It’s been around since 1987 but you might not have heard of it: "Warhammer 40,000," produced by Games Workshop, is hands down one of the most compelling tabletop wargames around. It takes place in a sci-fi setting but mixes visual and narrative elements of the Middle Ages and both World Wars. The game is currently on its sixth edition of rules and provides an engaging experience where champions can challenge each other to duels, commanders can call in devastating air-strikes, and aliens summon strange and devastating powers.
"Warhammer 40k" is similar to most other tabletop games: players move squads of troops around a pre-established playing field and use dice rolls to reflect everything from shooting combatants to figuring out what happens when you penetrate a tank’s hull. After players deploy their forces, they each take turns moving their troops then attacking their opponents. The rules get more complicated from there, but all you need to play are some dice, a ruler, the rulebook, your army, and a flat surface.
There are currently twelve very distinct armies to choose from, and everyone can find something to love. If you like the idea of fielding a traditional army of grunts armed with basic rifles and big tanks, then the Imperial Guard provides a force that anyone will recognize. If playing superhuman soldiers in power armor is more your thing, then the Space Marines will suit your needs. There are plenty of other options that break from the norm such as the ravenous Aliens-esque Tyranids or the robotic and Terminator-like Necron.
Every model comes unassembled and unpainted, and half of the fun of the hobby is posing and painting your troops the way you want. You can make up any story you’d like for your army or none at all. If you’re not the creative type but want your men to have some kind of identity, there’s more than enough information in the rulebook to give you ideas.
"Warhammer 40k" has twenty years of storytelling behind it, but the important thing to remember is that it’s a setting, not a single story. You don’t have to know every piece of information about the game to play, and beginners will find that learning about their chosen army and its place in the galaxy is enough to get started. The game takes place in the forty-first millennium. Humanity has built up an Imperium that spans most of the galaxy, but it’s ruled by a slowly crumbling religious dictatorship. Even if someone wanted to rebel, they’d be too busy fighting any one of the numerous alien races or demonic forces that want to annihilate humanity. War is everywhere and it never stops – there’s a good reason why it’s called the dark millennium.
Where to find it:
Most tabletop gaming stores will carry "Warhammer 40,000," but if there aren’t any in your area the Games Workshop website provides every product with a few very rare exceptions. Considering how prevalent the game is in the tabletop community, you won’t be hard-pressed to find opponents. Games can be as small or as large as you want them to be, and the only real restriction on how you play is what your opponent is willing to agree with.