Once again, I have purchased Warhammer 40,000 merchandise, because it had a Dark Angel tangentially involved. Once again, I’m going to review it. I will buy just about anything if it has a Dark Angel on it. These don’t technically have that, outside of the actual words “Dark Angels” appearing on one of them, which still extremely counts, but I might have a more personal connection to them anyway.
The officially-licensed Warhammer 40,000 Second Edition Codex Coasters are, well, coasters that feature the art from a selection of 2nd edition codex covers. The main appeal here is that the old art still goes extremely hard, and that your desk or end tables could use a break from getting weird stains on them.
In terms of the designs featured, the content is about what you’d expect, with Abbadon or some Elves or a battlepile of Ultramarines front and center, but the style here doesn’t resemble modern Warhammer at all. Modern book covers have a more realistic (if flat) painterly style, and depict one huge dude – invariably an actual model you can buy – surrounded by mooks and blasting away with a gun or at least pointing it at someone. The colors tend to be muted, and everything is dark and dirty, with a haze of smoke obscuring some weird spiked thing in the background so you can’t tell what’s going on.
They’re cool, in their own way, but there’s something about the older style of highly-detailed baroque nonsense that I miss. The 2nd edition books still have a big guy screaming, but the style is full of bright primary colors, and every surface is lavished with rich detail, even where it doesn’t make sense. Bodily proportions are typically goofy, and – with a potentially hilarious and surely accidental exception – the use of shadows is basically non-existent. The result is an almost overwhelming attention grabber, searing itself into your eyes just like it did back in the 90s when you were getting into Warhammer in the first place. The fact that you can even focus on the subject instead of having a Scanners-level breakdown speaks volumes about how good this old art still is, and how to make readable images even with a constitutional lack of ability to restrain yourself.
As art, then, these are classic. I own a few of these old books (of the set here, only Angels of Death, but I also have Tyranids and Imperial Guard kicking around somewhere) and I’ve often considered framing them and hanging them on the wall in my Gaming Pit, because as wonky as they can be in terms of the poses of the characters and the fact that everything is constantly on fire, they have a certain charm, from before Games Workshop was really a professional outfit, and you could get away with being a little bit dumb as long as it was cool. It didn’t have to make sense.
As coasters, they’re fine. It’s weird that they aren’t square, but that’s due to the source material, and I’d rather deal with slightly oblong coasters than have the art cropped. The printing is clear and, especially on the Eldar one, really shows off the detail that went into the piece. They feel mostly non-porous (the one characteristic a coaster absolutely needs to have), but a bit – there’s no other way to put this – cheap. Given that a set of four runs $17, less than you’d pay at the mall for a single hexagonal ceramic coaster with something like “Only WINE can judge me” printed on it, I can’t fault them for that. The top layer is made of thick card, and the base is cork. These are going to get dog-eared and scratched up pretty fast, I think – the backing on one of mine is already peeling off and I’ve used it twice – but they get the job done until then. Again, at the price point, I’m not complaining.
You may have noticed some foreshadowing in this review. You were correct to do so. The coasters are a fun little gag gift, but that’s not why I bought them, or why I wanted to review them. I wanted to review them, was compelled to review them, because of what we’ve been referring to around the Goonhammer offices as Shadow Greg.
This is going to go places, and I want to be clear that I’m not accusing anyone of anything, or making any firm statements about what anyone did or what their intent was. I will merely display some images, and you can draw your own conclusions. I find this entire thing incredibly hilarious and I don’t particularly care about it beyond that fact.
I came to know of the potential existence of Shadow Greg because a Patron in our Discord posted a link to this very interesting YouTube video from Olden Demon. Full credit to both of them, because I would never have noticed otherwise. Skip to roughly 2:30 in the video if you want to get the low-down, but I’d recommend doing it after you finish reading this, because I’d rather, if your mind is to be blown, that Goonhammer and I be the ones to do it, even if we don’t deserve the credit here.
Here’s the Angels of Death coaster, in as even lighting as I could manage (this is using a lightbox):
See that big dark spot on it, the one that’s not present on the other shots even though I took them with the same setup, back to back? That’s not because I took a bad photo of it – it actually might be, but we’ll get to the conspiratorial part in a bit – it’s actually printed that way. It is also not, I want to stress, on the actual cover of the book, just the coaster.
There’s another photo of that book, with that exact shadow on it. It’s from our Goonhammer 1996 coverage, where I reviewed the book for a Bit. Olden Demon is entirely correct on that part of their theory: I own a real physical copy of the codex, and I used it to take photos for the review, with my phone camera. This is the one I used as the header image for the article:
Looks kind of familiar!
The shadow appears on the marketing material, but I didn’t believe it at first, so I bought the coasters to confirm. Now that I have them in hand, the image is real. That shadow, the one that appears on every printed copy of the Warhammer Coaster? If I’m right, if Olden Demon is right, that is the shadow of my actual human head.
The theory here is this: it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the Warhammer Coaster Store couldn’t get a copy of Angels of Death, but somewhere in the aether they found the picture I used for my review of the book, which has my big stupid dome blocking the light on the bottom half, and sent that picture to the Printing Store. It’s either a coincidence, or the looming presence of Shadow Greg rearing its (literally) ugly head.
If that is in fact what happened, this is the single funniest and strangest thing that has ever happened in my capacity as a Goonhammer writer. It easily tops getting roasted on multiple podcasts, it beats any joke Gregbot or I have ever made, it’s arguably more visible and permanent than the time I got to interview the guy from the Mountain Goats about Magic cards. It’s incredible.
The coasters then, are surely a fine object and worth seventeen dollars. They will definitely protect your coffee table. What they might also do, in a legally non-binding way that is not meant to form an accusation or get anyone (me) in trouble, is introduce the specter of Greg into your home. Should you purchase them, you will have to make your peace with that.