Forget the power of technology and science, for so much has been forgotten, never to be re-learned. Warhammer 40,000
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.
, known informally
as "Warhammer 40K" or just plain "40K", is a miniatures-based tabletop strategy game
by Games Workshop
. Drawing heavily on their previous Warhammer Fantasy
game, it began as "Warhammer In Space
", but has over time grown distinct from
(and much more popular than
) its counterpart. It is currently in its seventh edition.
What makes 40K unique in the gaming genre is its extreme darkness
. Set thirty-eight thousand years in the future, the game's basic setting, insofar as it can
be summed up, is that of a galaxy twisted into a horrifying hell
where an eternal, impossibly vast conflict
occurs between several absurdly powerful genocidal
, and (in at least one case) omnicidal
factions, with every single weapon, ideology, and creative piece of nastiness imaginable turned Up to Eleven
...and even it has a Hell
open/close all folders
More about the setting
Many millennia ago, humanity held immeasurable power and glory, but no longer. Now, the game's central faction, the Imperium of Man
, is a paranoid, fascist theocracy
has been locked up on life support, physically dead yet psychically conscious
, for the past ten millennia, laid low by his most beloved son
. An incomprehensibly vast Church Militant commits horrible atrocities in his name (but against his philosophy)
on an almost-daily basis. Millions of capricious, fanatical, genetically engineered Knight Templar Super Soldiers
and equally fanatical, pyromaniacal battle nuns
serve as the Imperium's special forces, while its trillions
-strong regular army takes disregard for human life
to new and interesting extremes. A futuristic Inquisition
ruthlessly hunts down anyone with even the slightest
taint of the heretic, the mutant, or the alien
, even going as far as destroying entire planets
, just to be sure
. Science and technology have scarcely progressed for ten thousand years
, partly because they are treated with fear, ignorance
and magical superstition
, and partly because the secretive
, deranged machine cult
that maintains the Imperium's technological base sees innovation as blasphemy against the wisdom of the ancients
. The Warp, the source of the Faster-Than-Light Travel
the Imperium must rely on, carries with it a good chance of being ripped apart by daemons in more ways than one
, and the souls of psychic humans
are consumed in the thousands per day
to not only power the Astronomican, the psychic navigation aid used to negotiate Warpspace, but to fuel the Emperor's life support mechanism, the Golden Throne.
The problem is, as bad as the Imperium is, all the other major factions are just as bad, and in many cases far worse. The ancient and mysterious manipulator race
, hovering near extinction, contrives wars that see billions dead so that small villages
of their own may survive, while their depraved cousins willingly perpetuate mass slaughter
and Cold-Blooded Torture
upon other species to stave off their own eternal punishment. Vast bug swarms
are trying to eat every organic thing in the galaxy as part of their natural life cycles. An entire civilization of incredibly advanced, undying
, living metal
conquerors are awakening after millions of years of slumber, ready to reclaim a galaxy they see as rightfully theirs. A genetically-engineered warrior species
infests every corner of the galaxy and is cheerfully trying to kill everything else (including each other, if nothing better presents itself) because it's literally hard-wired into their genetic code to do so...and because it's fun
. A tiny alien empire
on the galaxy's fringe is reputed to
absorb new subjects through orbital bombardment
, concentration camps
, and possible mind control
by a few benevolent elites
...but they readily try diplomacy before using mechanized brute force
, making them the closest thing to the "good guys"
in this setting. All the factions have a common foe in the forces of Chaos, which infests the Warp, exists to corrupt all it touches, is the root cause of much of the setting's darkness, and is known for light-years
-wide holes in reality
through which countless daemons
and corrupted daemon-powered super-soldiers
periodically attempt to bring the universe to further ruin.
How the game is played
The game is played on a table top or other flat surface with added terrain, obstacles, and other objects; the standard play area is 6' x 4'. The essential tools for gameplay, aside from the models, are: the main rulebook; codexes, supplements, and dataslates which detail model stats and specific rules for the individual armies, as well as gameplay scenarios; a tape measure, as everything is measured in inches; plastic templates for blast and flame weapons; objective markers which are used in some game variants; and lots
of six-sided dice, including a special "scatter die" used for specific weapons and troop movements. You can pick these up separately, but GW provides a starter kit which contains the templates, a scatter die and a few D6s, enough miniatures to field two small armies, a rules-only version of the rulebook, and special rules pertaining to the armies in the kit and scenarios for games. The current starter kit is Dark Vengeance
The models are divided into eight distinct categories: Lords of Warnote
, Fast Attacknote
, Heavy Supportnote
, and Othernote
. The 7th edition rules allow players to build their armies either as Unbound (using any structure they want) or as Battle-Forged (an organized structure that includes a Primary Detachment and optional Allied Detachment, each with specific numbers of certain model categories). Battle-Forged armies use a Force Organization Chart to determine how many units/vehicles in each category can be fielded. The standard FOC has one HQ and two Troops choices at minimum; some codexes feature their own FOCs which give differing options. Battle-Forged armies also get bonuses that Unbound armies do not.
