Warhammer 40k is a futuristic tabletop strategy game created by Games Workshop that pits multiple races and factions against each other for control of the galaxy.
The Current State of the Game
has arrived, and with it the narrative has moved on for the first time in decades. Cadia has fallen, Biel-Tan has been fractured, new factions have risen, and amongst the ashes the Ultramarines Primarch Roboute Guilliman has returned to attempt to salvage the Dark Imperium. Shit is definitely
How Do I Get Started?
40k can be a daunting game for beginners. Luckily, there are now some nice places to start; the core rules are available for free
, the First Strike starter set
is a cheap way to get enough models and extras for two people to start playing, and the Easy to Build line of models give you a cheap way to pick up models if you're interested in putting some together and painting them (or just to expand your current collection).
The Dark Imperium starter set
is probably the best way to go if you really want to dive in, as it'll give you a full rulebook alongside two decently sized armies. It only contains Space Marine and Death Guard units, but if you like the look of another army you might find a Start Collecting! box for them which will give you an easy way to begin playing them.
Hold On, How Do I Choose A Faction?
The simplest answer to this question is; however you want to. You might find the look of an army appealing. Maybe you like the way that it plays. Or maybe you just want to pick up the new hotness that's currently dominating tournaments. Whatever! It's your
army. Details of a lot of the factions can be found below, but you can broadly divide them into a few different groups which share traits; Imperial factions tend to be versatile and solid at everything*, Chaos factions are like the Imperium except edgier, Eldar armies tend towards being glass cannons, etc. 8th edition's rules allow you to mix and match similar factions to an extent, so if, for instance, you like the look of both Space Marines and Sisters of Battle then you can run both in the same army.
But Once I've Got All This, Where Do I Find A Game?
Maybe you've got some friends who play. Maybe there's a local hobby or gaming shop in your area - if there is, odds are good that there'll be people looking for games. 40k's always been popular in tabletop crowds and 8th edition seems to have made it even easier to find games. There are also large tournaments like the Las Vegas Open and the London GT, if you fancy diving into the competitive side of the game.
Adeptus Astartes (Space Marines)
- The Loyal -
They are the most powerful and dreaded of all the human warriors in the galaxy. No longer strictly human, but superhuman, superior in all respects to mere men by a harsh regime of genetic modification, psycho-conditioning and rigorous training. Few in number compared to the uncounted trillions of humanity, Space Marines are organized into small independent armies called Chapters that stand ready to lay fight wherever the Imperium needs them. Their unswerving loyalty is to the Emperor of Mankind first, their Chapter second, and none other beyond that. There are also a number of specific Chapters with notably unique traits, such as the Blood Angels (space vampires), Space Wolves (space... wolves), and the Dark Angels (unquestionably loyal).
Adeptus Custodes (Golden Space Marines)
- The Watchful -
The Emperor's personal golden army, these chaps have finally become bored of standing by a corpse for several thousand years and have instead decided to venture out into space on their own personal jetbikes. These guys are the most elite of elite armies, and are the faction you want to be taking if you want every single model in your army to outclass the strongest heroes of other factions.
-The Ironhearted -
The Adeptus Mechanicus is a technological organisation, often known as the Priesthood of Mars. It holds a monopoly on technological knowledge in the Imperium. Their Forge Worlds turn out the Imperium's most powerful and advanced weaponry and equipment. The organisation's adepts, the Tech-priests, are vital in maintaining much of the Imperium's more technologically advanced equipment, not the least of which is the Emperor's life-sustaining Golden Throne.
Astra Militarum (Imperial Guard)
- The Dutiful -
In the midst of genetically engineered super-beings, alien killing machines, warrior mystics, and technology that approaches sorcery in its sophistication, the Imperial Guard are mere mortals. Protected by little more than faith, they contend with the most terrifying threats the darkest corners of the galaxy vomits forth armed with flesh and steel. As such it is easy to identify with these brave souls and to see in them the qualities of true heroes. Also: tanks tanks lol
Adepta Soritas (Sisters of Battle)
- The Faithful -
The darkness contained within the hearts and minds of humanity itself is a sinister and subtle threat. The heretic, mutant, and rogue psyker threaten humanity with an internal rot as damaging any xenos invasion. The Ordo Hereticus exists to seek and burn out this threat. The Sisters of Battle, empowered by their unwavering faith in the Holy Emperor of Terra, hunt the witch, the heretic, the fallen cleric, and none is permitted to escape the cleansing fire of their wrath.
- The Hammer -
The Grey Knights are the amongst the most inscrutable of the Imperium's many organizations. Incorruptible, armed with the best weapons and equipment that Mankind has to offer, they are humanity's defense against the darkness of Chaos wherever it may lurk.
- The Nightmares -
Lust, hate, despair, sorrow. All emotion has a reverberation within the warp, the worst, most bitterly felt, and the furthest extreme becoming strong enough to persist, coalesce, and finally, become. It was from the darkest corners of the galaxy's hearts that Khorne - Lord Upon the Skullthrone, Tzeentch - The Changer of Ways, Nurgle - The Final Decay, and Slaneesh - The Feaster of Pain, sprang forth, and they await the time when the veil against the Warp wears thin, and their warriors, spawn, and offspring can pour through.
