"Forget the power of technology and science, for so much has been forgotten, never to be relearned. Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim dark future there is only war. There is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods."
--(Shortened) Intro to the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
Warhammer 40,000 is the sci-fi equivalent of Warhammer Fantasy Battle and is also a tabletop wargame produced by Games Workshop, currently in its 7th Edition. It depicts a dystopian hellhole of a future where the majority of the human race in the form of the gargantuan Imperium Of Man is the dominant but dwindling force in the galaxy and constantly (and we mean CONSTANTLY) at war against heretics, aliens, communists, and everything else for their survival, including themselves. Warhammer 40,000 is filled with fanboys. Although, they may not admit it. Fanboyism in Warhammer 40,000 is actually a whole lot bigger compared to other sci-fi fanboyism.
- 1 In the Grim Dark Future
- 2 Background
- 3 Grimdark
- 4 Gameplay
- 5 Collecting
- 6 Roleplaying
- 7 Playable Races & Factions
- 8 Headline text
- 9 Reasons why 40K is awesome
- 10 Endless List of Significant Personalities
- 11 To Sum it All Up
- 12 Gallery
- 13 See Also
- 14 External Links
In the Grim Dark Future
In the grim, dark, grim darkness of the 41st Millennium, there is only grim. And darkness. And war. Set in the never-ending year of 999 in the 41st Millennium, the Imperium of Man will go to any ends to protect itself from an endless tide of foes. From the Eye of Terror come the dreaded Legions of Chaos, slavering and relentless as they continue the 10,000 year war they have waged. The mysterious Eldar pursue their own ends which often conflict with that of the Imperium while their fucked-up brethren, the Dark Eldar, enslave and pillage. From another galaxy comes the Tyranids, a biological hive-minded colossus that lives only to consume all life. The Necrons, robotic monstrosities who once cleansed the entire galaxy of life, have began to reawaken on their tomb worlds throughout the Imperium. Orks, green-skinned war-loving monsters, are MADE FOR FIGHTIN' and have the monopoly on MOAR DAKKA, as well as outnumbering everyone else put together except the nids, whose total mass is about 1/2 of the galaxy. The Tau, a progressive and technologically-advanced race of weeaboo communists, crusade for "The Greater Good" with forced sterilization and brainwashing. Standing in defense of the Imperium are the numberless regiments of regular military men, the Imperial Guard and the Space Marine Chapters, massive crusading knight super-soldiers who live only to fight the Imperium's foes. The Sisters of Battle, Grey Knights and Inquisition safeguard the Imperium from internal threats including heresy, traitors and daemonic possession. They go about this by killing people for heresy.
Grim dark grimness shrouded in never ending darkness is grim, and in the grimdark 41st Millennium, there is only war (Basically it sucks to be the Imperium, or anybody living in it. Despite being by far the most powerful united force in known space (Tyranids aren't there yet, Necrons getting out of bed, ORKS IZ MADE FOR FIGHTIN [each other]), the Imperium and its million planets can never gain any more ground. In the grim dark future of the 41st Millennium, there is only stalemate. And heresy. And daemonettes.
In case you haven't guessed, this premise and 40K's official tagline (In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war!) is the origin of the grimdark meme. Not knowing this is heresy. As is knowing it. In the Grimdark future, just about everything is Heresy.
Note: In 40K there is an alternate dimension where the gods of Chaos (the grimdark supervillains) exist and where all psykers draw their power from, known as the Warp. It is also Warp navigation that forms the 40K take on Faster-Than-Light travel. The Warp is a batshit insane place full of things that want to fuck you inside out, and as such being a psyker is very dangerous. Basically everybody but the Emperor has a danger of having their head explode every time they channel Warp powers. It goes without saying that using the Warp as FTL travel will also result in a grade 5 clusterfucking if the ship is not protected via some sort of shielding (the Gellar Field). The Warp affects every race in 40K in some way (except the Tau, who are too young as a species to produce psykers and the Necrons, who are ANTI-Warp, like all their units creep the Warp out), but is the very source of Chaos itself and as such works best for them. Its grim and dark atmosphere and graphic brutality has been remarked by many as the polar opposite of the idealistic and more sedate Star Trek universe.
Now for some tl;dr:
Once upon a time, there was the EMPRA. There are no words in the human language to describe his radiant levels of awesome, but basically he told the human race to do as he said and they did. Re-conquering planets that mankind had lost in the distant past and many thousands of new ones, the Emperor's loyal Army (now Imperial Guard err. . . Astra Militarum) and 20 SPESS MAHRENS Legions composed of up to 250,000 demigod soldiers each (before they were organized into 1,000 strong Chapters) took the galaxy for mankind. In the process, they destroyed countless alien races for the crime of not being human, as well as killing millions of humans for the crime of not being Terran enough. But they did it for great justice, so that makes it okay.
The Space Marine Legions, 20 of them in total, were the main offensive force of what was known as the Great Crusade despite their comparatively minuscule numbers. They were, however, the manliest skullfuckers in the galaxy at the time. According to the Imperium, the only thing that could beat the Space Marines were other Space Marines. Which was kind of like when the Titanic began its maiden voyage and some fucktard said "God himself could not sink this ship". Which God responded to by trolling said fucktard by sinking the ship (Implying God exists and thereby instituting the theory of Intelligent Sinking).
