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Warhammer 40,000 Armies Overview

For a new player looking to first start playing Warhammer 40,000, or even an existing player looking to for a change, there is often nothing more difficult that selecting an army to play. Different people also have different concerns when looking at the armies: some are mostly interested in the background (or 'fluff'), others the visual style of the army, others still the way the army plays. How current the army is can also be a concern. Many people will prefer to hold off on starting an army that is going to be updated in the near future. The purpose of this article is to provide a basic overview of each army to help people to find the army that suits them best.

Codex: Black Templars

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Codex: Blood Angels

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Codex: Chaos Daemons

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Codex: Chaos Space Marines

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Codex: Daemonhunters

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Codex: Dark Angels

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Codex: Dark Eldar

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Codex: Eldar

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Codex: Imperial Guard

Background: The Imperial Guard are the regular army of humanity - a vast force composed of countless millions of men from all the worlds of the Imperium. While an individual guardsman is just a man with a lasgun, he is backed up by heavy tanks, powerful artillery and of course, countless numbers. Every world in the Imperium is required to raise regiments for the Imperial Guard, which leads to a huge variety of different tactics and uniforms, from the Rambo-esque Catachan Jungle Fighters to the Death Korps of Krieg, who specialise in siege and trench warfare.

Models: There is a huge variety in the Imperial Guard model range, as there are a huge numbers of different worlds your army may be from. Two of these uniform schemes have been worked up into full plastic armies, the Cadians (modern day/Starship Trooper uniform) and the Catachans (Rambo/vietnam uniform), and of course these can be used to represent other worlds. In addition, for those who want to spend money, metal ranges are available for the Valhallan Ice Warriors (WW1/2 Russian-style greatcoats), the Tallarn Desert Raiders (Lawrence of Arabia style tribesmen), the Armageddon Steel Legion (WW2 Gasmasked Mechanised Infantry), the Vostroyan Firstborn (Czarist Russia/steampunk) and the Mordian Iron Guard (modern US dress/parade-ground uniform). Further to this, Forge World produce resin models for the Elysian Drop Troops (high-tech jetpack armies) and the Death Korps of Krieg (WW1 trench and siege warfare). And if you REALLY hunt around the internet, you might be able to track down some Tanith First and Only (woodsmen in camo capes) or Praetorians (19th century British Zulu War-style).

The Imperial Guard are also the perfect army if you like constructing lots of tanks. They have a massive selection of armoured vehicles, all based around the Leman Russ and Chimera kits, from APC troop carriers to self-propelled artillery pieces. Forge World also produce a load more variant tanks, and many super-heavy vehicles for Apocalypse.

As you can see there's LOTS of scope for variety within the Imperial Guard, more so when you think that the Cadian and Catachan plastics can be combined with many of the plastic Warhammer Fantasy range to convert your own regiments. One thing to always bear in mind, though, is that whatever style of model you choose, you're going to need a LOT of them. Imperial Guard armies tend to have a lot of models.

Play Style: Imperial Guard are a shooting army rather than a close combat one. Their tactics often rely on large numbers of relatively low-powered guns, backed up by large numbers of tanks and artillery. The typical IG army balances large numbers of troops some high-powered, centrepiece models. Imperial Guard are also organised into a rigid hierarchy of command. Instead of selecting squads individually, the basic Guardsman is selected as part of a Platoon, which may include a number of squads, led by a Command squad, and supported by heavy weapon and special weapon squads. The Command squads are able to issue orders to the squads near them to give them special ablities.

Guard are not known for their high morale, and so their armies are built extensively around the proximity of Command squads, banners, and Commissars. Commissars are political officers who will shoot the squad leader if their squad attempts to fall back.

Their armies also include a lot of 'specialist' units which can add character or an edge to the army. Rough Riders and Ogryns are great as a close combat counter-attack, while Ratling snipers can Infiltrate ahead of the force. They also have squads such as Veterans and Stormtroopers, which can be tooled up with lots of special weapons and given special deployment rules.

Future: The 6ed Imperial Guard codex is one of the more recent ones to be released by GW. As such, they're quite up to date and won't be having another Codex soon... although GW is putting out codices faster than we can read them so who knows?

Codex: Necrons

BACKGROUND: Necrons are a mysterious and powerful force. billions of years old, driven by there masters the C'tan, they aim to harvest every soul in the universe. even the most basic warrior is made from incredibly durable living metal. it is almost indestructible, and can self repair even from the most devastating of weapons.

