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Warhammer 40k Beginner’s Guide

Warhammer 40,000 is a tabletop miniatures game by Games Workshop, and it is one of the most popular army scale tabletop games in the world. This is a Warhammer 40k Beginner’s Guide and it will teach you everything you need to know to get started.

40k is a game of galactic conflict set in a dark future where humanity battles alien species and daemonic forces, fighting with ancient technology and faith as their weapon against the apocalypse. On the gaming table, players field scores of painted plastic models ranging from infantry to tanks, heroes and monsters and fight against each other by rolling tons of dice. The game can be played in single games played just for fun, as narrative campaigns with an engaging storyline, or as a fiercely competitive game in tournaments all over the world.

Getting into Warhammer 40,000 can be a bit more complex than getting into other games we cover on this site such as Age of Sigmar and Warcry, but with this guide, and our army overview article for the game, you’ll have no problem figuring out how to get started.

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Lore breakdown of the Warhammer 40K Universe


Warhammer 40K takes place more than 30,000 years into the future, where humanity has spread across the galaxy. Millions of worlds are populated by trillions of humans, most of them united in the galaxy-spanning Imperium.

It’s not the futuristic high-tech space empire you might expect, though: Since the Emperor of Mankind almost died in a galaxy-spanning rebellion led by one of his closest companions (google the Horus Heresy and come back in three months when you’re done going through the various fan wikis), enlightenment and progress has all but disappeared from the Imperium.

Now, the Imperium is run mostly by its space version of a very powerful church, the Ecclesiarchy, and it’s various religious and administrative branches. Everyone must worship the Emperor or perish, even though he is now a barely living corpse enshrined in his life support system, The Golden Throne, back on earth, guiding and protecting his subjects with his psychic powers.

Nobody really knows how or why anything works anymore, and inventing new technology is mostly forbidden. Guns are inscribed with runes and prayers, and armoured vehicles are accompanied by Tech-Priests who appease the machine spirits with incense and psalms.

Not only is the Imperium a complete horror show of theocratic and bureaucratic madness, but the alternatives aren’t fun either: Aliens such as the insane but numerous Orks, the disciplined but dwindling Aeldari or the artificially undead Necrons threaten Humanity on all sides, and both from without and within, the daemonic forces of Chaos have fought the Imperium for ten thousand years.

The only thing standing between the horrors of the galaxy and humanity (apart from all the ordinary men and women fighting in the various military branches of the Imperial forces) is the monastic orders of the Space Marines, genetically engineered posthumans who are designed to carry out the Emperor’s justice.

So: the galaxy is not a nice place by any stretch of the imagination. This is an important pillar of Warhammer 40,000 lore: there are no good guy factions in this universe, everything is pretty horrible, and humanity is always just moments away from being obliterated or conquered. All you can hope for is to live to fight another day.

In the recent editions of the game (we’re currently in the 9th edition), things have gotten even worse, but also a bit more heroic: The forces of Chaos have split the galaxy in two. There’s now a nasty rift down the middle spewing out demons, and nothing can pass through it reliably. This means that one half of the Imperium is completely cut off from the Emperor’s psychic light, which helps them navigate and communicate.

The other half is beset on all sides, but one of the Emperor’s Space Marine Primarchs (his “sons” and the leaders of the Space Marine legions), Roboute Guilliman (yes, that’s his name) has returned from his 10,000 year-long sleep to lead humanity in a crusade to save what’s left of the Imperium. He brings along with him a radical vision of how to restore the Imperium to its former glory, and an ally, the cyborg priest Bellisarius Cawl, who has broken the old rules and is inventing all sorts of new tech for the Space Marines to use in their last attempt to save humanity.

It’s all very, very over the top, and if you can’t see the slightly satirical side of it, it can all seem very dark and horrible. But: it is also a fictional universe that’s been around for more than thirty years, so it’s unbeliavably detailed and full of history and exciting stories for you to build on for your own narratives.

