Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader Starter Guide

Last Updated: December 7, 2023 11:29 AM /


Warhammer 40,000 Rouge Trader Key Art showing the title and two characters in bulky armor rearing weapons.

Our Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader Starter Guide will teach you the ropes of the new cRPG as well as the key facts that might keep you alive during combat. 

If you’ve already played any of Owlcat Game’s previous work, then Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader should be pretty familiar to you, but if not, we’ve laid out the basics of the game for you below. If you're more in the mood for an action-heavy experience, check out our Warhammer 40,000: Blotgun review instead!

Starting out as a Rogue Trader

If you’re not already familiar with the game, Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader is an isometric cRPG where you take control of a Rogue Trader, basically a Grimdark privateer controlling a ship the size of a city. 

You'll have to not only battle your way through hordes of enemies but navigate the treacherous realities of warping space in the Warhammer 40K universe. There's a huge amount of content in the game, and both challenge-seekers and lore buffs will have a field day if they can warp their heads around this complex title. 

We've outlined some of the basics of the game for you below. 

Character Creation and Archetypes 

Warhammer 40,000 ROgue Trader SCreenshot showing a character portrait menu with different options for character portraits of sci fi heroes and anti heroes

When you create a custom Rogue Trader, you have to select from four different archetypes: Warrior, Officer, Operative and Soldier. Once you’ve fully levelled up your first Archetype, you’ll have to pick a second from the available list of 3 for each original Archetype. 


A Warrior is a melee-focused fighter with lots of health. Basically, it's your frontline tank and DPS character who draws as much attention as possible while dealing out heavy melee damage.

If specced correctly, you can get multiple attacks per turn and have a huge amount of mobility around the battlefield with this Archetype. 


Officers are a support class for the most part, focusing on buffing teammates and controlling the battlefield with debuffs. 

These characters can be delicate but tide-turning. Their ability to give other characters a free turn each round basically turns them into a free buffing machine that still deals out damage by proxy.  


Operatives are basically the ‘rogue’ class of Rogue Trader. They focus on precise attacks and debuffs that target individual powerful enemies to deal huge amounts of damage. 

If you want to have a team that is strong against bosses and powerful creatures of chaos, you’ll need at least one Operative on your team. Having more than one can also be useful, as some of their debuffs can aid other teammates. 


When it comes to range-focused fighters, Soldiers are your main choice. While they can be underwhelming at first, they have a huge amount of versatility in equipment that makes them a powerful choice. 

Soldiers are the best users of flame attacks and have a big emphasis on using spray and area attacks. Basically, if you’re looking to wipe out groups of weaker mobs, the soldier will get the job done. 


Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader Screenshot showing a group of characters in a sci fi location engaging in combat on a green highlighted grid

If you’ve played a tactics RPG before then this should be pretty familiar to you. Combat in Rogue Trader is turn-based, with the left side of the screen showing the current running order for the fight. 

Each turn, you have the option of moving and using your special abilities/regular attacks, though you need to move before you attack in most cases, as attacking can lock your movement points.

You also have a limited number of action points, denoted by the yellow markers on the right. Each ability requires a specific number of these points to be performed. 

Space Combat

Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader Screenshot showing some spaceships blasting lazers at each other across the void

As well as regular combat, you'll occasionally come across space combat as well, which works slightly differently. You can only move depending on your ship's engines, and you'll have to account for the direction you're facing. 

Depending on which ship you selected at the start of the game, you'll have different weapons but all ships should be able to attack in most directions. 

You also have a shield with four different sides that requires you to keep your better defences between you and your enemies. Shield state is denoted by the box around your ship, and the numbers that appear next to the box's sides when you hover over your ship. 

How to Heal in Combat

Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader Screenshot showing a highlighted healing item in the UI that can be used during combat to heal your character

If you’re hoping to heal your characters, you need to equip some healing items before combat starts. In your inventory, you can select the group of four squares and select a consumable, either grenades or healing/support items. 

During combat, you can select healing items from your weapon menu on the left by using the vertical axis rather than the horizontal one. Once selected, you can use it on either yourself or any companion within range. 

If you're interested in learning more about the game, check out our Rogue Trader interview with OwlCat Games

What is Momentum?

Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader Screenshot showing a section highlighting the blue momentum meter that sits above the character UI

Just above your character’s ability bar, on the right-hand side, is a purple bar called the momentum meter. As you do well or poorly in combat or use specific abilities, this meter will rise and fall. 

