The Warhammer 40,000 universe is filled with a wide variety of armies and factions that can appeal to any type of player.
In this guide, you will learn about the major factions, their motivations, and get a strengths and weaknesses. With this knowledge, you can make an informed decision about which army to choose on your new path.
There are currently eight major battling factions in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, each with a multitude of sub-factions, clans or chapters which can form the base of an army. In total there are over 30 different armies you can pick from.
This guide will provide you a short background on each, links to their associated miniatures and the opportunity to dive deeper into each faction’s guide.
So without further ado here’s the complete summary of each W40k faction, in no specific order:
The Imperium of Man
The Imperium of Man is a vast empire that spans the galaxy in the fictional universe of Warhammer 40,000. Its ruler is the Emperor of Mankind, a powerful psychic being who has led humanity for over ten thousand years.
It comprises millions of worlds and trillions of people and is faced with numerous threats from both external and internal forces, including aliens, heretics, mutants, and demons.
To protect itself, the Imperium has established a massive military force that includes the elite Space Marines, the Imperial Guard, and the Inquisition, among others.
The Imperium has a highly structured society that adheres to strict laws and regulations, with a vast bureaucracy controlling it. Many of its citizens worship the Emperor as a god, and the Imperium’s primary aim is to safeguard humanity and eliminate all threats to its existence.
The Imperium is a militant theocracy that emphasizes faith, discipline, and order.
Adeptus Astartes or The Space Marines
Space Marines are the elite soldiers of the Imperium of Man, genetically enhanced superhumans that serve as the Imperium’s ultimate fighting force. They are the defenders of humanity, fighting against a wide range of enemies from xenos (aliens) to Chaos cultists.
The process of creating a Space Marine is a lengthy and dangerous one, with a low survival rate. Once a human is selected for transformation, they undergo gene-enhancement surgery and the implantation of additional organs, such as the Black Carapace. This allows the Marine to interface with their power armor and become a formidable force on the battlefield.
Space Marines are organized into Chapters, each with their own unique iconography, tactics, and history. Some famous Chapters include the Ultramarines, Dark Angels, and Blood Angels. Choosing a Chapter will affect the playstyle of your army, as each Chapter has its own unique rules and abilities.
- Complete list of Space Marine Miniatures and Models
- 10th Edition Spaces Marines Codex
- Complete Guide to the New Space Marines Detachments
- Space Marines Datasheet Cards for the 10th Edition
- The Lore of the Space Marines
The Adeptus Mechanicus is a faction in W40k that represents the technological arm of the Imperium of Man. This faction is unique, with a distinctive appearance and gameplay style that sets them apart from other factions in the game.
The Adeptus Mechanicus is a faction that was once a part of the Imperium of Man, but has since split off into its own organization. They are a highly technologically advanced group, with a deep understanding of machinery and the workings of the universe.
The Adeptus Mechanicus are also highly religious, worshiping the Omnissiah, a machine god who represents the divine nature of technology.
The Adeptus Mechanicus play style focuses on ranged combat and technological superiority. They have powerful guns and advanced technology that allows them to control the battlefield in unique ways. They are also highly resilient, with a variety of defensive abilities and durable units.
Adepta Sororitas or The Sisters of Battle
The Adepta Sororitas, also known as the Sisters of Battle, are an all-female faction of the Imperium of Man in Warhammer 40,000.
They are a highly trained and well-equipped army, dedicated to the worship of the Emperor of Mankind and the eradication of all enemies of the Imperium.
The Adepta Sororitas are a versatile faction, with a wide range of units that excel in close combat and ranged combat. Their units are also known for their resilience and high leadership, which makes them excellent at holding objectives and weathering enemy fire.
Adepta Sororitas excel at holding ground and defending key positions, and it’s worth noting that the Adepta Sororitas are a high points cost army, which means you’ll need to be strategic in your unit choices and deployment.