A guy named Horus, the Primarch (demigod super-Marine in charge of a Legion, created by the Empy himself) chosen by the Emperor to lead the Great Crusade while the Emperor went back to Terra to work on some super secret pwn-the-galaxy scheme, fucked everything up at this point. Succumbing to the whispers of the Chaos gods (& his own deep seated "Daddy Issues"), he led a third of the Imperium's armies straight to Terra where he attempted to fuck up the Emperor's Palace and obviously the Empra himself. The siege took too long and in an attempt to end it quickly Horus fought the Emperor one on one. In an extreme display of gar and awesome the Emperor GOT HIS FUCKING GAME ON and blew Horus into oblivion while crying manly tears of pure disappointed rage. Unfortunately, the Emperor was seven kinds of fucked up by the fight and had to be attached to a life-support machine known as the Golden Throne, where he has remained for ten millennia as a super-psychic vegetable (imagine Stephen Hawking negative the vox unit).
During this time, humanity did everything in their power to fuck up the Emperor's vision of the Imperium of Man. With the Emperor no longer in charge, the total IQ of the Imperium's leadership dropped by about 99%. The Imperium is now a bureaucratic militaristic state governed by force, religious fundamentalism and good old fashioned ignorance. At some point 'heresy' was reinvented by the Imperium as a blanket term to cover every single act a human being could possibly commit for good or for worse that any amoral Imperial Official subjectively deems as counter to the interests of the Imperium/whoever is in charge. Disagreeing with this treatment of heresy is not only heresy, but probably treason. Treason is heresy. Heresy is punishable by death.
Not everything revolves around the Imperium, however. Just the vast majority of things.
After the Horus Heresy, the armies of Chaos fled into a section of disturbed warp-space known as the Eye of Terror, where they are pretty much safe from the Imperium until they leave en masse periodically in what is known as "Black Crusades". There have been 13 so far, and all but the last have been massive failures. The last one was only a moderate failure.
The Eldar, one of the most ancient races in the galaxy and basically space-elves, are the source of the aforementioned Eye of Terror. Back in the old days, the Eldar had a galaxy-spanning empire too. Except instead of enjoying themselves the old-fashioned way by constantly fighting for their own existence and accusing each other of heresy, they indulged in fuckhueg amounts of hedonism. After one too many cocaine-and-alcohol-fueled underage transsexual orgies, the fabric of the Warp tore open and created the unstable phenomenon known as the Eye of Terror. It also wiped out majority of the Eldar race in a sex-fueled explosion and birthed the fourth major Chaos god, Slaanesh, the Prince of Pleasure. Created by their own desires, the Eldar race basically belongs to Slaanesh and when they die, their souls go to his little section of the Warp to be tormented for all eternity (unless they store their own souls in things called Spirit Stones). Whoops. Some Eldar kept being decadent fucks and pissed off to the dark hidden city of Commorragh (the Dark Eldar), but most became very srs business mopey living-in-the-past elves consumed with manipulating the future to preserve their own race and all the alcohol, sex and cocaine now belongs to Slaanesh. Cue grimdark.
Orks is the biggest and the baddest, and they have been around forever. They are somewhat more numerous these days, what with their method of reproduction consisting of an Ork scratching himself and seeding a few more Orks in the ground (Protip: Orks are
plants a fungus/algae symbiosis Alien mixotrophs). They get their technology levels from genetically-encoded skill-sets that occasionally express themselves in certain Orks, creating mechanics, doctors, and a slew of other "oddboy" Orks to crop up once in a while. Eventually they will WAAAGH! and blow away the whole fucking universe, but until then they'll just be a major pain in the Imperium's (and everyone elses) ass.
The Necrons are hella-old and fucked the Eldar up ages ago but decided to go back to sleep after deciding it was all too easy. They will eventually wake up in force and cleanse the galaxy of life, though the Tyranids may have something to say about that. (NOT. Tyranids are avoiding Necrons like an over-sized gonad. Primarily because they realized that Necrodermis isn't very good nom-noms)
The Tyranids have been around for Emperor-knows how long, as they come from another galaxy. There are like, a fuckton of them. And they might be running for their lives from something even more grimdark. It has been theorized by Imperial scholars that the Tyranids will eventually bring forth a massive Hive fleet that would consume everything, however, this is said to be kept back by something more powerful than the Emperor and Chaos combined: GW's refusal to move the WH40K storyline forward.
The Tau are a five thousand years old civilization and have advanced from stone axes and spears to a technological level slightly beyond that of Imperium and constantly improving. At least when in doesn't come to FTL drive, because Tau one sucks (actually in new fluff they hadn't FTL tech at all until the 3rd Sphere Expansion). While that can be explained by the Imperium being far less technologically advanced than they were 20,000 years ago (thinking machines, shit hit the fan, cue grimdark), the Tau have a real penchant for advancing their society rapidly. However, they are Space Communists and as such have no future. In the grim darkness of far future Tau are like the only good guys, who prefer to talk before shoot and aren't completely xenophobic to the point of "all aliens must die". More so, they often give conquered aliens citizenship and some tech to help, and even claim to threaten them as equals. Though in fact aliens are always second-class citizens, life sucks much less in their empire in comparison to Imperium of Men. To be said, weaboo communists know what universe they live in, so if natives does not want to join their "Greater Good" willingly; the Tau do not hesitate in using "re-educational camps", brainwashing and gentle genocide through mass-sterilisation, if more subtle methods does not work. Their empire is too small to have an impact on the grand scheme as a whole, and will last all of ten seconds once someone decides it actually give a shit. In fact, the Tau were nearly wiped out back when they were tribal by a small Imperial expedition and their homeworld was only saved by a Warp Storm. However, this is also an advantage to them because while now they're just another young, small race, most of the galaxy has turned a blind eye towards them and if they continue to do so, the Tau might have enough time to step up their game and throw the biggest damn party in the galaxy: a communist party! However, young and naive as a race, it is a question of whether they'll be able to do this without losing their grimdark virginity in the process.
tl;dr: Lots of races, lots of history, lots of grim darkness.
