Why now is a great time to start playing Warhammer 40K

GameCentral explores the world of Warhammer 40,000, including not only the video games but the original tabletop game and its miniatures.

Games Workshop may have started out by flogging traditional fantasy fare, in the form of miniature armies of orcs, elves, and humans, but in 1987 they introduced a uniquely bleak sci-fi world to tabletop gaming and in so doing ensured their miniature gaming supremacy for all time. July 2020 saw the release of the Warhammer 40,000 ninth edition rule set, so now that lockdown is over it’s time to get those Space Marines back on the table at your local game cafe.

New to playing Warhammer 40K? You’ll need a six-foot gaming table or kitchen floor to accommodate a full game of Warhammer 40K, where gameplay involves rolling dice for combat and knowing how to exploit your opponent armies’ weak points.

In terms of sets, you probably want to start with some overpowered troops to ensure your military might, so any kind of Space Marine is going to be a straightforward choice, with their logical army organisation and simple weapons stats. But even these troops come in many flavours, such as Dark Angles and Space Wolves, all with different stats and abilities.

There’s 24 factions on offer, so if you want to play something less stereotypically human than a Space Marine it might be worth investing in a horde of Tyranids or units of Space Orcs, who prove in space there’s definitely strength in numbers. The heavily armoured Adeptus Mechanicus are basically big robots and impressive simply as glass cabinet show pieces. You’re going to spend a lot of time with these miniatures, so best pick a faction you like the look of.

There’s three main groups that the factions are classified in: Imperium (Space Marines and those fighting for the God Emperor in some capacity), Chaos (daemons in space), and Xenos (aliens and orcs). When buying and painting your army it’s also worth thinking about how it’s going to look and play on the table.

Once you’ve made a decision, pick up the faction’s codex (book of rules) to learn all about their history, their units, and their strategies. Some factions will lean heavily towards ranged firepower while others focus on melee combat. These codices are constantly being updated though, for balance and to accommodate new additions to armies.

Games Workshop has recently released a Warhammer 40K companion app. Somehow, this has managed to make the rules even more impenetrable, but it means that you don’t have to put your hand in your pocket or find shelf space for any hefty rulebooks.

Warhammer Fest, the Warhammer community’s yearly gathering saw a wealth of new 40K content last month, including stunning new models for personal favourites the Adepta Sororitas. Also known as the Sisters of Battle, and formerly as the Daughters of the Emperor, they’re an all-female division of the Imperium of Man’s state church. These nuns are as tough as nails and are getting an updated codex this month.

The lore of Warhammer 40K can seem complex, impenetrable, and suspiciously tongue-in-cheek. Set about 39,000 years in the future, it’s a time where human scientific and social progress has stagnated and mortal civilisation, led by the God Emperor, is at constant war with heresy, aggressive alien races, and supernatural forces. Warhammer 40K is the origin of the phrase ‘grimdark’, taken from its introduction proclaiming that, ‘In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war’.

Games Workshop constantly update 40K lore in novels issued by The Black Library. The Black Library’s catalogue now runs to well over two hundred titles, with a new addition appearing every month or so. There are plenty of science fictions fans who have no interest in the tabletop game but are addicted to these convoluted Space Marine stories.

Construction of your Space Marine might be fiddly but gluing together these plastic miniatures will do wonders for your hand-to-eye coordination and is a great way to get your kids to concentrate on something other than their phone. Instructions are now clear and simplified for younger players and last year Games Workshop released a Recruit Edition and Start Collecting boxes, which are a great entry point to the 40K hobby lifestyle.

For veterans dedicating evenings and weekends to airbrushing and customising models there’s also always the chance you might be featured in White Dwarf, Games Workshop’s monthly dedicated magazine.

Given Warhammer’s popularity, finding other people to play with is not a problem but what is an issue is just how expensive a hobby it is. However, the Warhammer 40K Elite Edition starter set comes with everything you need for around £65. It’s a great introduction to the game, especially if you’re not sure you want to pledge your savings to this unholy war and lifelong financial commitment.

Once you’re ready to move on from just painting Space Marine amour, and are looking for a more ambitious project, you can begin to invest in larger miniatures, such as a Necron Tesseract Vault or even pick up a massive resin model from the high end 40K web shop Forge World, where money is no object.

The constant conflict of the Warhammer 40K universe continues to provide fertile ground for video games, with the Dawn Of War real-time strategy series being the most successful. New games are constantly being released, from multiple different developers and publishers, with the highly anticipated Chaos Gate 2 being announced just this month.

Games aren’t the only way that Games Workshop are trying to branch out though, with new streaming service Warhammer+ due to launch next month and already having announced 11 separate animated shorts.

Now’s a great time to start playing Warhammer 40K simply because you can actually go out and play it, rather than merely painting models at home during lockdown. Game shops across the country are now open for business, so it’s time to push some tables together and hunt some heretics. The God Emperor approves!

By Lucy Orr

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