"Do not wait for the Last Judgment. It takes place every day."
- – Albert Camus
"Warhammer Fantasy is Lord Of The Rings on a cocktail of steroids and GBH. And Warhammer 40000 is the above on a cocktail of every drug known to man and genuine lunar dust, stuck in a blender with Alien, Mechwarrior, Starship Troopers and Star Wars, bathed in blood, turned up to eleventy billion, set on fire, and catapulted off into space screaming WAAAGH! and waving a chainsaw sword."
- – TV Tropes, This Is Your Premise on Drugs
"Basically life sucks, there's only war and you're probably going to get eaten by Tyranids. Have fun."
- – TotalBiscuit, May the Emperor guide his soul to peace, Warhammer 40k Lore in a Minute
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 9th 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 (even though the lore says the Imperium is constantly expanding for ten thousand years and is at its largest ever size...ugh, GW) and constantly (and we mean CONSTANTLY) at war against themselves, Space Demons, Space Communists, Space Bugs of Death, space fungi people addicted to fighting, Space Elves, evil BDSM Space Elves, and Organics-Hating Robot Mummies... from space for their survival as a species. In a universe constantly at war, don't get your hopes up of finding anyone "good" by normal standards. No faction is "good", all factions act toward their own interests, and that's it. The closest to what modern humans may view as the factions with justified villainy are the Imperium (doing anything to keep humanity alive, but also horrified by its deeds to survive) and the Tyranids (who are really just eating to live and reproduce like any other life). Everyone else is either doing evil for fun, for extra fun, because they're brainwashed, because they were genetically engineered for it, because they're jealous of everyone else and that fuels their hatred, or because they worship daemon gods. You may, maybe, find decent individuals in certain factions, but if you came to play the hero who saves the damsel while making everyone happy, then you're in the wrong place. It's more or less Victorian England (with a bit of pseudo Middle Ages mixed in for good measure) and instead of jolly merry fellows with glorious sideburns, you get genetically enhanced macho-men who beat up and get beaten up by aliens.
There are sort of fanon prequels such as Event Horizon and Chainsaw Warrior.
- 1 In the Grim Dark Future
- 2 Background
- 3 The Hobby
- 4 Playable Races & Factions
- 5 Reasons why 40K is awesome
- 6 The Appeal of Warhammer 40,000
- 7 Endless List of Significant Personalities
- 8 To Sum it All Up
- 9 Gallery
- 10 See Also
- 11 External Links
In the Grim Dark Future
The motto is: "In the grim darkness of the 41st Millennium, there is only war." Set in the seemingly never-ending year 999 of the 41st Millennium, Humanity, now united under the Imperium of Man, will go to any ends to protect itself from an endless tide of enemies, including the onslaught of time itself - though they seem to have adopted a peace treaty of some sort, given that they finally reached M42 as of 8th Edition.
From the Eye of Terror come the dreaded Legions of Chaos, psychopathic mutants, slavering daemons and relentless heretics that have together waged a 10,000-year war against the Imperium. The mysterious, near-extinct and technologically superior Eldar pursue their own ends, which often conflict with that of the Imperium, while their fucked-up brethren, the Dark Eldar, enslave, torture, and rape anyone they get their hands on. From another galaxy come the Tyranids, a pure-biological hive-minded insectoid colossus that lives only to consume all life. The robotic Necrons, one of the oldest races in the galaxy, who strive to cleanse the entire galaxy of organic life, have began to re-awaken on their Tomb Worlds. The Orks, green-skinned war-worshipping monsters that are MADE FER FIGHTIN' AN' WINNIN', that have the monopoly on MOAR DAKKA, as well as outnumbering everyone else put together except the Tyranids. The Tau, a progressive and technologically-advanced race of weeaboo communists, crusade for "the Greater Good" with forced sterilizations and brainwashing.
Standing in defence of the Imperium of Man are the numberless regiments of regular military men and women known as the Imperial Guard, the tech-worshipping weirdos of the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Legio Cybernetica Titan/Knight Legions, and last but ohh-no-not-least; the legendary Space Marine Chapters, genetically engineered immortal super-warrior-monks that only live to fight the Imperium's foes. Meanwhile, the Sisters of Battle, Grey Knights, Inquisition, and Officio Assassinorum (Latin for Office of Assassins. They do pretty much exactly what it says on the tin) safeguard the Imperium from internal threats like heretics, traitors, mutants, furries, and daemonic possessions.
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 term grimdark. Not knowing this is heresy - which, incidentally is also derived from this setting.
Important Note: In 40K there is a parallel dimension where the gods of Chaos (the grimdark supervillains) and other Pantheons exist and where all psykers - the setting's equivalent of wizards - draw their power from, known as the Warp. It is also Warp navigation that forms the 40K take on FTL (Faster-Than-Light) travel. The Warp is a batshit insane place, full of things that want to fuck you and your brain inside out, and as such, being a psyker is very dangerous. Basically everybody but the Emperor are under the 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 A clusterfucking, if the ship is not protected with some sort of shielding (the Gellar Field). The Warp affects every race in 40K in some major or minor way (except the Tau, who are too young as a species to produce psykers (this is a skub, though), the Necrons, who are the ANTI-Warp race, and the Tyranids, who by some unexplained means block out the Warp). The Warp is the very source of Chaos itself, as it is the dimension of feelings and spontaneity, creation and destruction.
Settle down, kids and elders, grab your favorite snack and beverage, because it's now time for some TL;DR!:
Once upon a time, humanity had a much more optimistic and peaceful interstellar empire that got royally fucked thanks to a bunch of assholes. That was the main reason of humanity's distrust of xenos and artificial intelligence. But all was not lost: there came the EMPRAH. There are no words in the human language that can describe his radiant levels of awesome, but basically he told the human race to do his will and they did (
millionsbillions died in the process, but that's a "hush-hush subject"). He started the tedious task of re-conquering planets and systems that mankind had lost in the distant past and discovering many thousands of new ones, with the aid of the Emperor's loyal Army (now Imperial Guard), the machines of the allied Mechanicum and 20 SPESS MEHREEN Legions composed of up to 250,000 superhuman soldiers each (before 2 went missing, then half of the remainder turned heretic, and then the remaining loyalists were decentralized and re-organized into Chapters of 1,000 warriors each), personally led by His 20 demigod sons as generals with each specific role in his Empire. In the process, they destroyed countless alien races and civilizations for the crime of not wanting to embrace the human way of life (well, there were some actual assholes in the bunch, but the Emprah took a "better safe than sorry" approach), as well as killing millions of humans for the crime of not being "Terran" enough. This period of history, this time of many moronic misunderstandings, would be additionally remembered as The Time of Scarlet Foreheads, due to the near-endless amount of facepalms produced by the population. But the Emperor did all this for great justice, so that makes it okay.
The Space Marine Legions, 20 of them in total, were the main specialist force during this Great Crusade, lasting 200 years. Despite their minuscule numbers comparatively to the human Army Corps, they were, however, the manliest skullfuckers in the galaxy at the time. The only thing that could beat the Space Marines were other Space Marines. That jinx. It's kind of like when the Titanic began it's maiden voyage and some fucktard said: "God himself could not sink this ship". And so it happened of course.
A guy named Horus, the Primarch chosen "Warmaster" by the Emperor to lead the closing decenniums of Great Crusade, while the Emperor went back to Terra to work on some super secret pwn-the-galaxy scheme, accidentally fucked everything up. 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, the Emperor teleported to Horus's flagship for some glorious hand-to-face face-to-hand close combat. The Emperor won, but was seven levels 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.