Nough said if you don't count rogue trader.80's with axel f and crazyness OK SHUT UP WITH NOSTALGIA Calm down!!!
Playing the tabletop game of 40K involves the placement of the small plastic and metal models that represent each unit onto a 6'x4' tabletop battlefield. This could be anything from a kitchen bench to a detailed hand-crafted board complete with forests, rocks, bunkers etc. Terrain is an important part of the game, as the 40K shooting rules rely on "line of sight" to target any given unit. Terrain can also be used to either player's advantage to provide extra protection against shooting even if within line of sight, block units and vehicles, etc. Difficult and Dangerous Terrain can also hinder movement or even kill units.
The rules for the game are drawn from the Warhammer 40K Rulebook sold by Games Workshop as well as the supplement 'Codex' books. While the Rulebook provides all the general rules required to play the game, the Codex books, one for each race, provide specific rules such as unit statistics, wargear and points costs.
There are two main game modes. Objective games, and Kill Point games. The point of objective games is to be in undisputed control of objective with your Troops. Kill Point missions suck cocks though. Basically, your goal is to destroy more units than the enemy does. Every unit is worth a kill point. That horde of conscripts? It's a killpoint. That truck? It's a killpoint. That Leman Russ Main Battle Tank? It's a Kill Point. So you can kill off more of the enemy, but if he's concentrated his points into a few hordes/"unkillable" units, and you've gone for massed tanks/etc, you can "lose" Kill Points despite killing off most of the enemy...many people hate Kill Points. This is the reason it doesn't exist in 5th ed. Most people just bring Kill Points back because the only non-objective-based game type is essentially keep killing until one side is dead.
You have 3 Deployment modes to further provide 'variation'.
Pitched Battle lets you deploy your entire army in a line on the map (though you can put units into reserve, off the table), Dawn of War limits the number of units you may deploy but lets you deploy them further into the table, and Spearhead divides the table into quarters, with all units having to stay 12" away from the center.In 6th ed, Dawn of War allows you to deploy your entire army in a line on the map the long way, and night fighting will be in effect either 1st turn or the last turns, depending on a dice roll. Hammer and Anvil, the table is divided in half along it's short end, creating a longer, but narrower deployment area. Vanguard Strike divides the table into quarters, with all units having to stay 12" from the center diagonal axis.
Each unit in 40K, whether an Imperial Guardsman, a Daemon Prince or a Falcon Grav Tank, has a set of 'characteristics' that are compared to the statistics of whatever they are attacking to ascertain whatever roll may be necessary on a D6 to succeed in their attack. The characteristics are as follows: Weapon Skill (WS), Ballistic Skill (BS), Strength (S), Toughness (T), Wounds (W), Attacks (A), Initiative (I), Leadership (Ld). For vehicles, it is simplified to Frontal, Side and Rear armor ratings, hull points, and Ballistic Skill. Certain units that are a mix between vehicle and infantry/monster, such as walkers and Dreadnoughts, retain the Armour ratings and hull points in place of Toughness and Wounds but use all remaining characteristics as well. Depending on the type of attack made (shooting, assault, psychic, etc), different characteristics are used to resolve the attack. Some special close combat weapons, such as Power Fists, will enhance the characteristics of the user or provider other bonuses. When shooting, the separate statistics of the weapon fired also come into play.
All units also have a "points cost", representing their overall worth in an army. There are a number of rules concerning selecting an army from a Codex army book, but one of the most important is the points limit. The points limit is the method used in 40K as an upper limit to army size and power. The most common type of 40K game is set at 1,500 points. For comparison, the average squad of Imperial Guardsmen is worth 50 points, and a Space Marine squad worth 150 points. A single Grey Knight Dreadnought is 115 points. With any unit, upgrades can greatly increase their points cost and effectiveness. Fully-equipped Independent Characters can reach well over 200 points, for example, and the aforementioned squads will usually be equipped with more expensive heavy weapons, squad leaders, or other equipment. Army selection is also limited by the codex's Force Organization Chart; every unit is categorized as HQ, Troop, Fast Attack, or Heavy Support and the Force Organization Chart specifies the minimum and maximum number of each type of unit that an army may select.
Units usually fight as squads, though there are many exceptions. All infantry are formed into a squad with similar units and usually a squad leader (i.e. a squad of Ork Slugga Boyz led by a Nob or a squad of Guardsmen led by Sarge) who is known as a Character. Units such as vehicles/walkers (Tau Hammerhead, Baal Predator) are usually but not always (Sentinels, Jetbikes) fielded as a lone unit.
Vehicles, as evidenced by their unique characteristics and other game mechanics, are used very different from all other units and have a significant section of the 40K rulebook dedicated to them. The game also features individual vehicle-sized models known as Monstrous Creatures that with very few exceptions cannot be formed into squads (eg. Daemon Prince, Tyranid Carnifex).
The role of hero units, known as not just Characters but Independent Characters is an important one in 40K. They are the leaders for each army and one of the most powerful types of unit available to any player. Independent Characters have the distinction of being able to operate as a single model or joining with another squad. Independent Characters can be actual named characters with their own history and unique appearance (such as Celestine the Living Saint), while others like a Space Marine Captain or an Ork Warboss are generic commanders. Both kinds can have a massive impact on the game, especially in the Shooting and Assault phases where their greatly enhanced weapons and abilities can be brought to bear.
Characters who are part of a larger squad of infantry can enjoy the "Look Out, Sir!" rule in which a wound applied to the Character can sometimes be taken by some nearby chump who jumps (or is grabbed and thrown) in front of a bullet. Independent Characters are even more hilariously good at inspiring (or forcing) sacrifice of the lowly minions around them to save their own heroic asses.