For each army, the models available in each category have a base point value relative to their worth in gameplay, which covers the # of models and their default weapons and armor. The rules give the player specific options to change the weapons, armor, and other bonuses depending on the category and model or unit in question, and to add models to certain units, with most changes increasing that model or unit's overall point cost. Players assemble their armies to meet an agreed-upon number of points per army prior to play, with the upper limits usually determined by the type of game being played. For instance, normal games are typically in the 1000-2000 point range, but a beginner could easily play a 500 point game, and Apocalypse games (featuring huge numbers of units per army and models that are typically overpowered for the normal game, such as faction-relevant Humongous Mecha
) can have point values in the tens to hundreds of thousands or more.
Before the game begins, dice are rolled to determine the Mission for the gamenote
, how the battlefield will be divided between the armiesnote
, various challenges and model abilitiesnote
that influence gameplay, and who gets to deploy their army first. There are twelve Missions in the core rulebook, six "Eternal War" Missions that are carryovers from previous editions and six "Maelstrom of War" missions introduced in 7th edition. These have a general theme like the Eternal War missions but also use Tactical Objectives which give specific tasks that the player can attempt to accomplish. The first player to deploy gets to start the first turn, with the second player having a chance to roll to go first, or "steal the initiative".
There is a maximum of 7 turns per game; whether or not turns 6 or 7 happen is determined by die rolls starting at the end of turn 5. Each game turn has two player turns, each having a movement phase (advancing or retreating models as needed), a psychic phase (where such models attempt to generate and use psychic powers) a shooting phase (where all such weapons can fire on targets in range), and an assault phase (melee combat). In the movement phase, specific rules govern how far different models/units can move and how movement affects their ability to use weapons in the subsequent phases. The moving player can also elect to "run" a model or unit in the shooting phase, passing up the chance to shoot to move it further. In the psychic phase, the attacking player rolls 1D6 to set the Warp Charge pool; both players then have the Warp Charge pool plus the sum of their models' psychic "mastery levels" worth of Warp Charges in total. The attacking player then spends one Warp Charge per die rolled to cast powers, with failed rolls, "Perils of the Warp", and/or the defending player using his Warp Charges to try to negate successful rolls factored in. During the shooting phase, dice are rolled for each type of weapon being fired to determine whether the attack hits and then whether it actually causes wounds or damage. In the assault phase, die rolls determine whether or not a unit can move into melee combat with a target. Combat then follows a structured order of attacks, with die rolls for hits and wounds/damage in the same manner as in the shooting phase. In both of these phases, if possible, the defending player can roll for various types of saves to attempt to negate damage or wounds, and can counterattack in the assault phase. Characteristic tests, special abilities and features unique to each race/faction, weapon-specific rules, terrain effects, and other such actions also influence the progress of each phase. A game turn is complete at the end of the second player's assault phase; the process then starts over again with the next turn.
Players acquire victory points as they eliminate sections of the opponents' army from the game, when Mission-specific objectives are achieved, and when Tactical Objectives are achieved during a turn. All Missions are won by majority of victory points; draws are possible. It's also possible to win by completely eliminating the opponent's army, or eliminating enough to make it impossible for the opponent to complete the Mission.
Apart from the game itself and its rulebooks, faction-specific, setting-specific, and campaign sourcebooks, 40K has spawned a range of spinoff games and publications
. Dozens of novels and short story anthologies are published by the Black Library, a subsidiary of Games Workshop, who also published the now out-of-print comic book Warhammer Monthly
and short story magazine Inferno
. Boom! Studios now publish comics set in the 40K universe, in the form of various mini-series, rather than an ongoing title. There is even a full-length fan film, Damnatus
, which was approved, made, banned over conflicts between British and German IP laws, then leaked online. Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium
is currently in development. An official CGI movie, Ultramarines
, was released in 2010, following up on a number of live-action shorts shown at various Games Day events in the 90s.