Cue atmospheric lights, deep ambient music and grimdark.
During this time, the confused and stressed out 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 has now become a nightmarishly bureaucratic, totalitariously militaristic state, governed by unforgiving commanders and extremistic religious fundamentalists, while all of this is fueled by some good ol' fashioned ignorance. At some point, the term "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 countering the interests of the Imperium or whoever else in charge. Disagreeing with this treatment of heresy is itself heresy.
Even though we are humans, and this universe is created by us, far from everything revolves around the Imperium, however. Which is pretty awesome and makes the setting just a bunch more nuanced and richer.
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 in what is known as "Black Crusades". There have been 13 so far, and most Imperial scholars are confused as to what every of these Crusades had a goal to accomplish, because they all seemed to aim high, failed low, but somehow succeeded in helping Chaos to establish a minor foothold in the Imperium. Just As Planned.
The Eldar, one of the most ancient races in the galaxy and literally space-elves, are the source of the aforementioned Eye of Terror. Back in the old days, like millions of years, the Eldar had a galaxy-spanning empire too. Except instead of enjoying themselves the classical way of 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 orgies, the fabric of the material universe tore open and created the unstable warp-realspace phenomenon known as the Eye of Terror. I know it sounds completely bizarre and childishly hilarious, but what do you expect of a dumbed down and shortened version of the event? The sex-fueled explosion also wiped out like 80% of the Eldar race and birthed the fourth major Chaos god, Slaanesh, the Prince of Pleasure and Excess. Created by
their own desiressexing it into being, the Eldar race basically now "belongs" to Slaanesh and so 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 living gems called Spirit Stones). Whoops. despite all of this, some (Dark) Eldar kept being decadent fucks and pissed off to the dark hidden city of Commorragh, but most became very srs bsns mopey living-in-the-past elves, consumed with manipulating the future for their own ends, to preserve their dying race, now that and all the alcohol, sex and cocaine belongs to Slaanesh.
Orkses iz da biggest 'n' da strongest, and they have been around for as long as the Eldar. They are somewhat more numerous these days, that with their method of reproduction consists of an Ork scratching himself and by shedding some of his skin, seeding a few more Orks in the ground (Egghead tip: Orks are alien mixotrophs with a reproduction cycle similar to fungi). Basic understanding of technology, medicine and warp manipulation is genetically-encoded within them and occasionally express themselves in certain breeds of Orks, creating mechanics, doctors, natural leaders and a slew of other "oddboy" Orks. Occasionally they throw a WAAAGH! and blow away big chunks of the galaxy and anything that lives there.
The Necrons are so old and pissed off that even your grandma wouldn't fuck with them. They started the first (and still biggest) galactic war and kicked so much ass that it created the Warp. The Eldar and Orks were created to stop the advance of these skeletal nihilists. They eradicated most part of intelligent life in the galaxy and then decided to take a lil' nap. Now that they've given the intelligent races a somewhat 60 million year fighting chance, they're back and more pissed than ever. Their goal is to cleanse the galaxy of all 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 a very good nom-nom. Also, geedubs realised that having the 'nids face off against these immortal metal skeletons would actually be a decent fight...so obviously they didn't do anything). The future plans, goals and "wishes" of the Necrons seem to be in a constant state of skub, both within the lore, the fans, the writers and the Necrons themselves. Look, it's fucking complicated and i'd advise you to read all their past codices if you want to know more. Nevertheless, it's still an interesting read.
The Tyranids have been around for nobody-knows how long, as they come from another galaxy. There's like, a fuckton of them. As much as you can count at any given time. Yes, even if you're a mathematician or a physics student. There is speculation that they might be running for their lives from something even more scary. 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."At least with any races but the human ones."
The Tau are a five thousand years old civilization and have advanced from spears and loincloths to a technological level slightly beyond that of Imperium (and constantly upgrading just like the Steam-app) although since their world was engulfed by a Warp storm and those tend to fuck over time, they may be five million years old for all anyone knows. They expand symmetrically in all directions with their home-world T'au in the center, but don't have warp drives yet, and thus rely on FTL travel (they hadn't even had FTL tech at all until the 3rd Sphere Expansion). 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 the only ones who prefer to talk before shooting and aren't xenophobic, because they recognize the advantages of creating an empire of mixed species. They often give aliens assimilated into their society citizenship and tech, and even claim to treat them as equals, though in fact aliens are always second-class citizens (and brainwashed by pheromones and re-socialization camps). Despite this, their standard of life sucks much less in comparison to Imperium of Man (unless you live on a Civilized World of the Imperium like almost all humans do, then your life is quite good and generally quite advanced). Their empire is too small to have an impact on the grand scheme of things, but survives and thrives despite Chaos incursions, Necron forces, Hive Fleets, and encounters with the Eldar thanks to all factions not caring enough to put in true effort into wiping them out beyond a token gesture or just the dregs of a far larger force stumbling across the Tau. Sometimes the Imperium accidentally saves them from real threats by destroying those threats from behind without realizing if they'd just waited a little on that then they'd have one less enemy plaguing them.
Playing the tabletop game of W40k 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 sterile kitchen bench to a detailed hand-crafted board complete with forests, ruins, rocks, bunkers etc. Terrain is an important part of the game, as the 40K shooting rules rely on "true line of sight" to target any given unit. Terrain can also be used to either player's (and race's) advantage to block units and vehicles and to provide extra protection against shooting, even if within range and line of sight. Difficult and Dangerous Terrains can also hinder movement or even kill models, because sometimes it IS possible for a tank the size of the Sydney Opera House to destroy its tracks on a stray log.
The rules for the game are drawn from the Warhammer 40K Rulebook, sold by Games Workshop as well as the supplementing 'Codex' books. While the Rulebook provides all the general rules required to play the game, the Codex books, one for each race and some factions, provide specific rules such as unit statistics, wargear and point costs.
There are many game modes you can play, no matter what race you are pitted up against. You can either decide to kill each other's units and then in the end count how many points all the dead models add up to and if that number is higher or lower than the opponent's death-count. You can capture a beforehand-decided amount of objectives on the board (that can additionally either buff or nerf units controlling them) or just have a single objective to fight over, resulting in a hilarious game of tar-pits and clusterfucks. Some missions require the opponents to deploy and act differently, depending on mission-specific side-objectives and/or special rules. Most importantly of all, you can decide and combine any missions in a single game and play however you want. Rule Zero and homebrew rules and scenarios are king.
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 action. The characteristics are as follows: Movement (M), Weapon Skill (WS), Ballistic Skill (BS), Strength (S), Toughness (T), Wounds (W), Attacks (A), Leadership (Ld) and Armour/Invulnerable Save (Sv). For vehicles; in 7th edition and Age of Darkness games it is simplified to Frontal, Side and Rear armor ratings, hull points (HP), and Ballistic Skill (BS). Certain units that are a mix between vehicle and infantry/monster, such as Walkers, who retain the Armour ratings and hull points in place of Toughness and Wounds, but use all remaining characteristics as well. In the latest edition, this was done away with for brevity. 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 provide other support bonuses. When shooting, the separate statistics of the weapon fired also come into play.
All units also have a "point cost", representing their overall worth and rarity 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 W40k as an upper limit to army size and/or power. The most common type of W40k game is set at 1,500 points. For comparison, the average squad of Imperial Guardsmen is worth 60 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 can be limited by the codex's Force Organization Chart; every unit is categorized as HQ, Troop, Elite, Fast Attack, Flyers or Heavy Support and the Force Organization Chart specifies the minimum and maximum number of each type of units any army may field in a single game. You may choose to ignore these charts and field whatever you like within the points value, but do so with a disadvantage in certain army-specific powers called Strategems.
