Warhammer 40k Squats: Who Were They, and What Was The Squat Army List? And Where Did Squats Go?
Origins in Warhammer Fantasy
It's no secret that the first edition of Warhammer 40k was essentially Warhammer Fantasy in space, with space orks, space elves, space knights (marines), and, of course, space dwarves: the Squats. If you read the introduction to the Squat Army List, it basically gives a sci-fi explanation for why Space Dwarves are exactly like fantasy dwarves.
In the Age of Strife (which lasted from the 25th millennium to the 30th millennium) many of the human worlds were cut off from Terra--and, indeed, Terra itself was cut off from virtually everything. During these 5,000 years, the humans on other worlds evolved to match their surroundings. The humans who would become Squats lived on worlds with "high gravity and bleak, inhospitable environments", which caused to both live underground and to develop large, short, stocky bodies.
These inhospitable planets were full of rich mineral deposits, however, so the Squats became miners and diggers, and that is essentially what Space Dwarves are known for mechanical aptitude and a short, powerful build.
Technically, they are known as Abhumans, but this is a category where Games Workshop crammed their fantasy races into Warhammer 40k: Ogres became Ogryns. Halflings became Ratlings.
In a further example of how Squats are essentially space dwarves, during the Age of Strife (or Age of Isolation as it was sometimes called) the Squats had technology but little food. So they began trading relationships with both the Orks and the Eldar--not wars, but legitimate trade negotiations. This was called the Age of Trade. However the Age of Trade--which lasted 3000 years--ended by the betrayal of both the Orks and the Eldar. It is therefore the reason why our space dwarves, just like our fantasy dwarves, have an ancient and historical grudge against these races.
How Do The Squats Fit Into The Imperium?
The Squats, while evolved Abhumans, were unique in the Imperium as they worked with the Imperium, trading with them from their enormous wealth and providing soldiers for their wars, but were nearly entirely self-governing--not controlled by the Administratum. They are expected to follow Imperium policy in big matters, but have autonomy in smaller matters.
The biggest divergence between the Squats and the Imperium is that the Squats don't follow the Eclesiarchy and worship the God Emperor. Their religion is one of ancestor worship. (Living Ancestors is one of their units, as we'll see below.) They do things for the glory of lineage and clan. When fighting alongside the Imperial Guard, the Commissars rework the two philosophies so that the dwarven ancestors are watched over by the God Emperor, something that the Squats are fine with.
What Do Squats Look Like?
Squats look like dwarves. But if you want more explanation, htey are two-thirds the height of a normal human, with a stocky, powerful build. They have long-growing hair which they fashion into braided beards, mustaches, and sideburns. Despite their thick build, they have very agile fingers for mechanical work.
A Squat will live as long as 300 years, and a Living Ancestor will live so long that their exact age is forgotten.
What is Squat Society?
Squats live in colonies called Strongholds. When new colonies are started they are called Newholds. Each Stronghold is run like a city state, ruled over by an aristocracy of Hearthguard. Strongholds form together in Leagues for mutual defense and trade.
Each Stronghold is centered around an underground settlement which includes mining operations and living areas. The Stronghold is ruled over by a Lord. The Lord and the Hearthgaurd typically lead a Squat force into battle as military leaders.
The military force of a Stronghold is known as the Brotherhood. Every single Squat is conscripted into the Brotherhood (though there is no mention of female Squats in any of this). They serve anywhere from 30-70 years. Upon leaving the Brotherhood, the Squat is deemed to have matured and may join the family business.
During the Age of Rediscovery, the Squat homeworlds gave a Tithe to the Imperium, consisting of sending some of the Brotherhood off to fight for the Imperium. They are generally affiliated with the Imperial Guard as, in the lore of the time, Space Marines were intolerant of any form of Abhuman and wouldn't want to fight alongside them.
The Engineers Guild
Engineers are extremely important in Squat society, and they have some level of autonomy between Strongholds, which is upheld by The Engineers Guild. Even some young Squats with natural mechanical aptitude may forego some of their Brotherhood service to work with the Guild. The Guild is subdivided into Lodges, and each has their own leadership, symbols, customs, and rituals.
Each Stronghold has a contingent of Guildsmen, even though the Guildsmen are, by and large, free to come and go. They also dress and look different from typical Squats, forgoing helmets in favor of long hair and beards, leathers, and tough working clothes. But despite their ragged appearance, they are held in high regard. They travel on the bikes and trikes that Squats are so well known for.
While a Squat may live to be 300 years, if you reach 400 years your chance of living even longer increases dramatically--longer than 800 years. These ancient Squats are known as Living Ancestors (or Spirit Lords) and are revered and, to some extent, worshipped. As they get to these ages, they weaken physically, but gain mental and psychic prowess--something that is almost unheard of in Squat society. So this link they have with psychic energy is their connection to dead ancestors, and they are revered as sages, prophets, and holy men.
When a Squat reaches the status of Living Ancestor, a funerary rite is held, and the Squat foregoes all worldly possessions and becomes an advisor to the Lord of the Stronghold.
Squats On the Battlefield
There are many reasons Squats may be fighting--sometimes with the Imperial Guard, sometimes with Rogue Traders, sometimes defending their territory, and even sometimes in Stronghold vs Stronghold conflicts.
They also work as mercenaries for other Xenos races, but generally won't work with Orks or Eldar because of their long-standing grudges. (Some Squats have turned to Chaos, and they will work with all manner of forces.)
