Warhammer 40,000; Getting Started
Hello, gamers! Do you ever ask yourself if Warhammer 40,000 is the right game for you? Do you ever watch with interest as your friends play it? Do you wish you could get a good idea about the game, without having to throw too much time or money into it? Well, you’ve come to the right place.
I have taken the liberty to write this article in hopes of aiding any would-be players of this fantastic tabletop game make a decision that they won’t regret in the future. I will discuss the game itself, the price tags involved, the process of choosing an army (and a brief overview of each) and anything else that happens to come to mind when wondering about the game.
Following the example of Games Workshop, I introduce to you “Getting Started.�? I hope you enjoy!
Hmm … what type of a game is Warhammer 40,000?
Warhammer 40,000 (or 40k, as it is popularly shortened to) is a tabletop war game that utilises models to represent units and armies. It is very much a strategy-based game, however, it is much more forgiving in this respect than its cousin, Warhammer Fantasy Battles.
Models and units are assigned specific “point�? values, with which you use to make army lists with – more on this later. Using these army lists, and the models that represent your units, you play a turn-based game against one or more opponents to decide a victor. Very similar, actually, to many video games, board games, and other strategy games, but with its own, unique feel.
The game is set in the far distant future – maybe even in a different galaxy – where battles are fought all across space by typical and not-so-typical armies. More on the armies later.
If you are intrigued by a popular, scifi-based tabletop war game with what can be lovely models, great stories, popularity, and versatility, then this is the hobby for you, and read on.
Ouch … look at that price! Do I really have to spend all that?
Ahh, the biggest turn off from Warhammer 40k – the price. Granted, Games Workshop models and books are incredibly expensive, and many skeptics will ask you the simple question, “are you getting your money’s worth?�? Many of them won’t think so, but I disagree. If you like this type of game, then you are definitely getting your money’s worth.
Look at it this way – think about your other hobbies; hobbies such as reading, video games, paintball, sports, and anything else that you enjoy doing. Don’t these hobbies cost you, sometimes a lot of money, to get what you want? Video games are approaching $50 and $60 to buy, not to mention the systems. Books cost between $5 and $20 for simply reading a few times in your life! By these standards, Warhammer 40k is by no means the most expensive hobby in the world.
If it’s going to become a hobby, doesn’t that mean that it is worth spending money on? Many people, including myself, tend to think so.
Hm … well, that makes sense. What types of armies are there?
The game of Warhammer 40k offers eleven unique armies to choose from. Keep in mind, this is not all of the customisation available to you – there are variations on each army and differences that you can make in your army lists, which will be covered later. Here, I’ll just provide a short summary of the armies available to you. Just click the name of the army to be taken to a Getting Started section of the Games Workshop website. Ready?
Space Marines: Space Marines are probably one of the most notable armies when you look at Warhammer 40k. Quite easily the most player-abundant army, Space Marines are the super-humans of the 41st century, super soldiers who defend the Imperium of Mankind from all kinds of threats. Gameplay-wise, they are a very balanced force that can be used to do pretty much anything you require of them. Many players would agree that they are a very good starting army.
Chaos Space Marines: The evil brethren of the heroic Space Marines, Chaos Space Marines are Space Marines who long ago broke away from the Imperium, either in simple rebellion or to join the forces of the evil Chaos Gods. There are four major Chaos Gods, and by playing this army you can choose to follow any of them if you so desire. Overall, they play very similar to Space Marines, with a few interesting quirks, and are quite capable of satisfying your inner evil.
Daemon Hunters: Ahh, the Paladins of the 41st century. The Daemon Hunters are an elite faction of the Inquisition (an organisation in the Imperium of Man) who … well, hunt Daemons! They despise Chaos even more than the typical good guy and hunt them whenever they can. They use exclusively a special force of ultra-elite Space Marines called the Grey Knights, who are trained to hunt and defeat Chaos. Gameplay-wise, they have similar abilities to standard Space Marines, but lack in their overall versatility. They are also, as suggested, incredibly elite – they are more often than not outnumbered on the field of battle, but make up for this lack in sheer power.
Tau Empire: The Tau are a relatively new race in the world of Warhammer 40k, but are still quite a force. While they are not super-humans (nay, they are not human at all!), they do not lack in some serious combat prowess, forging their new Empire across the galaxy in the name of the Greater Good. The Tau are a very shooty army, gameplay-wise, and rely on their big guns more so than any Space Marine variant, and less so on their close combat prowess. They excel at mobile warfare, toting around awesome firepower across the battlefield. Not for the player who likes to get their hands dirty in close combat!
Craftworld Eldar: Commonly called “Space Elves�? by fans, that is exactly what they are – the Elves of the 41st century. Eldar are an ancient, dying race, their drastically reduced population the result of a cataclysmic disaster from many years before, nearly wiping out their entire race. During gameplay, Eldar have to be used carefully, as they are not quite as versatile as other armies. Each of their units specialises in a specific role or two, not able to carry out many different battlefield responsibilities. They must be used simultaneously in a very specific role in order to be most effective, but they carry many different units that specialise in both close combat and shooting.
Dark Eldar: It seems many races have dark kin, and the Eldar aren’t excluded. The Dark Eldar were once part of the empire of the Eldar, but after the disaster that nearly wiped their race out, they split from their cowardly cousins and hid deep in the Webway. They revel in pain and pleasure and seek many slaves to take their souls – not the best army for good guy lovers out there! They are a fragile, specialised army that has wicked close combat and shooting abilities. However, they cannot field as many models as some armies, and are not as durable as other armies, so therefore must be used very strategically. Typically, like Eldar, they are not suggested for brand new players. Few players as it is play them.
