How To Get Into Warhammer 40,000
The more time goes on, the easier it is to get into the hobby. Plentiful communities, newbies, and resources are now available to all. Free sites are all around the internet, providing quicker ways to indulge in the game.
get into Warhammer 40K – First Steps
When it comes to the setting, there are a few great starting points. The Imperium of Man itself is extremely good for this purpose. It is a massive, galaxy-wide, human faction that aims to keep humanity’s spot among the stars.
However, its inner workings are convoluted, and its sub-factions are questionable when it comes to cooperation. Not all is good though, as the oppressive laws and corruption of all sorts plague every step of this massive faction.
When it comes to starting Warhammer 40k the wargame, the start is far easier. Reading some core rules and choosing an action will be enough to understand how the game works. After that, playing with people is the best way to do it.
The basics of Warhammer 40k
Aside from the Imperium, which is often a focal point of the stories, there are a few more basic concepts to learn.
- Warp: Basically a realm of all spiritual, a mirror to the real world
- Chaos: A primordial force with many factions attached to it, wishes to see world brough back to its original chaotic mess
- Xenos: Term humans use for all alien species
- Psyker: People who have supernatural powers, they draw from the Warp to use them
The basics terms of the game are as such:
- D6: A six-sided dice, the most common one you see in most board games. If the text specifies a number in front of D6 (eg. 2D6) that means you roll two of those dice.
- Model: One member of your army. Models could be single or in a unit.
- Unit: A single squad of models.
- Datasheets: Condensed stats and rules for a specific unit.
- Stats: The numbers that decide what a model is good at.
- Rolls: The key part of the game, whenever something needs to be resolved you roll. This includes rolls to hit, wound, save against wounds, or survive the morale phase. You always roll d6s.
- Wargear: All equipment found on a model or unit, from weapon choices to special rules
Getting Into Warhammer 40k – Where should you start
Start from media found within your favorite hobby. Warhammer 40k has spread out to just about any media out there. Video games, books, audio dramas, cartoons, and comics are all covered by this expansive franchise.
Of course, jumping right into the wargame is another option. The other media won’t prepare you for play, only explain the world. Wargame itself will lightly touch on the lore while providing a new way to engage with the game.
Space Marines are genetically-enhanced superhuman soldiers created by the Imperium of Man. They are the poster boys of Warhammer 40,000. They are highly disciplined, heavily armored, and wield advanced weaponry. Each Space Marine chapter has its own unique characteristics and specializes in different forms of combat.
More about Space Marines
Chaos Space Marines:
Chaos Space Marines are the corrupted counterparts of the loyal Space Marines. They have pledged their loyalty to the Chaos Gods and have turned against the Imperium. These traitorous warriors are twisted and mutated, wielding chaotic powers and demonic allies.
More about Chaos Space Marines
The Necrons are an ancient race of soulless, robotic warriors. They were once an advanced civilization that exchanged their flesh for mechanical bodies in pursuit of immortality. Now reawakened from slumber, they seek to reclaim their lost empire and eradicate all other forms of life.
More about Necrons
Orks are a brutal and warlike race. They are huge, green-skinned creatures that thrive on warfare and violence. Orks have a unique psychic ability known as the Waaagh!, which allows them to channel their collective belief to shape reality and make their weapons more deadly.
More about Orks
The Eldar are an ancient and highly advanced alien race. They are graceful and psychic beings with a strong connection to their ancient heritage. Despite their dwindling numbers, the Eldar possess formidable technology and possess intricate mastery of psychic powers.
More about Eldar
The T’au Empire is a relatively young and rapidly expanding faction. They are a highly organized and technologically advanced race. The T’au believe in the Greater Good, an ideology that seeks unity and cooperation among different species, offering them a place in their empire or incorporating them into their army.
More about Tau
Tyranids are a swarm-like alien race driven by a constant hunger to consume all biological matter in the galaxy. They travel in massive hive fleets, devouring everything in their path. Tyranids possess a variety of bio-engineered creatures, from monstrous beasts to small, agile organisms.
