With 24 factions and even more sub-factions, it can be daunting to choose an army in Warhammer 40k. Thankfully, there are ones that work better for new players, so you won’t have to comb all 24 for a favored style.
As far as beginner armies go, there are a few on offer. These excel in ease of play differently as well as having playstyles that make each unique.
10 best armies for beginners
Not every faction will be great for beginners. Hence why I’ve set aside a dozen good ones to take a peek at. They vary in simplicity but all work well for beginners due to their inherent qualities.
Up first, are Necrons. These robot skeletons are more than capable of withstanding and dishing out pain.
Necron weaponry, even the most basic guns, have nice strength and armor penetration characteristics. All Necron units have a living metal rule which heals them and resurrection ability with their Reanimation Protocols.
Their weaknesses are a general lack of mobility and psychic units. Necrons have some tools to mitigate these weaknesses somewhat but it will always come up when it’s least convenient. Other than that, they are easy to play and quite effective so starting with them is recommended.
Space Marines are the standard army for newbies. They come with strong troops and decent play at middle and close range. Their long range capabilities are usually augmented by support units of the faction.
At their most basic, Space Marines do well when shooting and fighting alike. With rather decent stats, each model can endure quite a bit of gunfire too. Making each unit tougher to take down while they themselves dish out shots consistently.
Fast and shooty, Eldar are a menace to play against. Their mobility is rarely matched, which allows them to get onto any objective as soon as possible. Potent psychic units also give an extra edge to Eldar, making them effective in each phase.
Good positioning and full use of their abilities are important to get the most out of them. Eldar will require a bit more skill to play, but are more effective if you can get the hang of their units.
Their weakness is the complexity and somewhat squishy infantry. Still pays to check out their offer.
Chaos Marines are a mirror version of the Space Marines. Chaos Marines have managed to pull out powerful melee into their set of strengths in 9th edition, which remains their best playstyle.
On the other hand, they are merely okay in other departments. Their shooting is ok but not great so close that gap fast. Having to rely on melee makes them somewhat harder to play than the first two armies but still far easier than Eldar.
Orks are your go-to if you want a swarm army. Green tide is an iconic part of their playstyle and will be easy to accomplish given the number of models in each unit. Melee is where you want to be with Orks, for maximum damage.
Poor armor may make wounds you do take difficult to save against but hey, there’s always using your numbers to soak up the damage. The same goes for the shooting phase, which will always go poorly for Orks and their abysmal shooting skills.
While generally straightforward in their playstyle, Orks do require a bit of extra knowledge on how to engage in melee combat to get full effectiveness. Additionally, moving all the models can be an obnoxious thing to do every turn. Their ease of play is moderate at best.
Great at range and with strong weapons to boot, Tau are one of the best long range armies. Their incredibly powerful battlesuits are the true cherry on top though. Each of them can carry multiple weapons to fully bombard your enemies with.
However, their melee is always found lacking. Aside from that, they have no psychic units, making them susceptible to spells. Tau are quite effective, and moderately easy to play, but with very apparent weaknesses.
One more swarm army, Tyranids have similar strengths and weaknesses to Orks. The main difference is that Tyranids get some really neat psykers too. This makes them a bit more versatile.
However, their shooting phase is even worse and they aren’t as tough as Orks. Even with really strong new rules, they aren’t as easy to play nor as effective without truly understanding the game.
The power of the Imperial Guard comes in the form of numbers and heavy artillery. Imperial Guard troops will come in groups of at least 10, wielding weak weapons that can acquire quite a few shots. However, these are just chaff and objective capping tools as heavy artillery shells the enemy army.
The downside is that melee combat will destroy you. Though if you keep at range, the army is moderately easy to play, with quite a lot of effective units.
Unlike other armies, Custodes are good at everything, except being psykers but that’s rarely an issue. They are durable, great at shooting as well as melee, decently fast, and have a ton of extra rules.
The drawback is their enormous price. A model in your army costs as much as a whole unit in others. This means you’ll have only a couple of models to play with, which can stretch the army thin on big maps. However, it makes them great for beginners who don’t want to micro everything while still staying effective.