The game is divided into four phases: the Movement Phase, the psychic phase, the Shooting Phase, and the Assault Phase, and each phase forms part of each individual player turn. Quite simply, the Movement Phase is for movement only, the psychic phase is for casting psychic powers, the Shooting Phase is for shooting, while the Assault phase is for resolving hand to hand combat.
To resolve Shooting players first roll to hit, if they hit, they wound, and if they wound, they roll for cover and armor saves, and after that they roll a few more times just to make sure no one got hurt. This is at ranges of under 25 meters. Seriously people are bad shots in the 41st millennium.
Like you know that news footage you sometimes see of African gunmen who are shooting from the hip with AKs even though they're not fast drawing, or holding said AKs in front of them in willful disregard that rifle butts go on shoulders, who can't even hold their guns level to fire aimed shots, let alone look down their gunsights, all the while standing in the middle of the street which they can do because the guys downrange are doing the exact same thing. Those guys would qualify to be Vindicare snipers in the Imperium of Man. Less elite soldiers, such as Guardsmen, must be carefully instructed on which end of the Lasgun should be pointed more in which direction. Even the Tau, indisputably the most gun-happy of all races, have trouble hitting the broad side of a Baneblade unless their scouts use a laser pointer to indicate exactly where the bad guy is. The short range of every gun is what's known as an Acceptable Break from Reality. The same principle applies for why shooting at a bigger or closer target doesn't increase the chance of hitting the target. Imagine if the shortest of guns had a range of 100". Games would get way too big to manage very quickly.
It's for this reason that people in the 41st millennium like to carry outrageously hueg and outlandish melee weapons and like to get stuck in with them. The Assault (or melee) Phase is resolved about the same as the Shooting Phase (which at least makes more sense, since you can parry a sword, but you can't parry a hypervelocity slug, let alone high energy plasma or coherent high intensity radiation, examples in other works of fiction notwithstanding), but since melee combat once begun cannot be disengaged, and units not engaged in melee combat can't fire upon units in melee combat (because
of everyones outrageously bad eyesight that can't distinguish between friend and foe in the clash raging right in front of them even the most basic military tactics will tell you not to shoot into a crowded melee where your own forces are fighting Unless you're a tyranid in which it still makes no sense), sooner or later someone is going to get melee killed.
Hit rolls for soldiers in a squad can be rolled together, as can save rolls. As yet, the gameplay mechanics geniuses at Games Workshop have not conceived of some physics defying method that more than one dice can be rolled simultaneously to represent the myriad possible results to an individual unit, such as a tank, and so tragically gamers are still forced to roll to hit, and to roll for armor penetration, first one and then the other. (Although it's thought by many this is deliberate to draw out the tension and suspense, since victory can hang on these successive rolls. It's also thought W40k players could instead play back alley craps games for the same effect, and save some money also.)
In the 41st millennium military engineers have not yet devised an effective targeting or guidance system that would enable a tank killer to fire on enemy armor (tank sized targets) with confidence of hitting these targets, at the ranges typical of combat in this far future era. As such, infantry are frequently tragically forced to engage in melee combat against such armored monstrosities with chainswords, handfuls of potatomasher grenades, and standard issue steel balls.
Both shooting units (e.g. Space Marine Devastators) and assault units (e.g. Dark Eldar Wyches) have great but very different roles to play. The 40K rulebook describes the manner in which the many varying unit attributes in 40K interrelate. At the end of the Shooting and Assault phases when casualties have been resolved and models removed, depending on the events that occurred to affect any given unit, Leadership (Ld) tests of all sorts must be made. These test whether or not the unit/squad flees from a combat they have lost, at which point other actions can be taken by the attackers such as consolidation or pursuing (sweeping advance). Fleeing units will continue to flee until they rally (a roll can be taken at the start of each new turn assuming certain conditions are met), are overtaken and destroyed, or flee off the board. In this manner an army can be destroyed without actually killing each individual unit.
General 40k Tactics
Contrary to popular humor, you *can* apply tactics 40k beyond "Hurl your units/park a gunline, and yell FOR THE EMPRAH". You will be called a cheesemongering win-at-all-costs bastard, because why treat toy solders you paid craptons of money for like a more expensive chess-game? Rite? Building your army-list is a very important part of this, but given two balanced lists, victory tends to go to the better general (or the far luckier one...
some days, the dice *really* hate you the dice always hate you). Tactics are discussed here.
There are three elements to Warhammer 40K: The background, the gameplay and the collecting/modeling. In the same way that the average powergamer will not give two fucks about the background or modeling and that the writer of most of this article would take the background over the gameplay any day, the modeling is something that can replace the other two elements of the game completely. As the game relies on models to represent every unit in a gaming army and is supported by a massive plethora of awesome artwork, there are great opportunities for the more artistic among us to use those lovely, juicy artist brains of theirs.
Warhammer 40K models are sold for outrageous sums by Games Workshop in boxed sets produced by Citadel Miniatures.</s> Recently Citadel released their "Finecast" line of models, which are basically the same metal models cast in a pseudo-plastic-resin-thing; very detailed with the caveat that the models have problems with bubbling. Games Workshop also owns Forgeworld, who sell ridiculously expensive and ridiculously awesome resin kits of alternative 40K models. Case in point, the Forgeworld Death Korps of Krieg range (fapfapfapfapfapfap). These models must be glued together by hand, and this leaves quite some room for customisation, better known as conversion. Conversion consists of everything from gluing on a different arm or weapon to using the modelling putty known as 'Green Stuff' to recreate half the model. This can result in anything from a different pistol to a more dynamic pose to something too awesome for this world that Games Workshop never thought of.