However, on the battlefield, they are split into four categories: the Lord and Hearthguard, the Brotherhood, the Engineers Guild, and Living Ancestors.
Warlord and Hearthguard
A Brotherhood force is always led by either the Lord of the Stronghold or by a close relative. The Hearthguard are the aristocracy who work almost as bodyguard knights. They are the warrior elite, and are highly decorated, wearing precious metals and gems.
A Warlord and Hearthguard are often in the best armor available to the Squats: Exo-Armor, which is similar to Terminator armor (2+ save). This massive spherical armor is handed down from father to son.
The general infantry of the Squats, these dwarves are formed into squads of ten. They usually have quilted armor and carry lasguns, but each squad has at least one heavy weapon--sometimes an entire squad has heavy weapons. They also carry sidearms and at least one melee weapon--they are always covered in weapons.
The Brotherhood also has heavy support weapons, which include the Mole Mortar and the Thudd Gun.
The Engineers Guild
The Engineers Guild doesn't wear regimented uniforms, as is their way. Instead of brotherhood or stronghold symbols they'll wear the symbols of their lodge.
The Engineers are known for their wide variety of vehicles, but especially for their bikes and trikes, most of which are mounted with heavy weapons either in a side car or on the back.
They are also responsible for fielding the heavy vehicles, including Rhinos, Land Raiders, and robots (something unique to this edition of the Imperium) including the Crusader, Colossus, Castellan, Cataphracct, and Conquerer.
The Living Ancestors typically stay away from the action and use their psychic abilities for defense rather than attack (though they still hold some surprises for the enemy). They wear high-collared robes and ornate neck chains.
So Why Did The Squats Go Away?
We'll tell it in the words of Jervis Johnson, one of the creators. This was posted in an online forum on July 2004, and accessible via the Wayback Machine.
I know I shouldn't get drawn on this... but... can't... resist
Seriously, a couple of points just so you can have an informed debate based on the real reasons that Squats are no longer available. Be warned, it is going to be hard reading for people that like the Squat background.
First of all, Squats were *not* dropped because they were not selling well. There were then, and are now, plenty of other figure ranges that sell in the sort of % quantities that the Squats pulled down, especially when you look across all of the ranges produced by GW rather than just those for 40K.
No, the reason that the Squats were dropped was because the creatives in the Studio (people like me, Rick, Andy C, Gav etc) 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 realized what we had done when we were working on the 2nd edition of 40K. Try as we might, we just couldn't work up much enthusiasm for the Squats. The mistake we made then (deeply regretted since) was to leave them in the background and the 'get you by' army list book that appeared. With hindsight, we should have dropped the Squats back then, and saved ourselves a lot of grief later on.
Anyway, the Squats made it into 2nd edition, and since we were doing army books for each of the races, we started to try and figure out what to do with them. Unfortunately we just couldn't figure out a way to update them and get them to work that we felt was good enough. The 'art' of working on an army as a designer is to find the thing that you think is cool and exciting about an army, and work it up into a strong theme. This 'muse' didn't strike any of us, and so, rather than bring out a second-rate product simply re-hashing the old background, we kept doing other army books instead, with stuff we did feel inspired by.
Now, while this was all going on for 40K, we were actually doing some rather good stuff for the Squats in Epic. On this scale there was a natural tendency to focus on the big 'hand-made' war machines the Squat artisans produced, and this created an army with a feel that was very different to the biker hordes in 40K. However, this tended to reinforce the problems we saw in the Squat background rather than alleviate them, underlining what we *should* have done with the Squats in 40K.
In the end (and it took years to really get to the roots of the problem) this led to a realisation that we were going to have to drop the Squats in their 'Squat' form from the 40K background. There was little point having a major race that we weren't willing to make an army book for, and their inclusion in the background meant that people kept asking us when we'd do a Squat Codex. Instead we decided that we'd write the Squats out of the background by saying that their Homeworlds had been devoured by a Tyranid Hivefleet. This would give us the option in the future to return to making a race based on the Squat archetype for 40K. This race was given the name of Demiurg, and a certain amount of preliminary work was done to get a 'feel' for what the race would be like. At present the only hint of the Demiurg in 40K is the Demiurg spaceship for BFG. However, we do have this race 'in our back pocket' as a possible new race for 40K, or an interesting character model in Inquisitor, or whatever. So far the Demiurg have lost out to other projects, and it may be that their time never actually comes, as they will have to win through on their merits, not simply because we once made some Squat models in the past. At present, I have to say that it is more likely that they *don't* make the cut than do, as there is a certain prejudice these days to simply taking races from Warhammer and cross them over to 40K like we did in the early days, so it may be that the Squats/Demiurg end up remaining a footnote in the history of the 40K galaxy. Only time will tell...
I'll finish off by saying that whatever we decide to do 'officially', there is nothing stopping players with Squat armies from using them, either in Epic or 40k for that matter. There is no GW 'rule' against using old Citadel Miniatures, as long as you use them with existing army lists and in a way that won't cause confusion for other players. I recommend taking a positive stand by saying "Have you seen these cool old models? They're called the Squats and GW used to make them back in the late eighties/early nineties. I love 'em, so I count them as Imperial Guard and use them with the current rules..." Put like this I can't imagine that anyone would stop you from using your army.
So there you have it: the full army list of the Warhammer 40k Squats, where they came from, and why the Squats were discontinued.
Would you like to see the Squats make a comeback?