Orks: Everyone’s heard of Orcs – be they from Warhammer, The Lord of the Rings, or other fantasy games and books. Well, they’re in Warhammer 40k, too, with the name “Orks.�? Orks live to fight – that is their sole purpose in life. They will do anything for a good fight, and would rather die fighting than live not fighting. They are very powerful close combatants and, while their accuracy is a bit off, their shooting isn’t something to be taken lightly. These “Greenskinz�? are a very fun army to play, as many of their vehicles and models need to be converted yourself, giving you a very unique army.
Imperial Guard: The Imperial Guard is the largest (or so they say) force in the galaxy. These are your basic, run-of-the-mill, strut it out grunts. By looking at the models, you will see a striking resemblance to real-life military forces. The Imperial Guard is basically that – they are the backbone of the Imperium, but they aren’t super humans, they’re your average Joe, which is a big player-draw when faced with so many of these seemingly alien armies. The Imperial Guard are noted, both in the background of Warhammer 40k as well as in gameplay, for their high numbers of soldiers and their high numbers of tanks. They are typically a shooting army, but can be tailored somewhat to other means using the Doctrines system. Strong in numbers, but individually lacking, they can be relied upon to win the day with their awesome firepower and tough tanks.
Necrons: Remember those Terminator movies? With Arnold? You found the 40k equivalent in the Necrons. These guys look almost just like Terminators (not to be confused with the Space Marines unit), and even smell like them, too! Well, not really. Necrons are an ancient race that are ruled by the C’tan, Gods who are pretty much not the Chaos Gods. After a long period of being asleep, the C’tan have awoken and with them, the Necrons. If you like the Terminator movies, if you like armies of walking robots, then Necrons are the army for you. They are generally recommended as an army for new players because of their durability (they are hard to take down, and even when they do get taken down, they can get back up!) and their relatively easy to use army. However, their armies tend to lack a lot of variation, and can get boring quick, so beware.
Tyranids: Starcraft fans look out! It’s the Zerg! Well, no, it’s just something that’s exactly like it. The “Great Devourer,�? Tyranids are a huge swarm of bug-like creatures that came from another galaxy to eat everything in this one – they don’t care what! They are a swarm guided by the Hive Mind, and during gameplay, that’s exactly what they usually are – swarms! Capable of fielding many models, or a few giant ones, Tyranids are excellent close combat fiends, and their shooting isn’t something to laugh at, either. If you like ugly swarms of bugs set to eat the galaxy, these are the buggers for you!
Witch Hunters: Another faction of the Inquisition, similar to the Daemon Hunters, the Witch Hunters tend to seek our heretics and rebellion within the Imperium, instead of hunting Chaos without. Instead of the elite Space Marines, the Grey Knights, the Witch Hunters exclusively use the Sisters of Battle, armies entirely made up of women with only slightly worse abilities than the super human Space Marines. They excel at close-ranged shooting, and tend to lack more in long-ranged support and close combat, but are a very interesting army to use with a unique system called Faith. Their models are usually all-metal, though, so be wary of costs here.
Whew… that’s a lot of armies! But I think I have the one I want… what do I do now?
Many players, after picking an army, will impulsively buy models immediately upon coming to their decision. While not a horrible idea, especially if you like the way certain models look, I don’t suggest it, myself. I suggest you go out and buy your army’s relevant codex (this is the army book containing all of the units, stats, points costs, and even fluff, which is background material, and the books also include suggestions as to how to paint your models).
After buying your army’s relevant codex, the only other thing you have to buy is the Warhammer 40,000 core rulebook. It is a little price-heavy, but contains all the rules you need in order to play a game of Warhammer 40k with your selected army.
Once you’ve read the books and have at least a decent understanding of your army and the rules, you should make army lists. With the help of people online, such as the members of the Librarium-Online forum, you can come to make a legal list that you’re happy with.
After that, it’s time to buy some models, and start painting!
What’s the basic gameplay like?
I can’t get too in-depth here, as you really should learn this from the rulebook, but the basic game is played with a mission. Sometimes the mission is just to kill your enemy, and other times it is to take and hold an objective, while denying it to your enemy. Each game turn has two halves – one half is your’s, one half is your enemy’s. That means that it feels like two turns in one – your enemy must wait for you to finish your half, and then you must wait for your enemy to finish their’s.
This is the basic run-down of a single turn:
Movement Phase: Player A may move his/her models a specific number of inches.
Shooting Phase: Player A may shoot with any eligible units.
Assault Phase: Player A may make any eligible assault moves, and fight in any close combats.
Movement Phase: Player B may move his/her models a specific number of inches.
Shooting Phase: Player B may shoot with any eligible units.
Assault Phase: Player B may make any eligible assault moves, and fight in any close combats.
As you can see, each “player turn�? (one half of the whole turn, devoted to a single player) is divided up into three different phases. This helps the natural flow of the game, so you can separate all of the confusing details into easily kept-up-with phases. That’s about all I can cover with that, as you should read about the turn and gameplay in your rulebook!
Wow, this sure has helped!
That was the point!
Keep in mind, this is only provided as an extremely basic guide to brand new players – in order to really get the hang of it, you need to get your codex, get the rulebook, and play some games! There are many different things you can do in Warhammer 40,000, and only the basics were listed here. I encourage you to experiment, read through your rulebooks, study up, and do things your own way!
There are many places online, including the Games Workshop website, in which you can receive help. I highly suggest you surf the net, and make sure to check out the forums at Librarium-Online, as there are many members there who will be happy to help you get on your way!
Good luck with Warhammer 40,000!