Tabletopus Astartes: A Primer to ‘Warhammer 40K’

Tabletopus Astartes: A Primer to ‘Warhammer 40K’


In the grim darkness of the far future, the Imperium of Man fights an unending war for survival against the realm of Chaos, heretics, and the threat of countless xenos–all non-humans, unsightly abominations in the eyes of the Emperor. This is the dark setting of Warhammer 40K, a tabletop game where you collect, build, and paint models one of the various factions of that setting, and pit them against others who also have mustered up a collection of their own.

While many gamers may be familiar with the world of Warhammer 40K through games such as Space Marine, or the Dawn of War series, we will be turning our focus on the original tabletop game that those series are based off of. And since we know how overwhelming games like this can be, may this be a helpful introductory guide in your conquests.

The Rise of Bloodthirster (Gameplay Example)

We all gathered around the table, watching eagerly as two titanic forces were about to clash: Sarah’s Bloodthirster had assaulted Josh’s Imperial Knight, which stood toe to toe with each other on the table. Both sides knew the outcome of this battle could easily turn the tide in either direction. As Sarah begun to pick up dice, the room became deathly quiet, the only noise was the sound of the dice rattling in her hand.

After the dice hit the table, revealing the strength of the Bloodthirster’s attacks, Josh grabbed a handful of his own in retaliation. As his dice rolled to a stop, the calm was broken with screams of surprise, anguish, and disbelief: the Imperial Knight’s shield had failed him allowing the Bloodthirster to easily tossing it aside, costing Josh the game.

This is the epicness that is Warhammer 40K.

It may seem a bit intimidating with literally hundreds of different models and dozens of rulebooks that are available for this game, and beginners may shy away if they can’t make heads or tails of them. However, it isn’t all that hard if you know where to start.

Purchasing Your First Set

The first thing you’ll want is a group of people who are willing play with you. The number isn’t too important, just as long as you at least have one other person to play against. Once you have a group figured out it’s time to purchase your supplies–the rulebooks, models, and everything you need to actually play the game.

I’d suggest starting with the Dark Vengeance box set which contains everything you need to play a small game between two people. It includes:

  • a pocket-sized beginner’s rulebook and other reference material,
  • two small armies of Dark Angels and Chaos Space Marines,
  • and even some dice, templates (which are used to measure the effects of large explosives or weapons such as flamethrowers), and six different scenarios to start with.

You’ll also need to get some cutters and some glue to help with the model assembly, but other than that, this set is the easiest and cheapest way to start and learn the game.

If you find you’re willing to dive right in, you’ll want to grab the latest box set of Warhammer 40K: a box set of three books containing the rules, the lore, and the art of the game. Though you’ll want to get familiar with the rules, you don’t have to remember every little detail. Just focus on the basics; believe it or not, most veteran players make mistakes on are some of the more fundamental rules.

Just as important as the rules, you’ll also want to read over the game’s lore. While the rules are what allow you to play the game, the story and narrative is what truly drives and inspires you to play a game or scenario. Reading the background will also give you information about the various factions and will give you a good idea about which army to start, the strengths, weaknesses, and applications, which brings us to the next step: buying your army.

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