It is also a great tabletop game with awesome customization, fantastic miniatures and crazy strategic depth, so if you’re even a little bit intrigued by the fictional universe, don’t hesitate to sink your teeth in the game as well.

What you have to buy to get started in Warhammer 40k


Miniatures and hobby tools

First of all, you need some miniatures to represent your army on the tabletop. Each unit, character or vehicle in the game’s rules has a corresponding plastic (or resin, or metal) miniature kit to represent it.

These kits are available in Games Workshop’s stores around the world, or at their own webshop, but there’s also a vast selection of third-party stores both online and offline that will sell you the same kits, often at a discount.

All Warhammer 40,000 miniatures need to be assembled. They come on sprues, and you have to cut them off with a pair of plastic cutters or a hobby knife. So you need one of those as well. The miniatures will also look much better if you have a file or a mould line remover to remove any excess material on the parts of the model before you put them together.

Most Warhammer 40,000 miniatures have to be put together with glue. Resin and metal miniatures are put together with superglue, which you might already have in your home, and plastic miniatures, which are the vast majority of models available, are put together with plastic glue, which you can buy in all sorts of hobby stores.

Some of the more recent miniature kits are Easy to Build kits, which have little pegs on the parts of a model so that you can assemble it without any glue required. This can lead to some gaps in the model, so if you want it to look its best, cut off those pegs and glue the model anyway.

If you’re in doubt what kind of assembly is required for a model you’re about to buy, the Games Workshop webstore has a description for each kit that details what material it’s made of.

Most Warhammer 40,000 players also paint their miniatures (the minis are grey out of the box otherwise). This adds a lot to the gaming experience, and painting your models is an immensely rewarding hobby in it’s own right. We have guides for which paints to use, which brushes to use and how to take your first steps into miniature painting, as well as other hobby guides, here on Age of Miniatures.

Painting your models for Warhammer 40,000 is specifically fun because many factions and regiments in the game have their own lore and heraldry tied to different color schemes, so that your painting helps you tell the story of your army.

Just know that the painting side is a hobby that can take a lot of your time, but it for some it is also the most fun aspect of the game.

Rules

Warhammer 40K can be a pretty expensive hobby, but luckily, the basic rules are free and can be downloaded on the Warhammer 40,000 website here.

In theory, you can play the game with just these basic rules and the simple datasheets you get for each unit of miniatures you buy, but that’ll only last you your first few games.

There are 2 other kinds of books you will need to get started:

  1. The Warhammer 40,000 Core Rulebook is the main rulebook for the game. It contains the complete rules for playing the game (but not for individual armies) in Open, Narrative and Matched Play, as well as the Crusade System, some missions and a ton of lore and art to get you into the setting. It’s a bit expensive, but if you like the universe of the game as well as playing the game, it’s an amazing book.
  2. A Codex for your army is also necessary if you want to know any rules for your army that go beyond just the datasheet of each individual unit. A codex contains the lore for one specific army (such as the Space Marines), as well as datasheets for the units that army can field, its special abilities, equipment, psychic powers and command abilities. Our army overview article goes into more detail about each army that has a codex (as well as a few that don’t) and can help you choose which army to play.

The rulebook and a codex for your army is really something that will enhance your experience of the game. If you someone else teaching you the rules, you can maybe skip buying it and borrow their book for a few days. On top of these two books, there are a ton of campaign books available for the game, but you don’t need any of those to get started (in fact they might confuse you a lot).

A tape measure

Movement and weapons range is measured in inches in Warhammer 40K, so any kind of tape measure that’s measured in inches will do.

Dice

Warhammer 40K uses six-sided dice to resolve anything from advancing to shooting, fighting and casting psychic powers, and you need a lot of them to play. You can get by with 20-30 of them if you don’t have an army with a high model count, but having around 100 of them around won’t hurt. It can be a good idea to have a few in different colors as well.

