Firstly, sorry for the confusing word in the title – goes back to my days as a cell biologist. Heterogeneity is, on its most fundamental level, a lack of uniformity. Conversely, Homogeneity is an abundance of uniformity. Where is he going with this you may ask, and for the answer we have to look back in time to 40k second edition.
Second edition was the era when I first became enthused towards 40k as a system. When I revisited my love for that system a few years ago it was towards the end of 4th edition and I was immediately struck by one thing – you had to take a single army now.
Back in the days of second edition it was perfectly legal to mix and match different armies within a single list. For example, I could take an army that was mostly Blood Angels with some Ultramarines in support. Or I could take a 50:50 split between Space Marines and Imperial Guard. For me this was ideal as, at the time, money was scarce and I based my purchases on what models I liked the most. Therefore I had mostly Blood Angels with a few Wolf Guard Terminators, some Ultramarines, Dark Angels and a few Eldar allies.
When I started collecting again I realised this had to change and that a single army needed to be my focus (the allies rules went out with 4th ed) and thus I steered towards Blood Angels. Anyone who has seen my blogs will know that even the best of intentions can go awry and, over the past few years, I have built up more armies than any sane person would dare to. One of the driving factors behind this is my need to have variety within my hobby, both in terms of gaming, hobbying and painting.
Now to the crux of the matter – which armies in 40k could be described as Heterogenous? Firstly lets look at those which aren’t.
Codex Space Marines of any flavour are still going to be Space Marines and mixing and matching a squad of each is going to look disjointed as far as an army goes. Imagine having a different colour for each squad, commander etc. While taking squads from different companies within a chapter for some variety is perfectly fine, intermingling chapters just seems a bit wrong. Likewise for black templars.
Blood angels and Dark Angels are a nice way for Painters to get some variety. Though the majority of your Blood Angels will be red, gold is a usable on the elite choices and black on death company. Likewise, Dark Angels allow you the opportunity to paint bone deathwing and black ravenwing as well as the green/robed majority. Space Wolves, ironically, are more uniform especially as they mostly fight as a single Great company without including others. Luckily for painters there are a lot of bare heads and wolf fur shades to play with and keep interest.
Grey Knights and Sisters are comparable to Codex Marines except for one thing. That is, they have Inquisitorial/Ecclesiarchial elements which provide a small respite from the mundane power armour painting.
Then we come to the Xenos. Tyranids, as exciting as they may be to model, all share the same basic paint scheme which will usually be two colours for the majority. The fact that hive fleets are geographically distinct makes it difficult to argue for a combined presence on the battlefield and thus, with perhaps the exception of lictors and Ymargl stealers, they are mostly similar to paint. Tau also are mostly uniform with Kroot and Vespids (does anyone even use them?) to break up the painting monotony.
Now we start to get to the more interesting armies in terms of painting. Let’s start with the Orks. The fluff suggests clans more often than not combine under the banner of a warlord to fight. We are therefore left with 6 very different armies in terms of preferred units, modelling and paint schemes, which we are free to mix and match. This allows for a great amount of painting variety in an army which is already a great army to convert and model.
Next up are the Eldar. Craftworld Eldar retain a core of models which will be uniform in terms of the vehicles and guardians, yet depending on how you choose to paint them you can add great variety to an Eldar army through Aspect warriors. Likewise with Dark Eldar, the gestalt army made up from Kabals, Wych cults, Hellions, Reavers, Scourges, Beastmasters and Haemunculi has allowed me to paint several different schemes which are all tied together with the same armour colour. Similarly for their craftworld cousins, a blue sash/feature shows alaitoc allegiance while keeping the aspect colours distinct.
Imperial guard are an interesting contrast. To some they may seem like the most homogenous of armies to paint, yet when we look at the fluff nothing could be farther from the truth. The Imperial Guard often fight as a joint force with infantry being supplied from one or more regiments, tank divisions from another, artillery from another etc. Therefore it is perfectly fesible to make each platoon a different scheme, say cadians and catachans, with a seperate army commander. Veteran squads from each of the other major regiments can be added (mordian for example), tanks from Armageddon, artilleru from Krieg and so on. This makes them a very flavourful and varied army to model and paint.
Lastly we come to chaos and daemons. Due to the existence of 4 Gods and 9 distinct traitor legions (plus many more renegades and hopefully soon cultists too), chaos wins hands down as being the most heterogenous army in 40k. The variety of modelling and painting possibilities means that literally every unit in your army could be a different allegiance/colour scheme.
I hope this long-winded article hasn't been too painful to read but I felt it was an intetesting look into army choice from the perspective of someone who paints and models principally.