More about Tyranids
The Imperial Guard, also known as the Astra Militarum, is the vast human military force of the Imperium. They are ordinary humans armed with a range of weaponry and supported by tanks, artillery, and air support. The Imperial Guard fights in massive numbers, often facing overwhelming odds in the defense of the Imperium.
More about Imperial Guard
The Adeptus Mechanicus is a technological and religious organization within the Imperium. They are responsible for the maintenance, development, and understanding of advanced technology. They have a strong focus on machine worship and view technology as sacred. The Adeptus Mechanicus fields armies of specialized troops, powerful war machines, and deadly weapons.
More about Adeptus Mechanicus
These factions provide a glimpse into the diverse and complex world of Warhammer 40,000, each with its own rich lore, playstyle, and unique units.
The Warhammer 40k universe for beginners
It’s the grim 41st millennium, the entire Milky way galaxy is at war. Alien and human factions alike face off across the stars, with entire planets being destroyed as a result of these horrible conflicts.
In this constant conflict, the Imperium of Man remains a single massive human faction. Humanity survives through their powerful bulwark, Adeptus Astartes. These Space Marines are superhuman warriors ready to face off against anybody who’d threaten mankind.
Chaos, an eldritch force, aims to corrupt humanity and turn them to its whims. The humans readily fall either into their ranks or onto their swords. It is the greatest enemy of the Imperium of Man.
Many alien races provide all forms of different dangers too, each with their own goals. Goals which go contrary to humanity’s survival.
In this grim future, there’s nothing but war. Even when one conflict simmers down, next one comes in.
The 40k lore
The lore of Warhammer 40k starts in prehistory before humans were even present. The turbulent events of early civilizations have sent the galaxy into disarray which humanity succeeded in surviving.
The next 25,000 years humanity kept advancing, rising into the stars, and exploring. However, an apocalyptic event shredded connections between planets and left most in horrible disarray.
Far later, around the 30th millennium, a superhuman figure known as Emperor appeared and led humanity to reunite. This was all done under the banner of the Imperium of Man, a new and grand human faction. After years of interstellar wars, he was struck down by his son and put into a state between life and death.
Since the fall of Emperor, and until the current era of the 41st millennium, the galaxy has been in a sharp decline. Constant conflict and war weakened the Imperium of Man significantly. None of the outside threats stopped coming in while outside ones grew considerably each day.
The Warhammer franchise has many ways you can enjoy their universe
Being around for over 30 years means Warhammer 40k has spread into a branching multimedia franchise. Anything from comics to audio dramas can be found across the plethora of media published under the franchise.
We will be looking into the most common ways of engaging with the franchise: wargame, books, painting minis, and video games.
The tabletop game
Of course, the key part of the franchise remains its wargame. Warhammer 40k is a rather popular one, with plenty to digest. It can be quite intimidating, but the game isn’t as overwhelmingly complex as it would seem at first.
To start off, you can refer to the more in-depth beginner’s guide I’ve already done. Alternatively, have a couple of most important tidbits right here.
What army should I start with Warhammer 40k?
For the 9th edition, either Space Marines or Necrons. Both of these factions can be easily picked up, played in a linear manner, and then expanded upon as you learn more about the game.
Space Marines have high stats and decent weaponry, their support units being pretty straightforward too. Changing the loadout of a squad also offers more versatility, making it easy to throw in some extra potency.
Necrons share similar traits to Space Marines with the advantage of being super durable. Necron units heal wounds every turn and have a chance to regenerate when killed, making each squad tough to eliminate.
The act of choosing an army on the tabletop is a complex process. Usually, the most important part of it is the faction playstyle.
To dumb down general playstyle options we have: melee focus, range focus, fast, swarm, psychic, and elite.
Warhammer armies that are Melee focused:
armies that focus on melee have really good attacks when in close-range combat. Their units can usually overwhelm foes after a charge, quickly eliminating entire units in close quarters.