A gaming board or scenery

Warhammer 40,000 can be played on any flat surface, but scenery and terrain plays a big part in the game if you use the full rules, so any kind of scale-appropriate scenery will do. Games Workshop has plenty of scenery packs you can buy, such as the Battlezone: ManufactorumVertigus, but for your first games you can also get by with soda cans and LEGO bricks on a dinner table.

All in one: Starter sets

If you’re looking at a one-purchase way of getting into the game, there are currently three starter sets available. Each of them include rules, two armies of miniatures, dice, a ruler for measuring and a battlefield:

  • The Elite Edition swaps the characters from the Recruit edition with two other characters and adds a couple of units, bringing the total miniatures in the box up to 27.
  • The Command Edition adds the full rules (but not the actual core book) and a set of plastic scenery to the mix.

How to build an army in 40k


The Warhammer 40,000 App

Before we get into army building, it’s worth noting that Warhammer 40,000 has an army building app available on iOS/Android. For a small subscription fee (it’s been lowered recently), you can build your army in the app, which then keeps track of what you need to add to the army to make it legal to play.

The app has a lot of options for adding equipment, building different detachments and so on, but you still need to buy the codexes for each army to access the full rules for that army, even in the app. Each physical codex book for the most recent edition of the game comes with a code for activating its contents within the app.

While this app is much less useful than, say, the Warhammer Age of Sigmar app where you can actually buy the rulebooks within the app, the Warhammer 40,000 app still makes it a lot easier for a beginner to figure out how to build an army for the game. So, while it still has a long way to go before it’s perfect, this guide recommends that you download the app for army-building purposes. Just don’t expect the app to have all the rules you need to actually play the game (which would be awesome, but hey maybe someday).

Datasheets

The basic rules of each unit in the game can be found on their datasheet, which is a small block of rules and statistics. While small, it does contain a lot of information. In this section, we go over all the aspects of a datasheet by looking at the datasheet for Severina Raine, a hero of the Imperium, which is available to download for free at the Warhammer Community website:

In the top left corner, a symbol shows the unit’s battlefield role, which is important if you’re building an army for Matched Play. Next to that is its Power Level (a cost), which we will cover in the section just below this one.

Then we have the unit’s statistics, which are lined up horizontally:

  • M is Move: How far your unit can move in a turn. It’s noted in inches.
  • WS is Weapon Skill: How easy it is for your model to hit another model in close combat. Here it is a 3+, which means you have to roll 3 or more on a six-sided dice to hit your enemy.
  • BS is Ballistics Skill: How easy it is for your model to hit another model with a ranged weapon. This is also a 3+ here, so you have to roll 3 or higher to hit.
  • S is Strength: Strength is used to calculate what you have to roll to wound an enemy model by comparing it to the enemy model’s Toughness. If your Strength is higher than the enemy model’s Toughness, it’ll be easier to wound them, and if it is lower, it will be more difficult. This article covers that system in the “Rolling Dice” section further below.
  • T is Toughness: Toughness is used to calculate what an enemy has to roll to wound this model by comparing it to the enemy model’s Strength.
  • W is Wounds: This is how much damage your model can take before it dies.
  • A is Attacks: how many attacks your model can do in close combat in a single fight phase.
  • Ld is Leadership: it is used to determine the morale of the model, which we also cover in the rules section below
  • Sv is Save: when an enemy allocates damage to you, you can try to roll higher than this number to avoid taking that damage. There are types of damage that you can’t roll save rolls against, though.

Below this, the datasheet describes the equipment of the model and the composition of the unit if it consists of multiple models, such as a squad of infantry.