In the meantime, you can track down an old Games Workshop VHS release film called Inquisitor
, or even watch Event Horizon
(which has long been accepted as an unofficial prequel
, since the creators seem to have accidentally matched the franchise's premise and style with remarkable exactitude, though not the time period). There is also another fan film being produced called The Lord Inquisitor
, which will be fully CGI. Unlike the incident with Damnatus
, Games Workshop is perfectly fine with the existence of the movie and will not be taking legal action against its production.
As you may have guessed from the incredible size and attention to detail on this page, 40K
has a huge, diverse, and fanatical following, despite the niche status of the hobby. The franchise has a lot of appeal even to people who don't play the wargame itself (or used to play it and only keep in touch with the lore), and who only follow the spinoffs (many of which are perfectly good in their own right). You don't have to spend all your money
to experience the inimitable insanity that is Warhammer 40,000
.You can start with these pages
or better yet, watch this
. Additionally, the following websites can provide you with a lot of helpful information about many different aspects of the game:
- 40K Lexicanum and 40K Wiki — Two large and comprehensive wikis. Formatting and citation methods are very different between them, and the Lexicanum tends to be more concise.
- 1d4chan — Another wiki, a spinoff of 4chan's /tg/ board; it covers many games, but Warhammer 40,000 is highly represented. It features a lot of info about the game's fanon and fan works as well as the game itself. It's very informal in tone, steeped in 4chan's lingo and culture, and generally NSFW, so be prepared.
- MiniWarGaming, Beasts of War (40K hub) — Websites featuring battle reports, painting lessons, discussions of rules, and other game-related items.
A more in-depth look at the tropes specifically embodied by the various major factions can be found here.
Spin-offs and games of Warhammer 40000
that have received indexes of their own:
Other Miniatures Games
- Battlefleet Gothic: Space Is an Ocean naval combat involving the major powers in the game fighting over the Gothic Sector of Imperial Space.
- Inquisitor: A 54mm scale RPG. Extremely detailed both in minature, rules and backstory and the narratives involved in the gameplay. The backstory discusses a factional civil war at the highest levels of the Imperial Inquisition, the most powerful organisation of humanity.
- Necromunda: A skirmish level small unit combat set on the human Hive World of Necromunda, with mostly human factions fighting an underground gang-war. It is the Sci-Fi Counterpart to the Warhammer Fantasy skirmish game Mordheim.
- Gorkamorka: A skirmish-level game similar to Necromunda but featuring Ork gangs fighting for fortune and power, to dominate the other tribes and lead the Waaagh! offworld. Considered a less serious game than the others, due to the Orks' role as what passes for comic relief in the setting.
Tabletop Role-Playing Games
- Black Crusade: The fourth in the series, this switches the focus from Imperial heroes onto dark villians working for the ruinous powers of Chaos.
- Dark Heresy: Spiritual Successor to Inquisitor and noted for eight gruesome pages of critical hit charts. Narrative revolves around the Inquisition, corruption and conspiracy.
- Deathwatch: The third in the modern RPG series that started with Dark Heresy, this gamebook revolves around the Space Marines of the Ordo Xenos Deathwatch, a special operations group tasked with defeating alien horrors.
- Rogue Trader: The first game by this name was the original name for 1st Edition Warhammer 40K. The second is the 2009 follow up to Dark Heresy, an RPG that is about exploration, adventure in what has been called a grimdark version of Star Trek.
- Only War: The fifth in the series; it turns the focus onto the Imperial Guard and more traditional warfare.
- Chaos Gate: A turn based strategy game from 1998, notable as it was built before the introduction of the 3rd Edition of the tabletop game which radically changed so many elements of the lore.
- Dawn of War: A Real-Time Strategy series created by Relic Entertainment. The storyline of the first game is a campaign by the Blood Ravens chapter to rescue the planet Tartarus from an Ork invasion. The plot of the sequel revolves around the Blood Ravens' efforts to regain control over the Aurelia Sub-Sector.
- Fire Warrior: A First-Person Shooter. You play as a Tau Fire Warrior.
- Warhammer 40000 Kill Team: Downloadable twin-stick shooter.
- Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine: A third person shooter created by Relic Entertainment involving Ultramarines Captain Titus fighting against Orks on the Imperial World Graia as both sides fight to recover an Imperial Titan.
- Warhammer 40000 Eternal Crusade: An MMORPG announced on E3 2013.
- Space Hulk: A game based on the board game of the same name. Three iterations have been made with the third releasing in 2013.
