I recently took a look at the new Warhammer 40,000 9th edition, Indomitus. This was an impressive set, but it clearly wasn’t for beginners. It also sold out very quickly (though copies of it can still be found, at the time of writing), making it a less than ideal way for newcomers to find their way into Warhammer. As expected, hot on the heels of Indomitus, are three brand new box sets specifically designed to introduce new players. We know at GeekDad that the first steps into an in-depth and varied hobby like Warhammer can be confusing for the uninitiated. That’s why we’re taking the time to write this Parent’s Guide to the Warhammer 40,000 Starter Sets.
What Is Warhammer 40,000?
I gave this an in-depth look in my initial “Parent’s Guide” video. If you’re completely new to the hobby and want some extra background information, do check it out.
What Are the Warhammer 40,000 Starter Sets?
Games Workshop has produced three entry-level products to help explain and teach their flagship game. They come in different sizes and have price points to match. Each set follows the same basic formula, and the bigger the set the more in-depth the experience.
It is probably worth mentioning at this point, for those who are new to Games Workshop and the hobby in general, that whilst GW stores and website sell its products at one price (the retail price), you can normally buy sets more cheaply at local or internet-based game stores. These outlets usually sell at 20% less than the Games Workshop price, so are definitely a good way to go. Games Workshop never does sales, so this is pretty much the only way you’re going to save money. On these big-ticket items, 20% translates into a sizeable saving.
Each box has everything you need to play small games of Warhammer 40,000. The two forces represented are the Imperium of Man, via the Space Marines (nominally the good guys, though in the 40K universe, there are no good guys), and the Necrons. Necrons are implacable robots, like Arnie at the end of Terminator, that have awoken after 1000s of years of slumber, ready to reclaim the universe and draw a good oil bath.
Inside the boxes, you’ll find assembly guides for all of the miniatures included and the rules for how to play battles with them. Each box also contains a playing surface, some scenery, dice, rulers for measuring distances on the battlefield, and a sheet of transfers to add emblems to your Space Marines.
Games Workshop makes (arguably) the finest tabletop miniatures in the world, and the models in this kit are breathtakingly good. They are a little fiddly to put together, however, particularly the Necrons, so your child may need some help. As usual, I recommend you pick up a pair of plastic sprue cutters to cut the miniatures from their sprues. They’re much easier and safer to use than a modeling knife. The miniatures all go together without glue, which is amazing, particularly for younger users. If you do want to stick things in place, you’ll need some polystyrene cement and not superglue.
NOTE: There are no paint or paint supplies included in these sets. Look out for a future post on tips for getting started with painting your new miniatures.
The manuals in each box are all laid out in the same basic format. The bigger the edition the bigger the manual, mainly because it contains the extra rules for the extra figures. Each manual lays out a step-by-step pathway into the game
This is something of a departure from previous iterations of Warhammer 40,000 and a welcome move. Usually, the assembly instructions are separate from any game rules. In these sets, the assembly has become part of the learning process. Rather than be overwhelmed with all the miniatures to assemble or thinking you should build them all at once before starting, the manuals direct you to only build what will be used in the next tutorial’s battle. This makes picking up the game easier than in previous iterations and alleviates some of the impatient frustration that comes with having to build everything before you start.
The general layout of the manuals is as follows:
- The opening pages of the manual explain what Warhammer 40,000 is and the types of hobbyists that exist, similar to how I laid them out in my initial Parent’s Guide post. This then goes on to detail how Games Workshop supports its hobby. (Effectively an advert for things you might want to buy in future!)
- Next up, there are a few short pages as to how games of Warhammer 40,000 work on a practical level. A very high-level overview.
- The next 10 or so pages are dedicated to “The Galaxy at War.” This gives a very general overview of the Warhammer 40,000 universe and why the Necrons and Space Marines are fighting.
- The next section is “Forging Heroes” and forms the bulk of the manuals. These sections teach you everything you need to know about how to play Warhammer 40,000, step by step. They take you through, moving, shooting, and combat before going on to add a host of the deeper rules of the game.
- The manuals close out with all the “datasheets” required to use the models in the box. Every model in the game has a datasheet that details how they perform on the battlefield and any additional special rules they may have. Without datasheets, you can’t really play the game, so these are vitally important! Note: There is a new subscription app that contains a lot of additional information. This is currently suffering from a few teething problems, but once they’ve settled down, I’ll endeavor to write another “Parent’s Guide” to give an overview of its features.
