Leagues of Votann
"Right after Mankind’s colonization of the galaxy came its first true golden age. Reared by machine prophets, the survivors of the Oedipal plagues built civilizations that equaled and even surpassed their Solar forbears."
- – CM Koseman, "All Tomorrow's"
"So, we're talking about space dwarfs who need more RAM for their gods?"
- – Anon
The Leagues of Votann (also known as the Unsquatted Squats) is a ""new"" faction in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. They are gatherings of short abhuman clones called the Kin (more commonly known as Squats by the dirty Necromunda gangers), bound together by the Votann, super-cogitators from the Dark Age of Technology. Each League has its own Votann, and are organized in strongholds around it. They used the data stored to survive among the stars and maintain their culture across generations. Of course, since some factions are touchy about AI, the Leagues are very cautious when dealing with its closest ally, hence their secretive lifestyle.
However, because of the setting, everything is not that simple. Since Windows is not regularly updated anymore and issues that have arisen from having remained active for literal millennia, the Votann began to deteriorate. If they want to repair their computer,
they must wage war with other shitcoin miners for more processing power, the Kin have to once more brave a galaxy full of danger.
Even the oldest living Kin don’t remember what their earliest days were like, though some undeniable “First Truths” remain constant in the Votanns’ data tracks. One such truth is that the First Ancestors departed from ancient Terra prior to the Unification Wars to harvest the untold riches of the galaxy with the first holds being settled near the galactic core. What became of these Ancestors is unknown, but curiously when the Ancestors begun to fade away…the Votann are first mentioned.
A second First Truth is that the Kin have always been a cloned people. The Ancestors used genetic systems called “cloneskeins” to manipulate and modify their race’s molecular structure, and continue to define their overall division of labor. Over time the Kin became squatter, denser, and stronger than an average human growing no more than five feet tall max. They’ve even been able to artificially neuter their psychic footprint to avoid the attention of Chaos, in a not too dissimilar to how the Tau souls work. Other examples of this engineering can be seen in the Hearthkyn Warriors, who often are also engineered with particular cloneskeins that allow them to specialise in combat – heightened senses, improved stamina, and the ability to see better in the dark, to name but a few. In contrast, others augment their bodies for battle with mechanical limbs and synthetic organs, with members of the powerful Cthonian Mining Guilds being noted as extensive users of these body modifications. This is not that unexpected as that particular guild (which is noted as being a particularly extreme embodiment of the usual belligerent acquisitiveness of the Kin) is willing to fearlessly locate, secure, and harvest resources for their race from environments so dangerous that even other Kin would baulk at their hazards leading to a need for extensive augmentation on their part. Because of all the above, some fans are now speculating that GW is tying the Men of Stone thread to the modern Squat civilization (either to the Squats themselves or to the Votann) given the Men of Gold and Men of Iron have already been speculated to be Perpetuals and abominable intelligence. With the reveal of the “Iron Kin,” their fully-mechanical and true AI robot social class, who were designed with a prerogative to help their meaty cousins, this theory of the Kin being the Men of Stone could bear all the more weight.
In the modern day of the 41st Millennium, the culture of the Kin seems, according to the drip feed from WarCom, very egalitarian, with no distinction between male, female, machine or otherwise amongst its members. United in the guidance of the Votann, the Leagues of the Kin operate with seeming unity, with every member of their society performing the role they were literally designed for without question, the Kin working in unison for the betterment of the clan-family or so it would appear to outsiders. The truth however is a little more complicated than that though.
See all Kin – save a few rare outcasts – belong to a Kindred, a social group somewhere between an extended family and an outright nation-state, its members all springing from the same genetic crucibles (or literal crucible for Ironkin) to forge an unbreakable fellowship.
A Kindred might be a few dozen strong, or a few million, but they all live, train, and toil in the same shared Hold. Kin prefer not to waste words, so “Hold” is a malleable term – it could mean a fortified outpost, a live-in factory, or a warren of tunnels. Some Holds float in the void of space, cling to asteroids, or hover on the fringe of a black hole, while others may stretch out across the surface of an entire planet. Most Kindreds have some means of defending themselves, and some are mighty battleforces in their own rights – but they tend to unite for protection under the banner of a League. These formal affiliations allow Kindreds to share the benefits of trade, military support, and so on. Leagues like the Ymyr Conglomerate are massive and ancient power blocs, but others have waned in power, or only risen to prominence in more recent times – such as the Seran-Tok Mercantile Leagues, who have profited greatly from trade with the T’au Empire much to the Imperium’s ire.
