Start Collecting Warhammer 40K Part 2 - Which Army?

Published: June 5, 2018 1:00 PM /


start collecting

This is our second article in the Start Collecting Warhammer 40K series, and once you've played through the Dark Imperium box, your next choice is going to be what to pick for your army. In this article we will discuss your options, give you some tips on selecting your army and also talk about our army choice for the Start Collecting Warhammer 40K.

The biggest decision for any wargame is what force you want to collect and play. This choice is usually made by a player when they first see or hear about a game, as the miniatures or army that first attracts a player to the game will tend to be the force they want to collect first. This can change over time, as players find out more about other factions or as players get further into the competitive scene and what is doing well has an impact on what army players collect.

For Warhammer 40K, there are several factions and these can be divided into three sub-groups: The Imperium of Man, the Forces of Chaos, and Xenos (alien races).

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Warhammer 40K - Space Marines of the Ultramarines chapter.

The Imperium

The Imperium of Man includes the following factions:
  • Space Marines - The nine founding chapters and all the subsequent offshoot chapters.
  • Imperial Guard - The Guard troops are drawn from across thousands of planets.
  • Adeptus Mechanicus - An organisation of tech-priests and their followers dedicated to the machine god.
  • Imperial Agents - These include several different subgroups including the Inquisition, Adeptus Arbities, Sisiters of Silence and the Officio Assassinorum.
  • Imperial Knights - Forces of massive robotic titans.
  • Adeptus Custodes - The Emperors elite bodyguard.
  • Adeptus Sororitas - An all female religious wing of the Emperors troops.
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Warhammer 40K - Chaos Space Marines.


The Forces of Chaos is split between two types of forces:
  • Chaos Space Marines - The nine founding traitor legions and all the subsequent offshoot chapters. They can be divided between Chaos and Renegade Marines, depending on if they are allied to a Chaos God or have just forsaken the Imperium.
  • Chaos Demons - Demons from the warp.
The Force of Chaos come from one or a combination of the four Chaos Gods:
  • Khorne - The god of war, blood, death, and skulls.
  • Nurgle - the god of plague, decay, and despair.
  • Slaanesh - The god of pleasure, desire, and excess.
  • Tzeentch - The god of change, fate, and knowledge.
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Warhammer 40K - Tyranids.


The Xenos factions are as follows:
  • Tau - Technologically advanced race that excel at firepower.
  • Tyranids - A hive mind controlling swarms of warriors. They are completely organic and have no technology.
  • Eldar - The Eldar are an extremely old race, graceful and intelligent.
  • Dark Eldar - A twisted reflection of the Eldar, they feed on fear and hate.
  • Necrons - A mindless robotic race controlled by Overlords.
  • Orks - A brutal and crude race of warlike beings who's only purpose is combat.
Most of the available factions have sub-factions that can be played together in the same force, as long as they are within separate detachments when it comes to competitive list building. We've just covered the main groups and not the subgroups above. For example, the Space Marines also include the Deathwatch, a mixed force of Space Marine chapters that are dedicated to fighting the Xenos, and the Grey Knights, a dedicated group of psychic Space Marines that fight the forces of Chaos in all its forms.

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Warhammer 40K - Orks.

3 Tips for choosing an army to collect

1 – Pick the army that interests you most. This is probably the most important rule, as picking an army just because you've heard they're good won't motivate you long-term. You're going to spend a fair bit of time putting together and painting the miniatures for your chosen army, so picking one that doesn't interest you will be hard to stay motivated with. Some armies are harder to use than others, but all armies can be made to work, and before you get competitive, you're going to be playing a lot of beginner games and getting to know your force. So go to a store, check online, browse through the available options, and then look into the one that grabs you the most.

2 – Know what you're getting in to. Some of the armies aren't beginner friendly or will require a lot of hobby time, so after picking the one that you want to play the most, read in to the army itself. There are loads of Facebook, forum, and Reddit posts about such things, so research it—learn about your chosen force. For Warhammer 40K, Orks, Imperial Guard, and Tyranids generally have a lot of models. If a force has a lot of models, you're going to spend more cost wise than some other forces, and also spend a lot more time putting them together and painting them, which is fine, but if you're not going to have that time, start with an easier force to collect and look into upgrading to that later.

3 – Know your chosen army's playstyle. If you really want to get close with the enemy, throwing your force into close combat, a Tau army won't be for you. Likewise, if you want to overwhelm your enemy through superior technologically advanced firepower, Tyranids won't be your thing. If you like a particular army, you can usually adapt it to play the way you want, but it might not be operating to its strength, and you really should be playing to your army's strength while you're learning.

