Warhammer 40,000, what is it? Well, it is another take on the futuristic sci-fi universes we all know and love. Substantially different from the mainstream universes, such as Star Trek and Star Wars. Rather than the diplomatic relations and wars found in those universes, Warhammer 40k is only war.
Originally stemming from Warhammer Fantasy, Games Workshop released a tabletop roleplaying game by the name of Rogue Trader in order to delve into the sci-fi universe format. The grimdark galaxy of 40,000 years in the future offers no bad or good guys, but rather the pure climate of survivability. While popular among gamers and other nerds in the franchise, the game is gaining more and more ground with a vast collection of art, animations, and soon to be a TV show.
With many nerdy TV shows coming to an end in recent years, such as the Avengers franchise, there becomes a new wave of content to interest others. Comparatively, Warhammer 40k is not a typical sci-fi universe where diplomatic relations take place or relationships form. The factions of this universe are constantly at war with one another.
When it comes to entering the Warhammer 40k universe, there is a lot at a first glance. With the number of factions and lore, it can be extremely overwhelming. However, with the ever-increasing content of the Internet, starting points are becoming easier and easier to approach. There are 40 plus books in the franchise.
Compared to other sci-fi universes, such as Star Wars and Star Trek, Warhammer 40K takes a much darker viewpoint on humanity’s future. This darker approach makes the content a bit more alluring to fans and newer fans as the black and white moral are replaced entirely with shades of gray. There is no “happy ending” or redemption, but entirely war-driven methods of conquering the universe, unless you are discussing the Tau Empire (which is a new faction that is attempting to diplomatically conquer the territory of the Imperium of Man).
If you made it this far in the article, then the universe must pique your interest. An amazing glance at the brutality of this universe animation series is referred to as “Astartes.” Their series focuses on visual lore and Space Marines. To those who don’t know, Spaces Marines are genetically enhanced human men clad in armor. Imagine Captain America, but more. While it isn’t a starting point towards the lore, it is a great visual to what Warhammer 40k is.
The TV show that’s coming out is a much more clear and better starting point for understanding the Warhammer Universe. Since the Universe began in 1987, several books have been released then. If you are more interested in reading the franchise, there is the more popular Night Lords Trilogy by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, but if you want to go further down the hole that is this lore, you can start with the Horus Heresy series. There are about 50 books in the series that set the background for the current 40k beginning with Horus Rising.
In order to gain more insight and lore on the subject, I interviewed ArchWarhammer, a YouTuber who has uploaded several lore videos on the Warhammer Universe. He has proven to have vast knowledge of the universe with his 15 years of investment.
Q: How long have you been invested in the universe?
A: “Somewhat difficult question, isn’t it? Cause it depends on your definition of “invested,” I guess. I mean, I didn’t really start collecting models because I couldn’t for quite a while. When I got a hold of the Chaos Dwarf Codex that was basically the old way of selling. They were selling the Chaos Dwarf Codex and Blood Bowl miniatures, cause again it was a toy store. They didn’t actually know what any of this actually was. So, it wasn’t until I went to a vacation in Denmark, many years thereafter, where I went to a Games Workshop Store for the first time and could pick up a handful of models to begin painting with. That’s where I started with Skaven, so I’ve probably been invested in this for, ballpark number 15 odd years.”
Q: Considering the content, you put on YouTube, how much knowledge would you say that you have of the Warhammer 40k Universe?
A: “A fair bit. A fair bit. Though mostly of the older stuff, quote unquote. I was doing YouTube full time. I am not able to keep up with like every book that gets released these days. So, ballpark like 90%. It is a big universe, but I have been reading it for years now.”
Q: What would be the best starting pointing for someone who is new to Warhammer?
A: “The best starting point, eh? Well, with TV Show, when that eventually comes out, Inquisitor, that will be very interesting cause that could be potentially an excellent entry point. It could also be an awful entry point depending upon, you know, if the series is good or not. But if its good, if its thorough, if it’s done well. The books are excellent. The Inquisition series is fantastic. If that is done well, I think it will be a great entry point because it will introduce them to everything they need to know about 40k in that no hero is invulnerable. Gregor Eisenhorn goes through a great deal of loss through course of his story and he even turns very radical about it as well.
I think that will be an excellent introduction, but without looking to the future, right now, probably video games. You know, stuff like Dawn of War or Space Marine, etcetera because that will kind of be an easy way to get into the setting, where well ‘Okay, this is just a strategy game, this is just a third person hack-and-slash’ and then if you feel that the setting is interesting and it catches you then you can seek out some more of the material.
Yeah, I think that’s probably better, because getting into the hobby, the modeling, that’s difficult. I mean, first and foremost, it’s not a cheap hobby in the slightest. Then you got to assemble the models, you got to paint them, you got to figure out all the rules, figure out how to build and army, then you got to buy another six or seven boxes sets at 50 to 60 dollars a pop, yeah. It’s a deep barrier of entry.”
Q: How does it compare to more mainstream universes, like Star Wars or Star Trek in terms of content?
A: “Well, I think, the Star Trek one is obvious. Star Trek is meant to be almost a utopian idealized future in many ways. It’s humanity at its best; doing what it can do in the best way it can do. And, you know, encountering the perils of the universe and so on. It is fairly idealized. It does have its darker realms, especially the original stuff, but again it’s a relatively idealistic view of the future.
Star Wars, a little less so, because Star Wars wasn’t created to be a big thing. Star Wars was made using a World War II replica weaponry on a shoestring budget. No body actually thought it would take off. Hell, the title Star Wars, it has its own meaning in our heads when we say, but in reality, it just means war in the stars, you know? It’s almost intended to be a science fiction, ‘actiony’ kind of one-shot kind of thing. But it, of course, has grown massively over the years in a little bit more of a darker direction as well.
But the primary differentiable really is the darkness of it. Warhammer started out as a very dark universe. It has a lot of 70s heavy metal humor as well. But the original inspiration literally came from heavy metal posters. You know, the ones with the skeletons rocking on guitars and stuff. And its continued in that vein.
It is a ruthless, remorseless, brutal universe that it continues the idea that there is no white or black, there’s only shades of gray. Which is, again, quite different to both Star Trek and Star Wars. Well, Star Wars is less so, because it was very black and white to begin with, but still with ideas of redemption and Darth Vader redeems himself. I doubt Horus Lupercal’s going to do the same.
Image credit: Marc Buehler