Games Day 2013 Space Marines Anthology – Review

Black Library Space Marines Anthology 2013

Games Day 2013. I’ve written a blog post “from the hip” about my (for the most part) general disappointment with UK Games Day 2013, especially compared with UK Games Day 2012.

One of the few things I did pick up at Games Day (no Games Day miniature for me this year) was a few Black Library book, including the “Games Day Exclusive” story compilation from Black Library.

Not unlike the event as a whole, I felt the book was a let down in many ways compared to the 2012 Games Day Anthology from Black Library. Let me explain….

Space Marines: Angels of Death (2013 Games Day) by various:
2.5 / 5 stars      

2013 Games Day Anthology – 31 Space Marines “Shorts”

It is always difficult to properly “review” an anthology of several short stories.

Given the nature of the 2013 Games Day Anthology, that’s an even more difficult prospect, given that it includes no less than 31 … yes, 31! … “mini” stories.

To be exact, the book contains 31 of the “mini-stories” that Black Library published before Games Day as a daily serial along with the new Space Marines Codex for (I believe) £0,79 each.

The individual downloads appear to be gone from Black Library, though they offer them as eBook anthology of 28 stories for £25,-.

Getting 31 of them for “only” £20,- at Games Day probably was a “bargain” (*cough*).

Either way, the 2012 Games Day Anthology had 6 short stories in ~130 pages (for 5 quid less). So each of them, aside from not all (!) being about Space Marines, were ~5x the length as those from the 2013 Games Day Anthology. The former is the clearly the better format.

Some of the authors do fun things with a 1000 words. Even the best of them, however, it always feels like a cut-scene, a teaser or an “outline” for a longer story. 1000 words simply isn’t enough to get fully invested into a character or story, no matter how good the writing may be.

Space Marine “Super-Short” Stories I Liked

Ok… with all those caveats out of the way, there were still a couple of good stories in the book. 1000 words isn’t a whole lot, so it’s only more impressive how some authors make it work.

Here are a few (in no particular order) that I enjoyed:

  • The Tithe by Ben Counter – Arguably the best example of a (potential) longer story “super-condensed” to its absolute bare minimum, still telling a “full” story of rivalry between Traitors (Iron Warriors) and Loyalists (Imperial Fist) in only ~1000 words.
  • Death Speakers by Andy Smillie – I love Andy Smillie’s grisly style – as seen in his Flesh Tearers books - and he does it again here. Gothic, dark and bloody. Reminds me that I need to read more Andy Smillie.
  • Setting the Stage by C L Werner – A (very short) story about Space Marines Scouts done right. Done near-perfectly, truth be told.
  • Iron Soul by Phil Kelly –  Great little story with a fun twist that puts some ambiguity on Loyalist Space Marines – Iron Hands in this case. Space Marines tends to be much more interesting if it isn’t simply Loyalists vs. Traitors/Xenos, and this short a good example.
  • Vigil by James Swallow – I have a love-hate relationship with James Swallow’s work, but he nails it in this one. Makes me want to start a Doom Eagles army… yes, you read that right!
  • The Judges, In Their Hunger by David Annandale – I admit I am a hopeless David Annandale fanboy! And now he is writing stories about Space Sharks Carcharodons? OMG! Please tell me there’s a full novel coming…!
  • Obsidian by Graham McNeill – How do you write a story that closes an anthology of 30 stories? Like Graham McNeill does it with Obsidian! A perfect ending to this book.

Closing Thoughts…

People say the writings are on the wall for “traditional” book publishing. That alone, in my opinion, makes (in my opinion) Black Library one of the most interesting publishers in the world, not just in gaming. Their willingness to experiment with different and new formats is commendable.

That said, they seem to occasionally forget the actual reader in their efforts to test (and push) “new ways” of reading their fiction. Ultimately, I am not sold on the 1000-word super-short format. I haven’t tried them as ebooks before. Having read 31 of them now, I am happy I didn’t.

It’s not that the stories themselves are bad, but just isn’t “enough” to immerse yourself in the world of Warhammer 40K. They simple don’t scratch that escapist-itch I am looking to scratch with fantasy and sci-fi literature. Therefore, it only get’s
2.5 / 5 stars      
from me.


Have you read a Black Library “Super-Short”?