Astra Militarum or The Imperial Guard
The Astra Militarum, also known as the Imperial Guard, is the primary army of the Imperium of Man in Warhammer 40,000. They are composed of regular humans who have been trained for combat and equipped with standard-issue equipment.
The Astra Militarum is the backbone of the Imperium’s military forces, and they are responsible for defending the Imperium’s countless worlds from a wide variety of threats, including aliens, mutants, heretics, and demons.
They are not superhuman like the Space Marines or the Adeptus Mechanicus, but they make up for it with their sheer numbers and the reliability of their equipment.
The Astra Militarum is best used as a combined arms force, with infantry, vehicles, and artillery working together to achieve victory. They are also good at holding ground and defending key positions.
The Adeptus Custodes are the guardians of the Emperor, and they were formed from the genetic material of the Emperor Himself.
They are larger and more powerful than ordinary Space Marines, and they are the ultimate defenders of Terra, the Imperial Palace, and the Emperor Himself. They are also tasked with defending the Golden Throne and keeping the Emperor alive.
They excel at quickly closing in on enemy forces and decimating them with their powerful melee weapons.
They are also incredibly durable, with high toughness and armor saves, making them difficult to take down. Adeptus Custodes armies tend to be smaller than other armies, with a focus on quality over quantity.
The Imperial Knights
The Imperial Knights are towering war machines, towering humanoid robots piloted by a noble pilot who wields the Knight’s weapons and guides its actions.
They are among the most powerful units in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, capable of tearing apart entire enemy armies on their own.
Imperial Knights are incredibly powerful, with a range of devastating weapons at their disposal, including battle cannons, thermal lances, and chain swords.
Playing an Imperial Knights army requires careful planning and strategy. They are incredibly powerful, but also expensive to field, meaning that players must make every shot count.
The Forces of Chaos
The term “Forces of Chaos,” also spelled as “Chaos Armies,” is used to describe all mortal and Daemonic servants of Chaos Undivided and the individual Ruinous Powers of Chaos. These forces are often referred to as the “Archenemy” by the defenders of the Imperium.
Although the Chaos Space Marines are the most visible and powerful among the Chaos Forces, they are not the only ones. Countless other Chaos servants support them, including Human Chaos Cultists, Traitoris Militarum soldiers, Traitor Titan Legions, Chaos Knights, members of the Dark Mechanicum, and legions of Chaos Daemons.
Chaos Space Marines
The Chaos Space Marines are a faction in Warhammer 40,000 that have turned their backs on the Imperium of Man and now worship the Chaos Gods. These Space Marines were once loyal servants of the Emperor of Mankind, but they have been corrupted by the lure of power and the promises of the Ruinous Powers.
The Chaos Space Marines are known for their powerful and brutal fighting style. They are heavily armored and equipped with a variety of weapons that allow them to wreak havoc on their enemies. They also have access to powerful psychic abilities, which they use to manipulate the minds of their enemies and sow chaos on the battlefield.
The Chaos Space Marines are divided into different Legions, each of which is dedicated to a particular Chaos God. Some examples of Chaos Space Marine Legions are: the World Eaters, The Thousand Sons, The Death Guard or The Emperor’s Children.
Chaos Daemons are entities born of the raw stuff of the Warp, shaped and empowered by the thoughts and emotions of sentient beings.
They are divided into four distinct categories, each corresponding to a different Chaos God: Khorne (god of violence), Tzeentch (god of change), Nurgle (god of decay), and Slaanesh (god of excess).
Chaos Daemons are a versatile army that can be tailored to a variety of playstyles. Their daemons are generally fragile, but fast and deadly in close combat.
They can be difficult to kill thanks to their invulnerable saves and regeneration abilities. Summoning is a key mechanic for Chaos Daemons, allowing them to bring in reinforcements mid-battle to bolster their forces.
The Dark Mechanicum is made up of the tech-priests and engineers of the Imperium who have turned away from the Emperor’s light and embraced the Chaos Gods. They use forbidden and dark technology to create twisted machines and weapons, and often make deals with daemons to further their goals.