Then the statistics of the model’s weapons are aligned horizontally:

  • Weapon shows the name of each weapon listed
  • Range shows how far away an enemy model has to be from this model for this model to be able to attack with this weapon
  • Type shows what category the weapon falls in, which in turn determines what kinds of attacks it can make. All the types are listed and explained in the free downloadable rules.
  • S is Strength, so it is used instead of the Strength of your model when this field doesn’t say “User”
  • AP is Armour Penetration. It is subtracted from the target’s Save characteristic to make it easier for you to wound your enemy.
  • D is Damage: how much damage each attack from this weapon can do.
  • Abilities lists any special rules that apply to this weapon.

After this, many datasheets detail Wargear Options (which are missing for the datasheet in this case) that are equipment or weapons this unit can choose instead of or in addition to their standard loadout.

  1. Abilities then explain any special rules that apply to this unit.
  2. Points Value shows the points cost of this unit if you play a game type that uses points. Not all datasheets has this noted on them.
  3. Faction Keywords show which factions and subfactions this model belongs to. This determines what armies this model can be used in, which is often more than one.
  4. Keywords determine how the unit interacts with the games rules, so that rules and abilities can affect it by listing one or more of its keywords.

Datasheets printed in the most recent rulebooks for Warhammer 40,000 arrange all this information slightly differently when it comes to the layout, but they’re still arranged in this order and use the same abbreviations. The Warhammer 40,000 app arranges them in a third fashion altogether, so just keep track of the different categories rather than exactly where they are located.

This is a lot of information for a newcomer to the game, and as you dive deeper into the game you might realise that units played as your specific subfaction might even be able to take weapons that aren’t even on their datasheet, so Warhammer 40,000 is not at game where unit rules are easily understood at a glance for beginners.

This complexity is all worth it, though, as it allows the game to simulate many different interactions in the game. It can be a good idea to build your first small army with only a few different unit types, so you can get to know their datasheets really well before branching out into greater complexity. If you get a lot of different units, you might find it very hard to remember their rules once you are stressed in a game.

Power Levels and Points

Warhammer 40K has two different systems for balancing your army against an opponent’s army.

The simplest one is the Power Level system: each unit in the game has a power level noted on the top of its datasheet , and you can then agree with your opponent on the total power level your army is allowed to have. For example, you could decide that you start the game with armies of Power Level 50 each. You can then “buy” units up to a total of 50 power.

The more complex system, the Points System, takes all aspects of your army into consideration: Instead of each unit having a points cost, each model in that unit has a points cost, and most equipment that’s not part of the most basic version of a model in that unit has an extra points cost. This means that special weapons or special combat roles for a model will make that unit more expensive to field in your army.

The points system is much more complex than what an Age of Sigmar player (the other Warhammer game), for example, will be used to, but what it does for the game is open it up to a lot of customisation without necessarily making the game harder to balance. Many models, such as sergeants for space marine units, can have a ton of weapons to choose from, even sometimes depending on what chapter their army belongs to, and even some that aren’t included in their model kits, but the game can still balance these choices by tweaking the points cost of those weapon options.

If you’re going into Warhammer 40K from a less complex tabletop game, the points cost can take a while to get used to, and points are also updated regularly through FAQs on the Warhammer Community website, so the Power Level system is the best place to start.

If you want to play games at tournaments or generally at a more competitive level, however, the Points system is the way to go, and the Warhammer 40K app makes it pretty easy to calculate the points cost of your units, even with all the optional upgrades you would like to bring. Just remember to take points cost into account when you assemble your miniatures, as a unit with a lot of upgrades will often be quite a bit more expensive than one with just the basic weapons on every model.

The latest edition of the game has named 4 different levels of play based on points value/power level:

  • Combat Patrol (25 Power Level/500 points): This is the most basic level of play, and it’s just enough to field a few different units. This is a great place to start, as the new Combat Patrol box sets such as Combat Patrol: Blood Angels are designed to hit 25 power level in total.
  • Incursion (50 Power Level/1000 points): This level let’s you diversify your army even more with maybe a vehicle/ a monster and some more units and characters added to your Combat Patrol force.
  • Strikeforce (100 Power Level/2000 points) This is the level at which many tournaments are played. Be mindful that most tournaments are played with points, not power level, but if you want to play the game competitively, this is the army size you’re going for.
  • Onslaught (150 Power Level/3000 points) This level is best for massive, narrative battles, as it takes a long time to play anything with this many points!