MODELS: Necrons are one of the hardest armies to play with. they have one of the oldest codex's in use, but for an experianced player is almost unstoppable. The signature Armour of the necrons is a skeleton, and so is fairly easy to paint, using just a few drybrushes. but most of the HQ, elites, fast attack and heavy support are metal, and so very expensive. PLAY STYLE: a very hard army to use effectively, some of the best styles is a highly mobile army.

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Codex: Orks

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Background: There has always been a green shadow cast over all armies in the universe, this shadow is a green tide known as the Orks. Orks have plagued the Imperium since it's founding, always posing a threat. Scattered throughout the galaxy in numbers beyond imagination, Orks have always, and will always, want only one thing: a good fight. Orks feel they must be fighting someone at all times, and if there's no one to fight, they'll fight each other (Orks even have two gods Gork and Mork seemingly for the sole purpose to fight over which one is better.) Occasionally, a big enough ork will come along, uniting everyone to his banner through the art of war, growing larger and larger in number until one massive Waaagh! has begun. a Waaagh! is part holy crusade, part euthanization, all fun and you never want to be on the recieving end of one. Orks will throw hoards upon hoards of themselves into close combat turning a fight into one big bar brawl until the day is won or they're all dead. It's an Orks life!

Models: The orks have a fantastic set of models ranging from the frontline boyz and the Nobs (standing for Nobility) who lead them into battle, to the weedy grots (that do everything the orks don't want to) to the massive tanks and war trukks that allow the orks to fight, be shootier, and go faster! There are also a good number of models depicting heroes in the ork army that amass great numbers of orks to thier banner to this day.

Play style: The orks are outrageously simplistic in nature. the standard ork boyz are 6 pts. apiece, and get four attacks on the charge at strength 4! This means that an horde of 10 boyz will typically be rolling 40 dice with a good chance to hit and kill almost everyone you face!

"What's the catch?" you may be asking, well friend I'll tell you: The orks may have a toughness better than the average human, but any gun that hits and wounds almost any model in your army will kill it, so although a unit has 30 boyz to spare, you don't want them caught in the middle of an open filed by a group of snipers 4 feet away.

Another problem Orks have is their ballistic skill. It has been said that orks can't hit the broad side of a barn from the inside of the barn, as statistically only 1 out of every three boyz will even hit anything, let alone wound or penetrate armor. But don't let that stop you from fielding an ork army, as orks are very forgiving. If you field a horde of 30 boyz (The maximum size and the most typical fielded) you can lose 18 boyz, still be fearless and deliver 48 attacks on the charge and that's all without a Nob at the head of the unit! Even some of your most basic units have a base of 2 attacks, meaning 3 on the charge.

Another thing orks excel in is vehicles. Anything that goes faster, they can slap a gun onto and ram into the enemy line is okay in the ork book! A battlewagon or looted wagon can give you some extra mobile firepower for those pesky armored units. And warbikes or a trukk can be a great way to zoom you footsloggin' boyz right up to the enemy line getting your boyz where they can best be used, and where they are happiest, all while laying down a hail of cover fire.

In Conclusion orks are a fantastic close combat oriented horde army that can be very forgiving of tactical mistakes and very fun to play.

Future: The latest ork codex came out just before the 5th edition codex with all the fifth edition rules in mind, so we'll be set with this version of the greenskins for a while.

Codex: Space Marines

Background: The flagship 40k force, the Adeptus Astartes are the elite fighting force of the Imperium. Genetically engineered, morally unquestionable warrior monks, each Space Marine is a hero compared to a normal man, with decades or even centuries of battlefield experience. The Astartes are organised into Chapters, each of which is a completely autonomous fighting force, with it's own forges, medical facilities, training facilities, fleets and heraldry and color scheme. The Chapters organise themselves according to the strict rules of the Codex Astartes, which makes them the perfect balanced strike force, although individual Chapters may emphasise some parts of it more than others.

Models: Space Marines are designed to be the perfect starter army. Practically every model is available in modern, well-sculpted plastic, and they have a good range in stock in nearly every store. The signature power armour of the Space Marines and its large, smooth plates means that they can be a very good army for people who are new to the hobby - their color schemes are often simple, bright single colors. The Chapter organisation means that you can easily pick a new, simple scheme to make your army stand out.

