A Guest Post about the Universe and Inhabitants of the Warhammer Universe.

5 Oct

Recently my best mate asked me to do a guest blog post for him, and since I had some time to kill between one of the DVD reviews I post on Facebook and the next one, I figured it wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.  This guest blog is about a hobby I’ve been into for over 12 years now, Warhammer 40,000.


Warhammer 40,000, or Warhammer 40K as it is sometime known, is one of three hobby games produced by Games Workshop.  All of their games (the others being Warhammer and Lord of the Rings) are turn-based tabletop strategy games where you have to buy, paint and assemble an army of miniatures for the army you’ve chosen, then pit them in battle against another army.  Unlike most other games of this ilk, however, Warhammer 40,000 is heavily sci-fi based, so rather than painting elves and dwarves and men with bows and arrows, you get men with laser weapons, vehicles that range from traditional tanks to those that can walk on mechanised legs or hover just above the ground.  Of course, there is still an element of the supernatural to the game as well by way of daemons and sorcery.


The backstory of the game is simple enough – it’s the 41st millennium, mankind now lives in an empire that stretches across the galaxy known as the Imperium of Man, and by the standards of this future, mankind is verging on extinction.  From outside the Imperium come alien races with varying appearances and goals, while from within it must deal with heretics and mutants.  The Imperium relies on starships travelling through an immaterial realm known as the Warp to make interstellar travel possible.  However, the Warp is full of daemonic entities that are keen to sink their hooks into unfortunate souls, and its chaotic nature means it’s not always certain if a vessel will emerge into real space where it’s meant to.  Most advanced human technology has been lost, and what technology humanity does have is regarded with some degree of superstition and reverence, especially if it’s something quite rare and hard to easily mass produce.


So, just who are the armies of the 41st Millennium?  Well, here’s a quick run down of those armies:

  • Space Marines – these are genetically engineered super-humans, armed with the finest and rarest technology in the Imperium.  This is probably the most well-known army in the world of Warhammer 40,000, and has been featured in every version of the game’s starter set.


  • Imperial Guard – these are the rank-and-file common army troops of the Imperium.  Where the Space Marines are few and use specialised technology and tactics to win, the Imperial Guard use firing lines of infantry and mighty battle tanks to conquer a foe.


  • Grey Knights – a special Space Marine chapter formed to combat the threat of daemons from the warp.  The Grey Knights are unique among Space Marine chapters in that every Grey Knight has psychic abilities.


  • Sisters of Battle – the Imperium is ruled by the God-Emperor of Humanity, and the Imperial Faith in the Emperor is preached by an organisation known as the Ecclesiarchy.  The Sisters of Battle are the Ecclesiarchy’s militant arm, purging threats to the Imperium with righteous zeal and powerful weaponry and armour.


  • Chaos Space Marines – these Space Marines are similar to their Imperial counterparts, but due to their decision to forsake the Imperium and the Emperor in favour of their own self-interest or the daemonic entities of the Warp, there are key differences.  Chaos Space Marines lack some items of weaponry that Imperial Space Marines have access to, but compensate for this with various daemonic gifts and units unique to them.


  • Chaos Daemons – in more recent times, Games Workshop has separated the daemons of Chaos out into their own army list, whereas before they were part-and-parcel of the Chaos Space Marines forces.  As the name implies, this army would be composed of daemonic entities, many allied with one of the four main Chaos Gods – Khorne, Slaneesh, Nurgle or Tzeentch.


  • Eldar – an ancient alien race who, after a great cataclysm known as The Fall, are also verging on extinction.  Possessing advanced technology and some powerful psychic units, the Eldar are a race that relies on speed and attrition to overcome their adversaries.


  • Dark Eldar – while the Craftworld Eldar escaped the fall, some of their kin embraced it and became what are known as the Dark Eldar.  Operating out of the dark city of Commoragh, the Dark Eldar launch raids, feeding on the terror, pain and sorrow they illicit in others to survive.  Pray they don’t take you alive…


  • Orks – a brutish race of green-skinned savages, the Orks live only for battle.  If no suitable non-Ork army can be found for the Orks to fight, they will fight one another to satisfy their lust for war.  If an Ork of sufficient strength and cunning can organise enough Orks into a Waaagh! of enough size and power, the footfalls of the green tide may well shake an entire planet.


  • Tyranids – emerging from beyond the edges of known space, the Tyranids are a hive organism, comprised of myriad biological killing machines that serve the will of the Hive Mind.  Everything about the Tyranids is organic – their weaponry is comprised of living symbiotes that fire chemical discharges or smaller creatures, and their sole purpose is consume a world’s entire biomass to fuel their hive fleets before moving on to devour another world.


