Warhammer 40K Guide

Last Update: June 3, 2023 6:51 AM /


Warhammer 40K

The forces of humanity alongside the superhuman creations of the Emperor are at constant war. Alien races press against all sides. Those of the Emperor's sons who turned traitor against Him lead their armies, attempting to achieve what they couldn't 10 thousand years before. Those sons who have sided with the Chaos gods for their blessings plan and act from outside and within, using humanity's weaknesses to gain footholds where they can. The dire situation has seen 2 of the Emperor's loyal sons return to try and turn the tide, but the largest Xenos threat ever known has started a campaign where they thought the tide was turning, and humanity's other enemies will use this opportunity for their own gains. This is Warhammer 40K, and there is only war.

What is Warhammer 40K?

Warhammer 40,000 (Warhammer 40K or just 40K) is a tabletop wargame produced by Games Workshop. It first came out in 1987 as Rogue Trader and has grown and expanded, seeing not only many editions of the tabletop game and tie-in tabletop games, but a whole host of fiction about the current era and the history 10 thousand years before, during the events of the Horus Heresy. There are also many video games, those set in the IP, and digital recreations of tabletop games. Merch is also available aplenty, with clothing, action figures, a tie-in release with Magic the Gathering, themed candles, and sticker collections. Recently Games Workshop have also been releasing animated series' on their Warhammer+ platform, for Warhammer 40K and their other IPs.

Warhammer 40K Space Marine Terminators artwork.

What is Warhammer 40K 10th Edition?

Warhammer 40K 10th Edition is the 10th edition of the rules. Starting with Rogue Trader in 1987, it has been seeing a new edition of the rules every 3 years since 7th Edition in 2014. This edition of the rules has seen a huge overhaul with a focus on making the game simpler and more streamlined for new players, but still having strategic depth for veteran players. 10th edition will also move the ongoing narrative along, following up from the final Arks of Omen events in 9th edition, with the return of Angron and the Lion, and the next phase of Abaddon's plans. The new edition also launches the 4th Tyrannic War, with the forces of the Space Marines battling the Xenos Tyranid threats straight out of the launch box.

Warhammer 40K 10th Edition launches with the Leviathan boxed set which we'll detail below.

Warhammer 40K Leviathan Box Contents.

Where Do I Start With Warhammer 40K?

Warhammer 40K 10th Edition is a brand new version of the rules, which means most of the supplements from the previous edition won't work in this one (with the exception of Arks of Omen, which were designed to work with 10th Edition). So starting with 40K 10th Edition will begin with a copy of the rules. Initially, until they're released separately, the only place to get hold of the rules will be the Leviathan boxed set or the Core Rules online for free. Once they're available separately, you will be able to pick up the rules and then any force of your choice.

The Leviathan box is a Warhammer 40K launch box, not a starter set. It contains the rules, and 2 forces, along with a Chapter Approved card deck for setting up games, but it doesn't contain the accessories needed to play (dice and measuring tools). The accessories can be picked up separately and added to the box to give the complete gaming experience, but all previous editions have had dedicated starter sets available later on, with the rules, accessories, 2 forces, and scenery for gaming if you'd rather wait, but they have all been smaller boxes than the packed full launch boxes.

The Leviathan rulebook is also a special edition of the rulebook, with a limited edition cover, along with an extra crusade expansion (the narrative campaign way of playing 40K) of linked campaign games for the 4th Tyrannic War.

With this edition of 40K, there is also a brand new way to play. Combat Patrol is designed to let players get into games as quickly as possible. Players can pick one of the many Combat Patrol boxes available (there is one for each faction and some sub-factions also have their own), and play straight away against another Combat Patrol. The boxes have been designed and balanced between them, so players will be able to experience different factions easily, collecting more than one, or testing them out to see which play style they like. A portion of both the Space Marines and Tyranids from the Leviathan box also make up their own Combat Patrols, so anyone picking up the launch box will have 2 Combat Patrols straight away.

Warhammer 40K Space Marine and Tyranids face off.

What Do I Need To Play Warhammer 40K?

To play Warhammer 40K, you will need:

  • Warhammer 40K Rulebook or Free Core Rules download (and the rules for the gaming mode you wish to play - Combat Patrol, Crusade, Boarding Actions, or Matched Play)
  • Several six-sided dice (D6) and a measuring tool (Either a measuring stick or tape measure)
  • Miniatures for your force
  • The supplement with the rules for your chosen force
  • A battlefield, which can be as simple as the floor with some books, or a printed gaming board filled with thematic scenery

On release of Warhammer 40K 10th Edition, Games Workshop have stated that all forces will have PDF rules and datacards for all units available for download on release, which will be updated by Codex supplements for each faction as they come out.

The Warhammer 40K 10th edition roadmap.

What Are The Different Ways To Play Warhammer 40K?