Each of these levels of play also has a recommended game board size, which you can find in the core rulebook. There’s no need to worry about that until you hit the Strikeforce level, though.

Battlefield Roles

In most game modes in Warhammer 40,000, the game requires you to field a specific number of units with specific unit roles. These are noted on each unit datasheet with an icon. These icons are explained in detail in the core book, and the app automatically lists what units you can choose between for each battlerole whenever army building requires you to do so.

The following roles exist in the game:

  • HQ: These are your leaders, and they’re all single models. They often provide buffs for your other units. Example: Primaris Captain
  • Troops: These are the main part of your army, and you’ll often have to take a couple of these. Example: Assault Intercessors
  • Elites: Specialist units. Some are single models, some are squads. Examples: Bladeguard Veteran Squad or Judiciar
  • Fast Attack: It’s right there in the name – these units are fast-moving assault options for your army, often ideal for skirmishing and harassing the opponent. Example: Outrider Squad
  • Flyer: Flying units. For most armies, you don’t have to worry about these for your first couple of games. Example: Stormhawk Interceptor
  • Heavy Support: These units are all about heavy firepower. Examples: Eradicator Squad or Repulsor
  • Dedicated Transport: Vehicles for transporting your infantry. Typically, you can bring one of these for each infantry unit in your army. Example: also the Repulsor
  • Fortification: These are buildings included in your army. Example: Hammerfall Bunker
  • Lord of War: These are rare, massive super-warriors for your army. Example: Roboute Guilliman

Command Points

Command Points are key to understanding army building in Warhammer 40,000. They serve a couple of purposes:

  • First of all, the amount of Points/Power Level you choose to play at determines how many Command Points you start out with. This is detailed in the core book
  • You then have to spend some of those Command Points on Detachments (see below)
  • You can also spend your Command Points on Stratagems during the game. These are special abilities with a Command Point cost that allow you to re-roll dice, against charging enemies or a number of other benefits. The core book lists some stratagems usable by any army, and otherwise the codex of your army will provide you with stratagems specific to your army.

In addition to the Command Points you may have left after purchasing detachments at the beginning of the game, you gain 1 Command Point bonus every turn in your Command Phase.

Detachments

Detachments are groups of units that make up your army. There are several different detachments to choose from, and each has a Command Point cost, some requirements and limitations, and often also a bonus this detachment gives your army.

Each detachment requires you to take a specific number of units with specific Battlefield Roles. For instance, a Patrol Detachment requires you to bring at least one HQ unit and one Troop unit.

Each detachment also has a maximum of units that can be part of this detachment. If we take the Patrol Detachment as an example once again, that detachment lets you bring a maximum of 3 Troop units and a maximum of 2 Elites, among others.

So why these requirements and limitations? The system works this way to encourage you to fit every unit in your army into a detachment. If you do that, your army becomes Battle-Forged, which is required for you to gain Command Points at the beginning of each turn.

The detachment system has a lot of elements to it: Some detachments give you a Command Point bonus if your Warlord (see below) is a part of that detachment, and while your entire army has to be of the same overall faction (so Orks and Space Marines can’t be in the same army), each of your detachments can be from a different faction within the larger faction.

This means that your army can have a Space Marines detachment and a Astra Militarum (the regular army of the Imperium) detachment in it. This isn’t always a good idea, since some abilities in some armies require your entire army to be from a specific faction, but if you have an idea for a cool mixed army, you can make it.

Warlords

The Warlord is the general of your army, more or less, and if you have one or more Characters (a Hero in Age of Sigmar terms, if that’s where you’re coming from) in your detachment , it has to be one of those.

