WHAT IS WARHAMMER 40K?
Warhammer 40,000 (informally known as Warhammer 40K or just 40K) is a Gothic science-fantasy setting based in the Milky Way Galaxy at the end of the 41st Millennium, created by British miniature wargames company Games Workshop. The central and most popular elements of the Warhammer 40K universe are the Space Marines, futuristic versions of fantasy knights and the finest warriors of the Imperium of Mankind, a dystopian and degenerate galaxy-spanning empire.
Since it was originally created as a sci-fi spin-off of the Warhammer Fantasy battle game, the 40K setting contains many elements of the fantasy genre, for example the concept of magic and adapted versions of classic fantasy races. The inspirational sources for the 40K universe include classic and contemporary sci-fi, horror, and fantasy movies and television series and the works of renowned genre authors such as Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, H. P. Lovecraft, Michael Moorcock, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Robert Heinlein; medieval, baroque, and surrealist art, popular depictions of historical settings, such as the World Wars, Victorian Britain, Imperial Rome, The Inquisitions, Nazi Germany, and Soviet Russia.
This mix leads to a wholly unique fictional universe, in which every side is to some extent evil - though some are slightly less evil than others. The Imperium for example, is often presented as the "good side", and while it may be true that there are many good people within it, as a whole it is an oppressive, xenophobic, corrupt mess which is only able to keep control of its population through the fact that being worked to the bone assembling rifles and worshiping the Emperor is slightly better than being worked to the bone and then brutally killed by Ork warlords for instance.
The Warhammer 40K tabletop miniatures wargame centers around 28mm scale (approximately 1:65) figurines, which represent soldiers, creatures, and vehicles of war. The game requires a combination of tactics and luck. The 40K franchise also includes other wargames, RPGs, board games, novels and video games (find out more).
WARHAMMER 40K LINKS
- Games Workshop (40K miniatures and tabletop wargame rules)
- Forge World (additional 40K miniatures and optional rules)
- Fantasy Flight Games (40K RPGs and board games)
- The Black Library (40K novels and audio books)
- Lexicanum (40K encyclopedia)
- 40K video games
- 1d4chan's take on the 40K universe
THE IMPERIUM OF MAN
The vast majority of humans in the galaxy are nominally citizens of the dominant 40K faction known as the Imperium of Man, a galactic empire created by the Emperor, an extremely powerful psyker whose life has been sustained artificially since the mortal wounds he suffered at the culmination of the events of the Horus Heresy some 10,000 years ago. The Emperor is now worshiped as a deity by the citizens of the Imperium. Currently the Imperium is controlled by a ruling body of 12 of the most influential and powerful men in the galaxy, collectively known as the High Lords of Terra. The Capital of the Imperium is the planet Terra. The Imperium features a wide variety of organizations and affiliations, which are represented in the miniatures game by a selection of playable armies. The Imperium claims lone dominion over the Milky Way and all humanity. It does not recognize other governments, whether human or alien, and maintains that all aliens must be exterminated and all humans brought into the Imperium. It remains united chiefly through religious fanaticism and threats of brutal disciplinary force. The Imperium currently teeters on the verge of collapse due to a combination of war, technological stagnation, and bureaucratic inefficiency. To make matters worse, the Emperor's life support systems are starting to fail...
The Adeptus Astartes (commonly known as Space Marines, and colloquially as Angels of Death) are the most elite and feared fighting forces of the Imperium. The primary unit of organisation is the Chapter, a self-contained army fully equipped with its own transport, non-combatant support staff, etc. There are around a thousand Chapters, each comprising a thousand Space Marines and each with their own traditions and appearance. There are far too few Space Marines to form the Imperium's main military forces; instead they operate as highly mobile strike forces. They are entrusted with the most dangerous missions, such as lightning raids behind enemy lines, infiltration, and tunnel fighting. Through selection, surgery, indoctrination, training, and conditioning, Marines are physically, mentally, and spiritually superior to any other Imperial soldier.