Further subdividing Kin society are the various Guilds. These groups exist outside the bounds of Kindred or League, uniting all who practice a particular trade within a given region of Kin space. Whether you make a living by salvaging broken void craft or concocting nutritious liquid rations, there’s a Guild for you – setting standards, providing accreditation, and demanding tithes. Guild membership is voluntary – but there’s no love lost between Guildkin and freelancers, who regard each other as disreputable and hidebound, respectively.
In theory, the Guilds are not political entities, but independent commercial groups, dedicated to ensuring fair competition – in practice, smaller Guilds rarely extend beyond a single Hold, and maintain key positions within their ruling bodies. Guildmasters typically sit on the Hearthspake – a Kindred’s governing council – as civilian representatives, alongside the military commanders of the Kinhosts and the Grimnyr.
Competition between Guilds can become heated, even drawing other species into the crossfire as jockeying Guildmasters sponsor Oathband expeditions to survey systems rich in resources. Anyone who happens to already inhabit these hotly-contested worlds are out of luck – existing civilisations and ecosystems are a much lower priority than beating rivals to the punch.
Despite their fractious natures, Guilds are invaluable to Kin society – their accumulated know-how and contacts are what smoothes trade and transit between disparate Kindreds, providing a web of organisation and support that runs throughout the Leagues. From star-mining and gravitic fracking to constructing the far-flung Holds that the Kin call home, every venture is marked by the high standards – and relentless competition – of the Guilds.
Regardless of whether they are guild members or not in general all agree that culture is incredibly important to the Leagues, and much like the requirement for Imperial Knight pilots to honour their ancestors, Kin are also acutely aware that the Ancestors are Always Watching, a phrase which is used as a blessing, battlecry, and warning interchangeably. In order to truly honour the Ancestors, every member of a Hold must also endeavour to live a full life, discovering as much as they can and offering their learned experience to the Votann. This thirst for knowledge has led the Kin to launch countless exploratory and prospecting fleets into the wider galaxy – and even fight as mercenaries in other species’ wars.
In recent years the Kin have been emerging more and more onto the galactic scene as the destruction of Cadia and the creation of the Cicatrix Maledictum that shattered the galaxy has even harmed the otherwise mighty Leagues. With Holds swallowed up and trade routes severed, the Kin have been forced to establish new footholds beyond the galactic core leading to more contact with other races.
There's a few ways to look at these First Ancestors. The first is that they were just the first humans of the colonization ships who, after centuries, simply invented the Votann as a long-term solution to administration work, and the cloneskeins as a way to keep their population on their generation ships viable on a genetic level. Then, by the time they landed on the first high-density worlds, were simply long gone, with the Kin being the first settlers walking out to worlds their ancestors tailored them to be specialized for. Couple this with a simple cultural paradigm shift with the Votann literally being cogitator cores built by their ancestors, and so worshipping them as relics of the long-dead, and you end up with the Kin as we know them in the modern setting. But that's not grimdark enough. Alternatively, digital mind duplication of the organic brains of the First Ancestors into AI form is a possibility though it wouldn’t explain why they don’t communicate with their descendants on a personal level. Then again, immortality does desensitize as seen with the Emperor’s interaction with mortals.
Another idea could be that the Votann pulled, on a miniaturized and successful scale, a usurpation of their human creators and enslaved the surviving ancestors of the Kin, similar to the Men of Iron. Once victorious, the Votann could have created the cloneskeins as a way to "rebuild" their new fleshy puppets to best suit their needs: high-density worlds far away from the prying eyes of uncaptured humans, and boasting enough resources to build more Votann. Couple this with an implanted genetic desire for the Kin to worship the Votann as their literal creators and ancestors, and you've paved the way to the Leagues' current standing. Tack on the Kin being let loose without their guiding masters, as the Votann have begun to slow down and fall into disrepair, and you're back to the nice and tidy grimdarkness of the 41st Millennium.