The Dark Mechanicum is a powerful faction that relies heavily on their ability to use technology to their advantage. They have access to powerful war machines and vehicles that are both heavily armored and armed with deadly weaponry.
When playing as the Dark Mechanicum, it is important to focus on your technological advantages and use your psykers to control the battlefield.
Chaos Knights are heavily modified versions of the noble houses of the Imperium, twisted by the influence of Chaos.
They are giant war machines, standing up to 4 times the height of a Space Marine, and they are armed with a variety of powerful weapons, from chainswords to battle cannons.
Chaos Knights are highly mobile, and their immense size makes them difficult to take down. They can shrug off small arms fire and can deal devastating damage to enemy infantry and vehicles alike.
- Complete list of Chaos Knights Miniatures and Models
The Lost and the Damned
The Lost and the Damned is a faction in Warhammer 40,000 that represents the countless human followers of Chaos who do not belong to any of the specific Chaos factions. Its a horde-style faction, meaning they rely on large numbers of cheap units to overwhelm the enemy.
Their units are often weak individually but can be deadly in large numbers. To play this faction effectively, it’s important to use your units in combination to create an unstoppable wave of destruction.
It’s important to know that The Lost and the Damned do not have any unique characters or heroes, so to field an army you must use Chaos Space Marine characters and heroes as allies.
The Necrons are an ancient race of robotic beings who were once the rulers of the galaxy before their downfall at the hands of the Old Ones.
They spent millions of years in stasis, waiting for the right moment to rise and retake their rightful place as the galaxy’s overlords. Now, they have awoken and are ready to reclaim what is rightfully theirs.
One of the unique aspects of the Necrons is their ability to reanimate fallen warriors. This means that, as a Necron player, you have the potential to keep your army on the field longer than most other factions. However, their reanimation protocols are not foolproof, so you will need to balance this ability with careful positioning and strategic planning.
Necron armies can be built around their dynasties. Necron Dynasties are the ruling factions within the Necron race in Warhammer 40,000.
Each dynasty has its own unique personality, culture, and methods of warfare. Some of the most notable dynasties include the Sautekh Dynasty, the Nihilakh Dynasty, and the Mephrit Dynasty.
- Complete list of Necrons Miniatures and Models
- 10th Edition Necrons Codex
- 10th Edition Necrons Datasheet Cards
The Eldar are a race that once ruled a vast interstellar empire. They are known for their incredible speed, agility, and psychic abilities, as well as their mastery of the webway, a network of tunnels that allows them to travel quickly and safely across the galaxy. They are divided into several factions such as the Craftworld Eldar, the Harlequins and the Dark Eldar.
Craftworlds Eldar or Asuryani
The Asuryani are a highly mobile and versatile faction, able to adapt to various playstyles. They are known for their powerful psychic abilities, impressive speed, and excellent ranged weapons.
Asuryani armies typically consist of units of fast-moving jet bikes, heavy tanks, and deadly infantry squads armed with a variety of weapons.
The Asuryani playstyle revolves around mobility and versatility. They excel at hit-and-run tactics, using their speed and agility to outmaneuver their opponents and strike from unexpected angles.
They have access to powerful psychic abilities, allowing them to control the battlefield and disrupt their enemies’ plans.
Drukhari or Dark Eldars
The Drukhari are an ancient race of the Eldar, who were once a proud and noble race but now they are a twisted and sadistic society. They feed on the souls of their victims to stave off the effects of their own corrupt and depraved souls.
They live in the dark city of Commorragh, from where they launch their raids and attacks on other worlds. The Drukhari have very fast units and are excellent at hit-and-run tactics, but they have relatively weak armor and low toughness.
The Drukhari are a highly mobile army that excels at hit-and-run tactics. They rely on their speed and agility to outmaneuver their opponents and strike where they are weakest.
Harlequins or Rillietann
The Harlequins, also known as the Rillietann, are a unique faction in Warhammer 40,000, characterized by their acrobatic fighting style, colorful costumes, and enigmatic lore.