When it gets above or below a certain threshold, certain special commands become available, called Desperate Measure or Heroic Act, depending on how well or poorly things are going. 

Both Desperate Measures and Heroic Acts can turn the tide of a battle if used at the right moment, but you’ll have to make sure you keep your new skills equipped or you won’t be able to use them. 

What is Veil Degradation?

Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader Screenshot highlighting a purple meter on the UI annotated as the Veil Degradation meter

The meter on the other side of your character bar is the Veil Degradation, which should normally start the battle empty. 

As you use psyker abilities, this meter fills, and only slowly drains over time. The more filled this meter is, the more dire the consequences of using psyker powers will become, possibly even killing the caster if you’re not careful. 

Levelling up and Skills 

Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader screenshot showing the level up menu with a radial of circular nodes covered in symbols on a green backdrop.

Another hugely important part of the game is levelling up your character, which works a little differently compared with other CRPGs. 

To level up, you can either select the level-up option in your character selector or select level-up from the main gameplay menu. 

Each rank in your chosen close will give you one or two “nodes” to make choices for, usually with a handful of different abilities or upgrades to choose from. 

How to Equip New Skills 

When you unlock new activated skills and abilities, they won’t appear on your combat hotbar automatically until you’ve added them yourself. 

Head to your character menu and check out the list of your activated abilities under the Features tab. You can select these to add them to your Hotbar and make them usable during combat. 

How to Navigate Warp Space

Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader Screenshot of a map screen covering in glowing lines and spots

As part of your interstellar space pirate duties, you’ll also be expected to navigate the perils of warp space, which can be a bit of a tricky one, especially if you’re new to the concept. 

You start the game without any map at your disposal and must fill in the blanks for yourself by constantly scanning for new pathways, at least, once you have a navigator on your team. 

Each scan gives you a resource called Navigators Insight, which is indicated by the giant number in the middle of your screen. 

Navigator’s Insight is spent on the map to forge new routes to planets you haven’t reached yet or to lower the danger level of the routes already on your map. 

Warp Travel Events 

Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader screenshot showing a decision screen with a description of the event and the various choices you can make to resolve it

As you make your way across the map, you’ll come across random story events. These events can be decision-based or sometimes just throw you straight into combat without much warning. 

Events not only give you insight into the storyline and universe, but they sometimes offer rewards, primarily in the forms of EXP and Navigator’s Insight points. 

Rogue Trader Top Tips

There are a few things you’ll need to remember if you’re going to make a successful Rogue Trader, so check out these basic tips below if you want the best chance you’re going to get. 

Buffs, Buffs, and Debuffs

Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader screenshot with a close up of a random buff covered in text while the background is covered in gore and viscera

While it might feel more satisfying to just unload attacks and spells on your enemies, don’t get overexcited and forget your buffs and debuffs. 

Some debuffs are only effective if used before an attack, so make sure you’ve checked all of your abilities before rushing into an aggressive action straight away. 

While they might feel unnecessary for common foes, debuffs can literally make the difference between succeeding against a powerful foe or having to replay over and over again. 

Check your Active Abilities Often

As you progress through the levels of your Archetype, it’s a good idea to check the active abilities menu to make sure you’re not missing out on anything new. 

The new abilities that you unlock can be game-changing, in some cases making previously insurmountable obstacles a complete cakewalk. 

Keep an eye on your Psykers 

Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader Screenshot showing several characters engaged in combat in a cargo hold with a special focus on a characters called Idra

Characters with powerful pseudo-magical abilities are useful, but if you overdo it, they can end up getting taken out by their own abilities. 

When your Veil Degradation Meter is getting a bit too full for comfort, consider giving it a few turns for the meter to empty before you cast any new spells. 

It’s always a good idea to give characters with psyker abilities a secondary item to use, like healing or bombs. This gives you stuff to do with those characters while you’re waiting for the veil to repair itself. 

That's it for this Rogue Trader Stater Guide, you can find even more great articles in the links below. 

Have a tip, or want to point out something we missed? Leave a Comment or e-mail us at tips@techraptor.net

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More Info About This Game
Learn more about Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader
Owlcat Games
Owlcat Games
Release Date
December 7, 2023 (Calendar)
Tactical RPG