What is Warhammer 40K?
Warhammer 40,000, also known as Warhammer 40K, is a tabletop miniature wargame created by Games Workshop. It is set in a dystopian future, in which humanity has spread across the galaxy and is locked in a never-ending battle for survival against alien races and supernatural entities.
The game is played on a tabletop battlefield, where players control armies of miniature soldiers, vehicles, and creatures. Each miniature is carefully crafted and painted, and the battlefield is usually customized to represent a specific setting or scenario.
Why is Warhammer 40K so Popular?
Warhammer 40K captivates fans with its rich, immersive universe and diverse factions, offering a deep strategic gameplay alongside a rewarding hobby of collecting and painting miniatures. Its continuous evolution and vibrant community foster a dynamic and engaging experience that appeals to gamers and hobbyists alike.
The Warhammer 40k Tabletop Game
Embarking on your Warhammer 40,000 adventure is like stepping into a vast galaxy of endless war and dark fantasy. For newcomers, the start can be as thrilling as it is daunting, given the depth of the game’s lore and the variety of miniatures.
Starting with Warhammer 40,000
Typically, beginners are encouraged to pick up a starter set, which includes everything needed to play: miniatures for two armies, dice, rulers, and a simplified rulebook. These sets are designed to introduce the basics of gameplay and assembly/painting of miniatures in an accessible and enjoyable way.
Selecting an army that appeals to you aesthetically and thematically is key, as you’ll spend a lot of time building, painting, and strategizing with these forces.
Warhammer 40K: The Armies
The heart and soul of Warhammer 40K are its armies, each representing a unique faction with its own lore, aesthetics, and playstyle. From the disciplined ranks of the Imperial Guard to the inscrutable alien T’au, the daemonic hordes of Chaos to the ancient Necrons, each army offers a different way to play and a different part of the 40K universe to explore.
Here’s a quick overview of the primary factions in the game:
- Space Marines – The genetically modified warriors of the Imperium, known for their versatility and strength.
- Chaos Space Marines – Space Marines who have sworn allegiance to the Chaos Gods, featuring demonic units and warp-based powers.
- Imperial Guard (Astra Militarum) – The vast human army of the Imperium, relying on numbers, tanks, and artillery.
- Orks – A war-loving and technologically crude race, known for their brute strength and unpredictable warfare.
- Eldar (Aeldari) – An ancient and highly psychic alien race, specializing in speed and advanced technology.
- Dark Eldar (Drukhari) – The sinister kin of the Eldar, focusing on fast attacks and cruel tactics.
- Necrons – An ancient race of skeletal robots, with advanced technology and strong resilience.
- Tyranids – A swarm-like alien race, focused on close combat and overwhelming numbers.
- Tau Empire – A technologically advanced race with a focus on ranged combat and allied alien races.
- Chaos Daemons – The entities of the Warp, featuring a mix of monstrous creatures and psychic powers.
- Genestealer Cults – A sneaky and subversive group, with a mix of human cultists and Tyranid hybrids.
- Adeptus Mechanicus – The tech-priests of Mars, specializing in advanced weaponry and robots.
- Sisters of Battle (Adepta Sororitas) – An all-female division of the Imperium’s Ecclesiarchy, with a focus on faith-based powers and flame weapons.
- Grey Knights – Daemon hunters of the Imperium, an elite Space Marine chapter specializing in psychic powers.
- Deathwatch – An elite Space Marine chapter specializing in hunting aliens, with members drawn from other Space Marine chapters.
- Harlequins – A mysterious troupe of Aeldari warriors, focusing on acrobatic combat and trickery.
- Custodes – The Emperor’s personal guard, known for their unmatched combat skills and golden armor.
- Imperial Knights – Piloted super-heavy walkers, allied with various factions, focusing on massive firepower and armor.
Warhammer 40,000 10th Edition
The 10th Edition of Warhammer 40,000, like its predecessors, brings refinements and updates to the game’s rules, ensuring a smoother and more engaging gameplay experience.
Each new edition seeks to balance competitive play, enhance the narrative experience, and make the game more accessible to newcomers.
The introduction of a new edition is always a major event in the Warhammer 40K community, as it often introduces new miniatures, lore expansions, and updated codexes (army-specific rulebooks) that breathe fresh life into the game.
Warhammer 40k Codexes
Warhammer 40K Codexes are essential rulebooks that provide detailed information and rules for specific factions or armies in the game.
These books offer players an in-depth understanding of their chosen faction, including its lore, units, special abilities, and tactics.
Codexes are regularly updated to match the current edition of the game, ensuring balance and fairness in gameplay.
The 10th Edition already brought new Codexes for some of the factions, while others are still on the roadmap!
- Spaces Marines Codex
- Tyranids Codex
- Adeptus Mechanicus Codex
- Necrons Codex
- T’Au Empire Codex
- Orks Codex
- Dark Angels Codex Supplement
Warhammer 40,000 Tabletop Spin-offs
Warhammer 40K’s universe is so vast and rich that it has spawned several successful tabletop spin-offs, each offering a unique way to explore the dark future of the 41st millennium. Let’s delve into a few of these spin-offs:
Combat Patrol is designed for those who want to engage in smaller, quicker battles without losing the depth and strategy Warhammer 40K is known for.