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). Units such as vehicles/walkers (Tau Hammerhead, Baal Predator) are usually, but not always (in case of Sentinels and Jetbikes) fielded as a lone unit.
The role of hero units, known as 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. Characters have the distinction of being able to operate as a single model. They can also be fluff-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 and cause a big amount of Rage from the opposing player, or in area buffs, which greatly increase the effectiveness of nearby friendly troops.
Characters who are less substantial (read: not FUCKHUEG) cannot be targeted if not the closest model to the enemy without special rules helping the enemy. Let the plebs take the hits.
Be wary of the skubby tone the following sections are written in, because a dispute reigns about how some in-game mechanics are not realistic, but must be applied anyway.
The game is divided into six phases: the Movement Phase, the Psychic Phase, the Shooting Phase, the Charge Phase, the Fight Phase, and the Morale Phase - each forming a part of each individual player's turn. Quite simply, the Movement Phase is for movement only, the Psychic Phase is for casting psychic powers, the Shooting Phase is for shooting or moving, while the charge phase is for trying to get your dudes into gloriously bloody combat, and the fight phase is for resolving said gloriously bloody combats. The morale phase is for seeing if any of your dudes run away after taking casualties in their unit.
To resolve Shooting, players first check to see if they are in range; if they are, they roll to hit; if they hit, they roll to wound; if they wound, the enemy rolls saves. The same rules apply no matter how close the shooter is to the target. Seriously, people are bad shots in the 41st millennium. (Imagine news footage of pirate gunmen who are shooting from the hip with AK's even though they're not fast drawing, or holding said AK's 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 the 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. I don't know if i should cry or laugh.) Thus, while within the maximum range of the weapon, neither range nor cover makes you harder to hit.
It's maybe for this reason that individuals in the 41st millennium like to carry outrageously huge and outlandish shooting and melee weapons and like to get stuck in with them. The Fight 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 a high energy plasma ball of death or a coherent, high intensity light beam, examples in other works of fiction notwithstanding), melee combat once begun can be disengaged from (but those who Fall Back forfeit their ability to shoot or charge in their next turn), and units not engaged in melee combat can't fire upon combatants in melee. Also, generally speaking, the fight phase is the only phase which happens for both sides every turn - you get to engage in vigorous melee combat on both your turn and your enemy's turn.
Hit rolls for soldiers in a squad can be rolled together, as can saving rolls. As yet, the gameplay mechanics genii at Games Workshop have not conceived of some physics-defying method by which more than one die 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 wounding, 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 in the process.)
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 futuristic 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 Turn, when casualties on both sides have been resolved from shooting and fighting, Leadership (Ld) tests of all sorts must be made. These test how many models from each unit that has taken casualties turn craven and run away, if any. The number of models that run depend on the amount of casualties taken, the highest Ld characteristic in the unit, and a D6 roll made by the controlling player. In this manner an army can be destroyed without actually killing each individual unit, as units that flee off the board are not allowed to return in the following turns.
General 40k Tactics
Contrary to popular belief, you *can* actually apply tactics to 40k beyond the "hurl-your-units-or-park-them-in-front-of-a-gunline-and-yell-for-your-respective-god". You will sometimes be called a cheesemongering win-at-all-costs bastard, because why treat toy soldiers you paid craptons of money for like pawns in a chess-game? Am i 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 gladly discussed here. There are also myriad tactics articles for pretty much every current army with rules, for 8e, 7e, 6e and sometimes 5e.
There are three elements to Warhammer 40K: The lore, the gameplay and the collecting/modeling. In the same way that the average powergamer in any game 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 an 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. For a while, Citadel released their "Finecast" line of models, which are basically the same metal models cast in a pseudo-plastic-resin-thingy; very detailed with the caveat that the models have problems with bubbling on the board. Thankfully, most models are now in legit plastic, but you may still need to depend on Finecast for more detailed hero characters or the occasional specialized bitz. Games Workshop also owns Forgeworld, who sell ridiculously expensive and equally ridiculously awesome resin kits of alternative 40K models. These models must be glued together by hand, and this leaves quite some room for customization, 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 add shapes and layers to the model as you see fit. 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. Hell, conversions are sometimes the best way to fix some of GW's stupidest mistakes.
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. 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, is a perfect showcase for the incredible examples of epic that can be made by a good modeler 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, customized army of that size or larger (or heaven forbid, a Forgeworld army) will cost you thousands. The smart thing to do is to avoid retail as much as possible, though many people will tell you that you should still try to support your Local Game Store. (Money, money, money. Isn't it funny? In a rich man's wooorld.)
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 well 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.
- Rogue Trader (1st Edition)
- 2nd Edition
- 3rd Edition
- 4th Edition
- 5th Edition
- 6th Edition
- 7th Edition
- 8th Edition
- 9th Edition
Aside from the wargame, Warhammer 40,000 had also stolen into the long night of roleplaying games. Currently, thanks to the limited nature of the setting, there are five roleplaying systems, each focused on particular career / scenario that you can play. You can be:
- An Inquisitorial Agent, investigating dangerous cults and heretical traitors in the seedy underbelly of the Imperium. Like Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, life is cheap and TPKs even cheaper.
- A Rogue Trader, seeking fame and fortune in the deep unknown of space. It's moar of the same from Dark Heresy, but you get a PERSONAL SPESS SHEEP as well.
- A Deathwatch Space Marine, fighting some of the Imperium's most deadly foes with only your killteam at your side.
- A Chaos Worshiper, both the normal and superhuman variety, seeking the power of the dark gods on a quest for immortality, or face a fate worse than death. Expect backstabbing (from) fellow players.
- A lowly Imperial Guardsman, fighting tooth and nail just to stay alive. You will earn your steel balls for certain if you make it through the first day.
Of course, while each game is focused on a specific aspect of the universe, that hasn't stopped the creative GM from mixing and matching systems and ideas to create their own unique experience. It's 40k, after all. In a universe where wizards and elves exist alongside giant robots and energy weapons, anything goes.
Unfortunately, nearly all sourcebooks are out of print due to the fact that they were all published by Fantasy Flight Games, and GW let the license expire instead of renewing it, possibly because Fantasy Flight were making their own tabletop miniatures games in similar scales (such as Star Wars: Legion and Runewars) and were moving into direct competition with GW, who then transferred the RPG license to Ulisses and are going to make an entirely new setting and ruleset called Wrath & Glory, allowing the players to take the role of various Xenos races as well as humans.
Warhammer figurines can be used to play more conventional board games released by Games Workshop, usually two specific factions featuring a specific set of rules. These board games can be a good source of units for regular WH40K wargames, especially if the game itself costs less than what it would cost to buy each figure individually. Some of these are known as "Specialist Games", featuring figurines unique to the game themselves (but still part of the Warhammer 40k franchise); for a while they had been discontinued, but are slowly being re-released. Some examples are below:
- Space Hulk: Take a squad of terminators through a derelict space craft while fending off hoards of genestealers.
- Betrayal at Calth: A Horus Heresy themed battle between the Ultramarines and the Word Bearers.
- Necromunda: A gang war between different themed gangs with their own strengths and weaknesses.
- Battlefleet Gothic: Lead fleets of ships as part of the 12th Black Crusade in classic naval warfare.
