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I have been reading the Tallarn novel of the Horus Heresy series.

I know that Tallarn of the 40K universe has always been a dessert world but given how Games Workshop like to change its own history and cannon I wondered if the reason for this has always been due to Viral Bombing since the first mentioning of the planet, or has its history evolved and changed over the years?

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It seems that Tallarn had been a victim of the Iron Warriors since (at least) the second edition of the game

From Taran (in French - see below)

Tallarn avait été autrefois un monde fertile, baigné par la lumière orangée de deux soleils jumeaux. Des océans, des plaines et des jungles luxuriantes couvraient sa surface. Tout cela prit fin au cours de l'Hérésie d'Horus. Les marines du Chaos des Iron Warriors attaquèrent par surprise dans un terrible assaut dévastateur. Des milliers de bombes bactériologiques tombèrent sur Tallarn et tous ceux qui en eurent le temps se réfugièrent dans les abris souterrains. Alors que les Tallarns étaient à l'abri des virus, les cellules A.D.N. mutagènes se mirent à l'œuvre selon leur programme. Les animaux, les plantes et même les insectes furent tués par les microbes qui rongèrent l'écosystème de la planète, ne laissant qu'une coquille stérile. Apres sept semaines d'isolation, le virus s'auto-neutralisa et les survivants de Tallarn émergèrent à la surface. Ils trouvèrent un monde couvert d'une espèce de gelée visqueuse et de cadavres intacts, car le monde avait été stérilisé à tel point que les bactéries nécessaires à la décomposition n'existaient plus. Les Iron Warriors envoyèrent alors leurs troupes de choc, afin de revendiquer ce monde au nom des dieux du Chaos. Depuis leurs bunkers souterrains, les forces de Tallarn contre-attaquèrent pour repousser l'envahisseur. Bientôt, des renforts des deux camps arrivèrent. Des flottes spatiales s'opposèrent dans le ciel et d'énormes armées s'affrontèrent à la surface de la planète morte. La bataille de Tallarn fit rage pendant des mois et vit le plus grand engagement de blindés de l'Hérésie d'Horus. Les miasmes résiduels de l'A.D.N. mutagène rendaient tout combat d'infanterie en extérieur pratiquement impossible. Le conflit fut réglé par des armées de tanks. Lorsque les combats prirent fin, les étendues putrides de Tallarn étaient couvertes d'épaves de millions de véhicules disloqués.

Here is a Google translation (slight edition by myself):

Tallarn had once been a fertile world, bathed in the orange light of two twin suns. Oceans, plains and lush jungles covered its surface. All this ended during the Horus Heresy. The Chaos Marines of the Iron Warriors attacked by surprise in a terribly devastating assault. Thousands of bacteriological bombs fell on Tallarn and all those who had time took refuge in underground shelters. While Tallarn people were safe from viruses, DNA mutagens began to work according to their program. Animals, plants and even insects were killed by microbes that gnawed the planet's ecosystem, leaving only a sterile shell. After seven weeks of isolation, the virus neutralized itself and the Tallarn survivors emerged on the surface. They found a world covered with a sort of viscous jelly and intact corpses, for the world had been sterilized to such an extent that the bacteria needed for decomposition no longer existed. The Iron Warriors then sent their assault troops to claim this world in the name of the gods of Chaos. From their underground bunkers, Tallarn's forces counterattacked to repel the invader. Soon, reinforcements from both sides arrived. Space fleets clashed in the sky and huge armies clashed on the surface of the dead planet. The Battle of Tallarn raged for months and saw the largest armored engagement of the Horus Heresy. Residual miasma of DNA mutagens made any outdoor infantry combat virtually impossible. The conflict was settled by tank armies. When the fighting ended, the putrid expanses of Tallarn were covered with the wrecks of millions of dislocated vehicles.

About the source: I guess many will consider the source weak as it is an unsourced personal webpage. The author is a French fan of Warhammer 40k that refused the changes of the fluff brought by the 3rd edition and decided to create a webpage for the fluff of the second edition (if memory serves, Rogue Trader had not been published in France, so the second edition is the original one for us froggies). I believe most texts are copies of the various rulebooks of the second edition, so are pretty accurate.

I hope to find a better source soon.

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