Play Style: One of the easiest armies to use effectively, as the typical Space Marine is a great all rounder. The Space Marine codex emphasises balanced forces, but still allows you to tailor specific assault, shooting or mechanised armies if you so wish. Because of the high points cost of individual marines, Space Marine armies can be quite small in terms of model count (another advantage to the new player). The more popular 'extreme' builds include the Land Raider Assault, using lots of Terminator squads and Land Raiders, and the Drop Pod Assault, where much of the army arrives from Deep Strike. For more extreme deviations from the 'balanced, all round' force, see the Space Marine variant armies such as Black Templars, Space Wolves and Dark Angels.

Future: As the flagship force, Space Marines are always the first army to be updated in any version of the game. They were the first army to have a 5ed codex available, so they won't be updated for a few years now, but their future is set in stone.

Codex: Space Wolves

Background: The Space Wolves are similar to other Space Marine Chapters through equipment and engineering. Otherwise, they are a force apart. Brutal, violent, and cunning. Warriors without peer even before they become Space Marines, Fenrisians live on the Death World of Fenris, home of the Fang, the headquarters of the Space Wolves. Once a warrior has proven themselves to the Sky Warriors, as the Wolves are called by the native Fenrisians, They are taken by the Wolf Priests to the Fang to train. Afterwards, they are enhanced by the Canis Helix, which will change them into Space Wolves and give them enhanced senses of smell and hearing, but at a terrible price. Every Space Wolf has the ability of losing themselves in combat, not knowing who they, the enemy, or their friends are. Think of Berserks from the Norse society. They are forever lost in this curse, known as the Wulfen, and the only cure is death in combat.

Models: The Space Wolves have a large range of models, made even larger by a creative mind. Each box of Wolves comes with extra Wolfy bits, such as extra heads and torsos. So you can turn an Ultramarine Squad into a Grey Hunters squad. Got Terminators you want Wolfified? Wolf Guard Terminators come with enough heads and extra bits to do that for you. The Vehicles are the same as all other chapters and can be made wolfy with bits from Space Wolf specific boxes.

Playstyle: Space Wolves have a variety of playstyles, and more are being found out all the time. You could play a Las/Plas Razorback Spam with Long Fangs as there designated drivers. Although many articles have been written about the abilities of The Wolves within 24" of the enemy. Read up on articles about them, find out different styles of play, and run them the way you like. Future: ?

Codex: Tau Empire

Background: A relatively new power in the galaxy, the Tau Empire exist on the Eastern Fringe of the Imperium, and fight to expand their empire and for their philosophy of the 'Greater Good'. Every Tau, whatever their caste, has a role to play in the Greater Good, and the Tau are highly dynamic and technologically advanced race, utilising high-powered weaponry and all-enclosing battlesuits in combat. They are led by the Ethereals, spiritual and political leaders who have complete devotion from the rest of the Tau. They are also the only 40k power to include other alien races in their empire, and so their forces include the savage Kroot and the nimble Vespid.

Models: Tau are a relatively recent addition to the 40k game, and so their range of models and units isn't quite as diverse as some of the other forces. However, almost all their forces are available in plastic. Like Space Marines, the Tau models can be very forgiving to the new player, as they have large, smooth areas of armour, and take bright coloring well. For more exprienced painters, Tau are one of the few armies that use modern camo patterns as well.

Play Style: The major factor affecting the way the Tau army plays is close combat - almost all Tau are awful in a melee. Thankfully, they have incredibly powerful guns and incredibly mobile vehicles which more than make up for this, and so the two main ways to play Tau are as a static gunline, or a swift mechanised force (able to redeploy quickly to keep away from close combat).

Another interesting concept in the Tau codex is that of mutually supporting units. For example, Tau Pathfinders are able to scout forward and 'mark' enemy units. The big guns of the army can then home in on these markers and increase their chances of hitting. The Tau also make use of artificial intelligences (Drones) which can be added to most units, to increase firepower or provide an energy shield.

The Tau can be quite a good starting army to play, but their special rules mean that a little more effort is required to learn all the additions and exceptions the Tau list allows you.

Future: The Tau currently play with a 4ed Codex. Though they were previously regarded as a 'top-tier' list, their effectiveness has dropped somewhat in 5ed. There are no plans for a 5ed Tau codex to be released any time soon.

Codex: Tyranids

Background: The great maw that consumes all has turned its attentions to this galaxy and found it rich in biomatter. The Tyanid Hive Fleets are great living organisms that are controlled by a hive mind and capable of only one thing: harvesting all useful matter from a planet, before moving onto the next. This biomatter is then used to diversify and, ultimately, strengthen the Tyranid race. The never-ending tide may be occasionally diverted, or even stalled, but it can never be stopped.