Each model must also be painted by hand, and for those who prefer painting to modelling, 40K still provides plenty of opportunities. While the entire GDP of the U.S.A.(which is shit BTW) could not buy a year's worth of Games Workshop painting products, the fact remains that Games Workshop models, some more than others, lend themselves extremely well to a steady hand. The annual Games Workshop-run painting contest, the Golden Demon awards, is a perfect showcase for the incredible examples of epic that can be made by a good modeller and/or painter.
The biggest problem with collecting 40K is the cost, which has gone up by about 300% in the last decade. To buy yourself a playable 1,500 point army will probably cost hundreds of dollars, and a delicious customised army of that size or larger (or heaven forbid, a Forgeworld army) will cost you thousands.
But it's fucking worth it, because even the ugliest miniatures or worst crunch-wise army are distilled awesome in the proper hands. Seriously, people. A good converted and beautifully painted army are only surpassed by an expositive-scenario (the now-called Armies on Parade) of themselves... unless you are a powergamer.
Aside from the wargame, Warhammer 40,000 has also stolen into the long night of roleplaying games with Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, Deathwatch, Black Crusade, and Only War. Dark Heresy is the way to play in the grimdark universe on a personal level rather than an army level if you so choose- it is also a substantially hearty system, that with a few tweaks brings the dysentery laden fun of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay to the modern and sci-fi world. Rogue Trader is moar of the same, but you get a PERSONAL SPESS SHEEP as well. Deathwatch, you get to play as SPESS MAHRINES. In Black Crusade, you get to play as either Chaos Space Marines or Chaos Cultists. In Only War, you get to play as the steel balls laden Imperial Guard.
Playable Races & Factions
Space Marines/Adeptus Astartes: Knights in future space power armor. Will seriously fuck your shit up, but often associated with noobs because they are the army that GW markets the most, and most starter packs have them. Considered a noob army because they are extremely easy to play. Their only real disadvantage is their armies are usually pretty low in model count so they can't afford to lose many. Other than that, they are pretty much the standard by which all other armies are measured and have no real weaknesses. Once upon a time, weren't quite as hung up on the Emprah, and more informal.
Or such is the rhetoric many would like to believe. In reality, Space Marines are the most popular faction. Actually, they're the most popular faction(s), since their race enjoys the vast majority of model updates and new codex releases, to the point of making plenty of players sick to their stomachs from the sheer pauldron overload. Aside from being the best supported army, getting not one, but multiple updates each edition while the majority of other armies languish and find themselves gridlocked into one or two working gimmicks, the varying flavors of Space Marine produce some of the strongest and most versatile armies in the game. Unlike most armies, which are designed around a notion of specialization, which is not always executed well by the codex writers in practice, Space Marines are treated as experts of all trades, which means they have the broadest variety of strategies at their disposal. They can generally give specialist races a run for their money in whatever tactic the specialist army was supposed to be good at - this is made possible by having a good selection of support to make up for the inherent holes in a specialized army.
In short, Space Marines are among the few armies designed to be fairly formless in composition, which is ideal for making a flexible army. After someone's been in the game for a while, Marines can get a little bland from overexposure, but Games Workshop focuses on them very exclusively because they love money, and the business side of the company doesn't really seem to get the game side of things. That is, the Space Marines are the best selling army because they're the most flexible, easiest to build an army with, and the most likely to win. Rather than balancing the game to even out other races, GW business prefers to maintain the status quo and sell mainly Space Marines. Space Marines account for something near half the playable factions in the game.
Space Marines was divided into Legions in the dawn of time, but was later broken up into several "Chapters" with about 1000 Marines each, so no one can run off with half the military might of the Imperium again.
The remnants of the original Legions are called First Founding Chapters, and all other Chapters hail from them in some way or another:
- Ultramarines: The cool Joe Everyman of the Marines, these dudes focus a lot on honour and adaptable strategy, though they tend to adhere to dogma a bit too much. Was once the laughing-stock of the Marines because of the Mattard, but that has since been countered... Somewhat, anyway.
- Dark Angels: Wearers of badass robes, they shit plasma out on anyone even remotely looking like traitors. They also keep tremendous amounts of secrets, especially the knowledge of
the Fallen AngelsTHE COLONEL'S SECRET BLEND OF HERBS AND SPICES!
- Iron Hands: Cyborgs above and beyond the standard augmentations that Astartes receive. The Iron Hands generally believe that "the flesh is weak" and continually replace their meat with cybernetics throughout their careers. Instead of a single Chapter Master to lead them, they have a Clan Council consisting of senior captains from each clan-company.
- Blood Angels: Vampire Jesuses, cursed beyond cursed, but somehow completely loyal. If you're not inflicted with the Red Thirst, which drives you to drink your enemy's blood, you'll inevitably succumb to the Black Rage, making you a raging lunatic believing you are about to kill that one fuck-up.
- Imperial Fists: Siege specialists who WILL ram it up yours if you ever try to conquer a place they're protecting.
- White Scars: Mongol bikers specialized in the blitzkrieg. You won't know the White Scars are hunting you until you wake up covered in tire treads and everyone around you has been slaughtered in a drive-by of epic proportions. Though they appear savage, they are actually quite cultured. They have a professional rivalry with the Raven Guard over their extremely incompatible battle doctrine.
- Raven Guard: Goddamn sneaky bastards able to cut your throat from behind and retreat before you notice they were there - power armoured and without camo, no less. They like jump packs too. Because the Raven Guard meticulously plan their operations for maximum efficiency, they don't play well with the White Scars.
- Salamanders: Despite their terrifying appearance (coal-black skin with bright red eyes), are probably the bro-est of bro tier among the Astartes. They live with their people instead of hiding away in a fortress-monastery and maintain a tradition of craftsmanship. They tend to get fucked over all the time, partly because they took heavy losses during the Heresy and couldn't break the Legion up, and partly because they often take on incredibly dangerous missions for the well-being of the people in their protection.