Have you ever read one of Black Library’s 1000-word super-short-stories? In this anthology? From Black Library’s homepage?

Is it a format you like? Would be interested in? Do you prefer more “old-fashioned” short-stories (not to mention full novels)?

Let me know what you think and leave a comment below!

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I am Zweischneid. Wargame Addict. Hopeless painter and founder of Pins of War. I hope you enjoyed this article. Don't forget to share your favourite miniature pictures and wargaming videos at
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  • wxyz

    I like 1000 words shorties, especially if it is a teaser for a novel or series. I read only the Rite of War from Nick Kyme but not from the Black library’s page or from the anthology. I read it in the Salamanders Omnibus.

    Can you write what the other 3 short stories? Who wrote them? What chapter is in?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Zweischneid

      Yes. They are nice as a teaser.. if they are a teaser. They feel like teasers.. all of them. But most of them are just stories in themselves that have no follow-up.

      The other 3?

      There’s 31 of them. The full contents are:
      Honour of the Third by Gav Thorpe
      The Thrill of the Hunt by Anthony Reynolds
      Iron Priest by Chris Wraight
      The Tithe by Ben Counter
      Visage of Zeal by C Z Dunn
      Bastions by Rob Sanders
      Death Speakers by Andy Smillie
      Setting the Stage by C L Werner
      The Fury by James Swallow
      Blood Calm by Guy Haley
      The Crown of Thorns by Peter Fehervari
      Iron Soul by Phil Kelly
      No Worse Sin by Joe Parrino
      Codex by Graham McNeill
      Duty’s End by Robin Cruddace
      The Third War by Ray Harrison
      Judgement by Mark Latham
      Final Journey by Guy Haley
      Reclamation by L J Goulding
      Skin Deep by S P Cawkwell
      Vigil by James Swallow
      Rite of Pain by Nick Kyme
      By Artifice, Alone by George Mann
      Trophies by Cavan Scott
      The Ghost Halls by L J Goulding
      Bitter Salvage by Nick Kyme
      Cadre by Josh Reynolds
      Final Duty by David Guymer
      The Judges, In Their Hunger by David Annandale
      Mission: Annihilate by Gave Thorpe
      Obsidian by Graham McNeill

      • wxyz

        Thank you very much!

  • Michael Dudek

    I think we’ve talked about it before, but I am disappointed in the e-short strategy being undertaken by Black Library. In the prologue to the dead tree edition of ‘Best of Hammer & Bolter Vol. 2′, CZ Dunn said the e-magazine was being cancelled and replaced by shorts because Fantasy players were complaining about the 40K taking away from their space, and 40K players about the Fantasy in Hammer & Bolter.

    Well, I happen to like both Fantasy and 40K, and the switch to e-shorts has been darn close to an outright ripoff. Just to compare, issue 24 of H&B had 4 stories in it for $3.99 USD. One of those was Guy Haley’s ‘The Rite of Holos’, a lead in to his ‘Death of Integrity’. The story sells for $2.99 on its own!

    So if it was people complaining, I hope they are satisfied by the higher prices. The cynical side of me believes GW cancelled Hammer & Bolter so they could charge higher prices for individual short stories :( For now, you can still get a deal by buying the H&B a story appeared in. But going forward, it’s just individual new stories, with no guarantee on pricing and availability in a collection for a discount.

    • Zweischneid

      Yeah. Prices are insane.

      GW’s hardback 120 page collectors novellas used to be 12 quid. This one was 20 quid for 130 pages in that format, which is still 5 quid shorter than buying (not even all of) these stories in their original eShort format.

      GW’s HH deluxe collectors edition Hardbacks only cost 20. I paid as much for Unremembered Empire as I did for this “discount” collection of eShorts.

      I don’t get it. e-Downloads ought to be at least nominally cheaper (no printing, no distribution, etc..). Unremembered Empire as a download is (a little) cheaper.

      But these eShorts are more expensive, leaning entirely on the obfuscation that they “seem” cheaper by buying them piecemeal I suppose.

      • Michael Dudek

        It definitely has a feeling of being ‘nickeled and dimed’ these days. If you buy a story, you’re alright, but as soon as you buy more than one, you’re paying more than you would have for an issue of Hammer & Bolter that usually had 4-5 stories in it.