Games Workshop, the board game company that makes Warhammer 40,000, wants to remind players that their fictional depiction of fascism is not an endorsement of real world hate.
Warhammer 40,000 is a tabletop game uses intricate painted models, takes place in a bleak and hopeless universe. It’s one where scientific progress has stagnated and human civilization, a fascist, galactic empire called the Imperium of Man, is in a state of perpetual, xenophobic war.
Warhammer 40,000’s aesthetic of bulky space marines, bug-like aliens, and and chaotic orc—while derivative of previous sci-fi and fantasy worlds—are hugely influential, especially in gaming. People enjoy playing the game, but also spend an incredible amount of time carefully painting the little figurines that define Warhammer 40,000’s style.
Often, people admire that style or imitate it simply because they think it looks cool. But sometimes, Warhammer 40,000 players and online fascists admire and repurpose Warhammer 40,000’s style precisely because it depicts this fascists future for humanity. Some go as far as memefying the idea of God Emperor Trump and putting Donald Trump’s head on the theocratic ruler of the Imperium.
In a blog post, Games Workshop went out of its way to remind players that depicting a universe where the empire of man is a hopeless fascist state is satirical, and not meant to be an endorsement of those ideals.
“The Imperium of Man stands as a cautionary tale of what could happen should the very worst of Humanity’s lust for power and extreme, unyielding xenophobia set in,” the post reads. “Like so many aspects of Warhammer 40,000, the Imperium of Man is satirical.”
Furthermore, Games Workshop said that anyone who wears emblems from fascist groups and comes to Warhammer 40,000 tournaments will not be allowed to participate.
“If you come to a Games Workshop event or store and behave to the contrary, including wearing the symbols of real-world hate groups, you will be asked to leave,” the post reads. “We won’t let you participate. We don’t want your money. We don’t want you in the Warhammer community.”
This move from Games Workshop appears to be taking cues from people already within the community who don’t want to play games with fascists. In 2020, Warhammer 40,000 community members called on Games Workshop to be even more specific in its condemnation of prejudice and extremism in the community. As other tabletop and video game developers have discovered, when it comes to your fandom, you either set the tone or let it be overrun by assholes.