Models: The Tyranid are quite well supported, with a large percentage of their army being available in plastic. These are a mix of third and fourth edition sculpts. They also have one of the best Battle Forces around, as it contains a great selection of models that are all useful to the majority of players. They are a great army to paint for, while many in number, they can be given an effective paint scheme in a very short space of time. Alternatively, more dedicated painters are provided an excellent canvas to express themselves with. They are also great from a modelling perspective, as Games Workshop provides everything the new player needs to model their broods, but the fluff leaves a lot of room for expression and individualisation from those who enjoy it.

Play Style: The army has quite a few options for play. It allows for literally endless swarms of small creatures, or, at the other end of the spectrum, a small force made of powerful monstrous creatures. Each player can adjust between these two extremes to craft the force that works best for them. While the force provides some of the game's best assault elements, it is largely a mid-range shooting-oriented army. The most popular build would be `Nidzilla', which focuses heavily on monstrous creatures, with only a touch of support from the smaller bugs. `Stealer Shock' is also quite popular, using large numbers of Genestealers to tear the enemy to shreds in close combat.

Future: The current Codex is from fourth edition, and there are mumblings of an update in the works. No release window has been confirmed, but they will almost certainly be updated again in the next year or two.

Codex: Witch Hunters

Background: One of the Imperial forces, the Sisters of Battle make up the militant arm of the Ecclesiarchy. Having access to the best equipment the Imperium has to offer, the Sisters stride into battle in Power Armour and wielding Boltguns. They defend relics, fight holy wars and protect the faithful against that which is an affront to The Emperor: the mutant, the heretic and the xenos. To this end, they bring holy bolt and purifying flame upon their foes, protected by their faith. At times, the Ecclesiarchy will also deploy other horrors to the battle field, such as Arco-Flagellents and Penitent Engines --- heretics who will atone for their crimes only through their deaths. Codex: Witch Hunters also allows access to Inquisitors of the Ordo Hereticus, the arm of the Inquisition concerned with heretics and mutants, such as Psykers. An Inquisitor is also able to bring Assassins to the field of battle.

Models: This is an all-metal army, so it is one of the most expensive forces you can collect. In addition, many of the models are from second edition, while the rest are third, but it also has arguably the best-looking line in the game. Gorgeous, detailed sculpts that are a joy to paint and stand-out on the table. While challenging, the army also provides many opportunities for those interested in the modelling aspect of the hobby. Inquisitors and their retinue typically require extensive modelling work and tend to feature a personal touch between different players. The entire range is direct order only, so it can be a pain to get what you want. The over-all feel of the army can be quite varied. A Sisters of Battle force can be a uniform sea of disciplined-looking soldiers, whereas an Inquisitorial force could look more eclectic, as if the varied forces were gathered from every edge of the Imperium.

Play Style: The most common build from this Codex is the all-Sisters list. This typically involves a sea of transports (Rhinos and Immolators), filled with Sisters armed with Boltguns, Flamers and Meltaguns. This wave of armour surges forward to get the Sisters into Rapid Fire range, where they can mince Elite squads in a single turn of shooting. Drive-by Flamings/Melta-blastings are also a common theme in this build. This is also the best way to make use of the `Acts of Faith' mechanic in the Codex. Sisters can perform a limited number of `minor miracles' on the battle field, such as making their save invulnerable for a single phase. The more units of Sisters you field, the more of these you can perform in a game.

The next most common is the Inquisition list. An Inquisitor with Inquisitorial Stormtroopers and possibly some Assassins. This list may also include limited selections from the Sisters, but not always. Most typically, the Inquisitor and his retinue will provide long-range fire support, while the Stormtroopers run around in Chimeras, similar to the Sisters list.

Finally, we have the `freak show' list. More of a fun list than a competitive build, it makes use of the less reliable elements of the Codex, supported by a mix of Inquisition and/or Sisters units. Potentially, this list could be devastating, but its key units are quite expensive and highly random.

Codex: Sisters of Battle also allows you to ally with or induct elements from the other Imperial Armies, allowing you to mix-and-match to some degree. For example, you could Induct a Platoon of Imperial Guard to provide a solid gunline, run some Sisters of Battle as your mechanised regiments, then have allied Grey Knight Terminators deep strike into the enemy lines. Alternatively, you could play your regular Space Marine army, but bring in an allied Inquisitor and his Stormtroopers to hold the line while your Marines do what they do best.

Future: The current edition of this Codex is from third edition. Andy Hoare is known to be working on the next edition of this book, but the release window is not currently known.


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