The Imperial Guard is a colossal military organization, consisting of many hundreds of thousands of armies throughout the Imperium, and forming the vast bulk of the Imperium's military machine. The Imperial Guard relies on massed assaults made up of endless waves of infantry and armour to achieve victory. "If a Space Marine assault is likened to a surgeon`s scalpel, the Imperial Guard assault is likened to a sledgehammer blow" - it is this battlefield strategy that has earned the organization the moniker "The Sledgehammer of the Emperor". It also earns the Guard the reputation as a meatgrinder, whose commanders are more than willing to spend their soldiers' lives for the smallest of gains or in the most suicidal defensive actions. Each Imperial Guard regiment is raised from a single world and numbers between 500 and 750,000 fighting soldiers, supported by a huge array of light and heavy armored vehicles. Each regiment also has its own entourage, consisting of support staff, camp followers, suppliers, tech-priests, doctors, religious leaders and the like.
The Inquisition are the powerful secret police of the Imperium responsible for guarding the souls of humanity. The purpose of the Inquisition is to identify and destroy the myriad of potential threats to the Imperium and humanity. The organisation's members are agents known as Inquisitors. Within the modern Inquisition of M41 there are three Ordos Majoris: The Ordo Malleus (The Threat Beyond) - Destroys daemonic threats and investigates the nature of the Daemon; The Ordo Hereticus (The Threat Within) - Investigates and roots out heresy, mutation, and rogue psykers from humanity, and polices the Ecclesiarchy; The Ordo Xenos (The Threat Without) - Investigates and eliminates alien influence and plots against the Imperium. Although an Inquisitor can employ the services of any branch of the Imperial service, including the military, each major Ordo also maintains a dedicated Chamber Militant representing the most dedicated, experienced, and effective forces that Ordo can call on. The Ordo Malleus' Chamber Militant are the Grey Knights. The Ordo Hereticus' Chamber Militant are the Orders Militant of the Adepta Sororitas, also known as the Sisters of Battle. The Ordo Xenos' Chamber Militant are the Deathwatch.
THE FORCES OF CHAOS
Chaos is the psychic energy that composes Warp space. More generally, "Chaos" refers to anything related to Chaos, including its influence, the Gods of Chaos, their followers, and the Warp (a parallel dimension that is the domain of the consciousness of every sentient being in the universe, and also the realm of Chaos. Imperial ships, and others, use it for faster than light travel, a relatively unsafe operation due to the Warp's unpredictable nature). Chaos is almost synonymous with the Warp - the two concepts are inseparable: Chaos is the limitless ocean of spiritual and emotional energy that defines the Warp. It is a great and raw force of change and power, and is both physically and spiritually corrupting. The most gifted mortals, psykers, can utilise this energy, thus making them capable of abilities which transcend the laws of the material universe. However, the malevolent power of Chaos can gradually corrupt a psyker, tainting his mind and body. The forces of Chaos consist of those fallen Space Marines who rebelled against the Emperor during the Horus Heresy, as well as renegades and corsairs who turned in the 10,000 years since then, and their daemonic allies.
Chaos Space Marines
The Chaos Marine Legions were nine of the twenty Legions of Space Marines who fought in the Great Crusade for the Imperium of Man. At this time the Warmaster Horus, first among the Primarchs, and the Luna Wolves (later the "Sons of Horus") were corrupted by Chaos and instigated the galaxy-wide civil war known as the Horus Heresy. After the death of Horus and the end of the Heresy, the remnants of the ten Legions along with the other Imperial forces that had joined Horus escaped into an area of the galaxy known as the Eye of Terror. Due to the nature of Chaos, and the temporal instability of the Warp, the very same Chaos Marines who revolted against the Emperor continue to fight against the Imperium. In addition, since the Horus Heresy, several Space Marine Chapters have been corrupted in one way or another by Chaos. Approximately 50 chapters have turned renegade after the Horus Heresy; however, the accuracy of this number is doubtful.