- Gorkamorka: Play as one of four ork-themed factions competing for control of the planet Gorkamorka, including ork-like human barbarians and renegade gretchin.
- Lost Patrol: You're going to die in this one. Play as five unlucky scouts who will be ripped to shreds by Genestealers.
Playable Races & Factions
The Imperium of Man
Most of the setting revolves around the Imperium of Man, which is logical given that it is a fuckhueg empire that gets invaded all the time/point of view for 90% of the lore. Basically evil for the sake of humanity's survival but at least tries to be good when it's safe to do so. The Imperial military is likewise massive and sprawling, with both general-purpose and more specialized armies at its disposal. Each faction will usually fight on its own, working together for specific operations or in large warzones where lots of resources are needed. Sometimes however, being a theocratic dictatorship/monarchy, worlds rebel or regiments turn traitor, forcing Imperial armies to fight one another.
If you want to really mix things up, it's possible to mix-and-match different organizations via the "Imperium" Keyword, allowing you to draw units together as you see fit.
Space Marines/Adeptus Astartes: Space Knights with futuristic power armor and weapons. Will seriously fuck your shit up, but are often associated with noob players, 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 that their armies are usually pretty mediocre and 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 to and have no major 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 and thus they enjoy frequent model and codex updates and releases, to the point of making plenty of other 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, which is even included crunch-wise. 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. Their popularity, however, is their main weakness; as most armies have become tailored to counter the marines and come out on top.
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 understand and be a part of the game side of things. That is, the Space Marines are the best selling army because they're the most flexible, easiest to build, and the most likely to win with if you're a noob. 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 were divided into Legions during their golden era, but were later broken up into "Chapters", with about 1,000 Marines each, so that no one can run off with half the military might of the Imperium again and do whatever they want.
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 honor and adaptable strategy, though they tend to adhere to dogma a bit too much. Still are the laughing-stock of the Marines because of the Mattard. Their Primarch is Roboute Guilliman, known for being a great administrator and tactician, writing the Codex Astartes and maybe having a bit too much ambition for his own good. Despite coming across as generic at times, they have a cool Roman theme to them when done properly. Currently the story revolves around Guilliman getting shit done.
- Dark Angels: Wearers of badass robes on top of power armour, 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! Their Primarch is Lion El'Johnson, a secretive and moody but honorable and clearly noble knight... He's also still alive.
- Iron Hands: Cyborgs above and beyond the standard augmentations that Astartes receive, mostly due to their close alliance with the Adeptus Mechanicus. The Iron Hands generally believe that "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. Their Primarch was Ferrus Manus, who told them NOT to replace their entire bodies with mechanics. But he is dead now, so who cares about what he said, right? But being the target of the Emperor's Children's obsessions, they've started to reconsider some of their doctrines.
- Blood Angels: Vampire Jebuses, cursed beyond cursed (blessed by Khorne), 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 Horus Lupercal. Their Primarch was Sanguinius, a pretty and angelic paragon of hope, who symbolized all that is good in humanity Who also liked to solo Bloodthirsters.
- Imperial Fists: Subjects to porn-memes and siege specialists who WILL ram it up your hole if you ever try to conquer a place they're protecting. The Chapter who tries to uphold the morals and learnings of the Great Crusade the most, keeping off all enemies of the Imperium, in the hope that the Emperor will eventually come back and save the Imperium. In the meantime, they'll do self-harm to express their guilt of not having saved the Emps, stoically defending the morals of the past and, of course, hold the fucking line. Their Primarch was Rogal Dorn, who was Abe Lincoln in space, whose integrity and insistence on speaking his mind hurt his ability to get along with his brothers, but made him one of the most (and possibly THE most) reliable Primarch.
- White Scars: Ecstasy-abusing mongol bikers, specialized in 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. While constantly compared to the Space Wolves for their savage origins, they detest the comparison as they'd rather take up more cultured pursuits than revel in their own barbarism. They're also commonly loners, especially after their best bros, the Thousand Sons were betrayed, classified as traitors, almost wiped out by Space Wolves and later went insane. They have a professional rivalry with the Raven Guard over their extremely incompatible battle doctrine. Their Primarch is Jaghatai Khan, a noble but savage man who lived for the charge, and weirdly one of the least problematic Primarchs. Likes to wear high-heels.
- Raven Guard: Goddamn sneaky bastards, able to cut the throat of a Warboss from behind and retreat before anyone notices they were there - power armoured and without camo, no less. They like Jump Packs and Beakies too. Because of their meticulous planning of operations for maximum efficiency, they don't play well with the White Scars. Their Primarch is Corvus Corax, a poetic shadow warrior who saved civilians and gave them the power they deserved.
- Salamanders: Despite their terrifying appearance (coal-black skin with bright red eyes), they 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 because of this, partly because they took heavy losses during the Horus 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. Their Primarch is Vulkan, a smith and general cool (HA!) guy, who ended up becoming (temporarily) insane from not dying. Maybe he's dead now. Or not. It's complicated.
- Space Wolves: SPESS VIKINGS! They ride giant wolves into battle, drink fuckloads of intestine-burning mjöd, made from cooling fluid and Khorne's own piss, and are the only loyal marines whose genitals actually work. Some of the proudest and most stubborn of the Marines, they went from Emperor's executioners to humanity's protectors and take a real dim view of certain organizations wiping out populations for dubious reasons. This is hilarious considering some of their past actions. Their Primarch is Leman Russ who could be abrasive but was a great warrior and master of playing the dumb barbarian while getting shit done. Needless to say, they're a controversial Chapter in-universe and out.
Other Chapters were founded later, to react to a threat or to enforce a region of space. Here are some of the more notable:
- 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. Of all the successor chapters, these guys show up the most in the fluff, so if there's only one you need to remember, it's these guys.
- Blood Ravens: A fucked over Chapter from the Dawn of War vidya 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 both loyal and treacherous as well as being almost universally disliked for it. They are a very independent Chapter, bent on making up for their mistakes in the past... Which is a lot, really. Widely believed to be the loyalist remnants of the Thousand Sons Legion, due to fuckton of evidence.
- Flesh Tearers: A Chapter of loyalist Berserkers, bat-shit mad motherfuckers. Mostly known for eating their enemies after ripping them apart to get to the juice inside them. Who'd put raspberry juice inside other beings, anyway?
- Lamenters: Like the Flesh Tearers, the Lamenters are a Blood Angel Successor Chapter. Unlike the Flesh Tearers, the Lamenters are yellow and SUBJECT TO THE WORST FUCKING LUCK IN THE HISTORY OF THE IMPERIUM! Seriously these guys have been lost in the warp, left to die by other chapters on many occasions, tricked to be on the wrong side of a civil war, the list goes on and on. Yet despite all of this they keep Surviving and keep fighting for humanity. Oh, their chapter words are "We Die for those we Cherish", their battlecry is “For Those We Cherish, We Die in Glory!”. If that isn't cause for some manly tears, I don't know what is
- Legion of the Damned: Spooky Scary Skeletons that are also on fire. Always. These loyalists got trapped in the Warp and are suffering from various horrible mutations, but they press on and continue to provide support for their beleaguered Battle-Brothers. They like to pop out from the Warp just in the nick of time to save an allied force from sure destruction.
Deathwatch: If the Space Marines are akin to modern day marines, the Deathwatch are akin to Delta Force. The Deathwatch recruits from the best xenos-killers of any loyalist Chapter in the Imperium, organizing them into small Kill-teams with combined-arms tactics, as opposed to large homogenized armies. Their armor is all black, save for their right pauldron, which retains their original chapter's icon, and their left pauldron, containing the insignia of the Deathwatch. If you want to play an all-veteran Space Marine army with access to cool new toys, Deathwatch is for you.
