Warhammer 40,000 is a miniature wargame where players enact battles using miniature models of warriors and fighting vehicles. The battles take place on a tabletop model of a battlefield, which can include models of hills, trees, buildings, etcetera. The battles are resolved using dice and arithmetic.
The first edition of the rulebook was published in 1987. At the time of writing, the most recent release was the 2020 launch of the 9th edition rulebook.
Warhammer 40,000 is the world´s most popular miniature wargame and has inspired the creation of numerous other competing tabletop wargames. There are also releases that take place within the same fictional world as Warhammer 40,000. One example is Space Hulk, where the battles take place in a mass comprised of derelict space ships, asteroids and general space debris.
The setting for Warhammer 40,000
Most Warhammer 40,000 fiction is set in a science-fiction type space setting at the turn of the 42nd millennium. In addition to classic sci-fi tropes, this world is also home to plenty of elements borrowed from fantasy, such as Orks, Elves, magic, and daemonic possession. The so-called psykers have abilities that make them very similar to that of a high-fantasy wizard.
The basic premise for Warhammer 40,000 is that the human civilisation the built the Empire of Man has stagnated and is under attack from both hostile aliens wielding and various supernatural forces. There are no benevolent gods, only daemons and evil gods. The environment is violent and the general feel is one of pessimism. The heroes no longer believe in their ability turn the tide – they just want to slow down the decline.
According to Warhammer 40,000 co-creator Rick Priestly, the novels by J.R.R. Tolkien and H.P. Lovecraft have been a major influence on the setting of Warhammer 40,000, alongside Milton´s poem Paradise Lost, Frank Herbert´s Dune epic, and the British scifi-orientied comic magazine 2000 AD.
The source of magic in the Warhammer 40,000 world (”realspace”) is the Warp, a parallel universe filled with supernatural energy. All souls are tied to the Warp. The psykers are individuals with an especially strong connection to the Warp, which makes it possible for them to utilize energy from the Warp to do magic. Their abilities include clairvoyance, telepathy, mind control, and pyrokinesis. Humans need the psykers for a multitude of tasks, but also regard them as dangerous and untrustworthy creatures. Also, predators living in the Warp can use a psyker´s connection to travel to realspace in search of prey. Therefore, psykers must undergo training against Warp predators, and psykers who refuse to train or fail are executed. Psykers who pass their training are forced into servitude.
The rulebooks and miniature models required to play Warhammer 40,000 are sold by Games Workshop and its subsidiaries. A player will also need certain other materials, such as dice.
The models are not sold ready-to-play. Instead, players will buy a box of model parts and then do both assembly and painting themselves. Glue, acrylic paints, suitable tools, etcetera can be purchased from Games Workshop. Assembling and painting miniature models is typically a big part of the hobby for Warhammer aficionados.
A new player starting from scratch can expect to pay around 400 USD to obtain enough materials to participate in a proper game.
About Games Workshop
Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Age of Sigma were both created by Games Workshop (GW), a British manufacturer of miniature wargames. This company was established in 1975 by John Peake, Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson. Originally, GW focused on making wooden boards for games such as backgammon and mancala. Eventually, GW started importing Dungeons & Dragons to sell on the British market.