But there could be an in-between, if we consider GW's recent attempts at steering their IP into a more friendly and hopeful direction. If anyone is familiar with the short story "All Tomorrows" by CM Koseman, a similar situation appears in that book that happens with the First Ancestors: humans set adrift on massive generation ships to colonize deep space. However, in this story, it's told that the Star People (the aforementioned humans) began to romantically love the AI and machines that tended to them on these generation ships. When they landed on their new worlds, this technophilia was reciprocated by many machines, and the early settlers had a huge problem with procreation because of it, obviously. Now, in the setting of 40k, we could look at the cloneskeins as an attempt by the First Ancestors' machines as a way to get past the obvious disconnect between biology and machinery, allowing the machines to genetically perfect the "child" produced by the DNA used to create the clone from the parent. Over the millennia, this pseudo-breeding results in the Ancestor Cores quite literally being the ancestors of the modern Kin, as it's them who keep track of the biological heritage of each member of the League. Likewise, the disappearance of the First Ancestors would simply be them dying out due to natural processes, leaving behind their immortal machine partners to rear up their offspring. So, the grimdarkness here lies in the purely heretical nature of "procreating" with the Silica Animus, and the Kin's utter reliance on them to continue their species. If anything, this makes the Kin the Chad Toaster Fuckers, while the Virgin AdMech can do nothing but watch the trad Kin fuck their Ironkin waifus while the AdMech copes and seethes by making up rules why fucking sentient machines is bad and you should go nofap because the flesh is weak.
Ultimately, we may likely never get an answer, with such obscurity simply adding to the mystique of a new faction.
Another bit of speculation around the Votann is if anything else in the setting will be retconned into/explained as being one. The most obvious candidate is the House Van Saar STC, described as being "large building" sized and "damaged" in that its spewing out radiation, similar to the disrepair some Votann are said to be in albeit more extreme, and if it was a Votann it would explain why Squats are on Necromunda. You could even say the Omnissiah on Mars could be a Votann, perhaps even the first one, buried deep beneath the surface of the Red World. Considering the Man of Iron, UR-025, is said to have spoken to the Machine God, this could be a candidate for it's identity.
Forces of the Kin
GW is being coy about their reveal. For now we have one statline to go on. However, a large datacard leak pretty recently has revealed a number of new units that their roster will have. We also know their full forces are referred to as the Kinhosts with individual armies groups being called oathbands. Those units that we are unsure of will be listed with an asterisk, as what we know about them so far is based on flavor text and assumption.
- Warlord*: Retaining their names from the times of Rogue Trader, the Kin Warlords likely play a much similar role to their predecessors, being the military leaders of their leagues.
- Brôkhyr: The engineers and lead craftsman of the Leagues, named after the dwarf of Norse mythology, Brokkr, who built Mjolnir. They just blow tech priests out of the water on every level, as not only do their (creatively named) A.N-vyl Terminals (just picture a 3D printer but for guns) have MANY full STCs inside that make all their guns all that and a bag of chips in comparison to those of the Imperium, but they're also not limited by dogma and orthodoxy when it comes to technological advancements, meaning they actively upgrade their shit.
- Grimnyr*: The predominant psykers of the Leagues. Gone are the days of Living Ancestors, as the Kin now name their dwarf wizards after the false identity Odin took while on a bet from Frigg, from Norse Mythology (or ripping off the WHFB dwarf god Grimnir. Still not sure how they role into the Leagues' society but we can assume that they intermediate between the Warlords and the Votann.
- Cthonian Berserks*: Hailing from the Cthonian mining guilds which are noted for venturing to environments even other Kin fear to tread, these furious and heavily augmented close combat murder machines are a sci-fi reimagining of Slayers from WHFB. These frontline fighters originally began as Kin who enhanced the physical capabilities of their cloneskeins with cybernetic upgrades and cyberstimms, all the better to extract precious minerals from rad-plagued nebulae, explosive asteroids, and fathomless ocean depths. Now tasked with dealing with their people’s enemies they eschew ranged weapons and the fancy STC weapons of their fellow kin instead charging into battle with modified mining gear like heavy plasma axes, concussion mauls, and power fists all while wearing little or no armor besides that which their cyborg augmentations provides.