A Warlord can gain a Warlord Trait, which is a special ability or bonus. Those Traits can either be found in your codex or in other books, such as in different missions. Warlords can also gain Relics, special equipment from your army codex.

What Army Should You Play?

If you want a full rundown of all the armies available in the game, go have a look at our army overview article here.

But, if you’re just looking for the simple answer to what army you should pick up as a beginner, the answer is fairly straight-forward: Play whatever you think looks cool! It’s all playable, and it’s all fairly complex, so there’s no army that’s just way easier than any other army to play.

That being said, another good suggestion is to ignore the warnings of all the cool 40k hipsters who tell you they’re the boring choice and just go for an army of Space Marines: they are one of the two armies in the available starter sets, almost everything worth takin in one of their armies is available as brand new plastic models that are easy to assemble and fun to paint, and you will never run out of options for building your army.

Just be warned: this doesn’t mean it’s very easy to figure out what Space Marine army to build. They have a ton of different subfactions which can have their own equipment options for different units, and their rules are also pretty complex for a beginner.

How to play Warhammer 40k


Missions

Before you start a game, you have to choose a Mission which describes how the battlefield is set up, what your objectives are, and how to deploy your armies. There are missions available in the core book and in a ton of other publications from Games Workshop. For your first game, the Only War mission in the core book is a good place to start. In that mission, you can either win by destroying the opponent’s army or by scoring victory points by having certain units close to objective markers or by slaying the enemy Warlord – which is about as simple as a mission gets. Remember that, in order to secure objective “markers” on the battlefield, units have to have the special rule “Objective Secured”, so always check datasheets for this when building your army. Many Troops units have it, and detachments can affect it as well.

The Battlefield

The size of the battlefield is generally determined by the size of your armies, and you can look this up in the core book.

In addition to the size of the battlefield and the deployment rules from your mission, you need to setup some terrain as well. As mentioned earlier in this article, this can be basically anything that helps give your battlefield some depth and block line of sight so that units can hide from enemy shooting, but there is an extra layer of complexity to this: Different types of terrain, such as hills, buildings and so on, interact with the game’s rules in different ways, which adds quite a bit of tactical depth to the game.

The core book has rules for all kinds of common terrain, and some codexes have rules for terrain specific to the army of that codex (which can be included in detachments as Fortifications).

You can buy GW terrain. While it looks cool, it is definitely on the expensive side of things.

Battle Rounds, Turns and Phases in 40k

The game is divided into turns and phases:

A Battle Round consists of a turn for each player.

A Turn is divided into 7 phases. There is a lot to each of them, but it is all detailed in the free downloadable rules. Here’s a very brief rundown of each of them with the most important stuff a new player needs to know:

  1. The Command Phase: This is where you gain Command Points, and some abilities can only be used here
  2. The Movement Phase: This is where all of your units can use their Move characteristic to move across the battlefield, and Advance (add the value of an extra dice roll to their movement). If they advance, they can’t shoot or charge later. Units with multiple models have to move in such a way that that models stay within 2 inches of each other (it’s a little more complicated than that, but knowing just this will help you visualize how close your models have to stand to each other)
  3. The Psychic Phase: This is where any of your units with psychic abilities can cast ther special powers, and your opponent can try to oppose those powers. Psyker abilities is a big part of Warhammer 40k for many armies: The core book has one pyschic power detailed, Smite, which allows you to damage an opponent, but different armies have different psychic disciplines from which they can choose their powers.
  4. The Shooting Phase: This is where your shooting units get to attack at ragne. See the section below to see how it works. There are a ton of special rules on weapons, and various modifiers that affect this phase, but they are all detailed in the core book.
  5. The Charge Phase: In the charge phase, units that didn’t advance or shoot get to see if they can charge into melee range of enemy units.
  6. The Fight Phase: In the Fight Phase, units fight in close combat, but there are a few twists: not only the units of the player whose turn it is, but all units in close combat range get to fight in this phase. Units that charged in the previous phase get to fight first.
  7. The Morale Phase: In this phase, any units that lost a model in any of the previous phases have to roll a Morale test. To do this, you roll a dice and add the number of models in the unit that died this turn to the value of the dice roll. If this number exceeds the unit’s Leadership statistic, one model flees, and the rest of the models have to roll another test. If a model rolls a 1 one on the second test, this model also flees.