The Recruit Edition
The smallest box is the Recruit Edition. This set is perfect for brand new and younger players. If your child has expressed a vague interest, but you know that they’re not always the most focused, this will give them a flavor of the game but hopefully won’t break the bank. If their interest wanes, you won’t feel too bad about splashing out on this box. It’s probably worth reiterating, at this point, that wargaming is not a cheap pastime and these starter sets are just the tip of a very large iceberg.
Inside the box, you’ll find:
- A 64 Page Manual.
- 20 Citadel miniatures. 6 Space Marines and 14 Necrons.
- Two reference sheets.
- A paper playmat—An instant tabletop! Double-sided for variation.
- A printed box insert that can be turned over to give an instant building.
- Two plastic range rulers.
- 10 six-sided dice.
- Space Marine transfer sheet for instant insignia.
The Recruit Edition retails at $50 (£32.50).
The Elite Edition
The Elite Edition is the middle box of the three and possibly the least desirable. It has a hefty price tag for a beginner box but doesn’t include the cool features of the larger Command edition.
Inside the box you’ll find exactly the same contents as the Recruit edition above but in addition, it includes:
- A bigger (72 page) Manual—To detail the rules of the extra units.
- 27 Citadel Miniatures. Including a Captain model, 3 “Outrider,” motorbikes, and 4 extra Necrons, including 3 of the impressive “Destroyer” models.
- A larger printed box insert.
The Elite Edition retails at $99 (£65).
The Command Edition
This box is a humdinger and I think represents the best purchase for anybody wanting to go all-in on the hobby. If you think your child is in for the long haul, then I would go for this box, unreservedly. I think it’s the best starter set Games Workshop has ever produced.
The contents of the box are the same as the Elite Edition but with some super-valuable extras.
- A proper playboard. The playmat included in the Elite and Recruit Editions is fit for purpose, but it won’t be of use forever; after all, it’s only made of paper. Accidents will inevitably happen. The Command Edition board has exactly the same designs on either side but it is made of thick, durable cardboard. It should last a long time. It’s comparatively small for a wargaming table, so as your child’s collection grows, they might outgrow it, but that’s an issue for further down the line. This is a brilliant starter battle mat.
- Proper scenery. There’s no card box insert terrain here, but there is some amazing brand new, plastic scenery. Decent battlefield terrain has always been the hardest thing to create for newcomers to the hobby. It used to take a lot of time, effort, and a degree of expertise to make something that looked good. Scenery adds so much to the experience, making it significantly more immersive. If your children are more invested in their games, there’s more chance of their love of Warhammer beating off other distractions. This is a great move on Games Workshop’s part.
- The 80-page Command Manual is just like the manuals in the other editions, but it has extra rules for using the scenery included in the Command Edition.
- 184-page Rulebook. This, for me, is the clincher. This rulebook is a cut-down version of the main rule book that came with the Indomitus box. It doesn’t contain any lore or background to the Warhammer 40,000 universe, but it has the full rules in a depth that’s impossible to include in the learn-to-play manual. This includes the battleplans required to play full games of Warhammer 40,000, whether it be for open play, matched play, or using the game’s new “Crusade” system for telling stories. The Crusade system is brilliant for new players of the game, as it enables them to use their new miniatures and create exciting legends about their exploits. This little book is better even than the core book that comes with Indomitus because it’s about a 10th of the size and weight. It’s perfect for taking to game night.
If you have the money, and the interest The Command Edition definitely represents the best deal of these three boxes. It retails at $165 (£105)
Truly Worthy Starter Sets
If you or your child are looking for a way into Warhammer 40,000, then these starter sets are definitely the way to go. They represent great value, but also they do a fine job of introducing the hobby and the basic concepts of the game. As I outlined in the overview above, the Recruit edition is the perfect jumping-off point and the Command Edition is an excellent way to take a deep dive into the game.
For parents whose first encounter with Games Workshop and Warhammer is via their children, the game and it’s background are bewildering. It’s far cry from standard boardgames. I think this is something that old-hands tend to forget. New players arriving in the hobby are vital if we want it to grow and flourish for another 30 years, that’s why user-friendly starter sets are a must. Games Workshop has pulled out all the stops with these boxes, trying hard to remove all assumed knowledge and build an understanding of the game from the ground up. The Starter editions are incredibly user-friendly and provide the perfect start to what is a deep and satisfying hobby. Welcome aboard!
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.