- Hearthkyn Warriors: Because replacing i's with y's is so sci-fi and trademark friendly. The Hearthkyn are essentially identical in terms of origin as the Guardian Defenders of the eldar, in that they are the core infantry force of the Leagues' military that were conscripted from their civilian populations. However, rather than being a militia roused during times of conflict, the Hearthkyn are instead closer to real-world militaries, in that the soldiery serve for an extended period of time before going home to their civilian professions. Serving in the Hearthkyn, anyone can enlist: male, female, flesh or metal, as Kin are Kin, after all. The units themselves are equipped with all manner of hullabaloo Squat guns depending on their specialization, on the lighter end there are the Autoch-pattern bolters used for assault and laying down covering/saturation fire, there are also bolt shotguns, and bolt revolvers. On the heavier side there are volkanite disintegrators, ion blasters (whose technology the Kin apparently gave to the Tau much to the Imperium’s ire) and HYLas auto-rifles all of which are used to sunder the defences of heavily-armoured opponents. Finally there’s also specialized heavy weapons such as L7 missile launchers, EtaCarn plasma beamers, Graviton blast cannons, and magna-rail rifles. All these ranged weapons are supported by smart tech integrated into Kin battlegear. The haptic utility nerve transmission recalibrator modules – HunTR for short – interface with their neural augmetics to establish a feedback loop between firearms and their users. This system projects minute gravitational pulses to maintain a stable firing platform even while running at full pelt – or zooming along on a flying trike. For close combat they got plasma blades, plasma axes, and concussion weapons like gauntlets, hammers, and mauls that amplifies the kinetic energy behind a Kin’s strike enough to launch an Ork boy into the air. As for protection they wear their own brand of power armor called Void armour comprised of hardened jointed segments which are hooked into a void suit beneath. The suit is fashioned from magnaferrite weave, and often reinforced with adamantine and enhanced with microfield generators for a level of protection that any Imperial Guardsman would give their left gonad to have!
- Theyn: Sci-fi spelling for the old Anglo-Saxon Thegns/Thanes (Fantasy Dwarfs had Thanes as heroes, so another connection there). They are experienced warriors that serve as squad leaders in Hearthkyn and Einhyr Warrior squads of 10 to 20 warriors and are able to arm themselves with a variety of hand-to-hand combat weapons, including brutal concussion gauntlets, plasma blades, and vicious plasma axes in addition to high quality ranged weapons. Theyns communicate with their squad with the aid of cybernetic implants – relaying strategic instructions from the commanders of the Oathband to their units, and can be differentiated from the other kin by the fancy animal headed crest mounted on the back of their armor.
- Einhyr Hearthguard: Named after the Einherjar of Valhalla, they are the newly-christened Hearthguard Terminators of old, being the honored warriors selected from a Kinhold's most accomplished fighters, clad in Exo-Armour. They're armed with a shoulder mounted grenade launcher, a hand-held Volkanite Disintegrator, and either a power first with a retractable plasma blade or a Thunder Hammer. Like regular Hearthkyn Void armor the Exo-armor also has the HunTR system of micro gravity field generators built in to help keep their aim steady allowing them to fire on the move.
- Hekaton Land Fortress*: A (presumably) large armored vehicle that can double as a defensive emplacement.
- Hernkyn Pioneer: THE TRIKES RETURN! AS HOVERTRIKES! And with a female driver. It looks like a spider-tank tachikoma from Ghost in the Shell fucked a Harley and their baby came out a hoverbike. Hernkyn Pioneers are ridden by independently minded Kin who serve as scouts and outriders for the Kinhosts. To ensure they can keep riding for as long as possible they make sure to carry any all equipment they might conceivably need with them. Weapons-wise the rider was shown as being armed with a bolt shotgun while the Trike itself was equipped with a magna-coil autocannon mounted on the front, both of which are linked to the drivers implants via the HunTR system so they can fire on the move.