Grey Knights: The Grey Knights are Space Marines version 1.5, who are all psykers. As the resident holy space paladins, they hunt daemons and Chaos worshippers every day and holiday, 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 5th Edition codex, which was soon fixed in 6th Ed, with 7th leaving them just on the lower end of mid-tier. Nonetheless, they are still great; an elite force that really, REALLY hates daemons and loves alpha striking. Previously had access to Inquisition troops, but can still ally with them, which is more in-line with current fluff anyway. If you ever wanted to field Daemon-killing Termies as Troops, here you go.
Sisters of Battle: The "Nuns with guns", these badass ladies in power armor have the levels of strength and devotion to the Emprah matched by the levels of sexual frustration (or so you wish). Known for their love for fire, faith, fire, martyrdom, fire, fire, and fire, they will make your heart(s) melt. Because it's already steaming from a Melta shot. -4str, but -4 points as well, compared to the Marines. Playing them will make other players feel pity, envy (for not having as big balls as you) and fear (because not a single noob or average player would be confident in playing them).
Adeptus Custodes: Take everything that makes a Space Marine, and amplify it to eleven. These guys are the personal bodyguards of the Emperor himself, so you know they're some bad motherfuckers, as the average Custodes is about as killy as a Space Marine Captain and as ded 'ard as an Ork warboss. On top of that, every single one is equipped with master-crafted weaponry and armor that only works specifically on them. Now, as badass as these guys were during the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy, you barely hear a peep from them post-Heresy as they're too busy making sure no would-be assassins try to attack the now decaying body of the Emperor; letting their guard down even for a moment could mean the destruction of Terra itself, and the collapse of the Imperium itself. As of the back half of 7th Edition and now throughout 8th, they've actually come back out to wreck shit once again.
Imperial Guard/Astra Militarum: Human regulars, so numerous it's impossible for Imperial bureaucratic elements to count them all. Where the Space Marines have been compared to the surgical scalpel of the Imperium, the Imperial Guard are considered the giant fucking sledgehammer of mankind. They got themselves some sweet tanks and the non-Cadian infantry models are fucking amazing (especially Steel Legion and Death Korps of Krieg). They go into battle with nothing but a glorified flashlight/laser pointer, 21st century flak jackets, and standard-issue BALLS OF 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, they've at least got tanks and Titans.
Adeptus Mechanicus: You know those times when starting your car seems like it takes a bizarre ritual to get it to cooperate? You know it's silly, but you still do it? The Adeptus Mechanicus have formalized that. The AdMech (calling it that in their presence is probably not a good idea) has 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 most of the original blueprints from the Age of Technology and thus you can imagine them being totally hung up on 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 go to any lengths to come into possession of a Standard Template Construct-patterns. The tech-priests themselves are organized under the "Cult Mechanicus" faction, supplemented by the Skitarii tech guard and the robots of the Legio Cybernetica, as well as access to virtually every vehicle the Imperium uses plus some special toys of their own. In fact, the AdMech are responsible for constructing and maintaining the Titans, the biggest and deadliest land vehicles the Imperium possesses.
Inquisition: Sometimes you have to get your hands dirty to keep an empire as big as the Imperium of Man stable. Enter the Inquisition, a clandestine group of goons in black robes and big hats sent to investigate Heresy and sedition (which is also heresy) in all corners of the Imperium. They come with their own retinue of henchmen, but can also requisition the services of other branches of the Imperium, whether its the shadowy agents of the Officio Assassinorum, the chambers militant of the Ordos Majoris (Grey Knights, Sisters of Battle, & Deathwatch) or entire armies of Guardsmen/Space Marines. However, if the shit really hits the fan, they have the authority to declare Exterminatus and wipe out the planet. Of course, they don't have this option on tabletop, that'd be OP - instead they just get garden variety orbital bombardments.
Imperial Knights: One-man manned mini-Titans. Each Knight battlesuit is associated with a noble house or the Adeptus Mechanicus, in many ways quite similar to real-world knights. Available in 10 flavours: Errant, Paladin, Lancer, Warden, Gallant, Crusader, Castigator, Acheron, Magaera and Stryx. They can bring to the field rapid-fire battle cannons, thermal cannons, ion shields, reaper chainsaws, Thunderstrike Gauntlets and motherfucking heavy stubbers (Hilarious, since heavy stubbers, being equal to the modern .50 cal machine gun (though of course radically more powerful), are tiny in comparison the rest of the Knights' Arsenal). Very expensive in both points (three suits can fill an entire detachment) and money, but the Errant, Paladin, Warden, Gallant and Crusader are cheap compared to the Lancer, Castigator and Acheron, which are from Forge World and consequently will require you to re-mortgage your house.
Coming from the depths of the Warp, Chaos is a force formed from the passions and emotions of all living things. Which, due to the nature of the setting, means that all things Chaos-related are either completely malevolent, batshit insane, or both. The Four Gods of Chaos, Khorne, Nurgle, Tzeentch, and Slaanesh, each have their own goals and followings, and are just as likely to fight each other as outside enemies. Chaos' ultimate goal is to make the galaxy as anarchic and destructive as the Warp, and its primary enemy is the "Anathema" - The God-Emperor of Mankind, the single most pernicious foe of the Chaos Gods. Chaos hates the Imperium of Man with a passion, but will also seek to corrupt and destroy Xenos wherever possible.
Chaos Space Marines: Evil Space Marines who got fucking tired of the above-mentioned shit and went all nuts and balls out, for the glory of Chaos! This resulted them becoming way more badass than their holier-than-thou brethren. Years ago, 'Chaos Space Marines' and 'Chaos Daemons' used to be one and the same, sharing the same codex. Then some FUCKHEAD at the GW office wanted to simultaneously fuck over every Chaos army that used daemons and release another codex, just for Daemons, effectively making it impossible to field a legit CSM/Daemon army. This has been fixed in 8th edition; while technically separate codexes, both share the CHAOS Keyword and can now work in tandem as advertised.
Most of the forces abide within the Traitor Legions - Legions like those the loyal 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 thinks he should rule the lot, and as such, backstabbing is a part of business and results in 'Chaos warbands' which actually consist of pretty few Chaos Marines, but a huge number of cultists. That is of course not represented in their codex, because it seems that after the 4th edition, nobody at GW knows hows to write a fluffy Chaos codex anymore.
- World Eaters: Bloodthirsty Khornate berserkers, living only to ram a chainaxe up everyone's rectum. Literally. No philosophy, no goal, just pure slaughter, except for that guy who's always fun to be around. Not that that makes them bad guys, as exemplified in Kharn the Betrayer, but actually a great bunch of guys. Their Primarch is Angron, a man so insane and angry, it cannot be written with words. He is also a Daemon Primarch. Oh yeah.
- Death Guard: Swollen, stinky blobs of rotten flesh, infected with every STD/STI Nurgle has ever imagined. They are a happy bunch, who don't hesitate showing the lovely embrace of death, painlessness and immortality to the unenlightened citizens of the Imperium. Their Daemon Primarch is Mortarion, a sour and fully depressed fella, who is a literal personification of death (like being bone-slim, shrouded, scythe-wielding shadowy wraith).
