so as the Iron Warriors fell back to split their advance and draw them into kill zones. Eventually the Fists expended all their ammunition and resorted to knife-fighting. When the Fists finally broke through to the central bunker, they discovered it empty save for the numerous inward-pointing guns designed to kill anyone who breached it. The entire purpose of the fortress was just to bait and exhaust the Imperial Fists' forces, turning their own legendary determination into a liability that led to their own deaths and the humiliation of their legion (albeit one that would have required the death of Perturabo to completely wipe them out, if you believe those corpsefuckers' propaganda). Just As Planned. While the Iron Cage incident was the most notable, the Iron Warriors do plenty of other things like that, but on a smaller scale. Nearly unrivaled dickery including firing fixed position guns into civilian habitation blocks to bait the enemy into counter-attacking, then evacuating through underground trenches and detonating pre-rigged explosives when the opposing forces reach the fixed gun emplacements.
The War of the Beast
This little incident that made the Ullanor Crusade look like a skirmish brought out some unusual behavior from the Iron Warriors. First of all, the threat posed by the orks against the galaxy was so great, that the Iron Warriors allied with the Imperial Fists, of all people. If that weren't out of character enough for them, they also found the orks' use of humans as literal cattle disgusting. Maybe the whole Daemonculaba thing was also too disgusting for them since Honsou hadn't been around at the time, maybe even the Iron Warriors have standards when it comes to human experimentation...or maybe the writer just didn't know jack shit about the Iron Warrior's character. It's probably that last one.
Honsou wasn't around at the time and Warsmith Kalkator, the leader of the Grand Company, was a firm anti-Chaos Warsmith - so he would have also been disgusted at the Daemonculaba. It should also be noted Warsmith Kalkator's Grand Company operated away from the other Iron Warriors in the Eye of Terror and kept his own 'mini empire.' Not like he's above doing horrible shit, as he was introduced gunning down his own human forces as they were being overrun by the Orks, which is how the Iron Warriors 'SHOULD' be - stone cold pragmatists.
And it's worth pointing out that the Iron Warriors are still Space Marines, and therefore (super)human. And part of that is generally seeing humanity as a superior species in the galaxy, especially this close to the Heresy, when they still thought and operated closer to their original legion mentality and hadn't fallen totally down the Chaos rabbit hole. Thus, seeing some Xenos, especially Orks of all things, setting themselves above humans chapped their ass mightilly. The Iron Warriors can treat mortal humans like dog shit, but they'll be damned if they'll let some Orks do it. It's the principle of the thing.
Also, he would be the first person to get a Space Marine chapter to turn traitor since the Heresy.
The Unbreakable Litany
The Iron Warriors have the coolest chants in 40k too. They say it to themselves to prepare for the meat grinder.
- From Iron, cometh Strength.
- From Strength, cometh Will.
- From Will, cometh Faith.
- From Faith, cometh Honour.
- From Honour, cometh Iron.
- This is the Unbreakable Litany.
- And may it forever be so.
Iron Warriors Today
They used to be incredibly badass in 3rd edition, with special rules for having more heavy weapon options, including tanks and artillery, and no limits on Obliterators. But then 4th edition came around and instead of just toning the insanity down, Gav Thorpe (who's basically Matt Ward's BFF) decided that spikey marines should be inferior to loyalists in every way possible.
The Iron Warriors have been one of the more popular legions in fluff over the past few years. While some have put this down to them being 'grittier' or more realistic than the others, the truth is probably more functional than fanciful: The Iron Warriors are for the most part not gibbering madmen. This might seem a dumb reason but it's actually important. To write a good character they need to make sense to the reader, even when we don't agree with them we need to understand why they want to do what they do. The other legions kinda lack that. Why did you attack that planet? 'Because it turns me on' doesn't really make for an interesting character, nor does being told to by demons, wanting to kill everything all the time just really digging dead stuff or because Zeke and his drinking buddies told me to. So that leaves the Iron Warriors as being just about the only generally sane legion who do things for reasons normal people can understand.
Graham McNeill wrote a book that was mostly about them. Called 'Storm of Iron', surprisingly, and it featured a boatload of Imperial Fists, Iron Warriors (surprisingly) and a whole load of dickery, including traitorous techpriests, countless rows of geneseed, and a daemon prince. To cap it all off, this is where Honsou gets his start. Last but not least, countless Imperial Guard and Titans. ...Tell me again why the Imperials lost? There was a traitor on the inside, and about fifty thousand tons of badass at the gates. Baaaad combination. (McNeill then wrote a Horus Heresy prequel called 'Angel Exterminatus', featuring Fulgrim being an even bigger dick than usual and an Iron Hands Professor Farnsworth.)
Even Ward seems to think they're cool, as he has Warsmith Shon'tu one-up both Honsou and Abaddon. How? He Invades Terra! He teams up with Be’lakor (yeah, the same guy from Fantasy battles) and uses Phalanx's warp door (yeah remember that from the Soul Drinkers book) to invade it hoping to take it over and bomb the Emperor's palaces. Even the combined plot armor of the Imperial Fists AND the Legion of the Damned is still just barely enough to force a stalemate.
John French, on the other hand, doesn't seem to like them much at all. This is a shame since they tend to be his go-to antagonists.
An Iron Warrior named Valicar, serving a priestess of the Dark Mechanicus, became the first fleetmaster of the Black Legion. If not for his actions, Abaddon would have been trapped on the Eternal Crusader after his duel with Sigismund during the First Battle of Cadia.
The German Death Metal band "Debauchery" also wrote a song and video here , and it is badass.