There are many ways to play Warhammer 40K, but the core gaming types and where their rules are found are as follows:

  • Only War - Only War is a basic mission presented in the Warhammer 40K Core Rules and is a quick and straightforward game that can be played with only the Core Rules and the Detachment Rules and Datasheets for your units.
  • Combat Patrol - Combat Patrol is a fixed way of playing Warhammer 40K using one of the many Combat Patrol boxes. The Combat Patrol rules can be found in the Leviathan rulebook and you will also need the Combat Patrol rules for your chosen faction box. All you need to play are the Core Rules (which can be downloaded for free here) and your chosen Combat Patrol plus their Combat Patrol Referance.
  • Crusade - Crusade is the narrative campaign way of playing Warhammer 40K. Crusade games are usually a linked series of games where your forces will gain experience and develop as the campaign progresses. The Core Crusade Rules can be found in the Leviathan rulebook along with a detailed campaign, the Tyrannic War which has all the details for running a set inked series of games and upgrades for the forces used in it, perfect for the 2 forces that Leviathan contains.
  • Matched Play - Matched play is the competitive or balanced way of playing Warhammer 40K, which can be friendly games or tournaments. They follow a set pattern of mission setups and mission objectives and are published in tournament packs or Chapter Approved packs. A Chapter Approved Leviathan card pack is included in the Leviathan box. All you need for Matched Play games are the Matched Play pack, the Core Rules, and the Detachment rules and Datasheets for your faction.
  • Boarding Actions - Boarding Actions are games played in the tight confines of Space Hulks and void ships. Games are played using set rules and you will need the Core Rules, the Boarding Actions rules from Arks of Omen Abaddon, and the Boarding Actions Detachment rules for your chosen faction from the other Arks of Omen books along with the Datasheets for your chosen force. All of the Arks of Omen books also have several different missions using the Boarding Actions scenery.

What Other Products Are Available For Warhammer 40K?

The only products from previous editions of Warhammer 40K that are compatible with 10th edition are all the currently available miniatures and the Arks of Omen books. On release, you will only need the Core Rules, and the free download for your faction, until your faction has a Codex released. The Space Marines and Tyranids Codexes are the first and are due for release in Autumn this year.

The covers of the 5 Warhammer 40K Arks of Omen books.

Arks of Omen Books

The Arks of Omen were a narrative event at the end of Warhammer 40K 9th edition and featured a new game type called Boarding Actions, which is still playable in 10th edition. Arks of Omen Abaddon contains the Boarding Actions Core Rules, and the other books contain factions rules for a variety of forces. We've covered all the books on the site, so for full details of what each book contains, follow the links below.

Examples of 3 Warhammer 40K Combat Patrol boxes.

Combat Patrol Boxed Sets

Combat Patrol boxes are a great way to start a new force, and they're playable out of the box with the new Combat Patrol gaming mode. Each Combat Patrol has been designed and balanced to be playable against other Combat Patrol boxes. There are 22 available, which means it's a great way to try out different factions before picking one to continue collecting.

A selection of different Warhammer 40K miniatures boxes.


After picking your Warhammer 40K faction, you'll need to fill your roster. A great place to start are the Combat Patrol listed above, and occasionally large army boxes are also available, but after that, you'll need to pick which units, heroes, vehicles, and monsters you want in your force from the huge amount available for each faction.

A selection of different Warhammer Black Library novels.

Where Can I Read About Warhammer 40K Lore?

Games Workshop's fiction publishing arm, the Black Library have been publishing fiction novels for all of Games Workshop's games. You can check out books from Warhammer 40K and those set 10,000 years earlier during the events of the Horus Heresy where half of the Space Marine chapters turned and began the long war. You can read books set around all of the 40K factions. A tie-in novel is also releasing alongside the 10th Edition launch box following the narrative events around the 4th Tyrannic War.

Background information can be found in all 40K books, from old Codexes and current rulebooks. The last big narrative event was the Arks of Omen and the 10th edition narrative continues directly after those events.

Games Workshops digital subscription, Warhammer+ has weekly novels, background books, and a background show called Loremasters available if you want to find out more about the lore for all of their games.

What Armies Are Available For Warhammer 40K?

Warhammer 40K has many factions available, and many of those factions also have sub-factions. The most notable of these are the Space Marines and Chaos Space Marines who each have 9 First Founding Chapters, and then thousands of sub-factions all tracing their lineage back to a First Founding chapter.

The factions available for Warhammer 40K are:

Space Marine First Founding Chapters

  • Blood Angels
  • Dark Angels
  • Imperial Firsts
  • Iron Hands
  • Raven Guard
  • Salamanders
  • Space Wolves
  • Ultramarines
  • White Scars

Chaos Space Marine First Founding Chapters

  • Alpha Legion
  • Black Legion / Sons of Horus
  • Death Guard
  • Emperor's Children
  • Iron Warriors
  • Nightlords
  • Thousand Sons
  • Word Bearers
  • World Eaters

Forces of the Imperium

  • Adepta Sororitas / Sisters of Battle
  • Adeptus Custodes
  • Adeptus Mechanicus
  • Agents of the Imperium
  • Astra Militarium / Imperial Guard
  • Imperial Knights


  • Aeldari
  • Drukhari
  • Genestealer Cults
  • Necrons
  • Orks
  • Tau
  • Tyranids

Armies of Chaos

  • Chaos Daemons
  • Chaos Knight

The Warhammer 40K products used to produce this guide were provided by Games Workshop.


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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

More Info About This Game
Learn More About Warhammer 40,000
Game Page Warhammer 40,000
Games Workshop
Release Date
September 1, 1987 (Calendar)
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