- Emperor's Children: Where the Death Guard are tough as fuck, these maniacs are just high as fuck. Slaaneshi hedonists, possibly even more fucked up than the Dark Eldar. Where the Deldar rape and torture to live longer lives, these guys do it just for the kicks! As they serve the god of sex, drugs, and rock & roll, their signature weapon is literally a boombox gun. Their Primarch is Fulgrim, the prettiest and most kawaii of all the Primarchs, but was also very much yandere, so he mochi mochi'ed the Chaos Gods desu and became a four-armed snake.
- Thousand Sons: Traitors by accident, intellectual, knowledge-hungry, MOTHERFUCKING POWERFUL psykers. A lot of the Legion is pissed off dust encased in power armor. Trust a Chaos player, it's complicated, so go read the HH book Thousand Sons. Their Primarch is Magnus the Red, a redhead with one eye and the second most powerful psyker in the galaxy, after big E himself. He discovered the ploy being made against the Imperium by Lorgar and Horus and ended up accidentally knocking over his father's side hobby, which he got just a little mad about. He even has a model now!
- Word Bearers: Religious zealots going so far as to carve psalms on the bodies of the dead and on themselves. Rather than devoting themselves to a single chaos god like those above, these folks praise Chaos itself and see the gods as a pantheon to be worshiped equally. Arch-heretics, these fellas were the first to get their Heresy on. Whereas the other legions may only pay lip service to the Dark Gods in pursuit of their own agendas, some outright despising them, the Word Bearers are scarily religious about Chaos. As in, not only should Chaos be appeased with prayer and rituals, but it is the only universal truth, a way of life, a flawless and only true ideology. Their Primarch is Lorgar, the original Heretic who spends his current days by hiding in the Eye of Terror, regretting setting the Heresy off, and getting his arse kicked by his brother Corvus Corax.
- Alpha Legion: The most secretive, free-of-dogma, open-minded Marines who always thought one step ahead. These days... Em... well... your brain would melt. Their Primarch is (or was) Alpharius, or maybe it was Omegon, or maybe neither... Just... yeah. May or may not be secret loyalists, or maybe they're the pawns of the Xenos Illuminati. It's complicated, just like any relationship.
- Iron Warriors: Another legion of Chaos undivided. Builders and siege-specialists like the Imperial Fists, who they hate with a special, burning passion only reserved for tsunderes. Also humongous trolls and amazing mathematicians in one bunch. Their Primarch is Perturabo, a giant dickhead of metal and hatred. He was always jealous of Rogal Dorn for being such a goddamn father's good boy and getting way much praise, while himself not being appreciated nearly enough for all the hard work he did for the Imperium that he eventually betrayed. Duh, who wouldn't at this point? Well, anyone reasonable since the only reason he and his Legion were in that position and treated poorly was because they chose to accept shit jobs instead of learning to say "No". They weren't ordered to do these things, they chose to accept when asked by others.
- Black Legion: Formerly known as the Sons of Horus, these guys have been fighting the rotting Imperium for so goddamn long it's almost becoming Saturday morning comic-book villainy. These guys are wholly committed to the destruction of the Imperium more than any other legion.
They were about to destroy all opposition on Cadia, the only planet holding back the Chaos forces spilling from the Eye of Terror... Before the plot froze. Goddamnit!WHOOPS They recruit from all Traitor Legions, as long as they pledge themselves fully to the Black Legion and spray their armour black. They are the most massive Traitor Legion, but fight with the others way too often in the attempts to gain more recruits by trying to spread their influence. Their Primarch was Horus Lupercal, the favorite son of the Emperor that was completely annihilated by the said Emperor. He was actually a pretty polite guy. How sad.
- Night Lords: Really freaky grimdark batmen in power armour, turned super-villain. Think of Owlman and a few other alternate universe Bat-men, then ratchet the violence factor up past 11, and you comic fans out there would get the idea. They like flaying, killing messily, and fear and sabotage tactics, but for some reason their color scheme are lighting strikes over red and blue armour. It's as stupid as it sounds. They even wear small wings on their helmets. Their Primarch was Konrad Curze, the grimdark Batman who skinned people and drank their blood.
A righteous and lawful manTHAT ONE GUY WHO LIVED LONG ENOUGH TO BECOME THE VILLAIN AND HATE HIMSELF FOR IT. He wanted to apply these morals upon everyone else with the only tool he knew how to use: Terror.
Over the many, war-filled and chaotic years of fighting to keep the Imperium alive, some Chapters or Companies of Marines simply snap. These take a darker route in pursuit of something-or-other, which will most often make them to a point-of-no-return and in the end completely fall to Chaos. A couple of examples:
- Red Corsairs: Formerly the Astral Claws, they decided that they wanted to carve out their own empire and started the Badab War, one of the biggest post-Heresy rebellion the Imperium ever faced. They've since turned to a life of piracy, and have adopted the Black Legion's recruiting tactics of accepting traitors from any other legion or chapter. And despite being much younger than the Black Legion, the Corsairs' numbers could easily rival them.
- Crimson Slaughter: Fanatically adherent to the laws of the Imperium, turned these bloodcrazed murderers by a series of unfortunate events. Now they go everywhere, killing anyone standing in their way to stave away the voices in their heads. In fact, they are so effective at their killing that their existence can't be hidden by the Imperial authorities (Arguably this could mean they leave too many witnesses for even the most zealous Inquisitor to deal with so maybe not so effective).
- The Scourged: Take a Chapter assisting the Inquisition in their daily investigations, an insane need to know everything there is to know about the motives of others and one seriously bored-out-of-its-bird-skull (Lord of Change), and you get the Scourged. Formerly the Seekers of Truth, these maniacs now go around and try to rid themselves from the curse of knowing all truths ever conceived by any living creature, while trying to uncover THE LIES to the Imperium. With force, if necessary.
The Fallen: During the Heresy, the Dark Angels who stayed behind on Caliban got caught up in some shady shit, resulting in most, if not all, of them falling to Chaos. The Dark Angels want to keep their existence a secret and will go to great lengths to capture them.NONEXISTENT HERETICS WHO DO NOT EXIST BECAUSE THE DARK ANGELS LOYALTY IS BEYOND REPROACH.
Chaos Daemons: Abominations emanating from the warp, daemons seek only to invade the material universe and wreak havoc upon it. Most daemons are aligned with a particular chaos god, and are oftentimes either summoned deliberately by cultists, take possession of an unfortunate psyker, or brought into battle by allied Chaos Space Marines. Daemons can also possess technology, becoming Daemon Engines, which supplement Chaos forces lacking the same logistic support as their Imperial counterparts. All champions of Chaos one day wish to become daemons themselves, granting them immortality and incredible power.
- Khornate daemons desire combat above all else. They are some of the most deadly enemies on the battlefield for their sheer tenacity and capacity for violence. They will even turn on their own allies if there aren't enough enemies to slaughter.
- Nurglite daemons are rotting heaps of filth, spreading plagues and decay wherever they go. Despite this, they are far from frail; Nurglites are extremely durable and hard to kill, and their myriad plagues range from turning you into goop in an instant, to turning you into a Plague Zombie. But it's all cool, that's just how Papa Nurgle shows his love.
- Tzeentchian daemons are tricky bastards, who love to use magic to screw with the material realm. These guys are the epitome of "be careful what you wish for", as they will always find a way to fuck you over, thanks to their plans within plans.
- Slaaneshi daemons are some of the most hardcore hedonists in existence, rivaled only by the Dark Eldar. Their obsession with pleasure and pain is often used to torment victims before breaking their minds, tempting them with promises of unearthly delights and experiences. Or just raping them for eternity, because why the fuck not.