Iron Warriors Character
Personality-wise, the Iron Warriors are one of the most… unpleasant Traitor Legions. They are bonded by a mutual brotherhood forged by their hatred of the Imperium, their will to conquer, and their bitter paranoia, yet even then rivalries can surface and lead to some serious backstabbing. Makes you understand just what the appeal of the honest brotherhood of the Black Legion is. They value their hatred and opportunities to express it, and treat most they know as tools to express their hatred and accomplish their goals. To an Iron Warrior, everything boils down to a resource to be used and/or an obstacle to be cleared. War is mathematical equation that has to be solved for victory. Humans are slaves, expendable soldiers, breeding stock, and ultimately something to be fed (literally) into the Iron Warriors's war apparatus, making their lives a living, nightmarish hell beforehand. Fellow Iron Warriors are expected to carry out their brutal, violent work without question. They carry a powerful sense of brotherhood and an unflinching loyalty to their Legion, forged by a bitter hatred of their enemies and their cruel urge to dominate and enslave. At best, they view fellow Iron Warriors as coworkers or brothers-in-crime, or at worst, as hated rivals. Warsmiths ally and deal with each other to stave off the next battle so they can go to war on more hated targets, but if they smell weakness among their ranks, or a slight directed at one of them, they might decide your soldiers and your fort would be better off under their leadership, no matter the cost to get it. Grimdark.
When the Iron Warriors go to war, everyone is expendable. Eve-ry-one. Back in the days of the Great Crusade they spent Astartes lives like bolter rounds, and human lives like
lasbolts autogun bullets, and they haven’t exactly gotten better with time. Their pure, unadulterated contempt for life is such that, in the Siege of Castellax, they refer to their mortal servants simply as “flesh,” and place orders for more like they're fast food (battalions 3-5 were wiped out today. I’ll have four more, to go, and hold the pickles). Speaking of food, when rations started to get low, the Iron Warriors started feeding their people the rendered down remains of the dead. (It's not like the Imperium doesn't do the same on the regular basis, though.)
The Iron Warriors are basically the very epitome of the "Bad Boss" trope. If you fuck up on the job, do something your way, or show any degree of insubordination, you're done for, end of story. The Night Lords may send the populations of entire worlds to the skinning pits just for shits and giggles (and record it all for future shits and giggles), and the Emperors Children may be impulsive, sociopathic sado-masochists who live and breathe to inflict pain, but even they would break under the brutal regimen of the Iron Warriors, where there is no room for impulsive behavior. There is only ruthless efficiency; grinding, crushing pragmatism and nothing else.
- 04:00 - Morning Reveille: The Iron Warriors emerge from their artillery batteries and fortifications.
- 04:20 - Morning Maintenance Rituals: The Iron Warriors ensure their instruments of war are in tip top shape. A slave is turned into a servitor for every warhead that fails to detonate.
- 05:00 - Morning Prayers: The Iron Warriors begin to pray to all four Chaos Gods. They are shorter than the Word Bearers and Black Legion as they view Chaos only as a weapon they can use, thus each prayer to each God lasts only 30 minutes.
- 07:00 - Morning Firing Rites: The Iron Warriors test fire their artillery and siege weaponry at captured civilians and fortifications. Any Iron Warriors who manage to miss a stationary target are also used as targets.
- 10:00 - Close Combat Practice: The Iron Warriors descend in a cage for close-quarters combat practice. Servitors are used, as normal people are too squishy and die too quickly.
- 12:00 - Tactical Indoctrination: The Iron Warriors gather to discuss which fortifications to destroy or which monument of Rogal Dorn to defile, along with directing their laborers and human auxiliary forces.
- 13:00 - Afternoon Wargames: The Iron Warriors set up miniature pieces representing their forces on an open table with complex rules and dice to test each others' grasp of strategy. Perturabo sometimes joins in on the 'fun'. An ancient Terran snack known as 'The Doritos' are brought by the truckload and are complemented by an equally ancient Terran beverage known as 'Mountain Dew'. Those who consume 'The Doritos' are not allowed to touch field operation manuals until they ritually cleanse and scrape their fingers. Anyone failing to do so will find their hands in their next meal. Of course, none of this is fun. Rules Lawyers, Munchkins, Powerplayers: every single stick-to-the-book archetype you can think of is exercised here, and they won't have it any other way.
- 14:00 - First Evening Meal: A feast is prepared by the legion serfs. Due to long hours without eating, some Iron Warriors may have already begun to eat bits off their slaves.
- 15:00 - Evening Firing Rites: The Iron Warriors practice their artillery marksmanship on moving targets. Aerial targets are also available for those looking to impress their superiors. Any found using airburst or guided ordinance will find themselves and their arsenal fed to the nearest Obliterator.
- 18:00 - Battle Practice: The Iron Warriors descend into the labyrinthine trench lines. Heavy weapon ambushes and kill zones are the most popular tactics in the narrow trenches.
- 20:00 - Second Evening Meal: Another feast is prepared by legion slaves. Those slaves who have parts of their bodies eaten by hungry Iron Warriors are gifted bionic implants to make them useful again.
- 21:00 - Evening Wargames: A game of Galactic Cyclonic War is set up, where the only winning move is not to play. Any Iron Warriors foolish enough to play will be assigned to minesweeper duty. The remaining Warriors continue their earlier wargames.
- 22:00 - Bitching about the Imperial Fists: A period is held for the Iron Warriors to bitch and moan about the Imperial Fists and why they can't wait to tear down Rogal Dorn's statue on Terra. Sometimes Perturabo joins in the bitching.
- 23:00 - Evening Maintenance Rituals: Many Iron Warriors continue bitching about the Imperial Fists during this time, infusing their equipment with their cold, bitter hate.
- 00:00 - Rest Period: The Iron Warriors retire to their artillery and siege vehicles.