My army choice for the Start Collecting series

When I first started playing Warhammer 40K, which at the time was in 2nd Edition, I bought completely into Space Marines and continued to push my own home-brew Chapter of Jade Warrior despite losing every game I ever played against Eldar. So Space Marines have always had a place in my heart.

I never had the time to paint huge amounts of models, so Tyranids, Orks, and Imperial Guard never appealed to me from a hobby sense. I would always include an Assassin in my army though, usually the Vindicare, who for those who are new to 40K is a kind of turbo-sniper.

I'm also a bit OCD, so I never enjoyed any of the Chaos factions for painting and collecting purposes; the smooth lines of the Space Marines always appealed to me with their clear color schemes.

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Warhammer 40K - Tau.

I haven't played Warhammer 40K since 4th Edition, but I have kept up with 40K rules and the tie-in fiction lines, especially the Horus Heresy, where a love for the Raven Guard and Night Lords brewed. Both Legions are skewed reflections of each other, relying on stealth, speed, and surprise. They are both known for their brutal fast attack and withdraw methods and are brutally efficient and single-minded in their cause. Neither go in for the petty concerns of the other legions, which is how I imagine gene-enhanced super soldiers of the future. Plus, the Raven Guard are basically Space Ninjas, and who does't love Space Ninjas.

I also love the Tau models, the BattleSuits and Tactical Drones especially, and the Tau run a mean gunline. A gunline is a type of army in 40K that relies on simply blasting the enemy with ranged attacks for the whole game, usually set up in a line to allow all weapons to fire on the advancing enemy.

Games Workshop have also announced some new Imperial Knights titans, which look incredible, but they also have a sizeable cost. As I'm exploring 40K as a beginner, as awesome as the Titans are, they're not a particularly accessible faction for beginners.

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Warhammer 40K - Titan Legions.

I ultimately decided to continue with one of the two factions from the Dark Imperium boxed set, as this is where most beginners will start from, and even if you decide to go with a difference force later, both are pretty good starter armies. The Death Guard are quite competitive on the tournament scene at the moment; their units are incredibly hard to kill, and I've seen some very competitive lists. It was mainly for that reason that I decided not to run with them. I find that when a faction does get incredibly competitive, it can become quite stale and other players start to run direct counters to that faction. Space Marines aren't getting much love competitively, and I do love a challenge.

The Space Marines are also the poster-boys of Warhammer 40K, and why a lot of players will get involved in Warhammer 40K, so they'll be a great army to explore from that side.

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Warhammer 40K - Loyalist Space Marine Chapters.

I wanted to play one of the nine Space Marine founding chapters, purely because I think that's where the lore is strongest. I will almost certainly tweak the paint-scheme slightly, but I love the deep background for each of the nine original legions.

The nine founding loyalist Space Marine legions are:

  • Ultramarines - Imagine the Roman legions, fierce in their loyalty to the Emperor and they sturdy in their methods of war
  • Dark Angels - Mysterious and monk like, like the Templar knights.
  • Blood Angels - A cross between angels and vampires, deadly in close combat.
  • Space Wolves - Wild, free and vicious like the Norse warriors of old.
  • White Scars - Fast bike and speeder riders like the nomadic Mongolian horse warriors.
  • Raven Guard - Masters of stealth, covert operations specialists.
  • Iron Hands - Blacksmiths and artisans, they have embraced robotics and cybernetics.
  • Salamanders - A legion from a fire planet, they employ flame weapons more than any other legion.
  • Imperial Fists - Masters of defensive warfare.
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Warhammer 40K - Raven Guard Space Marines.

Everyone will have a legion that attracts them the most. These are only the founding legions, but there are many off-shoot legions from the original nine and then thousands of home-brew legions from players around the world.

For me, it was always a choice between the Space Wolves and Raven Guard. I love the honesty and straight-forwardness of both legions. While both legions have their secrets, they are both very direct in terms of right and wrong and there is no middle ground for either of them.

I ultimately decided to go for the Raven Guard, simply because of some of the new Primaris Marine options of drop troop and scout-like warriors. I'm going to put a gunline force together with lots of direct attack and control options.

Next week I'm going for my first miniature painting lesson, so check back for how that turns out.

The Start Collecting Warhammer 40K series is sponsored by Goblin Gaming, where you can buy Warhammer 40K products for 20% off RRP.

Goblin Gaming


Are you a Warhammer 40K player? Which army do you collect? If you're not a current player, which army appeals to you the most? Let us know in the comments below.



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A Potts TechRaptor
| Senior Tabletop Writer

Adam is a Tabletop Specialist for TechRaptor. He started writing for TechRaptor in 2017 and took over as Tabletop Editor in 2019 and has since stood down… More about Adam