It’s perfect for both newcomers getting their first taste of the 41st millennium and veterans looking for a fast-paced game.
Combat Patrol games are played with smaller armies, typically around 500 points, making it a more accessible entry point for building a new army or fielding a force in less time than a full-scale battle would require.
Kill Team takes the Warhammer 40K experience down to an even more granular level, focusing on skirmishes between small squads of troops rather than entire armies.
This spin-off emphasizes stealth, tactics, and individual heroics, with each model acting independently rather than as part of a larger unit.
It’s a fantastic way to dive deep into the lore of your favorite faction, as you can personalize and grow your squad over time.
Kill Team offers a more intimate and narrative-driven approach to combat, where every soldier can be a hero with their own story.
Necromunda transports players to the hive cities of the Imperium, focusing on gang warfare in a dystopian urban jungle.
It’s a game of tactics, territory control, and gang evolution, where players manage a gang battling for dominance in the underhive.
Necromunda stands out for its detailed campaign system, where gangs gain experience, suffer injuries, and acquire new equipment over time.
The game dives deep into the lore of the Warhammer 40K universe, exploring the daily life and struggles within the hive cities, making it a rich, narrative-driven experience.
Origins of Warhammer 40K
Warhammer 40K first blasted its way into the hearts and minds of tabletop gamers back in 1987. It’s the sci-fi sibling of Warhammer Fantasy, which had already been making waves in the gaming world.
Created by Games Workshop, Warhammer 40K offered something new and exciting: a dark, dystopian future where there is only war.
The universe is a grimdark masterpiece, filled with diverse factions, from the noble but rigid Space Marines to the insidious forces of Chaos, each with its own rich lore and backstory.
Now, when we talk about the origins of W40K, we can’t skip over “Rogue Trader.” This was the original title of the first edition of Warhammer 40K. Picture this as the cornerstone upon which the vast empire of Warhammer 40K was built.
“Rogue Trader” introduced gamers to a wild, lawless galaxy ripe for exploration, conquest, and, of course, trading. The game was much more open-ended compared to its later iterations, with a heavy emphasis on narrative campaigns and role-playing elements.
Players could be mercenary commanders, alien emissaries, or the eponymous Rogue Traders themselves—daring individuals seeking fortune and glory amidst the stars.
Why is it called Warhammer 40K?
So, why the name “Warhammer 40,000”? The “Warhammer” part ties it back to its fantasy roots, signaling the brand’s identity and its epic scale of conflict.
The “40,000” part is where things get interesting. It refers to the setting of the game in the 41st millennium (so, technically, it’s set in the years 40,000-41,000).
This far future setting allows for a universe where technology and mysticism blend together, where human civilization is spread across the galaxy yet teetering on the brink of extinction, and where the scope of warfare is truly unimaginable. It’s a setting that promises endless stories of heroism, betrayal, and, above all, war on a cosmic scale.
Warhammer 40K vs Warhammer the Old World vs Warhammer Age of Sigmar
Warhammer 40K, Warhammer: The Old World, and Warhammer Age of Sigmar stand as pillars within the expansive Warhammer universe, each offering a distinct setting and gameplay experience.
Warhammer 40K thrusts players into a dark and dystopian future, where humanity battles against alien threats, heretical cults, and the corrupting influence of Chaos.
With its emphasis on futuristic technology, psychic powers, and grim storytelling, Warhammer 40K provides players with a universe of endless possibilities and grim realities.
Warhammer the Old World
In contrast, Warhammer: The Old World immerses players in a realm of high fantasy, reminiscent of Earth’s medieval period, where knights, monsters, and magic collide in epic battles.
From the noble knights of Bretonnia to the cunning skaven lurking in the shadows, Warhammer: The Old World offers a rich tapestry of mythical beasts, ancient empires, and legendary heroes to explore.
With its deep lore and intricate history, Warhammer: The Old World provides players with a chance to embark on epic quests and shape the fate of a fantastical world.
Warhammer Age of Sigmar
Warhammer Age of Sigmar bridges the gap between the grim darkness of Warhammer 40K and the high fantasy of Warhammer: The Old World, introducing players to the Mortal Realms, a realm of mythic proportions.
Following the cataclysmic events of the End Times, Warhammer Age of Sigmar emerged as a reimagining of the classic Warhammer Fantasy Battles, infusing the Mortal Realms with magic and diverse races and factions.
From the celestial warriors of the Stormcast Eternals to the enigmatic forces of Chaos, Warhammer Age of Sigmar offers players a chance to shape the fate of the Mortal Realms in epic battles of cosmic significance.
The W40K Franchises
Warhammer 40,000 is a powerhouse in the world of tabletop gaming, and its influence spans a vast array of media beyond the miniatures and the gaming table. The IP (Intellectual Property) has been creatively adapted into various formats, enriching the grimdark universe for fans worldwide.
Books and Novels
Black Library, the publishing arm of Games Workshop, produces a wide range of novels, novellas, and short stories set in the Warhammer 40K universe, exploring the lore and expanding the backstory of its characters and factions.