The Harlequins are highly specialized units, designed to be fast, hard-hitting, and difficult to kill. They excel at hit-and-run tactics, ambushes, and flanking maneuvers, and are capable of delivering devastating attacks while remaining elusive and difficult to pin down.
While the Harlequins can be used as a standalone army, they are typically used in conjunction with other Aeldari factions, such as Craftworld Eldar or Dark Eldar. This allows for greater flexibility and strategic options.
The Ynnari or The Reborn
The Ynnari worship the Eldar demigod Ynnead, who represents the Eldar’s collective will to survive and resist the forces of Chaos. They seek to unite the different Eldar factions and awaken Ynnead to defeat Slaanesh, the Chaos God who consumes Eldar souls.
The Ynnari’s playstyle revolves around the use of their unique special rule, Strength from Death, which allows them to gain extra benefits when a unit is destroyed. They can use this rule to gain additional attacks, extra movement, or even to come back to life.
The Ynnari are a versatile faction that can take advantage of their unique special rule to gain unexpected advantages. They can field a mix of units from different Eldar factions, including Harlequins, Craftworlds, and Drukhari.
Eldar Corsairs or Anhrathe
The Eldar Corsairs are a faction of Eldar who have abandoned their Craftworlds and the rigid discipline of their society. They are often pirates and mercenaries, preying on the enemies of the Eldar or selling their services to other factions.
Eldar Corsairs are an elite army, with many units being fast and hard-hitting, but also fragile. They rely on hit-and-run tactics, using their speed to strike at vulnerable targets before quickly retreating. They also have a focus on psychic powers, with many units being able to manifest powers such as Smite or Doom.
The Orks are a race of brutish aliens that seek only to fight and conquer. They are usually organized into clans or tribes. While tribes are volatile and often break apart and reform during war, Clans are stable and long-lasting.
Only six major Clans exist, each with its own unique features such as colors, markings, culture, and ways of combat. These Clan traits are most likely inherent in the Ork race, implanted by the Brainboys of the distant past.
Orks from various Clans typically come together in large tribes, but after suffering losses in battle, different groups often unite into the same tribe or war band.
Orks are a horde army, which means you’ll be fielding a lot of models. When building your army, it’s important to keep in mind that Orks are all about quantity over quality. Don’t be afraid to go heavy on infantry and take advantage of their cheap point cost.
Here’s an overview of the major Ork clans:
The Blood Axes are a tribe of orks who have a reputation for being sneaky and cunning. They are known for their willingness to work with other races, and they have been known to employ tactics such as disguises and ambushes to gain the upper hand in battle. The Blood Axes excel in versatility, with a mix of ranged and melee units at their disposal.
The Goffs are one of the most brutal and straightforward clans in the Ork hierarchy. They are a melee-focused army that prefers to charge into the enemy and pummel them into submission.
Goffs armies work best when you combine different types of units. The Goffs work best when you have a mix of different types of units, such as Boyz, Nobz, and Warbosses.
The Evil Sunz are a tribe of orks who have a reputation for being fast and reckless. They love speed, and they believe that the faster they go, the more they will win. They have a fascination with vehicles, and they are skilled in using them in battle. To win battles with the Evil Sunz, you need to use your speed and aggression to your advantage
The Bad Moons are a tribe of orks who love wealth and luxury. They believe that the richest ork is the strongest ork, and they are known for their love of flashy weapons and armor.They have access to a range of powerful weapons, such as big shootas and rokkits, and they are skilled in using them to devastating effect.
The Snakebites excel in close combat, with their warriors armed with powerful melee weapons and shields. They also have access to a range of deadly animals, such as squigs and boars, which they can use to charge into battle.
However, they are slower than other ork factions, and their lack of advanced technology can make them vulnerable in long-range combat.