- Space Hulk Deathwing: An FPS created by Streum on Studio where you take the role of a Dark Angels Deathwing Librarian fighting against Genestealers on a Space Hulk.
- Warhammer 40000 Regicide: A Chess Strategy game developed by Hammerfall.
Board and Card Games
- Space Hulk: Space Marine Terminators attempt to cleanse aforementioned Space Hulks of Genestealer infestation. Has video game and tabletop game variants, and is notable for being particularly beloved by gamers of a certain age in its native UK, for whom the game was a gateway entry into wider tabletop and 40K play.
- Death Angel: A card game variant of Space Hulk.
- Tabletop Game/Conquest: an LCG based on the franchise. It pits different armies against each other for the control of a planetary system.
These pages are for tropes related to the literary fiction (novels, short stories etc.) and only this. Please resist the urge to shoehorn tropes about the Chapters the novels are following onto these pages. Tropes which are exemplified by the Chapter in Codices, rulebook fluff and the like go on the relevant Characters pages
. Generally speaking, the subject of the story is the name of the entry, and each specific story, novel or audio drama should be entered into that subject's trope entry.
- Black Legion: Previously known as The Sons of Horus, they feature prominently in the backstory, and are an essential element in the Horus Heresy series. They have an upcoming series written by Aaron Dembski-Bowden in the works.
- Blood Angels: Covers the early history of the chapter, later moving to cover their inherent genetic flaws (the Red Thirst and Black Fury) and the effect they have on the chapter.
- Blood Ravens: These are the protagonists of Dawn of War.
- Brothers of the Snake: The adventures of the Iron Snakes Space Marine chapter, focusing on one Marine named Priad.
- Ciaphas Cain HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!!! follows the titular Commissar of the Imperial Guard through various conflicts. It is quite unique as instead of the usual realistic Grimdark Horror, these stories are written in a tongue-in-cheek dark comedic style.
- Dark Angels: Half the number of this Space Marine chapter rebelled during the Horus Heresy. These books follow the general idea of hunting their fallen brothers and keeping the secret of their failure from the rest of the Imperium.
- Eisenhorn: A trilogy of books, Xenos, Malleus & Hereticus, that follow Inquisitor Eisenhorn's adventures and attempts to avoid being named a rogue heretic.
- Gaunt's Ghosts: The Tanith First & Only are an Imperial Guard regiment who had to evacuate their home planet Tanith after an invasion by the forces of Chaos. They were the only people to get off the planet alive, hence the name. With over a dozen novels in the series, and spin-offs, it has spawned a mini-continuity called the "Sabbat Worlds Crusade" inside the overall lore of the game.
- Grey Knights: Follows the exploits of Justicar Alaric and his squad battling various daemonic and chaotic enemies of the Imperium. The Grey Knights are an ultra-secret, ultra-pure, ultra-elite chapter of Space Marines dedicated to fighting the most dangerous threats that the Imperium will face.
- Horus Heresy: This extremely popular (showing up regularly on the New York Times best seller list) series of 30+ novels, audio dramas, and related books that cements the canon story of the Horus Heresy, the foundation on which the Warhammer 40000 universe is built around, set around 30,000 AD.
- Imperial Fists: The novel Sons Of Dorn is about the chapter, who can be described as the good equivalent of the Iron Warriors.
- Imperial Guard: There are numerous novels revolving around the Imperial Guard, an army comprised of normal humans.
- Iron Warriors: Feature in a series of 7 novels as Villain Protagonists, a Chaos Space Marine chapter dedicated to siege warfare.
- The Last Chancers: A trilogy of novels concerning the 13th Penal Legion of the Imperial Guard, led by Colonel Schaeffer. The regiment is comprised of Imperial criminals that Schaeffer drags through hellish battlefields to build up an elite human suicide squad.
- Night Lords With 4 novels, 2 shorts stories and an audio drama, these stories provide an Alternate Character Interpretation for the previous "deranged pyschopath" image of this Chaos Space Marine chapter.
- The Path of the Eldar: A set of two trilogies. The first is a "Rashomon"-Style story revolving around three Eldar of craftworld Alaitoc. The second follows the path of three Dark Eldar warriors.
- Priests Of Mars: A trilogy of novels centering on an Explorator Fleet of the Adeptus Mechanicus and its assorted hangers-on as it searches for the lost Archmagos Telok and the impossible technology he claims to have found.
- Ravenor: A trilogy of novels featuring the heavily disabled psyker Inquisitor Gideon Ravenor and his Five-Man Band.