- Space Wolves: SPESS VIKINGS! They ride giants wolves to battle, drink fuckloads of throat burning beer made from brake fluid and Khorne's own piss, and are the only loyal marines whose wieners actually work. Some of the proudest and most stubborn of the Marines, they are humanity's protectors and take a real dim view of certain organizations wiping out populations for dubious reasons.
Other Chapters were founded later, to react to a threat or to enforce a region of space. here are some of the more notable:
- Flesh Tearers: A Chapter of loyalist Berserkers, bat-shit mad motherfuckers eating their enemies after ripping them apart to get the juice left inside them. Who'd put raspberry juice inside other beings, anyway?
- Black Templars: The most badass, crazy, xeno-fucking maniacs ever to roam the galaxy, they use their neophytes as meat shields and are only interested in seeing the color of your guts. They are always on crusades, which is just fine as the term "collateral damage" is the same as "everyday chores" to them.
- Blood Ravens: A fucked over Chapter from the Dawn of War games and, if you came here after playing those games, this might be the only damn Chapter you know of. Known for literally stealing equipment from other Chapters and being disliked for it, they are a very independent Chapter bent on making up for their mistakes in the past... Which is a lot, really.
Sisters of Battle: The "Nuns with guns", these badass ladies in power armor have strength and devotion to the Emprah only matched by their sexual frustration. Know for their love for fire, faith, fire, martyrdom, fire, fire, and fire, they will make you feel warm. Because they'll melt you with a Melta Gun. -4str, but -4 points as well, compared to the Marines. They are known for how goddamn hard they are to play and how neglected they are by GW; playing them will make others simultaneously envy, fear, and feel sorry for you.
Grey Knights: The Grey Knights are Space Marines version 1.5, who are all psykers. They hunt demons and Chaos all day, and are basically the most powerful chapter of all. Expensive as hell, but freakin' badass in their own right. Got totally super-broken-ubercharged by Matt Ward's in their 5th codex, which was soon fixed in 6th Ed and the following Codex Update - They are still a great, if elite force who really, REALLY hates psykers, but all Inquisition forces were removed and the Psybolts were toned down to a logical level. If you ever wanted to field Daemon-killing Terminators as Troops, here you go.
Imperial Guard/Astra Militarum: Human regulars, so numerous it's impossible for Imperial bureaucracy to count them all. They got themselves some sweet tanks and the non-Cadian infantry models are fucking amazing (especially Steel Legion and Death Korps *fapfapfapfapfap* of Krieg). They go into battle with nothing but a glorified flashlight/laser pointer, 21st century flak jackets, and standard-issue BALLS O' STEEL, and are expected to go toe to toe with Daemons, Chaos Space Marines, and who knows what else, and they fucking DO IT because that's what's required of them. Unfortunately, surviving this isn't a part of the job, so their gear is a bit lousy, but, you know, tanks.
Imperial Knights: One-man mini-Titans. Each Knight suit is associated with a noble house or the Adeptus Mechanicus. Available in 4 flavours: Errant, Knight, Lancer, and Castigator. They can bring to the field rapid-fire battle cannons, thermal cannons, ion shields, reaper chainsaws, and heavy stubbers. Very expensive in both points (three suits can fill an entire detachment) and money, but the Errant and Knight are cheap compared to the Lancer and Castigator, which are from Forge World and consequently will require you to re-mortgage your house.
Adeptus Mechanicus: You know those times when starting your car seems like it takes a bizarre ritual to get it to cooperate? The Adeptus Mechanicus have formalized that. The AdMech (calling it that in their presence is probably not a good idea) has a near-monopoly on the creation and maintenance of advanced technology in the Imperium. Their red-robed Tech-Priests burn incense and pray over anything more sophisticated than an inclined plane to make it work. Obviously, they have the most advanced tech in the Imperium, but they've also lost and forgotten more blueprints and such than you can imagine and are really hung up about reverse-engineering what specimens of lost tech they still have. Because of their hard-on for undiscovered technology, they tend to poke around newly-discovered Necron tombs like they own the place and will literally kill to claim Standard Template Construct patterns from independent hands.
Chaos Space Marines/Chaos Daemons: Evil space marines who got fucking tired of this shit and went all Heresy for the glory of Chaos, and as such are much more badass than their holier-than-thou brethren. Years ago, 'Chaos Space Marines' and 'Chaos Daemons' used to be one and the same. Then some FUCKHEAD at the GW office wanted to simultaneously fuck over every chaos army that used daemons and release another codex (But enough ages-old hatred towards massive overbearing and traitorous institutions OH WAIT). With 6e, Chaos got a kit of new toys, because unlike some people, Phil Kelly knows how to write a good codex, though some feel they got nerfed a bit too harshly.
Most of them abide within the Traitor Legions - Legions like those the Marines used to have, just that these guys never broke them up in the first place, so they tend to have numbers on their side. Unfortunately, every single Chaos Marine think he should rule the lot, and as such, backstabbing is a part of the business:
- World Eaters: Bloodthirsty Khornate berserkers living only to ram a chainaxe up your butt. Literally. No philosophy, no goal, just pure slaughter. Not that that makes them bad guys, as exemplified in Kharn the Betrayer. What a great bunch of guys.
- Death Guard: Fat stinky blobs of rotten flesh infected with every STD Nurgle ever imagined. For how much they talk about embracing death, they don't really do that too much, what with high as fuck Toughness ratings, Feel No Pain and It Will Not Die...
- Emperor's Children: Where the Death Guard have high as fuck Toughness, these maniacs are just high as fuck. Slaaneshi hedonists,
almost as fucked up aseven more fucked up than the Dark Eldar, and loving it a lot more than they do.
