Part 3: Before you buy
So you are ready to make the plunge into 40k. Before you start spending your money, find out how best to get started and how to pick the army that is right for you.
So you want to get started with Warhammer 40k?
In my last two articles I talked about the pros and cons of 40k and what you should consider before starting. In this article, I’m going to talk about your first steps into the hobby and some suggestions based on my own experience.
The starter box
For every edition of 40k there is a starter box. The box contains models for two opposing armies along with a small copy of the rule book and several scenarios to teach you the rules. The starter boxes are designed for you and a friend to start 40k with, each of you taking one of the armies. The starter box is always a good deal because you get the rules and several models at a much cheaper price than if you purchased them separately. However, I suggest you carefully consider whether to buy the starter box.
When I began 40k, I went out and purchased the Assault on Black Reach starter set for 5th edition 40k. It came with a Space Marine army and an Ork army. I built them and primed them and tried to learn the rules with my son, but he never took to the game and so I had two separate armies that I tried to build up. I went out and bought the codices (or army books) for each army and purchased a few more models to build up each army. I had a plan that I would start the game with two armies. After spending several hundred dollars and hours of time building and paining both armies, I was no closer to playing the game than when I started. It was only then I met a player at a local gaming store who invited me to play a starter game with him that I finally got my first game in. After playing a few games, I realized that I did not really like painting or playing Orks. Space marines I liked more, but not as much as another army I really wanted to play.
Before I bought the starter box, I went to the Games Workshop website and looked over all the armies. I was immediately drawn to Eldar. I loved the aesthetic and their story. But I did not buy Eldar because I wanted to dip my toe into the game with the starter set. I tried to make the starter set armies work for me, but my heart always wanted to play Eldar. After having two armies I was not excited about and not playing with, the new Eldar codex came out along with new models. I thought the new models were the coolest models I had ever seen, so I immediately went out and spent several hundred dollars to finally build up the Eldar army that I really always wanted.
So my takeaway is this; unless you really like one of the armies in the starter box, and I mean REALLY like them enough to spend hours building and painting them, then I would avoid the starter box. You and a friend might both be excited to play the game and want to split the box set, but your friend might end up not liking the game and then you have two armies that you may not be excited about. Chances are there are plenty of people in your area that play the game and I would recommend you seek them out to help you get started rather than only relying on someone else to learn the game with. Find the army you think is the coolest, the one you want to build and paint, and pick that to start with. Once you spend money on this game, your goal should be to build a playable army and get that on the table as soon as you can. However, before you pick your first army and start spending money, you should get more familiar with the game.
Watch some games
You may have already done this, but I suggest you watch games being played online. Check out Miniwargaming.com. They make video battle reports that are well made, easy to follow, and very entertaining. You will not know most of the rules, but you will get a very good feel for the game by watching them play it. Other great video battle reports include Frontline Gaming (geared toward more tournament play) and the Striking Scorpion 82 You Tube channel. You will learn quickly whether you want to play this game by watching other well done battle reports.
Find where people are playing
Playing 40k means you need to find others to play with. Unless you have friends who are already playing the game, it will be necessary to find others who are veterans of the game. Seek them out. Visit your local gaming stores that sell 40K and ask who plays there and when they play games. Ask to get in touch with the 40k players. Introduce yourself and ask if you can watch a game. Most 40k groups have Facebook pages, visit them and ask if you can watch a game in person.
Play a demo game
It will be very hard to resist making your first purchase by this point, but if you can, try to get in a small demo game before you buy. Not all players are interested in helping out a new player, especially if you have not yet committed to the game, but if you are sincere about learning and buying into 40k, you should be able to find someone to play a demo game with you. In my experience, every group has a few people who really like recruiting and teaching new players.
Pick an army
This is the fun part; picking your first army! You probably already have your eye on an army (or two!) based on the background and aesthetic of the models. Visit the Games Workshop website and browse the different armies. Choosing an army is a matter of personal taste. You will be spending a lot of time with these models, so make sure the army you choose really speaks to you. Once you have narrowed down your choices, do more research and find out how each army plays on the tabletop. The armies of 40k all have strengths and weaknesses and a distinct style of play. Ideally you can get in a demo game with an army you are already interested in.
Keep in mind; some armies are stronger than others, but don’t let people tell you that the army you really like is “weak” or “uncompetitive.” The relative strengths of armies and units in 40k change all the time. If an army really appeals to you, then never let someone deter you from buying it.