Examples: Space Wolves, Chaos Daemons, Harlequins
ranged armies want to stay away from the enemy. They are the strongest when there’s a decent space between them and the enemy. Often, they struggle in melee and find it hard to fully recover when the gunline is broken.
Examples: T’au, Astra Militarum, Necrons
Speed focused armies:
These armies can zoom around the battlefield with ease. The fast army will reach objectives before you know it, or flank behind your important units for extra threat.
Examples: Dark Eldar, Eldar, White Scars
Size focused army:
If you play a swarm army get ready to move a lot of models. These armies usually fill each of their units with many models, making each unit harder to fully eliminate.
This leads even their cheaper armies to possess a high number of units in total. Swarm factions will overwhelm both foes and your wallet with their high model counts.
Examples: Orks, Tyranids
Psychic Warhammer armies:
Wielding arcane powers against their foes, psychic armies can soften the enemies before shooting has even begun. These armies can alter the potency of both players’ units with various spells at their disposal.
Examples: Thousand Sons, Grey Knights
a polar opposite of a swarm army, the elite army has very few models. Those that they do have wield the power equivalent to entire squads. Elite players’ armies may not look large or impressive but the datasheets for their units are.
Examples: Adeptus Custodes
These playstyles can mix within some armies. For example, Orks are a melee-focused swarm army. Of course, these are just some examples of how to best discern rough archetypes of available armies rather than an official guideline.
A faction codex is a compilation of all rules, stats, and stratagems you need to pilot an army. The codex is a great place to start when trying to get into a new army. Doubly so if said army has many units in their rooster.
While reading the entire book cover to cover may not be required to play the faction, it’s worth having it on hand for references.
Stratagems and detachment rules especially can be hard to remember, having the codex on hand to check how they work helps that.
Books are varied in genre and quality when it comes to the Warhammer 40k franchise. Of course, talking about novels specifically not rulebooks.
The novels are plentiful, there being over 350 of them, and their genres can go all over the place. From military fiction to detective stories, we will be able to find quite a few books to fit any taste.
This is another subject that was deeply explored in another article. But for somebody who wants a little bit of everything, here is some information on which novels to take a peek at.
What books should you start with?
The best starting books are Einsenhorn novels and Gaunt’s Ghosts. They are good reads while not being too convoluted either, offering a smooth way to enter the world of Warhammer 40k novels.
Einsenhorn follows an inquisitor of the same name. His exploits are documented across multiple books, tying into the conspiracy he encounters early in the first book. The books are filled with colorful characters, interesting plot points, and very good pacing.
Gaunt’s Ghosts is a more standard military fiction type of series. This book series follows the commander Gaunt and his regiment as they face off against threats throughout the battlefields of their star system. The books give a more human look into the often overwhelming world of alien dangers.
Those who really can’t wait to start with more alien aspects of the world can always jump into the Space Wolf book series. They cover an interesting road of one marine from the Space Wolves chapter and the threats he unveils.
What are some top picks when getting into the Warhammer books?
Aside from the aforementioned starter books. It pays to check some of the following too:
- The Infinite and the Divine
- Dark Imperium
- The Night Lords
- Wraithbone Phoenix
- Fire Warrior
- Ciaphas Cain
Playing on the tabletop, the miniatures are key when it comes to keeping track of unit locations. Miniatures are composed of parts and the base, any of which you can switch out for another appropriate one.
There are quite a few things that can be customized on a miniature, including wargear. This customizability is used during tournament play to properly represent all wargear a unit has.
It’s a rule known as “What You See Is What You Get” or WYSIWYG for short. A rule used to help distinguish things easier during a competitive match by miniatures being clear on what you are looking at.
Start painting WH40k miniatures
Choose a faction you like the most, get some equipment, and start painting. It’s suggested you start with less intricate models, most troops have designs that err on the simple side.
