A Beginner’s Guide To Warhammer 40k – Part I

It’s time to introduce the world to another of my obsessions – the grim-dark future of Warhammer 40k.

First, there are a few words you need to know –

  1. The Warp/Chaos – The Warp is an alternate dimension that connects all of reality and enables faster-than-light travel. It is also the domain of Chaos Daemons and, worse yet, the four Gods that govern them –
    1. Khorne – (First as a tribute to one of my favorite hobby blogs, eternalhunt.wordpress.com) Khorne is the Chaos God of mindless slaughter. He resides on a throne of skulls, and his followers are mindless berserkers, so bent on adding skulls to the throne of their lord that, if overwhelmed, they’ll behead themselves as a final act of devotion. His daemons can inspire rage and violence in others, and particularly strong psychic impressions made by his followers have been known to transform entire worlds into bloodbaths.
    2. Slaanesh – Slaanesh is the Chaos God of, put kindly, excess, sensation, and forbidden pleasure, and he and Khorne are typically portrayed as opposites – Khorne indulges in the madness of war, while Slaanesh takes it to an art form. He’s possibly the most intellectually disturbing because, unlike Khorne or Nurgle (see #3), his followers and daemons tend to appear either colorblind or crosses between crabs and attractive women with excessive amounts of skin bared. His followers tend to seek to maximize their experience, seeking as much pleasure and pain as possible. This includes a penchant for combat drugs and sonic weapons, which leads some fans to jokingly call him the “God of Dubstep.” This idea of a faction dedicated to sonic weaponry is what brought me into the 40k fold.
    3. Nurgle – Nurgle is the God of Disease and Decay. Easily the most disgusting and difficult to imagine following of the Chaos Gods, his boons to his followers are diseases. Creepy. However, there is a method to this madness – because of their loyalty and the fact that he sustains them through such diseases, his followers turn into carriers, and a seemingly obvious weakness becomes a strength. This endless plague results in increased resilience in his followers, rendering them nearly impossible to kill.
    4. Tzeench – Tzeench is the God of Change and the idea that the universe will continue to exist in some form or another. However, his followers and Daemons have a collective obsession with fire and burning things. It’s an interesting contradiction, but hey, that’s Chaos for you. Other than that, however, he’s really not terribly interesting. He is viewed as an opposition to Nurgle.
    5. Collectively, Chaos could be called the bad guys. However, the fact that they’re constantly pulling against each other has prevented them from fully finishing off the Imperium of Man.
  2. Imperium of Man – Basically the galactic empire of humanity. Long ago there was an issue where machines became conscious which temporarily decimated the Imperium and left them highly suspicious of both aliens (typically called “Xenos”) and technology, which has led to the building and maintaining of any sort technology being fundamentally a cult. Actually, it’s literally called the “Cult Mechanicus.”

    There are far too many other factions to list, but major ones include the Astra Militarum (A.K.A. the Imperial Guard), comprised of the space-faring Navy and the ground units typically referred to as the Guard,

    the functionally independent Space Marines (more on them later),

    the Adeptus Ministorum (A.K.A. the Church and their army of women, called the Adepta Sororitas. That story perfectly summarizes the attitude of the 40k universe, I’ll have to find a link to a summary),

    and the Inquisition, which is more or less exactly what it sounds like.

  3. The Tau – A technologically advanced newcomer to the galactic scene, every player of the tabletop game (who doesn’t play Tau, obviously) hates the Tau. They are incredibly powerful, typically utilizing battlesuits to tower over their opponents and wield obscenely overpowered weaponry. Their society orbits around the concept of furthering “the Greater Good,” so they’re fundamentally Space Communists.
  4. The (Dark) Eldar – The Eldar are basically space elves. They were a massive empire prior to humanity’s expansion, but their own excess actually BIRTHED SLAANESH. They had so much luxury they created a Chaos God on accident. Oops. Since then they’ve split into two factions – the Craftworld Eldar, who attempt to fight Slaanesh, and the Dark Eldar, who keep him from consuming their souls/feed by torturing others. Eek. There’s another faction called the Harlequins that is also Eldar, but I don’t know nearly enough about them to write anything.
  5. The Orks – I think Orks can be summarized by saying they come from spores, grow larger, tougher, and stronger from long periods of fighting, and these –
  6. The Necrons – Basically killer death robots from the far distant past whose most basic weapons are still powerful enough to punch a hole in an imperial tank. Oh, and they regenerate if you don’t completely destroy them. Now that I think about it, they’re space Terminators (not to be confused with Space Marine Terminators) without fake skin or accents. Basically the only reason that they haven’t killed anything else is that they’ve been powered off for thousands (possibly millions) of years and now their programming is slightly messed up.
  7. The Tyranids – And last but not least, nightmares. Long story short, the Tyranids are a race from beyond the galaxy that operates entirely using biotechnology. Essentially, “Want a gun? We’ll grow you one!” They consume worlds entirely and move on, systematically consuming all biological matter on a given planet’s surface. But if you were scared of Doctor Who’s Cybermen or Star Trek’s Borg, think again – Tyranids don’t upgrade you, they eat you and then use the consumed biological matter that used to be your body and form it into a new Tyranid (or two). Every time a given Hive Fleet encounters a threat, it evolves to overcome it, meaning that, unless you can completely destroy the entire fleet in the early stages of a battle, you’re nearly guaranteed to lose and you’ve also made them stronger for the next poor planet they happen on. And the worst part? You din’t even make a dent in their forces, because they consume their own dead and remake them as well. I told you they were the stuff of nightmares.

Now, to the interesting part. What is the featured image at the top of the post of, you ask?

Space Marines!

Think Captain America. Now think Iron Man. Now think Thor. Now Jedi/Sith. Now Wolverine.

Now give Iron Man the Super Soldier Serum that made Captain America at the expense of being able to fly. Then give him Mjolnir, or a lightsaber (or a lightsaber ax, or lightsaber club, or lightsaber Wolverine claws). Oh, and in addition to any of those, he has a gun that is essentially a rapid-fire-miniature-missile-launcher. If you want to be really nice, maybe give him the force or a jet-pack. Or the Hulkbuster armour. And maybe a Force Field.

That’s a Space Marine. However, unlike Iron Man or Captain America or Thor or a Jedi, they’re not a unique occurrence – they occur in armies called “Chapters,” A THOUSAND warriors strong.

They are the genetically enhanced warriors of mankind’s finest, equipped with only the best that the dwindling Imperium of Man can offer. They’re like Halo Spartans except mankind is already on its way to extinction at this point.

And that’s about the extent of the factions involved in Warhammer 40k.

My next post will detail the Horus Heresy.

Warning, plot twists coming!



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