Warhammer 40,000 (informally known as Warhammer 40K or just 40K) is a tabletop produced by , set in a universe. Warhammer 40,000 was created by in 1987 as the futuristic companion to Warhammer Fantasy Battle, sharing many game mechanics. Expansions for Warhammer 40,000 are released from time to time, often to facilitate a certain sort of game, such as Cities of Death and Apocalypse, which give rules for urban and large-scale combat, respectively. The game is currently in its fifth edition.

Players assemble and paint individual 28 mm (1.1 in) scale (approximately 1:56) that represent futuristic , and . These figurines are collected to comprise squads in armies that can be pitted against those of other players. Each player brings a roughly equal complement of units to a tabletop battlefield with handmade or purchased terrain. The players then decide upon a scenario, ranging from simple skirmishes to complex battles involving defended objectives and reinforcements. The models are physically moved across the table and the actual distance between models plays a role in the outcome of combat. Play is , with various outcomes determined by tables and the roll of dice. Battles may last anywhere from a half hour to several days, and battles may be strung together to form campaigns. Some game and hobby stores host games periodically, and official tournaments are held on a regular basis.

Warhammer 40,000's space fantasy setting spans a vast fictional universe. Its various factions and races include the (the human race 38,000 years hence), the (similar to Warhammer Fantasy ), and the (similar to Elves in Warhammer Fantasy Battle). These races, along with their playing rules, are covered in the game's rule books and supplemental army codexes, along with articles in the Games Workshop magazines, White Dwarf and Imperial Armour. Lines of these miniatures are produced by and .

The Warhammer 40,000 setting is used for several related tabletop games, video games, and various works of fiction, including licensed works published by , a subsidiary of Games Workshop.


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The Warhammer 40,000 game world is a that takes place in a universe. [2] Set in the 41st millennium, most of the major storylines that provide the backdrop and history span over millennia.

Central to the Warhammer 40,000 universe are the , somewhat combinations of genetically enhanced super-soldiers with world-destroying firepower, and crusading knights with an unswerving, fanatical loyalty to the God-Emperor. While Space Marines act as the special forces of the Imperium, the bulk of mankind's military power is found in the , which consist of billions of regiments, each thousands of soldiers strong. [3] Their quintessential opposition is the , who betrayed the Emperor during the , led by Warmaster Horus.

Much of the is controlled by the , though it is not the only galactic power. Other races include the , a barbaric humanoid green-skinned semi-fungoid race; the , survivors of an ancient fallen civilization reminiscent of classic fantasy Elves; [4] the , a young and technologically-sophisticated civilization of aliens that work for the ; the , soulless living metal constructs tricked into slavery by star gods; and the , an all-consuming, all-organic, bio-engineered, extragalactic hive-swarm. [5] Each of these races have playable armies. Other playable armies include the Witch Hunters and Daemonhunters, organizations within the Imperium, as well as the fallen Dark Eldar and the capricious Daemons of Chaos. [6]


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Games are played between two or more players, referred to as "gamers", [7] each of whom fields a group of units they have purchased, painted and assembled. The size and composition of the groups, referred to as armies, are determined on a points system, with each unit (figurine) assigned a number of points proportional to its worth on the battlefield (a better unit or model is worth more points). Before a game, the gamers agree on how many points will be used as the maximum army size and each assembles an army up to that maximum limit. The composition of these armies are usually constrained by rules contained within the Warhammer 40,000 rulebook, as well as in several army-specific codexes. These rules and preparations are generally taken seriously among gamers. [8] Common game sizes are between 500 and 2,000 points and played on tables four feet in width and four to eight feet in length, but it is possible to play much larger games given the time and inclination (larger point battles tend to be played by multiple gamers on larger tables). [9]

At the onset of each battle, a set of rules and goals, specific to that combat, are determined; these are collectively referred to as a scenario. Gamers have basic goals, which range from the capture of one or more objectives, to simply destroying the enemy. Additional rules may include fighting at night or other factors that affect troops' abilities. These scenarios may be straightforward and take only a half hour to complete, or they may be complex and require several hours to finish. [10] A series of scenarios may be organized into a campaign, where two or more players fight against each other in a number of battles. These campaigns may feature their own special rules, and are typically tied together by a storyline, which might evolve based on the results of each scenario. [11] Scenarios and campaigns are designed by Games Workshop and printed in the codexes, rulebooks or White Dwarf. Alternately, gamers may design their own scenarios or build new campaigns from premade scenarios. [12] Play is divided into phases where each player moves, shoots, and/or engages in close combat with various units. In the movement phase, a player determines the direction and distance individual units will travel. Some units can travel further than others in a single move, and terrain may inhibit movement. In the shooting phase, the player has the opportunity to make long-distance attacks with units that are within range of the enemy. In the Assault Phase, units may engage in close-quarters fighting with enemy units in close proximity. After one player completes all three phases play is turned over to the opposing player. Contingent events such as weapon hits and misses are determined by the roll of a and unit characteristics. [13] A specialty die called a scatter die is used to determine deviation for less accurate events such as artillery barrages or reserve units deploying onto the battlefield through irregular means. [14] Unlike some , Warhammer 40,000 is not played on a or any kind of pre-defined gameboard. Instead, units can be placed at almost any physical location on the table. Range between and among units is important in all three phases of play. Distance is measured in inches using a ruler. Determination of , is made at "model's eye view"—gamers may bend down to observe the board as model would. [15] Victory is determined by points, awarded for completing objectives and/or destroying enemy units. Benjamin Fox, in "The Performance of War Games", argues that player interaction on the battlefield reflects all portions of a "performance": script, drama and theater. He compares war games like Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40,000 to such as Dungeons & Dragons and notes the dynamic nature of battles, where each conflict is different from the last. [16]