- Ravenor vs. Eisenhorn: A trilogy that is a sequel to the Ravenor & Eisenhorn trilogies.
- Salamanders: The Tome Of Fire trilogy follows the 3rd Company as they uncover a relic from the past, fight the Dark Eldar, and defend their homeworld.
- Sisters Of Battle: A series of books detailing the missions of Sister Seraphim Miriya and Hospitaller Sister Verity.
- Soul Drinkers: A 6 novel series about this Marine chapter who nearly fall to Chaos, reject it, but do not return to the service of the Imperium.
- Space Marine Battles: A series of novels about the various Space Marine Chapters' notable conflicts and battles against the many enemies of the Imperium.
- Space Wolf: Vikings IN SPACE with a wolf motif. 6 novels centered on Ragnar Blackmane.
- Ultramarines: The adventures of Captain Uriel Ventris of the Ultramarines, a mainstay of the Space Marines in the 40k canon.
- White Scars: Featured in the Hunt for Voldorius, one of the few Asian factions in the entire Universe.
- Word Bearers: A trilogy of novels regarding a search by Dark Apostle Jarulek and his apprentice Marduk as they search for an ancient artifact.
- Damnatus: Fan film. Was eventually banned due to German intellectual property law but eventually leaked to the internet.
- Ultramarines: CGI Animated official film.
- The Lord Inquisitor: Animated fan-film.
- Published By The Black Library:*
- Bloodquest: Chronicles The Blood Angel captain Leonatos as he and his most loyal followers go on a bloodquest to retrieve the lost sword of Belarius.
- Deff Skwadron: Follows the adventures of an Ork fighta-bomma squadron fighting a war against another ork Waaagh!
- Kal Jerico: Follows the eponymous bounty hunter in his various adventures in Necromunda.
- Titan: Follows the actions of the Imperius Dictatio warlord titan and its crew.
- The Redeemer: Follows a Redemptionist priest and his followers in their never ending quest to purge the under-hive of Necromunda.
- Deathwatch: Follows a squad of the titular Space marines fighting a Genestealer infestation.
- Imperial Gothic: Short-story Anthology written by Dan Abnett.
- Flames of Damnation: Another Shorty-story anthology, collects the earlier released Eternal War and Eternal Damnation, both of which are also Anthologies.
- Macragge's Honour: Takes place during the Horus Heresy shortly after Know No Fear. Follows the crew of the titular Ultramarine flagship as they give chase to Kor Phaeron during the battle of Calth.
- Lone Wolves:
- Published By Boom! Studios:
- Blood And Thunder: Follows the story of an Imperial Guard colonel during his captivity by orks.
- Damnation Crusade: Follows the life of a Black Templar, from his initiation to his final fate.
- Defenders Of Ultramar: Chronicles the titular ultramarine company as they defend Ultramar from an ork Waaagh.
- Exterminatus: Standalone sequel to Damnation Crusade. Follows Inquisitor Alastor as he investigates chaos corruption in the sector following the events of said comic.
- Fire And Honour: Follows the Cadian 71st hell hounds company in their war against the Tau.
Spin-offs and games that do not have their own pages
- Aeronautica Imperialis: Air-combat spin-off tabletop game.
- Epic 40000: Uses very small scale miniatures, allowing the players to field huge armies and extremely powerful units such as the largest Titans and Gargants and even Daemon Primarchs.
- Final Liberation: Epic-based turn-based strategy video game.
- Aspect Warrior: Isometric shooter video game.
- Gorkamorka: Spin-off tabletop game involving combat between mostly Ork factions.
- The various counter-based Board Games, including Battle for Armageddon (and the add-on Chaos Attack), Horus Heresy, Doom of the Eldar, Warmaster, Arena of Blood, and Relic.
- The card games.
- Dark Millennium: Upcoming RPG, initially an MMO until THQ's financial difficulties forced cut backs. An unconfirmed rumor claims it has been passed to EA for further development.
- Blood For The Blood God, Hive Infestation and Inquisitor: Obscure live-action shorts.
- Rites of War: Turn-based computer strategy game starring the Eldar, using the Panzer General engine.
- Armageddon: A turn-based computer strategy game, using the Panzer Corps engine, from Slitherine Games, about the Second War for Armageddon involving various Space Marine chapters, Imperial Guard & Orks.
The game as a whole provides examples of:
Thought for the Day: Even a man who has nothing can still have faith. Even a troper who has nothing can still browse indexes.