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Warhammer 40K’s Squats are back with a full army later this year

The April Fools’ day announcement wasn’t a joke

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Warhammer 40,000’s infamous space dwarves, originally known as Squats, are returning to the miniatures wargame as a new faction called the Leagues of Votann. The announcement, officially made on Saturday by publisher Games Workshop, was preceded by a video trailer on April Fools’ day which many took for a gag. Fans should expect a new line of models and rules later this year.

The Squats have a long and storied history in the 40K pantheon that goes all the way back to the first edition of the game, where they were cast as a burly, pangalactic biker gang. But eventually they were dropped from the franchise, and much of their history scrubbed from its deep lore. The Fandom community wiki makes note of an obscure forum post from 2004 that seems to indicate why.

A square image of a Squat heavy weapon biker team. Lush beards included. Image: Paul Bonner/Games Workshop
A page from White Dwarf 111 showing Squat models for order. Image: Games Workshop
A page from White Dwarf 111 showing Squat models for order. Image: Games Workshop

Perhaps the most iconic art of the original Squat Faction is this line drawing by Paul Bonner first published in White Dwarf #111 in 1989. The original sold for £950.00.

“The reason that the Squats were dropped,” writes former Games Workshop designer Jervis Johnson, “was because the creatives in the Studio [...] felt that we had failed to do the Dwarf ‘archetype’ justice in its 40K incarnation. From the name of the race (Squats - what *were* we thinking?!?!) through to the short bikers motif, we had managed to turn what was a proud and noble race in Warhammer and the other literary forms where the archetype exists, into a joke race in 40K. We only fully realised what we had done when we were working on the 2nd edition of 40K.”

For more than a decade, fans of Squats made do by fielding armies of space dwarf models that played legally under the rules of different factions. Then, in 2018, Games Workshop reintroduced the race to the canonical lore with a single miniature for Necromunda, a small scale skirmish game. Few expected much more than that.

The new Squat army harkens back to the original lore of the dwarven race as first introduced, but drops the bikes, chains, and leather. In its place is a diminutive, futuristic warrior clad in pale armor and holding what looks to be a potent little plasma weapon.

From the Games Workshop announcement post:

Although their civilisation shares common roots with Humanity, the Leagues of Votann have an uneasy relationship with the Imperium of Man. Unlike their superstitious Human cousins, the Leagues emerged from the Age of Strife with far more of their ancient technology intact, including some infamous advances the Imperium would consider extremely heretical.

Their knack for science and a headstrong nature make for skilled warriors backed up by reliable weaponry, as you can see from even this basic trooper. And while there’s no love lost between the Leagues of Votann and Humankind, the resurgence of Chaos and ascendent xenos hordes mean there are usually more pressing concerns than fighting each other.

Overall, we’re not sure what to expect from this incarnation of the Squats. Perhaps the faction will be a glass cannon, with expensive but powerful weapons more in line with the T’au faction than the Space Marines. Perhaps they’ll be more mechanized, with a mix of flyers and ground units. I have a hunch that they’ll be a hybrid force, one capable of being fielded in multiple formats like Kill Team and Necromunda as well as the full fat 40K wargame. Expect more information to come out over the next several months.

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