- Horus Heresy Series: A cornerstone series that delves into the lore of the Horus Heresy, a pivotal galaxy-spanning civil war that predates the current 40K timeline.
- Gaunt’s Ghosts: A series by Dan Abnett following the exploits of the Imperial Guard regiment known as the Tanith First-and-Only.
- Eisenhorn Series: Also by Dan Abnett, this series follows Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn as he battles heretics and demons within the Imperium.
Comics and Graphic Novels
The Warhammer 40K universe has been explored through comics and graphic novels, bringing the visual splendor of the galaxy to the page.
- Marneus Calgar: A series focusing on the Ultramarines’ Chapter Master, exploring his origins and battles.
- Blood and Thunder: Follows the Orks in their typical brutish and humorous manner through the galaxy.
The Warhammer 40K universe has been translated into a wide range of video games, spanning genres from real-time strategy to first-person shooters.
- Dawn of War Series: A critically acclaimed real-time strategy series developed by Relic Entertainment, allowing players to command the armies of different factions in the 40K universe.
- Space Marine: An action-packed third-person shooter that puts you in the boots of a Space Marine fighting against Orks and Chaos forces.
- Battlefleet Gothic: Armada: A real-time strategy game that focuses on the space battles of the 40K universe, featuring various fleets from the sprawling factions of the galaxy.
Companies like JoyToy and McFarlane Toys have stepped into the fray, bringing the rich detail and vast lore of the 40K universe into the hands of fans in a whole new format.
- JoyToy Action Figures: They have released figures such as Space Marine chapters (Ultramarines, Blood Angels, Dark Angels, etc.), Chaos Space Marines, and even the Adepta Sororitas (Sisters of Battle). Each figure typically comes with a range of weapons and accessories, allowing for dynamic poses and display options.
- McFarlane Toys Action Figures: They’ve launched figures from several iconic factions, including Space Marines in various chapter colors (like the Ultramarines Intercessor, Blood Angels Hellblaster, and more), as well as characters from the Necrons. These figures are known for their size, detail, and paintwork, appealing to collectors and fans who appreciate high-quality merchandise.
There have been a number of board games set in the Warhammer 40K universe, offering condensed and focused gameplay experiences.
- Space Hulk: A classic board game that pits Space Marine Terminators against Genestealers aboard the derelict spacecraft known as Space Hulks.
- Warhammer 40,000: Conquest: A card game where players control factions vying for dominance over various planets.
Role-playing games set in the Warhammer 40K universe allow players to create their own characters and embark on missions within the grimdark setting.
- Dark Heresy: Players take on the roles of Inquisitorial agents, rooting out heresy and alien threats to the Imperium.
- Rogue Trader: Focuses on the adventures of Rogue Traders and their retinues as they explore uncharted space.
From apparel to artwork and beyond, the Warhammer 40K brand has been applied to a wide range of merchandise, allowing fans to show their allegiance to their favorite factions.
- T-shirts, hoodies, and apparel featuring iconic imagery and quotes from the 40K universe.
- Statues and collectibles of popular characters and units, crafted in stunning detail.
Movies and Shows
While the franchise has been predominantly known for its tabletop games, novels, and video games, the interest in adapting its rich lore and epic narratives into movies or TV shows has been growing.
- “Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie”: It was a direct-to-DVD feature that explored the story of the Ultramarines, a loyalist Space Marine Chapter.
- “Eisenhorn”: This series is set to adapt the Eisenhorn trilogy by Dan Abnett, one of the most popular novel series set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. The books follow Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn as he battles heretics, aliens, and demons to protect humanity.
- Upcoming Amazon Prime Series with Henry Cavill: Henry Cavill, known for his roles in “The Witcher” and as Superman in the DC Extended Universe, was set to star in and executive produce a Warhammer 40,000 series on Amazon Prime.
- WarhammerTV Shows: Warhammer+ is a subscription service that includes access to animated series set in both the Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Age of Sigmar universes. Several series were in production or planned, aiming to explore various facets of the lore through animation.
- “Hammer and Bolter”: This series is a collection of anthology stories that explore various corners of the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
- “Angels of Death”: This series focuses on the Blood Angels, a storied Space Marine chapter known for their martial prowess as well as their tragic flaw – the Black Rage.
- “Pariah Nexus”: This show, like others on the platform, dives into the extensive lore of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, focusing on the dark and mysterious region known as the Pariah Nexus.
The Warhammer 40K Lore
The universe is characterized by its “grimdark” theme, a term derived from the game’s tagline, “In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.” It’s a setting where moral ambiguity prevails, and the line between good and evil is often blurred.
At its heart is the Imperium of Man, a theocratic empire that spans millions of worlds, ruled by the God-Emperor, who, although immortal and powerful, sits immobile on the Golden Throne, barely alive. Humanity is beset on all sides by hostile aliens and malevolent supernatural beings from the Warp, a dimension of chaos and psychic energy.
The W40K lore is rich and expansive, offering stories of individual heroes, planet-spanning campaigns, and the eternal struggle of the Imperium to hold back the tide of darkness threatening to engulf humanity.