Of course, any model that is mostly made out of simpler shapes could prove perfect to start with. Getting a box of new or used models of this type can work wonders for practicing paintings.
Do you have to play the game to get into the miniatures?
No, miniatures can be fun to paint and assemble even without using them in the game. Even people who play the game will have models that they exclusively bought to paint.
Certain miniatures are especially cool and fun to paint so fetching them even without playing is bound to be a great painting experience.
What are the essentials to get into WH miniatures?
Brush, paint, and a model. The only other thing you should find is a good guide to painting, there are plentiful online which can lead you through all the intricacies of this hobby.
The video games
Last subject on the menu are video games. A format that lends itself perfectly for all of the setting’s many stories.
With video games, Warhammer 40k has had a history about as varied as any long-standing franchise. There are good, bad, and mediocre ones to fill entire Steam libraries. However, there are a few really good starting points:
Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War video game:
At the top of the list, we have the standard recommendation. Released in 2004, it took the place of the best Warhammer 40k game, a spot it still keeps for most fans of the franchise.
Dawn of War is a really good RTS with many ways to modify your squads to make some really fun builds. Presentation is key, all of the franchise’s favorite factions get an absolutely fantastic showing with brutal animations to boot.
Warhammer 40000 Mechanicus:
Another strategy game from an entirely different genre, Mechanicus is a turn-based game filled with lore and fun.
The game is focused on Adeptus Mechanicus and Necrons, both of which are fun factions to explore. Gameplay is solid and the difficulty isn’t too great even for newbies to the strategy genre.
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marines:
A wonderful third-person shooter that combines the standards of the genre with melee combat. Seamlessly fusing the ranged and melee capabilities of the eponymous Space Marine, the game is an energetic romp all the way through.
Both newbies to the Warhammer 40k franchise and veterans will appreciate the attention to detailed backgrounds that illustrate every level of the game.
Of course, if you’d like to learn what else the franchise can offer in this format, check out a full guide through the Warhammer video games I’ve assembled.
Tips for starting with Warhammer 40k
Wherever you start, remember one important rule: Don’t try to take all of the franchise at once. It’s easy to be spread thin quickly when you try to read about all the factions and events.
Instead, start with one of the major ones you fancy and work your way through them. After that, the reading you did should provide an ample jumping-off point.
No matter whether it’s lore, game, novels, or any other piece of media feel free to ask for help and suggestions. Community is generally friendly, with less friendly members sticking to specific forums.
The Warhammer community is huge and supportive
Speaking of forums, let’s go over some communities that are genuinely helpful. These are just a few but they should offer a decent amount of help for beginners.
- r/wh40k: The best starting point for any newcomer to the hobby. This subreddit is generally very helpful and active. Allowing every question to be quickly answered, which can be exceptionally easier than searching for the appropriate FAQ for every concern.
- Midwinter Minis: A YouTube channel with plentiful videos on painting, guides, and game recaps. All combined in a terse manner that will allow everybody to refresh their knowledge quickly.
- Dakka Dakka: One forum that proved to be helpful times and times again. Players old and new congregate on here to provide tips to everybody.
- Tabletop Simulator Discord: Most virtual play is done through Tabletop Simulator so it makes sense their server would have channels for Warhammer 40k. Those who feel more comfortable using Discord will find themselves at home with this place.
Is 40K hard to get into?
No, getting into Warhammer 40k has so many facets that engaging with it is generally simple. However, exploring all of it can get hard. Exploring bit by bit is recommended, so find an entry point that fits you best.
Is Warhammer beginner friendly?
The world and the game aren’t too beginner friendly in on themselves but the girth of available content that helps newbies makes it easier to parse.
YouTube channels, forums, and guides all assist in making the game snappier to learn even for complete newbies.
To get into Warhammer 40k, you need a starting point. This can be anything from book to the tabletop game itself. Reading, following creators who provide helpful tips, and taking the franchise one step at a time will get you caught up to speed fast. May you enjoy this wonderful hobby no matter the way you enter it.