FLUFFY1 a: covered with or resembling fluff
b: being light and soft or airy : puffed up <a fluffy omelet>
2: lacking in meaning or substance : superficial
As far as wargaming fluff goes, we’re talking about the second definition. “Lacking in meaning or substance.” Since most of us who play 40k don’t think of the background history as unworthy of notice, I propose we call it lore instead.
Like I wrote in my last post on the matter, lore is information, and flavour is feeling. The two exist in a symbiosis. And even rules can be flavourful. Consider this Magic: The Gathering card.
Lorthos here is an octopus, with eight arms. His mana cost adds up to eight. His power and toughness are each eight. His ability costs eight mana, and effects eight other permanents. It doesn’t matter if you know nothing about Magic rules and lore – this card is instantly flavourful, reeking of octopus-ness.
The same thing exists in 40k, of course. Khorne Berserkers have flavourful abilities that reward you for playing them agressively. Tyranid lash whips cripple the opponent’s models, as you can reasonably imagine an ensnaring whip doing. In fact, most of the unit abilities in 40k are top-down designs like this. Rules design start with the models and the lore.
Does this make for a good, competitive game? The jury’s still out on that one, I guess …