- A few varieties of unaligned daemons exist, such as Furies, Chaos Beasts, and they whose name we won't speak.
Renegades & Cultists: Non-space marine humans who serve the dark gods, for various reasons and motivations. Cultists can be from Underhive gangs living in deplorable conditions, decadent nobles who take their own hedonistic tendencies too far, intellectuals who stumble upon forbidden knowledge, or renegade regiments who got sick of being someone else's lackies. Cultists are often used as meatshields or expendable pawns by Chaos Space Marines, but former Guardsmen, colloquially known as the Lost and the Damned, are often a more significant threat, especially in large enough numbers. Supplementing them are mutants, Rogue Psykers, even Beastmen. Much like their loyalist Guardsmen counterparts, individually they're quite weak, but the Lost and the Damned possess the numbers and vehicles to make up for it - plus some Daemon Engines and Chaos Space Marines to boot. Those who survive purging or their own sociopathic leaders will typically end up insane, or worse, but rarely they may earn the favor of the Chaos Gods.
Renegade Knights: While fewer in number than their loyalist counterparts, Knights can be corrupted to chaos too. Daemon Knights are particularly dangerous, as they're essentially massive Daemon Engines with all the advantages that comes with it. The Imperial Knights view their existence as a stain upon the Knight Houses' honor, and will relentlessly pursue them wherever they go.
The various alien species inhabiting the Milky Way galaxy are not friendly to mankind. Those that were not destroyed during the Great Crusade were usually the most dangerous and expansive alien empires in the Galaxy. While Xenos generally do not like the Imperium in kind, they also hate Chaos, and will also war with one another.
- Craftworld Eldar:
- Space elves. The members of the race that went "Well shit, guys, we just partied so hard that we accidentally made a God of rape and cocaine, so maybe we should re-think our lives", and then fucked off to giant worldships and tried as hard as possible to forget that time they made dildos 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 that their souls are forfeit and belong to him/her/it. And no, the worldships are NOT as cool as you think they are, they're even cooler. They're darting around doing unfathomable stuff, trolling the man, and taking names. You'd think they'd at least be on civil terms with the Imperium, considering they share many of the same enemies and goals (namely, stop all the other genocidal races from turning the galaxy into a collective seizure / the world's most deadly playground / a lifeless wasteland / lunch), but Eldar seem to have dickishness written into their DNA. 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, and sometimes have killed entire armies, so it's kind of a toss-up. Better just kill them and then ask questions, right?
- Space elves who like to cosplay as psychotic clowns. They are seemingly random space elves who leave the other factions and join up with this mysterious cult that serves the trickster god Cegorach. They act as intermediaries between the other space elf factions, and then like to put on dramatic performances retelling ancient space elf mythologies- which includes using hallucinogenic gasses/psychic powers on their audiences. They also defend the great space elf interstellar highway network against daemons and other intruders- mainly because they have a big fancypants library hidden in there.
- Dark Eldar:
- The space dark 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, mutilate, rape, and torture the crap out of anyone even half-alive, and not necessarily in any specific order. Significantly less civilized than the Craftworld Eldar, they'll do what ever the fuck they want, mostly because it actually prolongs their life-span. They live in the Webway and invade real space once in a while from their evil, dark city of Commorragh to get some fresh slaves and to strike terror in the enemy. They are one of the few factions who will always actively target civilians for no other reason than because they're helpless.
- Eldar Corsairs:
- These Eldar have abandoned the strict and regimented lifestyle of the Craftworlds to engage in acts of piracy and adventure. While not as extremely hedonistic as the Dark Eldar, their lifestyle is still quite hazardous as they have no protections against Slaanesh's pull on their souls. Many Eldar still find this path worth the risk, often going to great lengths to amass wealth and get their jollies off before eventually getting bored and returning home, or else going full monty and joining the Commorrites. This army has no formal models but can be represented by a mix of Eldar and Dark Eldar figures, with some conversion bits available from Forgeworld.
- The combined forces of all Eldar factions under the leadership of the newborn Eldar god of death, Ynnead. These spess elves come from very many different walks of life but have one purpose: to fuck Slaanesh's shit up. Currently the friendliest Eldar faction towards the Imperium (alongside Harlequins I guess, seeing as they perform their circus tricks on plenty of human worlds as well as Eldar ones. Oh, and maybe 8th ed Ulthwe too).
- Space Wood Elves. Focused on maintaining Eldar planets called Maiden Worlds that survived the fall and never became inhabited by another space faring species. They ride fucking dinosaurs.
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 MAID FER FIGHTIN' 'N' WINNIN'. Only drawback is that some 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, as they worship and love every moment of it. They introduced randomness to the table, but if you're playing Orks and expecting efficiency, you are doing it oh-so-wrong. Out of all the other factions, Orks are easily the least serious. They're silly, stupid and don't give two fucks about anything. Magical thinking is an actual game mechanic for them. Oh, and they're literally sentient fungi.
Necrons: Robots who have recently awakened from an eons-long slumber, intent on reclaiming their ancient empires. Well, what's their actual intention is a subject of skub. Millions of years ago, the entire Necrontyr species gave up their bodies (unwillingly) to the C'tan, becoming soulless and encased in living metal so they could have a chance in fighting the Old Ones. On the one hand, this war ended up fucking over the galaxy by leading to the creation of Chaos as we know it. GG, guys. On the other hand, their anti-warp technology helped delay and contain Chaos up until the 41st millenium. They have some of the toughest basic units, their basic infantry weapons can shred tanks, and they don't stay down when you destroy them. Their technology doesn't even obey the laws of physics, although they still make use of FTL-travel. Since they have no Warp presence, the Tyranids instinctively avoid their Tomb Worlds and daemons have no souls to claim when killing them. The C'tan, meanwhile, have been broken into pieces to be used as Necron weapons, though they are slowly reforming to wreak vengeance upon the galaxy.
- If it's not Orks, it better fucking be Tyranids who are the biggest threat to the galaxy as a whole. Hordes of scuttling space locusts 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 core (their most basic troop is a dinosaur/solider-ant with a gun that shoots flesh-eating beetles). They are faster than Eldar. They assimilate new features into their DNA from fallen foes, such as the Space Marine's black carapace. They're immune to virtually any toxin, and they can even infect other races to be their willing accomplices. Their only known motive is to devour all life in this galaxy, all the way to the cellular level... and that's all that we know, because reasoning with them has been so far unsuccessful, due to excessive OMNOMNOMNOMMING.
- Genestealer Cults:
- Whenever the Tyranids wish to invade a planet or system, they typically send out genestealers ahead, with the intention of infecting the populace to make them more compliant. A genestealer that successfully creates a cult will surround itself with fanatical hybrid and/or brainwashed worshippers who view the Tyranids as their star gods, and will steal weapons and disable planetary defenses in preparation of the invasion. Many will join the local PDF unit to hijack and steal any weapons and vehicles they can, giving them access to a staggering amount of Guardsman wargear for when the time to revolt comes. These creepy Cthulhu cultists give Chaos worshippers a run for the money on most batshit-insane nutters in the Imperium, and that's saying something.
- The effects of this on non-human worlds were rarely explored until recently. As follows:
- Unlike humanity, Tau civilisation enforces a very strict breeding doctrine upon its citizens, A.K.A. you can only have the smex when your boss tells you to and getting with partners from different castes is forbidden (hopefully the infected aren't the ones in charge of implementing the breeding doctrines...). And since successful genestealer cults require multiple generations of offspring, the Tau would very likely catch on to an infestation far quicker than an Imperial world. However, the Tau once allowed themselves to be infected by Genestealers and formed a Genestealer cult as an experiment. This went as well as making the Xenomorphs from the Alien films controllable bioweapons, and while the Fire Caste had to purge the cult, some escaped and may have even been able to make or infect an Ethereal.
