There are a many ways folks get into Warhammer 40,000. Mine is probably pretty standard in the basic path. But like any path in life, the twists and turns are what makes it unique.
My first foray into hobby gaming began around the time I was in middle school with TSR products – the Marvel Superheroes RPG and Dungeons and Dragons. Around the same time, I got the old HeroQuest board game. My first miniatures war game experience came shortly after that introduction, as a couple of my gaming group friends were BattleTech fans. So I was already a gamer well before anything Warhammer-related was on my horizon.
My entry into the Warhammer 40,000 universe came toward the end of the game’s 3rd edition. It was after the “Trial Assault” rules came out. One of my old gaming group friends had gotten the 3rd edition big box a year or two before, and I think he’d painted a few of the minis. While I had been aware of the game going back years (the 2nd edition box was the first I saw), I’d never pulled the trigger on buying it. But my friend had collected some of the codices and wanted to put together an Imperial Guard army modeled after the World War II Soviet army. He’d already put together the Space Marines from the box set, and I believe had gotten and put together a Space Marine Battle Force box.
Backing up again, in late 2001 I’d picked up a copy of the Lord of the Rings strategy battle game while at a mall near my parents house. I read the rules and put together some of the miniatures, and even bought a few of the expansion boxes. Unfortunately, I lived in a small town, which didn’t have a gaming store, and the nearest town with such a store was roughly an hour away, depending on traffic. While I didn’t do much with that box set, the idea of playing a “real” table top war game fascinated me. So when my friend became serious about getting into Warhammer 40,000, those previously planted seeds germinated. He was already collecting models, but I was unsure where to start. I did know I was not too keen on playing the vanilla Space Marines. So, I decided I’d go into the nearest shop, look over the models, and go with whatever piqued my interest most.
As it happened, the shop I visited was on the way to getting out of it’s Games Workshop stock. This was back in a time when game stores were comic book stores, and vice versa. The store owner told me GW had just started enforcing some decrees about how much inventory shops needed to buy each month and physical placement of such inventory relative to inventory from other companies. So the guy was selling his GW stuff for 40 percent off! He’d just started the sale, so he was still pretty well stocked. I looked at what he had, and the three factions that initially leaped out at me were Space Wolves, Necrons, and Chaos Space Marines. While I liked the look of the Space Wolves a lot, I knew they were Imperial, and I didn’t want to have the games with my friend be Imperial factions vs. Imperial faction. That left Necrons and Chaos Space Marines. The Necons looked to be simple to put together, but the range didn’t seem that diverse or interesting. And that left the Chaos Space Marines. The shop actually had quite a bit of Chaos stuff in stock, so I figured, why not? If I remember correctly, I walked out with a Chaos Space Marine Battle Force, an additional box of Chaos Space Marines, a Chaos Predator tank, a Chaos Lord blister pack, and a Fabius Bile blister pack, which came to about $100.
A pretty fortuitous entry, as I think back on it now. Not only did I get a bunch of stuff on the cheap, but I had unknowingly chosen one of the armies that was at the apex of Warhammer 40,000’s power hierarchy. Anyway, the weekend after I bought all those models was spent assembling them, and even painting a few. I’d been reading the rulebook borrowed from my friend. I traveled to my friend’s house for our first game (he lived in a different town). Our armies were small, but the game still took hours because we were constantly flipping through the rulebook and our codices. We had a few pieces of real terrain – the ruined chapel from the starter box, as well as a bunch of jungle trees. But the hills and montains were stacks of books. Inglorious, maybe, but man was it fun!
After that, another of my old gaming group friends decided to take the plunge. He went in for Orks. And so the next game was a three-way battle. Our armies were bigger, and I think we came up with a “capture the middle” scenario. This game took longer, playing well into the wee hours of the morning. But again, loads of fun. To spruce up the aesthetic of our little table top wars, I started making terrain. I’d recently moved to a city with a couple gaming stores that actually carried a good stock of Games Workshop stuff. And one of the shops had an out of print edition of Citadel’s “How to Make War Game Terrain,” which I put to good use.
Also, one of the gaming stores near my friend had gaming tables, so we started playing there as well. I also started attending the game nights at one of the stores near me and began getting in pick-up games. From there, my collection grew, and I even made my own gaming tables. Suffice to say, that’s my origin story for getting into Warhammer 40,000. If you’d like to share yours, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
As always, thanks for reading!