Terrain is also an important part of play. Although Games Workshop sells terrain kits, many hobbyists prefer to make their own elaborate and unique set pieces. [17] Common household items like soft drink cans, coffee cups, packing pieces, and pill bottles can be transformed

into ruined cathedrals, alien habitats, or other terrain with the addition of plastic cards, putty, and a bit of patience and skill. [18]


Like Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000 involves both actual table-top play and the "meta-game" of preparing models and armies for play. [19] For many gamers the preparation of models is sometimes more important than the actual gameplay itself. [20] [21] Gamers purchase the figurines from Games Workshop and then assemble and paint them before they use them in battle. The painting itself lends a sense of authenticity to the owner of the figurines, indicating how serious he or she is about the hobby. [22] Depending on the number of units, it can take weeks or months to complete an army, this time may include modification of the original paint schemes and even model poses to personalize each army. [23] [24] [20]

In official tournaments, it is common to mandate that all of a player's forces be fully painted and assembled, though in more casual games only assembly of the model is required for play. [25] Contests for best painted armies are occasionally held by Games Workshop at and by game stores or wargaming organizations at various conventions. [26] [27] [28] Before such tournaments, retouching an already completed army can take weeks. Craftsmanship is an important element of play, both for gamers' own experience and tournament entries. Some tournaments include competition between gamers where points are awarded for the overall appearance of each player's army as well as for sportsmanship and victory in individual scenarios. [29]

[]Rogue Trader and following editionsEdit

[]Rogue Trader (1987)Edit

Main article: Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader

The first edition of the game, Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, was published in 1987. [30] Game designer created the original rules set (based on the contemporary ) alongside the Warhammer 40,000 gameworld. The game play of Rogue Trader was heavily oriented toward rather than strict wargaming. This original version came as a very detailed, though rather jumbled, rulebook, which made it most suitable for fighting small . [31] Much of the composition of the units was determined randomly, by rolling . A few elements of the setting (bolters, lasguns, frag grenades, Terminator armour) can be seen in a set of earlier wargaming rules called Laserburn (produced by the now defunct company, Tabletop Games) written by Bryan Ansell. These rules were later expanded by both Ansell and Richard Halliwell (both of whom ended up working for Games Workshop), although the rules were not a precursor to Rogue Trader. [32]

In addition, supplemental material was continually published in White Dwarf magazine, which provided rules for new units and models. Eventually, White Dwarf provided proper "army lists" that could be used to create larger and more coherent forces than were possible in the main rulebook. These articles were from time to time released in expansion books along with new rules, background materials and illustrations. [citation needed]

[]Second Edition (1993)Edit

The second edition of "Warhammer 40,000" was published in late 1993 and responded to the desire by Games Workshop to appeal to a younger fanbase. This new course for the game was forged under the direction of editor . The second edition came in a boxed set that included and miniatures, scenery, dice, and the main rules. An expansion box set titled Dark Millennium was later released, which included rules for psychic powers. Another trait of the game was the attention given to "special characters" who had access to equipment and abilities beyond those of others (the earlier edition only had three generic 'heroic' profiles for each army: champion, minor and major hero).

[]Third Edition (1998)Edit

The third edition of the game was released in 1998, and like the second edition, concentrated on streamlining the rules for larger battles. [33] Third edition rules were notably simpler, and less prone to give characters abilities only on the roll of a die. [34] The rulebook was available alone, or as a boxed set with miniatures of Space Marines and the newly-introduced . The system of army 'codexes' continued in third edition.

Towards the end of the third edition, three new armies were introduced: the Tau race and two armies of the : the Daemonhunters of the Ordo Malleus, and the Witchhunters of the Ordo Hereticus; elements of the latter two armies had appeared before in supplementary material (such as Realm of Chaos and Codex:Sisters of Battle). At the end of the third edition, these Inquisition armies were re-released with all new artwork and army lists. The release of the Tau coincided with a rise in popularity for the game in the United States. [35]

[]Fourth Edition (2004)Edit

The fourth edition of Warhammer 40,000 was released in 2004. [36] This edition did not feature as many major changes as prior editions, and was "backwards compatible" with each army's third edition codex. The fourth edition was released in three forms: the first was a standalone hardcover version, with additional information on painting, scenery building, and background information about the Warhammer 40,000 universe. The second was a boxed set, called Battle For Macragge, which included a compact softcover version of the rules, scenery, dice, templates, and and miniatures. The third was a limited collector's edition. Battle for Macragge is a 'game in a box', targeted primarily at beginners. Battle for Macragge is based on the Tyranid invasion of the Ultramarines' homeworld, Macragge. An expansion to this was released called The Battle Rages On!, which featured new scenarios and units, like the Tyranid Warrior.