Another Space Marine faction but this one is horribly infected by Nurgle. Don’t worry, that doesn’t impact their power on the tabletop, in fact it facilitates it. Death Guard is tightly packed with tough units that are tough to injure. With decent mid range power, they are tough customers on any objective.
However, Death Guard are rather slow. Which can make them a bit tougher to play and easy to outmaneuver. Practice patience, your turn to dish out pain will come.
What should a beginner consider when building their first Warhammer army?
Without delving into confusing rulings and special rules, we still have some guidelines to follow when making an army. These are very straightforward but absolutely crucial
Every unit is effective at different ranges be it long, medium, or close range. Different factions excel at certain ones. However, your army should strive to cover all of the ranges at least tangentially so there’s no phase in which it’s idle.
To do so, make sure there are units in the army that can either move into engagement from distant range (bikers, cavalry, etc.) or fire off their weaponry (pulse rifle, lascannon, etc.).
The range is one thing, the number of attacks and power of said attacks is quite another. A good army should have ways to deal with infantry, vehicles, and everything in between.
To accomplish that we will need three things. First, weapons with a ton of shots. This will be our infantry-killing ones, scoring more hits on average which decimate the blobs of infantry.
For more armored infantry and light vehicles, you’ll need armor penetration with more damage. A couple of extra hits on these weapons are nice to get the bigger squads of the more durable infantry down.
Lastly, you’ll need big guns. These will usually have few shots but deal absurd damage. They can be aimed at infantry but are best used on vehicles, especially really tough ones.
Look for synergies
Some units have exceptional synergy with each other. This can manifest either as one buffing the other or sheer cooperative strength. Look for units that complement each other in this manner, it will spike the power of your army significantly.
Basic tactics and strategies that beginners should know when playing Warhammer 40K
Before hopping into the battle, there are a few important tactics to keep in mind. These are applicable to any army and will see you doing far better when implementing them.
Command Points are used for stratagems and rerolls. Learning how to use them best is how players can upgrade their playstyle fast. Don’t spend them on minor increases in firepower or ones that aren’t directly impactful.
The real use of Command Points is for massive changes in power. These will usually be unit-wide stratagems that improve their chance of eliminating an opponent or surviving enemy fire. Rerolling charges is another great way to use them, just make sure to use them rather than saving up as this can be as damaging as wasting them.
Sitting on objectives is tactically sound
Locking down an objective and sitting on it puts you in a strong tactical position. The opponent is now forced into acting if they want to stop you from getting victory points. This makes them more predictable and easier to counter, so make sure to get to an objective as soon as possible.
Always focus a unit until it’s taken down or rendered useless. This goes double for vehicles, even at their lowest damage track a tank can inflict serious damage.
Overkill can be imminent if you dedicate too many shots but that’s preferable to losing units due to hubris. After all, dice affect the reliability of every action so better safe than sorry.
Common mistakes that beginners make when building or playing an army in Warhammer 40K, and how can they be avoided
As with every game, it’s expected to make mistakes when starting off. The most common ones can usually prove most devastating, hence why they bear addressing.
Diversity over numbers
You may be tempted to take an extra unit of cheaper units instead of dedicating point for a more expensive one. This is a frequent mistake as the cheaper unit could already have its role fulfilled elsewhere while the expensive one can provide extra versatility.
Objectives over kills
It’s tempting to rain fire upon enemy units all game long instead of going for objectives. This is a major mistake newbies commit, losing victory points and potentially not even killing a unit in the process. Make sure to split your attention between shooting and capturing.
Key units or models that beginners should consider including in their army for each faction in Warhammer 40K?
No matter which army you play, troops are the primary unit type to get. Troops give you much-needed objective control, numbers to absorb hits, and they are usually cheap. If an army has more expensive troops you better believe they will be worth it.
Any unit with an Objective Secured rule, or any rule that acts the same should be included in the army if possible. This rule states that no matter the model count, your unit will always hold an objective when it’s contested.
If two units with the same rule are on the objective the standard rules apply. Though it’s always best not to be caught lacking in this rule.
Picking an army shapes one’s playstyle. However, the key strategies remain the same no matter what faction is at play. Commit to mind the most important tactics and strategies, that will help every army excel no matter their specific strengths.