After all of these phases have been resolved, another turn begins.

Rolling dice: To hit, to wound, save rolls

All sorts of stuff is solved by rolling six-sided dice in Warhammer 40k: When you want your units to move fast in the Movement phase, you roll a dice and add its value in inches to the unit’s movement. When you want to cast a psychic power, you roll dice. When you want to see if any of your models flee, you roll dice, and so on.

However, there are three dice rolls in particular that you have to know about, since they happen almost every time something tries to do damage to something else:

  • The Hit Roll: when you attack anything in close combat or at range, you roll a die and try to roll equal to or higher than your Weapon Skill (for close combat) or Ballistics Skill (for ranged combat). Many circumstances can modify what you have to roll here, such as bonuses from nearby friendly characters, your enemy being in cover and so on, but apart from that, it’s a simple roll to calculate.
  • The Wound Roll: If you hit an enemy target, you roll to see if you wound it. This is done by comparing the Strength of your model (in close combat) or of your weapon (in ranged combat) to the Toughness of the enemy target. If both are equal, you wound on a dice roll of 4. If your Strength is higher than the enemy’s Toughness, you wound on a 3, and if it’s the reverse you wound on a 5, and so on.
  • The Save Roll: If an enemy succeeds in wounding you, you can roll a dice to see if your can roll higher than your model’s Save characteristic. If you do, you don’t take any damage from that attack. If the enemy’s weapon had Armor Penetration, you have to subtract the value of that from any save roll you make, so it’s harder for you to roll high enough to avoid damage. Some units and characters also have an Invulnerable save, which they can choose to roll for their save roll. An Invulnerable save can’t be modified by Armour Penetration.

Once you’ve memorized how to make each of these rolls, keeping track of a Warhammer 40,000 game becomes much easier.

The Three Ways to Play

Like most of Games Workshop’s games, Warhammer 40,000 is split up into three different ways to play:

  • Open Play lets you play the game with whatever combination of 40k units you want, in any way you want, basically. This is a great place to start since you can just play the game with what you happen to have. The core book has a couple of systems to help you setup missions for Open Play.
  • Matched Play is the balanced, competitive mode of the game, where the Points system is used for army creation. This is also the format used for most tournaments you’ll encounter at game stores and clubs. The core book includes many missions for this mode of play.
  • Narrative Play is a broad term for games of Warhammer 40,000 where telling a great story is the focus. In the most recent edition of the game, Narrative Play is also the home of one of the most awesome aspects of Warhammer 40,000: The Crusade System. This is a flexible campaign system where your army grows and gains experience from battle to battle, with multiple ways of enhancing and customizing your units as the campaign progresses. Like the campaigns in Warcry, your progress is personal, so you can play against any opponent and still progress in your own Crusade campaign through the results of that battle. This means you can play a campaign even if you can’t muster a dedicated group of players to play every week, for example. The rules for playing a Crusade army are in the core book, but dedicated Crusade rules for each army are also starting to be released.

Final Thoughts


Warhammer 40,000 can be quite daunting as a game: There are so many armies to choose between, and it’s not always easy to figure out how to build your army in the best way possible. If you’re interested in the game’s fictional universe and want to explore the game’s strategic complexity, however, the game is more accessible than ever with a brand new edition that does a great job of explaining the game’s many systems.

While the game is certainly more complex than games like Age of Sigmar, we hope this guide has shown that it’s not impossible to figure out how to play the game, and that you can get started with just a few miniatures, dice and some basic knowledge of the game’s rules.