- Thousand Sons: Accidental traitors, intellectual, knowledge-hungry, MOTHERFUCKING POWERFUL psykers. A lot of the Legion is living statues made of pissed off dust. It's complicated.
- Word Bearers: Religious zealots going so far as to carve psalms on their whole body, these were the first dudes to get their Heresy on. They are weirdly religious about Chaos, something the other Legions are now, as they see Chaos as more of a weapon and a measure.
- Alpha Legion: Originally space Taliban who always thought one step ahead. These days... Em... well... your brain would melt.
- Iron Warriors: Builders and siege-specialists like the Imperial Fists, who they hate with a burning passion only reserved for tsunderes. Also humongous trolls and amazing, if unethical, mathematicians in one bunch.
- Black Legion: THE BIGGEST FUCKING TRAITORS EVAH. The ones to turn the Great Crusade to the Not So Great Counter-Crusade, these guys have been fighting the rotting Imperium for so goddamn long it's almost becoming Saturday morning villainy. Are about to destroy all opposition on Cadia, the only planet holding the Warp back... And then the plot froze. Goddamnit.
- Night Lords: Really freaking grimdark Batmen in power armour turned supervillian. Like flaying, killing messily, and fright tactics, but for some reason their colour scheme are lighting strikes over red and blue armour. It's as stupid as it sound. They even wear small wings on their helmets.
Tau Empire: The weeaboo space Communists. East Asian-inspired high-tech faction with awesome hardware and a willingness not to slaughter other races on principle. Though largely confined to a corner of the galaxy, they are expanding; their own Great Crusade, while not too threatening to the Imperium, is hard to counter and is picking up speed in an alarming rate. They die in melee, unless they send their hordes of mercenaries and meatshields in front of them, but that doesn't matter because they blow up everything from a distance with hundreds of different ranged superweapons before breakfast. No psykers, no warp presence, like Necrons. At this point in time, the Imperium isn't really trying to fight them, as the last time that happened they basically just stalled; think of how a little blue squirrel is holding up the man's boot and you'd be close. In fact, the two help each other out from time to time, though you wouldn't call them allies; they just have less reason to fight each other than to fight together against those other guys.
Eldar: Space elves. The members of their race that went "Shit guys, we just partied so hard that we accidentally made a god of ejaculating to death, maybe we should rethink our lives" then fucked off to giant worldships to try as hard as possible to forget that time they made a dildo out of bees. Much like college graduates coming face to face with their Facebook page when applying for jobs, Slaanesh is always there to remind them their souls are forfeit. And no, the worldships are NOT as cool as you think they are, they're even cooler. Are darting around doing unfathomable stuff, trolling the man, and taking names. They sometimes help, sometimes don't, and as such the Imperium are uncertain on how to deal with them - they have been there to defeat some big old Daemon some times and killed entire armies the next, so it's kind of a toss-up. Better just kill them, right?
Dark Eldar: The space elves that, after spawning the God of "Let's make some new orifices to fuck" decided that they'd rather be humongous soul eating douchebags than get a grip on their metaphysical coke habit. These elves will raid, rape, and torture the crap out of you, and not necessarily in that order. Significantly less civilized than those Craftworld Eldar, they'll rape and torture for the fun of it, and because they gain health and life from it. They invade real space once in a while from their evil, dark city to get new slaves and to strike fear and horror in the enemy; they are one of the few factions who will always actively target civilians for no other reason that it's fun. Also, nobody knows if they're extremely straight or extremely gay. Probably pansexual.
Orks: Oh, fuck yeah. When it comes to xenos, none are more kickass than Orks. Bellowing hordes of greenskins with ramshackle DAKKA AND CHOPPA who are MADE FOR FIGHTAN. Only drawback is Ork players are fat, sweaty nerds who will blast you with a "WAAAAAAAAGH" full of Cheetos-chunks when they win. The most numerous and successful race in the galaxy, they live for fighting and nothing else, and they love every moment of it. They invented randomness on the table, but if you're playing Orks and expecting efficiency, you are doing it oh-so-wrong.
Necrons: Robots who have recently awakened from an eons-long slumber, intent on reclaiming their ancient empires. Millions of years ago, the entire Necrontyr species gave up their bodies (most at gunpoint) to the C'tan, placing their souls in living metal shells so they could fight the Old Ones. They have some of the toughest basic units, their basic infantry weapons can destroy tanks, and they don't stay down when you destroy them. Since they have no Warp presence, the Tyranids instinctively avoid their Tomb Worlds and daemons can't eat them. They want the galaxy back (but who doesn't?) and will remake their empire, but every Lord and Overlord wants to be the leader themselves, leaving them scattered and constantly squabbling. Politics.
Tyranids: If it's not Orks, it better fucking be Tyranids. Hordes of scuttling space bugs that look like the kind of things that give the Xenomorph from Alien nightmares. Look as these motherfuckers: every single one of their models (except for those artillery guys with a scrotum about as large as the rest of their body) is fucking badass to the bone (their most basic troop is a dinosaur/solider ant with a gun that shoots flesh-eating beetles). And that wave of badass is starting with their insides, because they have exoskeletons. Exoskeletons made of kickass and, as previously mentioned, bone. Oh, they are faster than Eldar. They are trying to devour this galaxy as they have done countless times before, and... that's about it, really. OMNOMNOMNOM.
- Grim darkness is grim
- Huge body count
- "HOLD THE FUCKING LINE!"
- Tanks the size of buildings
- Buildings the size of tanks.
- Titans can level cities with fuckhuge weaponry
- FUCKING RAILGUNS, PULSE RIFLES, THEY'LL ALL FUCK YOUR SHIT UP*BLAM*FUCKING WEEABOO HERESY!
