5 February 2024
What do you need to start playing Warhammer 40K?
So, you want to start playing Warhammer 40K? There are lots of articles out there claiming to have all the answers, and most of them will rehash the same old advice that basically amounts to some variation of "you'll need the rulebook, your army's codex and at least a 1,000 point army". This advice is frankly lazy. Yes, you can get started with Warhammer 40K this way, but it's A) no longer the only route into the game, B) certainly not the most beginner-friendly route into the game, and C) unnecessarily expensive.
What do you actually need?
The core rules of Warhammer 40K are now free, as are the basic rules for each of the armies in the game. If you want to get into the game as a beginner these free rules are the only version you need. Pick up the hefty Warhammer 40K Core Book and your army's codex later, if you feel you really want to and/or can afford them. But they're by no means essential - not in the current edition of the game, which is deliberately designed to lower these barriers to entry.
Besides the free rules, here are the things that are actually essential - miniatures, a bucket-load of six-sided dice and a tape measure. Assuming you're going to be playing in a place where a tabletop battlefield and terrain are provided for you, that's it.
Dice and a tape measure are pretty straightforward and self-explanatory, but what about miniatures? What faction should you collect? How many miniatures do you need? Do they need to be painted? Wih headaches about rules and books removed, these are the real questions that a newcomer to the game needs to grapple with.
The important bit: Choosing your miniatures
The age-old advice regarding which faction to pick is "pick the miniatures that you like the look of and think you'll enjoy painting". For the vast majority of people this is excellent advice and pretty much all you need to consider. However, if you're the sort of person for whom their enjoyment of the hobby is very dependent on how often they win games, you should do some research into which factions are performing well in tournaments currently - but be aware that this is likely to have completely changed by the time you actually get an army to the tabletop, so it's pretty much a fool's errand. You've been warned!
For those less hell-bent on stomping their fellow players into the ground, the number of miniatures to choose from within each faction can still be daunting. Fortunately, there's a simple way to make your first purchase and start playing the game quickly, without tying yourself up in knots - just pick up your faction's Combat Patrol box.
The current 10th edition of Warhammer 40K has an excellent game mode called "Combat Patrol", which is perfect for new players or for anyone wanting to try out a new army at a smaller scale before making a big commitment. Essentially, this game mode balances every Combat Patrol Box against every other Combat Patrol box, giving you pretty much the full experience with an affordable starter bundle of miniatures. And the great thing is, from here you can continue adding to and expanding your force in any way you like. You don't have to start with a Combat Patrol box, but for most newcomers it's a no-brainer.
A word about building and painting...
We've now covered everything you need to start playing Warhammer 40K... sort of. There's just one thing remaining, and that's everything else you need to build and paint your miniatures - clippers, hobby knife, glue, paints, brushes and an endless litany of other hobby paraphernalia.
This stuff is so ubiquitous to the hobby that it's often forgotten about completely in the many, many 'getting started' guides out there. Your miniatures will come out of the box in numerous pieces of grey plastic spread across a nightmarishly complex and oddly-arranged frame. Needless to say, you can't play with them in this condition. At the very least you need to assemble them, and this means that you'll need clippers to get them off the frame, plastic glue to stick the bits together, and (not 100% essential but strongly recommended) a hobby knife to cut and scrape away excess plastic.
The question then becomes, do you need to paint your miniatures in order to play Warhammer 40K? The short answer is "no". One you've assembled them they're able to function as the game pieces they're designed to be, and there's nothing to stop you playing the game. But few people enjoy playing with or against an army of unpainted miniatures, so it's very likely that you'll want to paint them eventually, even if you don't technically need to. Painting is too big a topic to cover exhaustively here, but go check out YouTube for tutorials - there are bound to be several that cover different approaches to the miniatures in your new collection, and they'll tell you exactly which paints you should pick up to achieve (or at least attempt) the same result.
So there you have it - aa non-nonsense guide to everything you need to start playing Warhammer 40K. Good luck, and enjoy your battles amongst the horrors of the 41st millennium!