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What is ‘Warhammer 40K’?

Tabletop Space Marine units of Warhammer 40k

So you wanna dive into the dark stuff, huh?

You wanna get darker than the dark days of the Covid-19 dating scene? Darker than the god that made all those Dark Materials? You want something darker than Vantablack? Darker than The Dark Knight? Darker than sin? Darker than the fiery mouth of Hell itself? Darker than what you would see if you duct-taped your eyes shut, put a black bag over your head, and jumped down a mineshaft?

Warhammer 40K is your answer.

What Is Warhammer 40k?

Warhammer 40k (or 40,000 if you’re nasty) is a infinite universe-sized expansion upon the original tabletop Warhammer game. The first version of the game was Warhammer Fantasy Battle, a tabletop miniature wargame designed by Games Workshop in 1983. The world of Warhammer is a dark fantasy land of humans, elves, orcs, and other magical creatures who vie for power and control of the world. The game is played using detailed tabletop miniatures that represent these various factions.

But do players just bash these miniatures together saying “pew-pew” and “argh”? No indeed, Warhammer is much more sophisticated than that. The game features a series of complex rules similar to Dungeons and Dragons, and players engage in actual strategy. Of course, if things get too heated they might just throw the miniatures at each other anyway.

But I digress. We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of the rules later. So now we know basically what Warhammer is, but what is Warhammer 40k? Basically what happened was the creators of the Warhammer game wanted to figure out a way to make Warhammer even more metal. So what did they do? They thought to themselves “what woulds happen if we set the fantasy world of Warhammer 40,000 years in the future?”

And the most brutal universe ever was born.

Oh god do I even want to know?



The universe of Warhammer 40k is MASSIVE. I’m talking BILLIONS of planets that are ALL INHABITED by various forms of life. I could write 12 articles going into the details of the universe, and I still would have just scratched the surface. So here’s the summary: The game is set in the 41st millennium, a sinister future where humanity spans a vast galactic empire known as the Imperium of Man. The Imperium is locked in a perpetual state of war, and battles numerous threats including other alien species, the demonic forces of an outer dimension called The Warp, and human factions that are heretical to the Imperium.

Outside of the Imperium, the other races (now alien species) of the original Warhammer are also present. The Eldar, a race who once ruled the galaxy, now live in exile in massive spaceships after their empire collapsed due to hedonism and excess. Meanwhile the half animal/half fungal ork species roam the stars looking for planets to conquer. Worst of all are the Tyranids, a hive mind species of insect-like beings that are able to steal genetic material from other species, and use it in their quest consume all other life in the galaxy.

How is it played?

The game take place over multiple phases, and features an exhaustive amount of rules and regulations, which I will outline here. But be warned, if you thought D&D required commitment, Warhammer 40k is on another level. The game begin with building armies, setting up your battlefield.

Warhammer 40K sometimes incorporates objectives into gameplay in order to provide strategic goals and create a more realistic flow of gameplay. Players may be required to maintain control of certain areas, kill certain enemy units, or complete certain objectives to emerge victorious. Like the army sizes and terrain, conditions for victory are pre-agreed upon by players.

Warhammer 40K has a tome of a rulebook that details the mechanics and rules for each of element of the game. There are all sorts of different types of dice that players use, each governing a specific element of gameplay. So no, you can’t just throw them all at once and declare the Imperium victorious.

So there it is: Warhammer 40k in a nutshell. But inside that nutshell is one seriously thick, meathy-ass nut that will keep players endlessly entertained. Sorry, that metaphor was perhaps too grim even for Warhammer.

(featured image: Games Workshop)

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Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels in crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.