Heretic Astartes (Chaos Space Marines)
- The Betrayers -
During the tumult of the birth of the Imperium of Man, half of the Emperor's most trusted Legions turned against him in a bitter civil war. Brother fought brother, and Mankind drove itself to the very brink of extinction. Ten thousand years after their defeat, those same traitors still launch their Black Crusades from within the Eye of Terror, their dead hearts intent upon nothing less than the utter destruction of the Imperium and the death of its weakling Emperor.
Asuryani (Craftworlds Eldar)
*Except for the Imperial Guard, who are still too fucking good at everything
- The Dying -
An almost unimaginably ancient race who once ruled an empire spanning the galaxy. Then came the hideous time of the Fall, when the Eldar were consumed by their own decadence and nearly obliterated to the last, the few survivors scattered across the stars. Though now few in number, they are still one of the most advanced races in the galaxy. This advantage combined with the prescient abilities of their Farseers, who scry the future, guide their kin along the most favorable paths of fate, no matter what the cost to the lesser races.
Drukhari (Dark Eldar)
- The Lost-
These spawn of unquiet dreams inhabit a realm called Commorragh, a place as darkly twisted as its rulers, from which these merciless pirates launch raids across the length and breadth of the galaxy. The purpose of these raids is not to conquer planets or protect territory but to cause mayhem, steal, pillage, and – most importantly of all – capture new victims to be taken back to Commorragh for endless torture. Having fallen far into the depths of depravity, their every waking moment is dedicated to inflicting pain and suffering on the galaxy. The Dark Eldar are broadly an alliance of three loose groups; Kabals (pirate raiders), Wych Cults (drugged-up gladiators), and Haemonculus Covens (the cenobites from Hellraiser).
The Harlequins are the keepers of the Black Library and serve the enigmatic Eldar deity called the Laughing God. The Harlequins see no distinction between art and war, and their outlook can best be explained by reference to the legend of the Fall; one of their self-appointed duties is to keep this legend alive through their performances. The Laughing God is the only authority that the Harlequins recognise, and their every deed is thought to be in furtherance of his own inscrutable agenda. Harlequins are undeniably part of the Eldar race, yet they owe no allegiance to any given Craftworld or Kabal.
The Ynnari are a newly formed Eldar group that worship the God Ynnead and believe their race can be saved from the predation of Slaanesh, by helping to bring about the birth of the slumbering God of the dead. Led by Ynnead's Emissary Yvraine, the group is composed of Eldar from the Craftworlds, Corsair groups, Commorragh and even from among the Harlequins. With their combined might they have become a rising force in the galaxy, who not only seek to bring about Ynnead's birth, but also return the Eldar to the glory their race had before their Empire fell. However, the arrogant coercion they employ to save their race, has alienated as many Eldar as it has united under Yvraine's command. Worse still, many see the Ynnari as corrupted by the very daemonic forces they seek to thwart, while others believe they are already dead inside.
- The Ancient -
Ancient beyond imagining even before their great sleep, the Necrons are awakening from their 60-million-year dormancy to plague the living once more. Countless thousands of immortal, soulless warriors have risen from dusty stasis-tombs, their cold wills bent on harvesting the teeming species of the galaxy. They commanded the stars long before the ancient Eldar had even begun their existence, and it is only that so few have awoken that they do not pose a greater threat in the current day.
- The Beast -
The most widespread and warlike race of aliens in the bloodstained galaxy of the 41st millennium. From the depths of the galactic core to the distant ghost-stars beyond the galactic rim, Ork empires rise, clash, fall and the remnants mixing to begin the cycle again. In terms of sheer numbers and planets, Orks occupy more of the galaxy than any other single race, and if they ever unified, they would crush all opposition the stood before them, It is to the galaxy's benefit that the orks' passion for violence is so unquenchable that they spend their entire lives embroiled in war, fighting each other as readily as any other foe.
- The Young -
Since their first contact with the Imperium in the 35th millennium, the Tau have risen from a hunter-gatherer society to a star-faring race, nibbling at the flanks of the Imperium, in less than six thousand years. Absolute obedient to the command of the enigmatic ethereal caste, the Tau believe that now is their time. It is their race and their Empire that will bring unity to the stars, all races equal, the Tau first among them. There is no foe their technology cannot overcome, no quandary their science cannot resolve, the stars and all that lies between to be joined beneath the aegis of the Greater Good.
- The Hungry -
Without a doubt the most alien race encountered by Humanity. They have been likened to locusts, piranhas, on a galactic scale remorselessly hungry, too numerous to destroy. Tyranids are a nomadic, space-dwelling race that emerged from the void between galaxies into our own in search of new resources to consume. These hive fleets have discovered sustenance in abundance in the forms of the myriad species of the Milky Way, leaving nothing but balls of scoured rock in the wake of their titanic swarms, tendrils boring ever deeper towards the heart of our galaxy.
A Genestealer Cult is a xenos-worshipping secret society made up of and controlled by Tyranid Genestealers that thrives in the dark corners of the Imperial underworld across the galaxy. Secretive, stealthy, and utterly malignant, Genestealer Cults are the cankers growing unseen in the hidden spaces of Mankind's realm. Some cultists are truly monstrous, skulking along dank tunnels with robes or hessian sacks covering their hybrid xenos anatomies. Others are merely pallid and bald, able to pass for loyal Imperial citizens whilst their wyrm-form tattoos remain hidden. These latter-generation brethren mingle amongst the herd of Mankind like wolves in sheep's clothing, working so hard amongst the crumbling machineries of Human industry that none spare them a second glance -- but under their work fatigues and rough miner’s apparel, they all bear the mark of the alien.