Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why Space Wolves?

Sometimes people ask me "Hey, Vlad, how come you like Space Wolves so much?". I often give them different answers, simply because there are so many. The Space Wolves codex, miniature range and fluff are really good and their rules are competitive to say the least, but for me the warriors of Russ are something far more special and dear than plastic dude men wearing wolf pelts.

But first, as Deckard Cain would say.. "Stay a while and listen...

Mmmm.. plastic dude men!
When I first started this hobby it was supposed to be just that - a hobby. Something that me and my buddies could do besides playing Magic: The Gathering, you know? A new Games Workshop store opened in the area and we went inside not knowing a whole lot about the company or the systems. It really is just another typical story about getting hooked up. I pretty much knew what I was going to play as soon as I walked around the store - Orkz. I loved their models, the general feel of the army and the fact that they were silly, grungy, brutal and deadly. Plus, my favorite color is green. 

I remember that the new plastic Deffkoptas were what caught my eye.. We even played the demo game and I lost to the stupid Ultramarines that my friend chose. That day he picked up his Necrons and me and our other friend split Assault on Black Reach. Back then it was still like $70!

Back then I pretty much hated all the Space Marines chapters just like a true Ork Warboss would. Hehe, especially the Ultramarines. To me, they were all the same and too pristine and shiny. Too vanilla. Back then I had no idea Space Wolves even existed. I mean at one point I heard that the army that was capable to teach the Orkz a lesson, in close combat nonetheless, were the Space Wolves with their Wolf Scouts. Of course the said Space Wolves were not on the shelves and for the longest time I thought they were just a White Dwarf release or somethign ancient from the Rogue Trader days.. Silly Skarvald..

The announcement for the 5th Edition Space Wolves codex surprised me. I really had no idea what they did, what they looked like, heck I had no idea Leman Russ was a Primarch's name and not just a behemoth of a tank. But I knew I was going to collect them and play them. When we got the early copy of the codex in the store I read it from cover to cover and on the day of the release I walked in the store and bought a box of Wolf Guard Terminators, two boxes of Grey Hunters (aka the Wolf Pack) and Njal Stormcaller. I built some of them not knowing how to even play Space Marine armies. I remember having to look up what a plasma gun was a million times until I got used to their new weaponry.

I knew that I wanted to have a lot of Thunderwolves and Fenrisian wolves because their rules sounded crazy cool..... but the squirrel-looking Canis Wolfborn model and the total lack of models for them discouraged me.

Silly things I did: I gave my Grey Hunters all the plasma guns and pistols I could. I know, right?? Who used them.. There are no meltas in the Wolf Pack box so naturally I figured that all of the "good stuff" was supposed to be in it already. Oh, and I thought storm bolters were just cool bolters so I have guys with them too. Probably like 4 or 5. I also thought that the unique equipment rule also applied to Wolf Guard so I built them all with different weapons. Let's see: Heavy flamer and Chainfist, Assault Cannon, dual Wolf Claws, Thunder hammer and Storm shield and the regular Wolf Guard Leader dude with the eye patch. I also thought that I could give a Cyclone Missile Launcher to the Assault Cannon guy. I thought to myself "Oh yeah, this Terminator will have so much dakka!".. And was furious that the Wolf Guard Terminator box didn't come with any Cyclone Missile Launchers.. Had to buy the regular Terminator box for that one.. Yep. I was a bad kid.

I also did the new (now obsolete and non-existent) Academy and got a Devastator box. Yeah, I remember how I was just about to give all of them different crazy weapons until I heard how awesome missile launchers were and when I saw that the box has multiples of every weapon imaginable BUT the missile launcher, I closed the box and decided to built it later.

After building some of the models I never really played a lot with them. I decided to expand my orks a little bit and then Adepticon 2010 happened which sidetracked me a lot. But now it's Space Wolves only, baby.

Now.. why Space Wolves? Well, I love wolves. I've always been their fan ever since I was a little kid. There's something noble in them, you know? Like.. just what dogs have except wolves decided that they didn't need someone to chain and feed them in exchange for guarding their sheep.
A lesson in Linguistics: It definitely has to do with my last name - Valchev or Вълчев written in cyrillic (or what people mistakenly call the "Russian alphabet", although it was developed in the First Bulgarian Empire, X century AD). What does it mean? It comes from the word Вълчо (pronunciation: Vuhlcho), which is also my granfather's name, and it is the equivalent of the Big Bad Wolf character from our beloved fairy tales. The name was given to my grandfather to ward him from evil spirits. Sounds Fenrisian enough, huh? So yeah, my last name doesn't just translate to Wolf. It's Big Bad Wolf for you, mister. ;P Now, as you can imagine this kind of contradicts with my first name - Vladimir or Vlad, but I am preeetty sure that unintentional. Vampire or Werewolf? Let's just sat that if I just had to pick I would be from team Jacob. ;P

Just had an idea for Lone Wolves..
It's written black on white: After I learned how to read my first book was an illustrated children's Bible which I read just for general knowledge. What followed it was a much bigger and better illustrated Norse Mythology book which I simply adored and became obsessed with. Maybe not enough to have long hair and wear heavy metal T-shirts but the obsession IS there, believe me. When my friends were collecting plastic Indians and cowboys I was playing "The Lost Vikings"

While I know that these are simply trivial reasons I think that it is because of them that I was so excited about playing Space Wolves. And as I continued playing them I learned to love them for what they are, learned to appreciate the way they play. The way Grey Hunters surround the enemy in their transports or lure his units in the middle of the table where they can support each other is just so.. wolfy. I know that some other armies work like that, but I am so happy that the Space Wolves actually function like a real wolf pack. They track and they trap. Besides, the model range is so sweet looking. The multiple wolf tails, pelts and skulls add so much character to each miniature and they all look like individuals, which is something that I value. I love giving HQ's and models that have proven themselves in battle their own names and trophies. It's how my Wolf Lord - Skarvald the Troll-faced came to be and he hasn't disappointed me yet.

These are some of the reasons I like to play with my Space Wolves. A lot of them are pretty trivial and personal but they keep me going. It's always nice to connect with your army, because it makes the hobby twice as fun.


  1. Awesome article, and great to know some of your motivations and means.

    I can't even put my reasons into words, all I know is that I was playing Space Wolves in Rogue Trader days, loved the look even when they were just grey-yellow-red marines, 2nd Ed release was the mutts-nutts and haven't looked back since.

  2. This was a tremendous read. I specifically like the fact that you simply made the models the way you wanted them, rather than slaving over lists or whatnot. That's the brilliant hobby end of the hobby. :) Great article.

  3. @Andy - Thanks, man. It's always nice to share what keeps you going, especially because it helps you realize the things that are dear to you in this hobby. I wasn't around Rogue Trader, but I usually hear mixed things about it. I still would have played anyways.

    @Brian: Yeah, I just wanted bad ass Space Wolves, man. I try to remind people that when the accuse me of being a beardlord. I started playing because of the army, not the rules. Now I play because of both. ;P

  4. I felt similar about playing the Son's of Russ. I looked at them and never played a game of 40k before knew that they would be my army. There is just something primal, yet regal about the wolves. This is what lifts them above the grotesque minions of Chaos, or the debouchery of the Eldar. Almost every player I have met that plays the Space wolves have chosen them for similar reasons in similar ways.


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