  • Necrons – the remnants of an ancient race housed in metal skeletal constructs, the Necrons slumber beneath many worlds.  Once roused from their death-like slumber, the Necrons become an almost unstoppable army, determined to obliterate all life and able to regenerate in spite of damage that might prove mortal to an organic being.


  • Tau – a young race in the world of Warhammer 40k, the Tau are advancing rapidly, and have laid claim to many an Imperial world on the eastern fringes of the Imperium.  The Tau possess highly advanced technology, but lack the skill or strength for melee combat.  To that end, they employ auxiliaries from allied races within their empire, such as the Kroot.


So, those are the armies of the Warhammer 40k world.  Now onto the question of how you might be best to get into that world.  I personally would recommend getting your hands on the latest rulebook for the game.  Not only does it give you all the rules for how to play, there’s plenty of stuff in the colour section to show you the range of miniatures that are available, which may be key in influencing which army you decide to collect.  Once you’ve got some idea of which army you want to collect, I’d buy the Codex rulebook for that army, some Games Workshop modelling supplies (paints, glue, brushes, etc) and a box of miniatures relating to the army you’re after to practice different colour schemes on (assuming you haven’t also decided that beforehand).


Of course, the game will also require you to acquire other things to play, such as a gaming surface and terrain if you want to play at home, plus tape measures, dice and weapon templates for some of the armaments you may use within your army.  Needless to say, this can be a fairly costly hobby.  Of course, some people just buy the models to buy and paint for fun, which can be cheaper, but means you don’t get to experience the fun of the game.  Alternatively, there are computer games based on Warhammer 40,000 or novels and audiobooks relating to the narrative that fuels the game itself.  Ultimately, you’ve got a fair few different ways to get into the game.


As for myself, I’ve been into Warhammer 40,000 for over 12 years.  I’ve got about six or seven armies, mostly Imperial Space Marines, as well as a number of Warhammer 40,000 novels and the Warhammer 40,000 computer games Dawn of War and Dawn of War II (plus the three add-ons for the first Dawn of War).  I also have a DVD of the Warhammer 40k film Ultramarines, which is now available to buy as a download from the Ultramarines film website.  In short, I am something of a 40k nut.


Turning back to the tabletop game for a moment, the game features a number of expansions that offer different styles of warfare to the main game.  These include Planetstrike, which focuses on one player taking on the role of an invading army descending on a planet while the other player acts as an entrenched defender; Apocalypse, which deals with battles on a larger scale than normal 40k and allows for the inclusion of super-heavy vehicles like Ork Stompas and Imperial Guard Baneblade tanks and Cities of Death, which as the name implies provides rules specifically for urban warfare.


Ultimately, how you get into Warhammer 40,000 is up to you.  Some of you reading this may have the time and money to go for the hobby game as a whole – painting, building and assembling a decent army and your own gaming table and terrain.  Some may opt just to buy the models to paint and assemble them, and some of you may go for the novels or computer games over the hobby game itself, either due to a lack of funds or a lack of patience.  However you get into the hobby, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.  With that, I leave you to mull over how you may get into Warhammer 40k while I toddle off to watch a few more DVDs.

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2 Responses to “A Guest Post about the Universe and Inhabitants of the Warhammer Universe.”

  1. dogbombs October 5, 2011 at 11:25 am #

    Yipee! Another new blog to subscribe to.

    I’ve been following, but not playing, 40k since it was Rogue Trader back in the good old days. My only problem is the price! But there are some seriously nice figures out there. Especially the Tau.

  2. vobeskhan October 6, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

    I’ve been playing 40k since the early 90’s, usually at home with friends though I have once or twice ventured into games at the store). I usually favour Chaos Space Marines, particularly the Black Legion, and have built up a fairly decent sized army of infantry and assorted vehicles though the majority is still awaiting painting.

    One of my “bugbears” of store gaming was that all miniatures fielded HAD to be painted, needless to say this led to very few in-store games for me, and with the friends I gamed with at home we didnt use this rule at all.

    I still have my armies tucked away on the shelves and have a relatively current codex for them but havent actually played a game since the 5th Edition rules came out (mainly due to not having the room to play, but also as my regular opponent moved away to start a family).

    I have played the Dawn of War pc game and quite like it, though the resource management aspect is a little tedious. The Ultramarines movie you mention is awesome!! Though I may be a little bias as the main character is voiced by Sean Pertwee, one of my favourite actors.

    In closing I’ll just add “Death to the False Emperor!”

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