[]Fifth Edition (2008)Edit

The fifth edition of Warhammer 40,000 was released on July 12, 2008. While there are significant tactical differences between the fourth and fifth editions, the general rule set shares numerous similarities. Codex books designed prior to the fifth edition are still compatible, albeit with some changes to how those armies function. [37] The replacement for the previous edition's Battle for Macragge starter set is called The Assault on Black Reach, which features a pocket sized rulebook (containing the full ruleset but omitting the background and hobby sections of the full sized rulebook), and starter Ork and Space Marine armies.

New additions to the rules include the ability for infantry models to "Go to Ground", granting them a bonus to the they receive from hiding behind cover. Also introduced is the ability to run, whereby infantry have the option to forgo shooting for a turn in order to cover more ground. Vehicle damage has been simplified, and vehicles may now ram other vehicles - especially handy with vehicles designated as tanks, though not exclusive to just these types of vehicle. [37]

[]Supplements and expansionsEdit

There are many variations to the rules and army lists that are available for use, typically with an opponent's consent. [38] These rules are found in the Games Workshop publication , on the Games Workshop website, or in the publications.

The rules of Warhammer 40,000 are designed for games between 1000 and 2000 points, with the limits of a compositional framework called the Force Organisation Chart making games with larger point values difficult to play. In response to player comments, the Apocalypse rules expansion was introduced to allow 3000+ point games to be played. Players might field an entire 100-man company of rather than the smaller detachment of around 30-40 typically employed in a standard game. Apocalypse also contains rules for using larger war machines such as . [39]

Cities of Death (the sequel to Codex Battlezone: Cityfight) introduces rules for and , and so-called "stratagems", including traps and fortification. It also has sections on modelling city terrain and provides examples of armies and army lists modelled around the theme of urban combat. [40]

Reception and growth

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Warhammer 40,000 has proven successful for Games Workshop, which boasts a revenue of over 50 million [41] . Since its creation in 1987, Games Workshop has moved to purchase or create each element in the supply chain for their product. This has resulted in their purchase of a miniature production company as well as the 1998 purchase of TJA Tooling, a company that creates elements for injection molding machines. [42] In 1993, the company sold 20 million miniatures (although this figure includes the sales of Warhammer Fantasy Battle figurines) and operated seven outlets in the United States. [43] Tournaments have been played in the United States since 1990 and regular game sessions are held in game stores in both Europe and North America. [44] [45] [46] Warhammer 40,000 has proven popular in Australia, too, developing what the referred to as a "cult following". [47] In 2001 a Warhammer 40,000 tournament in drew 40,000 attendees. [10] Games Workshop does not advertise Warhammer 40,000, instead relying on word of mouth to bring in new players. [48] [49]

At the 1994 , the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design gave the for Best Miniatures Rules of 1993 to the second edition of Warhammer 40,000. [50] At the 1997 Expo, they gave the award for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Figure Miniatures Series of 1996 to Jes Goodwin's Warhammer 40,000 Chaos range. [51] At the 2004 Origins, Warhammer 40,000 was inducted into the Academy's Hall of Fame. [52]

[]Spin-offs and related fictionEdit

Main article: Warhammer 40,000 spin-offs

Games Workshop has expanded the Warhammer 40,000 universe over the years to include several spinoff games and fictional works. This expansion began in 1987, when Games Workshop asked Scott Rohan to write the first series of "literary tie-ins". This eventually led to the creation of Black Library, the publishing arm of Games Workshop, in 1997. The books published relate centrally to the backstory in the Warhammer universe. Black Library also publishes Warhammer 40,000 . [53]

Several popular miniature game spin-offs were also created, including Battlefleet Gothic, Epic 40,000, Inquisitor, Gorkamorka and Necromunda. A , Dark Millennium, was launched in October 2005 by Games Workshop subsidiary, . The story behind the card game begins at the end of the arc in the game storyline and contains four factions: the Imperium, Orks, Eldar and Chaos. [54]

During the 1990s, Games Workshop partnered with (SSI) to produce squad-based tactical games such as Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate as well as turn-based strategic simulations like Warhammer 40,000: Rites of War. [55] [56]

Games Research licensed Warhammer 40,000 to in 2001 and produced a titled Fire Warrior. [57] The game received generally mediocre reviews, including a 6.0 out of 10.0 from . [58] The later releases from THQ were games: Dawn of War, Dawn of War: Winter Assault, Dawn of War: Dark Crusade,and Dawn of War: Soulstorm. These were considerably more popular and well received, with Dawn of War netting a 4.5 out of 5 from . [59] The sequel to Dawn of War, has been released for beta testing.

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