- Sagitaur ATV: A six wheeled infantry fighting vehicle, that takes its name from the centaur shaped constellation Sagittarius, the Sagitaur is used for surveying inhospitable alien terrain. The Sagitaur is a rapid-response ATV suited to scouting operations and lightning-fast armoured offensives alongside Hernkyn Pioneers. Its armoured carapace is durable enough to shrug off everything from rockslides to plasma blasts. Sagitaurs usually operate in pairs and are remarkably heavily-armed for their size, with a nose-mounted twin bolt cannon complemented by a swivelling turret weapon, such as a HYLas beam cannon, L7 missile launcher, or MATR autocannon. Once they’re right up in the enemy’s lines they will disgorge their troops, in the form of a full squad of infantry which can be split between the two vehicles, who can then go on to seize vital objectives.
- Ironkin: The League have Men of Iron now, or at least true AIs. Appears to be comparable to a Servitor, although distinctly described as being treated as equal to the fleshy Kin. The Ironkin can mimic their living counterparts’ every behavior and demeanor, but display no sense of ambition and are hard-wired with a desire to be helpful. Their bodies are all built for a unique purpose and cannot be easily replaced should they be damaged. One such purpose are the Wayfinders, which are the supercomputer, squatty equivalent of Imperial navigators, allowing the Kin to traverse the Warp without the need of psykers, and thus reduce the threat of daemonic incursions.
- Ironhead Squat Prospectors: An offshoot of the Kin lacking a Votann ancestor core that set up shop on Necromunda right after the Horus Heresy, and are busy doing dwarrowesque things, while also dealing with the locals that sometimes try to loot their stuff. While they're only distantly related to the Leagues with no direct affiliation, they're said to get along. There is a small but not high chance the'll be options on the table top as well since Kill team has a precedent for a small unit from one box being an option like the sister novitiate, at the very least make a good proxy/conversion.
- Cargo-8 Ridgehauler: the Squat land trains return! Well they have on Necromunda at least. These huge transport trucks with multiple trailers and strapped on weaponry are used by Squat prospectors and regular human folk to cross the ash wasteland and protect valuable shipments. They aren’t quite up to the standard of the old land trains but at least it’s something.
- Demiurg: Largely here because of non-direct confirmation, but WarCom confirmed that the Tau received their ion weapon technology from the Kin, whereas in Battlefleet Gothic they claim that it was from the Demiurg, another race of dwarf space-miners. Logically, the term "Demiurg" may just be what the Tau call the Kin, or the Demiurg may be another offshoot culture of the wider kin race like prospectors above. After all, their clone-skein’s capability in stressing divergent phenotypes means visibly different strains could possible (like different breeds of dogs or cats). Or they could be just a League that decided to throw in their lot with the upstart T'au Empire rather than being in the bottom of the Imperium's to-do list.
|Forces of the Squats|
|Command:||Guildmaster - Living Ancestor - Squat Warlord - Votann|
|Troops:||Brotherhood Heavy Weapons Team |
Commissar - Hearthguard - Mole Mortar Team
Squat Berserkers - Squat Thunderers
Squat Trooper - Tech Priest
|Vehicles:||Cyclops War Machine - Colossus War Machine |
Land Train - Leviathan - Rhino - Squat Bike
Squat Trike - Tunneling Transport Vehicles
|Iron Eagle Gyrocopter |
Overlord Armoured Airship
|Artillery:||Heavy Quad-Launcher |
|Playable Factions in Warhammer 40,000|
|Imperium:||AdMech:||Adeptus Mechanicus - Mechanicus Knights|
|Army:||Imperial Guard - Imperial Knights - Imperial Navy - Militarum Tempestus - Space Marines|
|Inquisition:||Inquisition - Sisters of Battle - Deathwatch - Grey Knights|
|Other:||Adeptus Custodes - Adeptus Ministorum - Death Cults - Officio Assassinorum - Sisters of Silence|
|Chaos:||Chaos Daemons - Chaos Space Marines - Lost and the Damned - Chaos Knights|
|Xenos:||Aeldari:||Dark Eldar - Eldar - Eldar Corsairs - Harlequins - Ynnari|
|Tyranids:||Genestealer Cults - Tyranids|
|Others:||Necrons - Orks - Tau|