- Orks iz da biggest an da meanest
Zerg*BLAM* Tyranids came first. Squats, badass Dwarf bikers IN SPEHSS!*BLAM* SQUATS DON'T EXIST AND THEY NEVER DID, UNDERSTOOD? Uhm, actually the administratum made the mistake, not Ordo Hereticus, your corpse's excommunication is reversed. Your next of kin shall be notified.(aCTUALLY AS OF 6TH ED. THEY EXIST AGAIN!!!)
- Fucking CHAINswords chopping things into meaty little chunks and covering your face with a thick viscous spray of the enemy's vital fluids
- There's a 40k movie, though GW fags wanted to purge it. That never happened.
- There's a full CGI 40k movie:  There's also this: 
- CHAINAXES, THUNDER HAMMERS, FORCE HALBERDS, POWER FISTS, HEAVY BOLTERS, EXPLODING PLASMA GUNS, VOLCANO CANNONS, EARTHSHAKERS, NOVA CANNONS, EXTERMINATUS, HOLY SHIT I'M GOING TO CUM
- POWER EVERYTHING. POWER ARMOR, POWERFISTS, POWERGLOVES, POWERAXES, POWERSWORDS, POWERFEET, POWERSPAWNING BABIES, YOU'LL HAVE SO MANY BABIES
- 40,000 BABIES
- GIVE POWERFISTS TO YOUR BABIES AND THEY CAN SERVE THE EMPRA!!
- Space Marines are so manly that they eat war and shit awesome, also PAULDRONS
- Forgeworld Death Korps models
- tons of epic lines to yell, WAAAGH! For the Greater Good! Blood for the Blood god! For the EMPEROR!
- DOOMRIDER NA NA NA
- Slaanesh, owning the monopoly on cocaine, sex and booze for
millionsthousands of years
- Just as planned...
- Commissars *BLAM*
- Little E
- Dawn of War (derpderp)
- Ollanius. Motherfucking. Pius.
- Love Can Bloom *BLAM* EXTRA HERESY!
- Perpetual virgins
- Flankitus of Battlefleet /tg/
- WARSCYTHES FUCKING WARSCYTHE EVERYTHING BITCHES!
- Suavis Astartes
- If you don't think a certain rule exist (or just causing you problems), you can roll a die to see if the rule is real (STATED IN THE RULEBOOK!)
- Codex always have a cool story bro
- Apocalypse games (3,000-50,000 points of win!).
- Inquisitors, "Everything is heresy! EVERYTHING!".
- Adeptus Titanicus
- Alfa Legion
Endless List of Significant Personalities
- The Emperor
- The Chaos Gods: Khorne, Nurgle, Slaanesh, Tzeentch, did someone forget to invite Malice?
- The Primarchs (Alpharius, Angron, Sanguinius, Rogal Dorn, Jaghatai Khan, Lion El'Jonson, Fulgrim, Perturabo, Leman Russ, Konrad Curze, Ferrus Manus, Roboute Guilliman, Mortarion, Magnus the Red, Lorgar, Vulkan, Corax, daddy's favorite Horus, and the two unknown primarchs that GW has completely forgotten about.
- Farseer Macha
- Farseer Taldeer
- Farseer Caerys
- Farseer Eldrad Ulthuan
- FABULOUS Bile
- Ultramarines Chapter Master Marneus Calgar
- Captain Indrick Baldeale
- Governor-General VANCE MOTHERFUCKING STUBBS
- Lord Castellan Ursarkar E. Creed
- Commissar Ciaphas Cain HERO OF THE IMPERIUM
- Commissar Holt
- Commissar Yarrick
- Commissar Gaunt THE HARDCORZ
- Warboss Gorgutz 'Ead 'Unter
- Warboss Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka
- Kharn (what a great guy)
- Shas'O Vior'la Shovah Kais Mont'yr (yes the long name is mandatory for all Tau players)
- Shas'o Kais
- LIIVI (Though he now makes a cameo in canon thanks to FFG)
- Commissar K59
- Commissar Fuklaw
- Kasrkin-chan (PROMOTIONS!)
- Cultist-chan (moar PROMOTIONS!)
- Chem-chan (still moar PROMOTIONS!)
- Loli Daemonette (take a set over there PROMOTIONS!)
- Jamez T Kork, Kaptain of Orkterprize
- Ork-Chan,the lovable ork school girl
- Grandpa dreadnaught
- C.S. Multilaser
- Matthew Ward (a.k.a. Your Spiritual Liege)
To Sum it All Up
"It is the scale and depth. Anything can happen, and it does, all day, every day, at 250% maximum awesome. It is the over-the-top-80's, super-gritty-90's, and depth-demanding-2K's all blended together into one multimedia story. It harkens to the classic tales of the Gothic Age, the epic fables of Northern Europe, the darkness and detached sentimentalism of WW1, the corrupt tales of the urban underworld, the mind-warping fantasies of Lovecraft, and all while maintaining a sense of dark humor and romantic heroism." --Anon
- "Don't forget the Gregorian choir of enraged neckbeards that accompany it." --Anon (unrelated)
- Games Workshop
- Space Hulk
- Rogue Trader
- Dawn of War
- Imperium Of Man
- Races of Warhammer 40k
- Half Life 40k
- Slut Patrol
- Boltershell City
- Warhammer 40,000/Tactics
- The line between heresy and truth, passes through the blade of the sword of the Inquisitor Book series WarHammer 40 000 - 15 individual fonts. The Russian language.
- Know what's happening in 40k fanon
- Wikipedia's WH40k article
- Games Workshop's main site
- Lexicanum Warhammer wiki
- This rap song is for the tabletop warhammer 40k
- Kill Team, the rap awesomeness
- Warhammer 40k Lore in 1 Minute