…there are only questions:
Huge fan of your nanofic and your worldbuilding is superb.
Thank you kindly!
That being said, however, I’ve also long been a fan of the less insane parts of the Warhammer 40K universe (in particular the Imperial Guard and Space Marines) for much the same reasons; in my estimation it offers a fairly well thought-out look into the military makeup of a combined-arms force built around the need to combat massed infantry durable enough to reliably close to knife-fighting range.
In a face-to-face matchup between the Imperial Legions and the Imperium, then, how do you think the dice would fall?
Well, now. I’m going to insert a couple of disclaimers up front, here. The first being the more-or-less obligatory one that it’s always hard to compare across universes where the physics and metaphysics are so different. (I’ll be basically ignoring the wackiness of the Warp, for example.) And the second is that I’m not all that familiar with 40K canon – grimdark not being really my thing – so most of what I know about the setting I learned from Ciaphas Cain.
At the top level, civilization vs. civilization as portrayed at the current place in both their timelines, I’d probably have to give it to the Imperium, simply because of size. It’s a galaxy-spanning regime versus a few hundred worlds, and quantity has a quality of its own. I think, for the below reasons, they’d win over a planet-sized mountain of their own dead, but it’s not like the Imperium has any shortage of commanders who subscribe to the We Have Reserves school of tactics.
(Of course, there’s always ADHÁÏC PARASOL and friends to worry about even then, so the Imperium may have some trouble afterwards with the galaxy’s new infestation of self-improving, self-replicating berserker fleets. This is the sort of ‘take everyone with you’ strategy that the Imperials would generally disapprove of, of course, but given the 40K galaxy’s parameters, I suspect they’d see it as civic improvement.)
If, though, we adjust things so the conflict in terms of civilization-scale is equal, or even less disproportionate, then the pendulum swings the other way. One can argue some advantages for either side (the Imperium certainly has an initial advantage due to being, well, highly optimized to hatemurderize basically anyone it comes across given the opportunity; the Empire arguably has a technological edge in various areas, such as preferring to expend readily replaceable machines rather than population; etc.), but ultimately, I think it comes down to these two things:
- The Imperium has an impressive fighting machine, but it’s a stuck fighting machine. Their technology is stagnant and at best poorly understood even by the Adeptus Mechanicus, their tactics are also terribly by the book except when they get really lucky in choice of commanders, they have a religious proscription against adopting ideas from outside, and anyone who tries to change any of this runs hard into PURGE THE HERETIC. They get away with this because, well, it’s not like anyone else (with the possible exception of the Tau) in their galaxy innovates worth a damn either: the Eldar are stagnant, the Orks rely on genetic knowledge, etc., etc. Meanwhile, the Empire understands exactly how all its stuff works, and innovates, borrows, and steals good ideas from the enemy about as easily as breathing.
- And the other one is that the Imperium’s fascist theocracy is a seething mass of factions, many of which appear to hate each other almost as much as they do the xenos, and all of whom are paranoid about hidden mutants and traitors. This is the sort of scenario that the Stratarchy of Warrior Philosophy adores, because they specialize in getting into all those little cracks and inflaming the hell out of them until they catch fire and explode. (The Empire’s a lot less susceptible to this sort of thing, and in any case, the Imperium doesn’t go in for it. Even if it tried, it’d probably have to regularly have all its memeticists shot for understanding the xeno outlook.)
To sum up – unless the Imperium is smart enough to realize that it had better use all its biggest hammers right away, and not telegraph its blows, it’s in deep trouble, because it’s fighting people who are scarily adaptive given even half a chance.
Or that’s how I’d read it, anyway.