A Noob’s Guide to Getting into Warhammer 40,000 8th Edition
By Jake Bianchi
No matter what circle you travel in, chances are you’ve heard about at least a few of the hobby gaming industry’s heaviest hitters. Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, and of course Warhammer 40,000 are arguably the most influential game systems available today, as all three of them strongly shape the games and gamers around them. I’m not entirely new to tabletop gaming, but I certainly wouldn’t consider myself a veteran. I’ve played a few campaigns of D&D, I’ve made a couple decks in Magic, but I haven’t yet touched 40k, as it is easily the most intimidating of the three. However, with the release of this newest edition, the general opinion seems to be that this is the best time to jump into the game and see what it’s all about. So, with a deep breath and a crack of my knuckles, I attempt to enter the grimdark.
As a complete novice to not just the game mechanics, but to the Warhammer universe in its entirety, there’s a lot of preliminary work to be done before I can jump in. First off, for anyone who doesn’t know what kind of game Warhammer 40,000 is, you should know that, in a nutshell, 40k is about buying, building, and painting up a large force of models called an army and then battling other players’ armies during a match that can often last a couple hours. The game has a lot of moving parts, and you’ll need to know all the in-depth details about your characters and their mechanics if you want to win. Obviously, something like this is hard to get into but, if I take it one step at a time, I’m confident I’ll be able to get a lot out of it.
The way I see it, there are three main hurdles to overcome before I can even be considered a beginner: the price, the lore, and the rules. The high-priced entry point is possibly the scariest of all three, as it’s hard to justify spending so much on a game that I haven’t even played yet. Attempting to dive into the history and politics of the 40k universe is also an intimidating venture, as there is ample content to last one many years of studying. Luckily, the rules, long known as complicated and daunting set of rules, are now easier than ever to dig into in 8th Edition!
To begin my journey, I asked a few of my friends that currently play or used to play 40k for some advice on how to best get into the game. With a grim expression and a hollowed look in their eyes, I got the same response from all of them: “Don’t. This game will suck your life away.” …Well then. I guess I can’t say I wasn’t warned. After a laugh, I pressed them for more helpful advice. They clarified that they love the game, but it’s definitely not something to get into lightly. Then we talked about some of the basic knowledge needed to find a cool army. I found out that, in this new version of the game, models and armies are measured by their Power Level in addition to the traditional method of counting their Points Value. When players bring their armies to the table, they each agree on the maximum Power Level or Points Value that their respective armies can have, so as to keep the match fair. It was recommended to me that I use Power Level to measure my first army’s cost, as it’s far less complicated than trying to calculate Points Values for every single model. Plus, it seems to be well-accepted in the 40k community so far. In addition to that, my colleagues suggested that I check out the different factions in order to find one I like and focus on learning the game through the context of that faction. With that in mind, I dove into the lore to take a look at who I would represent in the Warhammer 40k universe.
So, wow, there are a LOT of different factions, races, and allegiances to choose from. It was a little overwhelming, but luckily the official Warhammer 40,000 (warhammer40000.com) site broke it down for me so it was a little easier to digest. Unfortunately, it broke it down somewhat inaccurately. While searching for an army, the website (and most major sources of information) certainly give you names, descriptions, and pictures of different forces, but they fail to mention what realistic choices there are, or how factions can be played. For example, it was not explained in any self-proclaimed “beginners guides” that nearly any character in the Imperium of Man can be allied with one another. The Imperium of Man, by the way, is an umbrella term for any factions of humans that serve the Emperor of Mankind, such as the Adeptus Astartes (otherwise known as Space Marines), the Astra Militarum (Imperial Guard), Adeptus Custodes (Custodians), and Adepta Sororitas (Sisters of Battle). Under the “Xenos” heading were a bunch of alien races available for choosing, such as the Ynnead, Tyranids, and the T’au Empire. All of these factions are displayed side by side, as if to imply that they are all equally viable choices. This is not the case, and it was difficult to figure out what would be a good starting point for my research. At first, I was interested in the Harlequins, but then found out that they don’t have many model types and may not be very beginner-friendly. There are a LOT of rules and intricacies, so allow me to give you the best options to choose from as a beginner player:
- Imperium of Man: Ultramarines are a popular choice of Space Marines, if you’d like to focus on them. Otherwise, you can focus on using the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Astra Militarum, or some of the other Space Marine chapters like the Grey Knights, Blood Angels, Dark Angels, or Space Wolves. Regardless of which you focus on, I believe you’re always able to mix and match any humans you’d like. Of course, there may be an exception or two to this rule that I haven’t learned yet.
- Aeldari (a.k.a. Eldar): The Aeldari have a few subfactions: the Craftworlds, the Drukhari (a.k.a. Dark Eldar), the Ynnari, and the Harlequins. You can mix and match between any of these or focus on a particular subfaction, just like with the Imperium of Man. The Craftworlds and Drukhari are not exactly best friends, however, so you’ll rarely, if ever, see that.
- T’au Empire: The T’au have a couple allied races that can join them in battle and help out if needed, namely the races of the Kroot and the Vespids.
- Genestealer Cults
- Chaos Space Marines
- Chaos Demons
After much deliberation, I ended up selecting two forces that I would be very interested in making an army for: the T’au Empire and the Talons of the Emperor (the Adeptus Custodes and the Sisters of Silence are two subfactions of the Imperium of Man and are the personal bodyguards of the Emperor of Mankind. Together, the two factions are known as the Talons of the Emperor). Then, unfortunately, I got a little ahead of myself. I started learning about power levels and troop formations before I read the actual rules! Although I had a great time assembling my imaginary forces, I wouldn’t recommend this step to beginners, as I admittedly had a lot of help from some very knowledgeable friends. Even with their help, however, there was still a lot to do before I could be ready to play.
To review, I took a look at the original hurdles I identified going into this. The price is still a high one, but I’m looking into buying some T’au or Talons forces off of a friend, which would be a boon that I am extremely grateful for. The lore is getting tackled! I’m learning about the different races, factions, characters, and history mostly through talking to friends and folks I met at Game Kastle. If you can get your hands on any of the rulebooks, even just for a short time, check out some of the story elements – the rulebook has an extensive amount and is a lot of fun to peruse. So let’s chalk the lore of to a solid “In Progress”. Lastly, we have the rules. I haven’t yet started with that, but it’s definitely something I feel I should’ve read through sooner rather than later. Of the three, it’s the least daunting now because of the brief 8 pages it takes up, and it’s even available online for free!
I’m feeling good about my entry into the series, and It’s great to finally start getting a glimpse of this game and universe that has captivated so many for such a long time. I certainly hope that this article has been helpful to you, and if you have questions, comments, concerns, or whatever else, please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org, or ask a sales associate at your nearest Game Kastle location! For the Emperor!