A Beginner's Guide to Warhammer 40k

Hello Folks!

So, recently I've been helping a lot of friends go through the process of getting into/getting back into playing Warhammer. I've found myself providing information from different places to different people, and it's been really fun!
But, I also figured that since I've been practicing and gathering the resources already, why not put it all together for beginners out there?

That said, if you're ready to go down the rabbit hole, here goes!

Let's start with the obvious-

What is Warhammer 40k?
Warhammer 40k is a Tabletop Wargame. Meaning, players build and paint their own pieces from kits they buy from Games Workshop. They then take these models and play head-to-head in various campaigns and skirmishes following the Rulebooks that are released periodically for the game and their own army.
In short, it's a supercharged version of Risk - where Risk is to Warhammer as playing with a toy truck is to flying a Fighter Jet.
40k takes place in a fictional far future, where Humanity has (twice) expanded throughout the Galaxy and built an Interstellar Empire (the Imperium), and essentially picked a fight with any and all Alien races they found. It's a dark, seedy, Gothic-themed universe with a huge number of stories, video games, and role-playing games spun off of it.

Point of interest - Warhammer and Warhammer 40k were the original inspiration for Blizzard Entertainment's Warcraft and Starcraft series.

This battle scene provided by: Mind Games

Why play Warhammer 40k?
Well, for starters, it's a lot of fun. It's tactical, intriguing, challenging, and satisfying in a way only something so fiendishly complicated can be. It's a chance to satisfy a deep love of incredible storytelling, art, painting, building, and game time with your pals. If you have even a small group of people willing to get into it, it's a great way get the most out of it. If you don't have that committed group of friends (yet - you'll talk them in to it later!) the Warhammer gaming community is full of fun, interesting (let's emphasize that one) and often friendly players, many of whom have been at this for a long time and will be happy to give pointers.
Also, the stories ("Lore") are excellent. Dark, but full of promise, hope, letdown and everything from incredibly advanced technology to future versions of magic. There are Angels, there are Demons, there are tanks, fighter planes, airstrikes, plucky Infantrymen and truly inspiring Heroes (or detestable villains).

I, personally, absolutely love it. There's nothing like reading about a great trick in the rules, finding one of your units that takes advantage of it, then getting , building and painting the models - then bringing them to the battle field (game table) and seeing them get mashed to a pulp! Metaphorically of course, leaving me to go back to the drawing board.
Then again, there are those brilliant moments where a cunning ploy, a wildly improbable dice roll, or a glaring mistake by an opponent wins you the day. There are no better ways to capture that feeling and scratch that itch!

Why SHOULDN'T I play Warhammer 40k?
It should be said, right off the bat, that this hobby is expensive, it is one heck of a time sink, and once you start it's a slippery slope to getting more and more into it. This isn't a typical board game you can just pick up and learn as you go - the rulebook is more than 100 pages long (of just the rules part, that is), and each individual army has another book that's 20 -50 pages of rules.
So, consider yourself warned!

If that didn't scare you away, grease those ol' feet and jump on that slippery slope, because we're going in!

Where do I start?
 If you are starting out, be sure to check with some players to see where the Edition rotation is. 40k has rules that have been updated often, and you don't want to buy a rulebook that's not going to be legal in a month!
 Warhammer 40k 8th Edition is being (has been?) released in June 2017, and likely to stick around for a while.

 So, first things first, dig a little into the story. There are a mountain of books, including a series called The Horus Heresy, that will get you geared up and ready to go. Many of those can be found direct from the Black Library website. If you already have read a book or two, or have just heard a name, or have heard people talk about something and want to know more about it, try the Warhammer 40k Wiki.To get a little more into the story as well, check out some of the excellent (if now somewhat dated) Dawn of War RTS videogames, or the more recent Space Marine game. If you're especially determined you can even check out the straight-to-DVD Ultramarines movie, which isn't a bad introduction. If you don't want to bother tracking down the Ultramarines movie (and it's ok, but might not be worth it), here's a YouTube Playlist that mashes all of the cutscenes from the recent Space Marine game to make a 45-minute movie that isn't half bad. Just hit "Play all."

 For more on actual game play, you can look up a local hobby store, go in and see if there are any local groups, leaf through the Rulebook (which is chock full of backstory about the game and its various races/factions), check out the individual rulebooks for some of the Armies (called a Codex, or Codices).
 If you'd like to know more about how an army plays or how it looks on the table, check out some Tactics/Battle Report blogs. Here's my favorite!

 If you're willing to brave it, 1d4chan and Reddit both have active communities for any level of player experience

If you just want to try building and painting models, which is one of my favorite places to start, go to a local Hobby store and find one you like or want to paint. For some ideas and/or painting tips, Warhammer TV has really upped their game in recent years. Also, GW's Warhammer Community page is great for newer releases and some fluff/tips/news.

Want to just dive in and play? Look up your local Game Shop. A lot of them out there have a Boxed Set of 40k floating around just for people to take it out for a spin on the table, and that's a great place to meet your local players and get questions answered anyway :)


  1. I'm toying with the idea of buying an army and trying my hand at warhammer 40k, you have given me a lot to think about, im also going to watch the videos you mentioned, could be enough to convince me to invest my wages into a hobby that would probably take over my life lol

    1. If you start it, it will rule (your life)
      Seriously though, if it's the kind of thing you would like, there is nothing else out there like it. Other systems try, and get some of the details down, but this is the deepest, darkest, thickest and most intense of the hobbies.

      Let me know if I can answer any more specific questions for you!

    2. Hey, I'm thinking of starting and I don't know where to start, im also not that rich so prices may be a problem, but there is a hobby store hosting warhammer 40 k every tuesday night, do u think it would be cool for me just walk in watch and generally be nooby

    3. Yeah! With few exceptions, Warhammer players enjoy narrating their games and explaining rules to noobs, it's a great way to break into the scene.

      And if you're worried about affording the hobby, E-bay and Craigslist are your best friends!

  2. Thank you so much

  3. I am just starting warhammer40k. there is a comic shop close by that host warhammer every Friday. Should I go just to learn the rules and how to play?

    1. Why not? At the absolute least you'll get to see some cool models, and get a look at roughly how it plays. Chances are there will be people there with multiple armies that would even let you borrow models for a learning game


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