- The Hrud are actually being targeted by the genestealer cults to great effect. However, the Hrud lack a formal military and tend to cohabitate with other species, so the infiltration is not immediately apparent.
- The Eldar are susceptible to this as well, with similar results to humans. But Eldar can easily detect this and stamp it out, so the only examples come from Eldar willingly engaging with genestealer. We have recently seen the effects on an isolated craftworld that was infected by genestealers; they willingly allowed genestealers to infect them in an attempt to avoid having their souls consumed by Slaanesh, since this Craftworld was so old it predated the invention of the Infinity Circuit and therefore didn't have one. There were also Dark Eldar social elites who captured Genestealer hybrids, then developed a fad where they commissioned the Haemonculi to amputate and graft Genestealer parts onto their bodies (I'm not making this up), with similar results to Craftworlders and humans (they also developed a telepathic bond and an obsession with Tyranids...). Kitbash to your heart's content.
- It's been known for awhile that genestealer infections [interact particularly unusually with orks].
- Tau Empire:
- The weeaboo space Communists. East Asian-inspired high-tech faction with awesome hardware and a willingness not to slaughter other races just on principle. Though largely confined to a backwater corner of the galaxy, they are expanding alarmingly rapidly on their own "Great Crusade". While not too threatening to the Imperium, it's hard to do anything major against them as it would be WAY too costly for the Imperium. They die miserably 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 without missing breakfast. No psykers, no warp presence, just like the 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 a guardsman's combat boot and you'd be close. In fact, the two factions even help each other from time to time, though you wouldn't call them allies; they just have less reasons to fight against each other than together against those other more threatening guys. While on the surface their setting is an optimistic one, depending on who you ask, they're actually an Orwellian tyranny that forcibly sterilizes dissenters and have propaganda on par with North Korea. They additionally keep Chaos a secret from their populace, much like the Imperium does, and are themselves mind-controlled by literal brain worms. The sole dissenter in this shitshow is a badass Tau Commander known as Farsight, who gets his own mini-faction and iconography.
- Grim darkness is cool for it's dark grimness.
- You can throw EXPENDABLE units at your foe
- Huge body count.
- "HOLD THE FUCKING LINE!"
- Tanks the size of buildings.
- Buildings the size of tanks.
- Titans with weaponry that can level a city with one shot.
- Railguns, grav weapons, plasma-, melta-, pulse rifles and other futuristic weapons.
- The funkiest Orks in any franchise.
- Tyranids, a race directly inspired by the legendary xenomorphs.
- Necrons, a race directly inspired by the renowned Terminator robots from the Schwarzenegger movies.
Dwarf bikers IN SPEHSS!Dwarf bikers IN SPEHSS again!
- Fucking CHAINaxes and the euphoric feeling of chain-saw-slash-chopping things into meaty little chunks and covering your face with thick viscous fluids of the enemy's organs.
- Thunder hammers, Force halberds, power fists, Volcano cannons, Earthshakers, NOVA CANNONS, EXTERMINATUS, HOLY SHIT I'M GOING TO CUM.
- POWER EVERYTHING: POWER armour, POWER fists, POWER gloves, POWER axes, POWER swords, POWER feet, POWER dicks, POWERspawning babies.
- Forgeworld Death Korps models.
- Humans that are known for their titanium-hard balls of steel and not being an average race.
- Tons of epic lines to yell when boardgaming: WAAAGH! Purge the heretics! For the Greater Good! Blood for the Blood God! For the EMPEROR! (Feel free to OMNOMNOM if you win with 'nids )
- 12km long Gothic Cathedrals.
- Making said cathedrals FLY IN SPACE.
- Using said 12km flying gothic cathedrals to transport yourself through an alternate dimension just so you can SHOVE A POWER-<weapon> IN SOMEONE'S FACE.
- Just as planned...
- DOOMRIDER NA NA NA.
- A god of cocaine, sex and booze.
- Commissars *BLAM*
- Dawn of War.
- Ollanius. Motherfucking. Pius.
- Love Can Bloom *BLAM* EXTRA HERESY!
- Perpetual virgins.
- Flankitus of Battlefleet /tg/
- Suavis Astartes.
- If you don't think a certain rule exists (or is just causing you problems), you can roll a die to see if the rule is real!
- Codex always have a cool story bro.
- Apocalypse games (3,000-50,000 points of win!).
- "Everything is heresy! EVERYTHING!".
- Literal fuck-demons
The Appeal of Warhammer 40,000
Warhammer 40,000 is basically the anti-Star Trek. Where Trek envisioned a Scholarly Egalitarian Secular Humanist Post Scarcity Utopia built on understanding, friendship and cooperation in the Federation, 40k conceives of a Militaristic Hierarchical Theocratic Dystopia built on a foundation of Hatred, Fear, Spite, Dogma and the backs of countless billions toiling away in manufactoria in conditions which would make a Victorian factory look pleasant for the Imperium. And those are the Good Guys. 40K has become the poster child for fundamentally bleak settings because it goes beyond cynicism and into the realm of the absurd.
And yet, it avoids becoming an endlessly dark pit of depression and hatred for one reason - deep in the soot and dirt of war-ravaged worlds, between skulls and bodies killed in their myriads, you'll still find the tiniest, most delicate flower. They are one to a million, but genuinely good and hopeful events and people do exist in 40k, and the fact that they are so rare is what makes them shine so much more. Take Ciaphas Cain, Vulkan He'stan or Saint Celestine, or the realms of Ultramar. They are rare and often not the shiniest pieces of hope out there, but the fact that they can even exist in a setting that is known for having coined the term "grimdarkness" is a testament.
Endless List of Significant Personalities
- The Emperor.
- The Chaos Gods: Khorne, Nurgle, Slaanesh, Tzeentch, HEY, did someone forget to invite poor 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 forgotten primarchs.
- Farseer Macha.
- Farseer Taldeer.
- Farseer Caerys.
- That dick.
- FABULOUS Bile.
- Ultramarines Chapter Master Marneus Calgar.
- Captain Indrick Baldeale.
- Black Templars High Marshall Helbrecht.
- Governor-General VANCE MOTHERFUCKING STUBBS.
- Lord Castellan Ursarkar E. Creeeeeeeeeeeed.
- Commissar Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM.
- Commissar Holt
- Commissar Yarrick.
- Commissar Gaunt, THE HARDCORZ.
- Commissar Dan
- Sly Marbo
- Warboss Gorgutz 'Ead 'Unter.
- Warboss Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka.
- Kaldor Draigo.
- That great guy.
- Shas'O Vior'la Shovah Kais Mont'yr (yes the long name is mandatory for all Tau players).
- Shas'o Kais.
- Commissar K59.
- Commissar Fuklaw.
- Kasrkin-chan (PROMOTIONS!)
- Cultist-chan (Moar PROMOTIONS!)
- Chem-chan (Still moar PROMOTIONS!)
- Loli Daemonette (Take-a-seat-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
Not in a million years...Behold the Infiltrators!
- 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
- Army compatibility between Warhammer settings
- 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: , and this: , and this 
- 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 40k wiki
- This rap song is for the tabletop warhammer 40k
- Kill Team, the rap awesomeness
- Warhammer 40k Lore in 1 Minute