Daemons are entities of the Warp, and servants of the Gods of Chaos (Khorne, Nurgle, Tzeentch and Slaanesh). They are created at the whim of a Chaos god from a fraction of the god's own power and act as an extension of their will. A daemon's appearance and character reflect the god's own nature. These daemons may be reabsorbed into the god at whim. Being an entity of the Warp (a dimension of the immaterial) a daemon cannot exist for long periods of time in realspace, any more than a mortal can survive unprotected in warp space. There are a few ways a daemon can breach the walls separating warp from real space and gain entry into the mortal universe. Daemons can be fought in a physical sense whilst in realspace but are rarely killed, more frequently they are banished back into the warp to fester and brood until their next chance into realspace presents itself. Instead of being summoned into real space, a daemon may enter the mind of a mortal (the mind of a psyker is the most susceptible to this), and turn the individual to its will and, through its host, affect reality. Some heretics offer themselves as hosts through daemonic pacts such as the Possessed Chaos Space Marines.
Xenos is an Imperial term synonymous with "alien" (from the human perspective), and refers to all non-human and extraterrestrial sentient species. The major alien races are the Orks, Eldar, Dark Eldar, Tyranids, Necrons and the Tau. All these races pose a considerable threat to the survival and continued dominance of mankind. There are countless other races but all are trivial by comparison. The Imperium considers humanity the rightful rulers of the whole galaxy. Part of Imperial Creed is that all aliens judged to pose a threat to mankind's survival must be contained or destroyed. Aliens - along with mutants, heretics and deviants - are all considered enemies of mankind - for they threaten the very survival of the human race.
Orks are a warlike, crude, and highly aggressive green-skinned Xenos race. Orks are the dominant subspecies of the Orkoids, which includes the smaller Gretchin and Snotlings. Although their society is entirely primitive and brutal, the Orkoid race is also the most successful species in the whole galaxy, spread throughout the galaxy and outnumbering possibly every other race. However, due to this aggressive and warlike nature, the massive race is split into hundreds of tiny empires, warring as much between themselves as against other races. In the purely theoretical event all the Orks were to unite, they would undoubtedly crush all opposition. The Orkoid races are believed to have been genetically engineered millenia ago. Orkoid physiology is a symbiotic combination of animal and fungus, integrated such that each augments the operation of the other and both work in perfect harmony. This fungus makes individual Orks incredibly resilient, replacing several vital organs as well as adding padding around those which remain. The fungus also fulfills the Ork species' reproductive function, and makes them one of the most proliferative species in the galaxy. Adult Orks are constantly releasing spores which lie in the ground, often for years, waiting to develop into Orks or Gretchin. Thus, a world invaded by Orks will be troubled by them for hundreds of years to come, and even if their initial attack is defeated, it is all but impossible to eradicate them completely.
The Eldar are an ancient race of elf-like humanoids. Once they dominated the Galaxy but are currently a dying race. They are long-lived by human standards, and most will live more than a thousand years unless they die from accident or disease. As a race they have a high level of psychic ability, which serves as the foundation of their technology. Eldar are mentally far superior to humans, and feel all emotions much more strongly, requiring the Eldar to exercise constant restraint to avoid mental breakdown. The existing Eldar are essentially a refugee population, the scattered remains of their former strength and power. Even in such straits, however, they are still a powerful force in the galaxy. Before the Fall of the Eldar, they had become consumed by arrogance, and with no need for substantial work or labour, the Eldar began to pursue any curiosity or desire. Rapidly, cults devoted to exotic knowledge, physical pleasure, and ever-more outrageous entertainment sprang up. It did not take long for many of the Eldar to take a darker path, descending into dark study, instant fulfillment and unbridled violence. After the Fall of the Eldar, they lost their main homeworlds and are currently scattered among the stars, inhabiting planetoid-sized starships known as Craftworlds.
