An Introduction to Warhammer 40,000

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Warhammer 40,000 is a 28mm scale science fiction tabletop wargame set at the close of the 41st millennium A.D.

The fictional universe created by Games Workshop Ltd for their wargame is a bleak one. There are no peaceful enlightened civilisations expanding across the galaxy, instead species expand through conquest, enslaving or exterminating the inhabitants of newly conquered worlds. As humans and aliens fight amongst themselves for control of the material realm they must also be watchful for the signs of incursions from the dimension known as warpspace. Essential for interstellar travel that does not take decades or centuries to travel between even nearby stars, the warp is a universe where thoughts and emotions can take on an existence of their own. The creatures thus created will prey on the crews of starships entering their realm, and also seek to break down the barriers between their universe and our own to devour it inhabitants.


The Imperium Of Man

The Imperium is one of the dominant powers of the galaxy. Ten millennia earlier, the God-Emperor of mankind set out from Earth and re-conquered the worlds settled by humans in a previous wave of expansion. At the close of his great crusade, the Emperor was critically injured and only survived by means of the life support technology known as the Golden Throne. He has sat immobile at the heart of this technology ever since.

The Imperium is ruled in his name by the twelve High Lords of Terra, and administered by a vast bureaucracy. On the worlds of the Imperium, the Emperor is now worshipped as a god and no other belief system is tolerated. Dissent is dealt with severely.


The Space Marines

The marines of the Adeptus Astartes are the finest warriors of the Imperium. Genetically modified super soldiers, a single marine is the equal of many ordinary human soldiers. Though they are few in number, there are approximately one million of them, they remain the Imperium’s best line of defence.

In the game the marines are a very common army. You need only a few models for a viable army, so they are a good starting point.


The Imperial Guard

The billions of human soldiers who make up the Imperial Guard provide the bulk of the Imperium’s fighting forces. Not as strong, tough or well-equipped as space marines, the Imperial Guard makes up for this with almost limitless manpower.

The Imperial Guard is my favoured army in Warhammer 40,000, one that I have been collecting for many years now. Though my opinion of some of the new tank kits is not favourable. See here for Why I hate the New Leman Russ and Chimera.

In the game the Imperial Guard is good for anyone who loves massed ranks of infantry or hoards of heavily armoured vehicles.


The Imperial Navy

The massive spacecraft that carry the Emperor’s armies between the stars and defend his worlds are controlled by the Imperial Navy. Additionally the navy controls most of the air forces that fight alongside the Imperial Guard.

In the core Warhammer 40,000 game only  the air support units of the Imperial Navy appear, as part of the Imperial Guard army list. The specialist game Battlefleet Gothic simulates combat in space using the massive vessels of the Imperial Navy.


The Adeptus Mechanicus

The tech priests of Mars are the custodians of mankind’s technology. Much knowledge has been lost since humanity’s first empire fell, and the Adeptus Mechancius treat retaining what is left and rediscovering what has been lost a religious duty. They produce and maintain the weapons and vehicles used by the Imperial Guard and Imperial Navy. Additionally they take to the field of battle themselves, most famously piloting the giant walking machines known as titans.

Tech priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus appear in the Imperial Guard army list in Warhammer 40,000 and more recently they have been given army lists of their own.




The Inquisition

The secret police of the Imperium, agents of the inquisition are ever watchful for any signs of treason from anyone from the lowest labourer to the high lords of terra themselves. Specialising in combating the threat of heresy, alien attack and daemon incursion, the inquisition can call upon the armed forces of the Imperium or rely on its own Chambers Militant as well as the sinister agents of the Officio Assasinatorum.



Warpspace is also known by some as the Realm of Chaos. The forces of chaos are made up of mortal followers, who seek to use the power of that universe for their own selfish ends, and also the daemonic creatures created there.

In the Warhammer 40,000 game, chaos is represented by Chaos Space Marines who are marines who have betrayed the Imperium and Daemons of Chaos. Chaos Space Marine armies are similar to Space Marine ones, but with some differences. Daemons of Chaos are interesting in that the vast majority of their miniatures can also be used in the fantasy version of Warhammer 40,000.



Like humanity, the Eldar once had a successful empire that spread across the galaxy. But because of their own failings it collapsed and nearly destroyed their species and created a massive tear in reality where realspace and the warp now overlap. Now most of them survive on massive spacecraft known as craftworlds that drift slowly through space, while others who have embraced their species’ darker nature inhabit a dark city located somewhere within their species network of passageways through the warp.

In the game both Craftworld Eldar and Dark Eldar armies are fast moving but fragile. Their advanced technologies give them some very powerful methods of attack.



The Necrons are but a shadow of their former selves. Once a mighty species they were tricked by the alien C’tan who they worshipped into becoming robotic automatons.

In Warhammer 40,000 Necron armies are very resilient, with both their vehicles and infantry being difficult to destroy. Even if you do kill a Necron warrior, there’s a chance that he’ll be back rather soon.




Savage and violent, orks are the traditional enemies of mankind and everybody else as well. Only their habit of fighting amongst themselves has prevented them from over running the entire galaxy.

Orks are a hoard army in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, using large swarms of cheap and expendable troops along side some powerful, if unpredictable support weapons.



A relatively young race that is just starting to expand into space. They still do not truly appreciate the nature of the galaxy.

In Warhammer 40,000 the Tau are best suited to fighting from a distance. Generally they perform poorly in close combat, but they do have some tricks up their sleeves for anyone who gets too close.






An alien species from another galaxy. Tyrannids use no mechanical devices, instead al of their technology is biological. They devour the ecosystems of entire worlds in order to gather more biomass to fuel their continued evolution.

A Tyrannid army in Warhammer 40,000 is a mass of living destruction, using mindless floating spores, vast swarms of expendable infantry and massive monster capable of ripping apart the most heavily armoured vehicles.



Image miniatures design copyright of Games Workshop Ltd.

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