With the impending release of the new edition of 40k with the release of Chaos soon after I thought I would have a bit of a ponder on the background of the biggest villains in the Warhammer 40000 setting.
Back when Rogue Trader was released, Chaos marines didn't really exist. Instead there were evil creatures in the warp such as enslavers but the villainous marines were instead simply renegade Space Marines:
Not to gribbly ancient evil types are they. Instead they were just disgruntled Space Marines who turned to piracy and general villainy but this was soon to change with the development of the background of 40k and the advent of the Horus Heresy which saw these renegades become the pawns of chaos who rebelled against the Emperor before fleeing to the Eye Of Terror, a region where the Warp existed within realspace causing all sorts of strange effects and mutations to the denizens who lived there.
A World Within the Eye of Terror
Now the first baroque and gothic Chaos marines appeared. Horribly changed through 10000 years in the nightmare realms of the Warp they became monstrosities, mutated and ancient who still lusted for revenge on the Empire for what had been done to them. It was this period with awesomely weird and wonderful artwork and miniatures which defined the legions of Chaos to most folks. They were not simply Space Marines with slightly different armour, they were something from a nightmare. Yet they were not all evil as such, some like the Thousand Sons had a genuine grievance with the Emperor and the thinking behind the chaos forces wasn't just to butcher everything. Instead many of them wanted to dethrone what they had become to think of as a traitor to mankind and regain what they lost.
Move onto 2nd edition and the forces of Chaos have changed again into a more clean looking army with power armour not too different from their loyalist kin.
Gone were the madness inducing warped mockeries of Marines and in their place came the appearance of the spiky skull type marine. His armour would usually be painted some vivid colour scheme and almost always had more skulls, spikes and chains than you could shake a stick at. Sadly despite having interesting rules and wargear they began to loose some of their originality instead turning into another Marine army with the same vehicles (but with spikes, skulls and chains) and their armour looked almost identical to normal marines.
Through following editions of the game this appearance became the norm for the traitor marines and barring a major change in direction, I suspect they will continue in the same vein with 6th edition.
But what if they could be turned back to the weird and fantastic looking creatures they once were with strange mutations, organic weapons and more interesting motivations than KILL EVERYTHING!
If I did take the plunge into the new 40k I would be collecting Chaos as they are one of the forces that one still doesn't need a vast army to field and as they are rumoured to be in the starter box, all the better! The main difference will be in what I did to the plastic figures. I would want to really go to town on them and make them actually look like some sort of ancient mutated force than the rather generic shadows they have become.
Time will tell with what they are actually going to look like in the new edition and indeed if I even bother picking up the game but it would make for an interesting project none the less!
All the best!