The Dark Eldar are kindred to the Eldar. Due to their use of the galaxy-spanning inter-dimensional labyrinth known as the Webway, they are extremely mobile, striking from seemingly nowhere, with little or no warning, and vanishing with their captives before significant military reaction can be mobilised. The Dark Eldar do not occupy many planets, but rather one dark city called Commorragh. They are mainly pirates, though are sometimes used as mercenaries. The origins of the Dark Eldar can be found in the Fall of the Eldar, the great cataclysm that nearly destroyed the entire Eldar race. It was an event so terrible that not only did it kill trillions of Eldar, but it breached the gap between real space and the Warp, and gave birth to Slaanesh, a Chaos God. Over time, Dark Eldar begin to suffer more and more from what they call 'The Thirst'. They develop an all-consuming and ever-increasing need to drink the souls of other beings. The Chaos God Slaanesh, the Great Enemy of the Eldar, leeches the soul-essence of the Dark Eldar while they still live. Dark Eldar drink souls to stave off this leeching. The usual source of souls is the many captives taken during Dark Eldar raids.
The Tyranids, also known as The Great Devourer, are an extragalactic alien race whose sole purpose is the consumption of all forms of genetic and biological material in order to evolve and reproduce. Tyranid technology is based entirely on biological engineering. Every function is carried out by living, engineered creatures, each of which collectively forms the Hive Fleet, directed by a single Hive Mind. The Tyranids are seen as one of the gravest threats to the entire Galaxy. They seek only to consume all organic life and cannot be reasoned with or deterred in this quest. Worse still for the Galaxy, thus far the Tyranid Hive Fleets that have been encountered are merely the furthest stretched tendril of the main invasion fleet that is still traveling in the void of space. It is unknown which galaxy they originated from, or for how long the Tyranid race has been on its genocidal rampage. Worlds consumed by the Tyraids are left as lifeless, desolate, airless rock stripped down to the molecular level.
The Necrons are a race of mechanical warriors, created from a once powerful species known as the Necrontyr. They have lain dormant in their stasis-tombs for sixty million years, having been weakened by a successful but costly 'War in Heaven' against the Old Ones, waiting for the time when the Old Ones' successors, the Eldar, had fallen (as all flesh races do in time) so that they could reestablish the supremacy of the Necron Dynasties over the Galaxy once more. Tomb Worlds spread throughout the galaxy housing billions of Necrons have slowly begun to reawaken. In appearance, the Necrons are skeletal parodies of the living beings they once were, with swirling green energies emanating from their mechanical limbs and baleful lifeless emerald eyes. All of their numbers possess sophisticated auto-repair systems throughout their exo-skeletal systems that can repair even the most crippling of damages. While this can keep them functioning constantly, should there be irreparable damage sustained, the Necron "phases out". Both their minds and their bodies are teleported to the nearest tomb complex where they either remain in storage until repairs are made or a new body is forged. This act does, however, come at a cost as each act of transference leads to a decay in the Necron's engrams. As such, those Necrons that have "died" and phased out hundreds of times suffer the most for they become little more than automatons who have lost the memory of the creature that they used to be in life.
The Tau are a young race of technologically-oriented beings from the Eastern Fringe and the dominant species of the Tau Empire. The Tau home planet was discovered in 789.M35 by the Imperium, and records indicate that at that time, the Tau species had mastered the use of simple tools and weapons, as well as fire. Before the planet could be cleansed and colonized by the Imperium, however, a violent Warp-storm erupted around the planet. This continued for 6,000 years, making the Tau's homeworld utterly inaccessible. When the Imperium next encountered the Tau, they found that they had advanced considerably. In just six thousand years, the Tau had advanced from spears and fire to colonizing planets and Pulse Rifles. Tau society follows a rigid Caste System, with each caste taking on the name of an element that is close to them. Tau society and physiology revolve around the Sept they are part of. The Tau ally and hire various alien species, and employ them in their military as Auxiliaries. The Tau are commonly regarded as more merciful, liberal, and progressive than many other races. They mainly desire to integrate other races into their empire, rather than destroy them. Most importantly, they are not subject to the corrupting influence of Chaos, arguably the root cause of the tragic history of the humans and the Eldar. More recently, some darker aspects have surfaced, such as suggestions of population mind-control and exterminating conquered alien populations that stubbornly refuse to accept 'The Greater Good'.