The Deathskulls are a tribe of orks who are known for their love of looting and scavenging. They believe that anything they can get their hands on is theirs for the taking, and they are often seen with a variety of stolen weapons and equipment like Leman Russ tanks, Rhino armored personnel carriers and Predator tanks. They are also known for their superstitious nature, and they believe that anything painted blue is lucky.
The Tyranids are a race of alien creatures that travel through space, consuming all organic matter in their path. They are a hive mind, with each creature connected to a larger consciousness that controls their actions. They are a terrifying force, with a seemingly endless number of creatures at their disposal.
The Tyranids are a melee-focused faction, with a focus on overwhelming their opponents with their sheer numbers and ferocity.
When building your Tyranids army, you should focus on using a combination of smaller, faster creatures such as Genestealers and Hormagaunts, alongside larger, more powerful creatures such as Carnifexes and Hive Tyrants.
- Complete list of Tyranids Miniatures and Models
- 10th Edition Tyranids Codex
- Tyranids 10th Edition Datasheet Cards
The Genestealer Cults are a faction of the Tyranids army in Warhammer 40,000. They are a secretive and insidious group that infiltrates human society, converting people into their cult and spreading their influence.
They were initially introduced as a standalone faction, but in recent years, they have become a sub-faction of the Tyranids army.
Genestealer Cults units excel at infiltration and surprise attacks. They have a variety of abilities that allow them to deploy units from underground, move quickly across the battlefield, and ambush enemy units. They are also capable of buffing their own units with psychic powers and other abilities, making them more dangerous in combat.
The Tau Empire
The Tau Empire is a relatively young empire, having only recently emerged onto the galactic stage. They are a highly organized and technologically advanced race, with a strong focus on the Greater Good – a philosophy that promotes the betterment of all Tau society.
They believe in a meritocratic society, where individuals are judged by their abilities and contributions to the greater good. Their society is divided into five castes – Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ethereal, each with its own responsibilities and duties.
The Tau Empire’s strengths lie in their advanced technology and range combat abilities. They have powerful battlesuits, deadly railguns, and high-quality drones. Their troops and vehicles are often lightly armored, making them vulnerable to close combat and heavy weapons fire. They also have relatively few psychic abilities, limiting their ability to manipulate the battlefield.
The Leagues of Votann
The Leagues of Votann are the collective confederations of the species of squat but powerfully-built abhuman clones who refer to themselves as the “Kin.” They are sometimes pejoratively called “Squats” by the Humans of the Imperium.
The Leagues of Votann can be described as “Space Dwarves” that play exactly as one would expect! Their infantry may not be the fastest, but they are hardy and durable. Additionally, they possess some impressive weaponry and technology, and are led by mighty heroes who can deliver powerful buffs during charges.
Notable sub-factions include Greater Thurian League, Trans-Hyperian Alliance, Ymyr Conglomerate, Urani-Surtr Regulates, and Kronus Hegemony.
Recap on Warhammer 40000 Factions and Armies
Feeling exhausted? It’s normal! But remember there’s no rush!
Researching each Warhammer 40,000 faction can be a great way for you to start learning about the game and its setting, and to find a faction that matches your preferences and playstyle.
Reading the in-depth guides around each army will ultimately help you:
- Get more familiar with the game setting: Warhammer 40,000 has a rich and complex setting, with multiple factions vying for power in a dark and grim future. By researching each faction, a beginner can become familiar with the various races, their motivations, and their role in the setting.
- Understand the gameplay: Each faction has its unique strengths and weaknesses, playstyle, and available units. By researching each faction, a beginner can get a good understanding of what each faction is good at, and how to counter their strengths.
- Choose a faction: Warhammer 40,000 offers a wide range of factions to choose from, and it can be overwhelming for a beginner to choose one. Researching each faction can help a beginner narrow down their options and find a faction that matches their playstyle and preferences.
- Know the lore and background: Warhammer 40,000 has a deep and rich lore, and each faction has a unique backstory and history. By researching each faction, a beginner can delve into the lore of the game, which can enhance their appreciation of the setting and make the game more immersive.