Part 4: Your first army
So you have picked out your army to get started with in 40k. Now its time to make your first purchases, build and paint your army, and learn how to play it well.
So you have picked out your army and you are ready to make the plunge. Congratulations! You are about to join a unique and very rewarding hobby and gaming experience. In this article, I’m going to talk about how to quickly get up to speed with 40k and maximizing your enjoyment with the game.
Make your first purchase
There are a few ways you can buy your first army. The cheapest is to buy a used partially painted and/or built army. Check out Ebay or the local gaming groups, chances are someone is looking to sell some models. This path is also the quickest to getting started in the game. Your goal should be to get an army together to hit the table as soon as you can. If you spend months and months building and getting your army ready before you ever roll dice, you can quickly get overwhelmed.
If you are like me and want to build and paint your own models, then I suggest you visit your friendly local gaming store or a reputable online vendor. You can usually find discounts of 10 to 20% off retail. Some models are only available from the Games Workshop website, but you will find most of what you need locally or online at a better price and you will be supporting a small business. Whichever way you chose, you will need to buy the rule book and you will need to buy your army codex.
Every army has a LOT of options to choose from, so your best bet is to write up a 750 or 1000 point army list and buy the models you need to put that list together. I always find it is easier to write up a few different lists before I purchase models. Read your army codex, do some online research, and ask the local players to help you put together your first list.
Once you have your list and the models you need to run it, you get to start building! This is one of my favorite things to do in this hobby. It’s always a thrill for me to see my models come together. If you have joined a local gaming group, you might want to post some pictures of your work in progress on Facebook. 40k players should always be excited when a new player starts to get their army together and ready to play.
If you have never built a plastic or resin model before, you really should research it or get a veteran player to help you. To get started, you will need to buy a sprue cutter to clip the parts from the spure and a hobby knife (or X-Acto knife) to trim the burs from the clipped parts and to scrape off the mold lines. Skip the hobby tools sold by Games Workshop; they are only decent quality and are way overpriced. Visit a local hobby shop to buy your tools and glue. For plastic models, you can use plastic cement but for resin or metal models you will need superglue. Personally, I prefer to use Testors liquid plastic cement or Loctite super glue for maximum control. Glue can be very messy, so don’t overdo it and always dry fit your parts first to ensure a snug fit.
Many boxes of 40k models will have multiple weapon, armor, and equipment options that you should pay attention to when building up your army. Refer to your army list and make sure you build your models according to how you have equipped them in your list. You may find that you don’t have enough weapons in a box to build your unit they way you want to. For example, a Space Marine Devastator squad box has only two of all the different heavy weapons you can equip them with. If your list has a squad of devastators with four multi-meltas, you will be two short out of the box. You can do a few things in this situation. The first and most expensive is to buy as many boxes as it takes to reach the number of weapons you need for the unit. A second is to look for Ebay and buy the bits you need to complete your unit. This is not as expensive as buying another box, but it’s often not cheap, especially for popular weapons. The third way is to build what you can and use the other models as “counts-as” a particular model. If you are a new player or you are trying out new units, this is perfectly acceptable for most players. If someone insists on absolute WYSIWYG from a new player, then it’s probably not someone you want to play against.
Many players will play a game or two with newly built grey plastic models, but I have a personal rule that I will never play with a model that is not at least primed. Spraying primer on your models takes very little time to do after all and it always looks better than bare plastic. I personally never use any primer other than Citadel primer from Games Workshop. It is hideously expensive compared to others, but it’s very forgiving and easy to apply. I have ruined models before with other primers that go on too thick and blanket the detail on the model.
There are lots of resources online to get you started painting. I typically will find a tutorial online for a color scheme or pattern I like, buy up the paints needed, and simply follow the process. Painting miniatures for most of us is not art, its craftsmanship. You don’t need to be a great artist to do good work painting your models; you just need practice and a system to follow. Just remember to use quality brushes with acrylic paints and always thin your paints with water on a palette.
My personal setup for painting: I use Raphaël Kolinsky Red Sable brushes, which are expensive but worth every penny to me. I clean and condition them with The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver and they have lasted for years. For paints, I use Citadel and Vallejo paints. You need to thin your paints with water, and I like using a wet pallet from Privateer Press when I paint because it prevents the paint from drying up as I work. The buy in for all of this is initially expensive, especially the brushes, but I have wasted time and money on poor quality before arriving at my current setup.
Don’t feel you need to paint your army all at once. Painting is a skill that you build over time. I look back on my first painted models and cringe a little bit because I know I can do so much better. But I never re-paint anything because looking at my old models is a reminder of how far I have come as a painter, and believe me I’m only an average painter!
Read the rules
When you are in the middle of building your army, you should spend some time reading the rules. Even though you may have a good idea of how the game plays through a demo game or by watching videos, you really need to read the rule book to pick up all the details that are easily missed. Your army list will probably contain a mixture of unit types, so pay particular attention to how these units function. For example, if you have a vehicle, you need to understand how far it can move and how many weapons it can fire. If you have a transport, you need to understand how the disembarkation rules work. Go through all the unit types in your army list and know how each one moves, shoots, assaults and all the special rules attached to them. Then go to each unit entry and look up the special rules attached to it. Some of these special rules are found in many armies and are in the main rule book under Universal Special Rules while other are specific to a codex or even an individual unit. You will find yourself flipping back and forth across books to keep it all straight. It will be confusing at first, but the more time you study the rules the quicker you will understand how to play the game.
Your goal in the beginning is to understand how your army list plays on the tabletop. Your first priority is to ensure you know all the rules of your army. How to play your army will come with practice, but you need to know your own army rules before you can even begin to get better at the game.
Play your first games with your army
It is exciting when you can finally put down your first army on the tabletop and start rolling dice. Start playing games with those players you learned the game from; they will be excited to see you are committed and ready to join the community. If you don’t have anyone to play your first games with, you can find players at your local gaming stores. Just be warned that not all players will “play nice” with newbies, and you may find yourself intimidated by what others can bring against you. If you have a bad experience your first time out, don’t give up! Seek out players who will help you learn the game and will be patient with you. They DO exist, and they are valuable assets to the community.
You can expect to lose a lot when you are starting out, but try not to get too discouraged. Win or lose, try and talk to your opponents after the game. Discuss key moments in the game, what went well, and what you could have done differently. Try to resist the urge to change your army list after one game. Sometimes other players will try and be helpful and suggest you add or remove units. Occasionally these are good or even great suggestions, but I suggest you play with a list several times against several different armies before you make too many changes.
Build a second (or third) army list
As you learn more about the game and your preferred play style, you will want to try out new units or combinations of units. Building army lists for many people is as much a part of the game as playing or painting. I like to use Battlescribe to build my lists. It’s free and there is a mobile application that I use on my phone whenever I have spare time. Playing games on my phone is not as much to me as trying to figure out a cool new list idea.
Be a better player
Once you have your first army and you start playing games on a regular basis, you will find out quickly that there is so much more to explore with 40k than you thought possible. We at The Battlehosts are dedicated to providing the best tips, tools and advice for all 40k players. Listen to our podcast and catch our latest articles to help you become a better player and to build a better community.