Welcome to Retro-Hammer, a series here at Master of Magic that has a look at the long and varied history of Games Workshops product line. Since the worlds of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 have been around for quite a while (and Games Workshop itself has been producing games even before these were a thing) it is unsurprising that there are a decent number of weird and wonderful things that have been produced by our favourite miniatures company.
Today we will be diving back to the very start of Warhammer 40,000, and a weird and wonderful race that until very recently was thought lost to the annuals of history. No, its not the Squats (that’s a Retro-Hammer for another day). Today, we will be looking at the centaur like reptilian species known as the Zoats.
For those of you out there that were not around during Warhammer 40,000’s first edition (aka Rogue Trader), you might justifiably be wondering what on earth is a Zoat. Well, back before the Necrons, back before Tau and Kroot, there was many weird and wonderful xenos creatures that inhabited the dark corners of the 41st millennium. Some of these are still around as major races today, such as the Eldar (now the Aeldari) and Orks. Others were more bizarre minor alien races or creatures such as Ambulls and Enslavers, that were not part on any main line army.
It might seem weird now, but its important to remember that Rogue Trader had more in common with tabletop role playing games. It wouldn’t be until 2nd edition the 40k would become the more rounded battle game we all know and love. Unsurprisingly, the Zoats were one of these minor races, but its not entirely right to say they weren’t part of a major faction.
The Zoat were an ancient alien race that was either enslaved or specially engineered by the Tyranids (sources vary) and incorporated into serving the Hive Mind. They were used as Tyranid diplomats since they were capable of more intelligent thoughts compared to the more animalistic Tyranid species Bio Forms. Now if you stumbled at the idea of Tyranid “diplomats”, you most remember that this was still in the very early years of the lore. Tyranids, while still only interested in consuming all the lovely Bio Mass, were presented as more of a connoisseur than a ravenous space maw. They wanted to further their own evolution, and so they used the Zoats to scout out possible feeding grounds and make ready for their arrival.
Now I know what you are thinking. “That’s what the Genestealers do. Why did Games Workshop create two creatures for the same job?” Well, the answer is that the Genestealers weren’t at that time part of the Tyranid race. They were their own thing, and as a result had individual rules governing them (including Chaos Genestealer Cults*). So, the Zoats were created to fill that role, and fill it they did.
Then 2nd edition came around, and the games lore went through a few changes. Genestealers were officially incorporated into the Hive Fleet, and the Zoats…
well, the Zoats just disappeared. It would have to wait until the start of 3rd edition to find out want happened to them, and it wasn’t pretty. Depending on the source, one of two fates were said to befall the Zoats. If they were specially engineered, then once the Tyranids made their way into the galaxy they found little use for the Zoats and simple stopped creating them. If however they were enslaved, then a more tragic end befell them.
As the Hive Fleets evolved, the Zoats became a less useful tool as their free thought no longer seen as useful to the Hive Mind. The Zoats, sensing that they were soon to reach the end of their use to the Tyranids, rebelled. However, this rebellion was quickly was crushed, and those who survived fled ahead of the main Hive Fleets. They came into contact with the Imperium of Man and found themselves between the two hostile forces. The final stand of the Zoats came when their ships were destroyed, along with Hive Fleet Colossus, above Zorastra in 226.M39, after the fleet provoked the Zorastra-Attila War.
And that might have been the end of the Zoats. Then, during the Las Vegas Open, we got this incredible teaser.
Is this the last of is kind? Why is it on the Blackstone Fortress? Are they still connected to the Tyranid race? We will have to wait and see. We hope you have enjoyed this drive into the retro past of Games Workshop’s product line. What would you like us to talk about next? Let us know in the comments below or find me on twitter @MTGTengu and maybe we will talk about it next time.
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* a Retro-Hammer for another time.