Once upon a time there was a teenager named Phil. Phil played Orks. In fact, Phil had collected Orks since he started the hobby aged 11 and had amassed a terrifying Ork horde which could completely blanket his parents' living room carpet.
I met up with Phil again aged 23 and asked about his Orks.
"They're up in the loft, haven't had them out since the new Codex."
"I bet you had to buy a load of stuff for the new Codex?"
"Couple of Dethkoptas."
"What about Battlewagons, Nob bikers, Lootas?"
"I've got loads of them already. Oh, I did by the new Shokk Attak gun though. It looks really cool."
And that was it! He bought 15 Dethkoptas (for about £5 each on eBay) and a Big Mek with a Shokk Attak Gun. Then he asked if I fancied playing an Apocalypse game. Shamefully, I had to decline, telling him that I only had about 2,000 points of Tau at the time.
I know this is an extreme example, but it clearly shows the benefit of choosing Warhammer 40K army and sticking with it. Phil didn't need to buy anything when the new codex came out because he'd invested in an army to the exclusion of all others.
So when I'm talking about choosing an army, I don't mean a small tournament sized force designed for pwning noobs, I mean that you take the army Codex and gradually collect everything in it.
Now that's a big commitment and even I'm a little frightened by it!
But it isn't the building, painting and playing that worries me, it's not being able to have a go with all the other armies in Warhammer 40K and I think that 'Codex envy' and the 'cool factor' is a big problem that so many 40K players suffer from.
Some model kits genuinely blow your socks off. The Tyranid Tyrgon, the Ork Stompa or the Imperial Guard Valkyrie are a few jaw dropping examples that conjure up all sorts of awesome imagery.
I'd like an Imperial Guard Valkyrie army. I'd like an Ork Battlewagon army. I'd like a Salamanders Space Marines army with Land Raider Redeemers transporting thunder hammer and storm shield Terminators led by Vulkan Hestan. The list goes on...
But none of us have the time or money for all of that, so we're often restricted to playing one or perhaps a couple of armies at a time.
Unfortunately, with so many great army Codex books constantly being released, it's far too easy to give into temptation. Many players, like myself fall foul of rules changes either in the game itself or the release of new Codex books and fall into an evil circle of selling an old army 1500 points tournament to fund a new 1500 points tournament army. Although some people who only play tournaments actually prefer this and acquire a new army every year.
How to Choose a Warhammer 40K ArmyActually choosing a 40K army comes down to three things: winning games, painting models and army background. You need to be able to tick all three boxes before you should begin to part with your hard earned cash.
1: Winning Games
Winning isn't everything, but it's no fun getting stomped on. You need to find an army that suits your playing style or at the very least your idea of warfare.
If you're playing your army purely to win and aren't inspired by its background, then the gaming experience is going to become boring when you're not continually winning. If you're swept up in the character of your force, you’re telling a story and enjoying the game whether you’re having a close fought battle, a glorious massacre or making a desperate last stand.
Everyone has their limits when it comes to painting. Whether it’s struggling to paint a complicated scheme to a standard that you are happy with or if you just feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of miniatures you need to paint to produce a decent force. So try not to bite off more than you can chew, and if you have a lot to paint, stick to your standards and do a little at a time.
Why I Chose Space Wolves as My Warhammer 40K Army
If this were a forum, now would be the time for everyone to shout that you should choose the army that they play and how awesome it is.
Well, I'm not going to do that. I'm going to tell you that I essentially chose to play a Space Marine army, because that's what Space Wolves are. They're Space Marines with some special rules and unique units.
On the whole Space Marine armies are versatile, very forgiving to play, easy to paint, easy to convert and have a great history. I chose a Space Wolf army because it's easy.
I know that I'm never going to win any tournaments simply because I don't play the game enough and the Dice Gods hate me. So I felt that choosing a forgiving army that's easy to pick up and play would be a good idea.
Having played a Tau army with a very difficult paint scheme for 2 years made me realise that I needed something easy to paint, more forgiving to play and an army with a longer history in the Warhammer 40K universe. It was incredibly frustrating being invited to campaign weekends set in the Imperium's history when the Tau hadn't even been discovered yet!
By comparison, playing a Space Marine army is a walk in the park. Although sometimes I wish I'd chosen Orks for the added humour.
So for me, the plan is to keep building my Space Wolves army ad infinitum in the same way my regular opponent James has been building his Dark Angels army for the past few years. He's got everything at his disposal. It doesn't matter what size game you play, he can produce a good, well rounded army and some very characterful themed armies as well.
Of course, James is looking forward to the next Dark Angels Codex when it comes out, because apart from any new units, he's got everything already. Expanding his existing army is relatively affordable and effortless.
Armies to Avoid
Tau, Necrons, Dark Eldar, Daemons and anything whacky like 13th Company or Lost & The Damned. Seriously though, the newer races in Warhammer 40K simply don't hold their weight in the long term.
Warhammer 40K was built on melta guns, plasma guns, lascannons and powerfists. Many of the newer armies have been designed around Troops armed with basic guns and very few weapon options.
With all of the 'original armies' like Orks, Space Marines, Chaos Marines, Eldar and Imperial Guard having the staple weapons that the game is built around, the more recent armies pale in comparison. (Although Tyranids have always been a strong army.)
Of course, this could all change if any of them receive a major revamp -and we all know that they really need it!
As for Chaos Daemons, they are a strong army at present, but having been designed entirely around the 5th edition rules set, a change in the rules could cripple them in one fell swoop.
The safest armies are the classic armies like Space Marines, Orks, Eldar, Chaos or Imperial Guard. They've been in the game since the start and they've comfortably survived every edition and every new Codex. Okay, the Imperial Guard used to die in droves, but they're pretty good now.
They're all versatile armies with a lot of units and a lot of tactical choice and form the core of the Warhammer 40K game. Now begs the question whether Games Workshop made a mistake in 3rd edition with the release of the new Necrons, Dark Eldar and Tau armies? But that remains to be seen.
As for our new gaming group recruit: He's doing his best to make his Dark Eldar army work as best as it can, but until the army gets a new Codex, he's contemplating an Imperial Guard army.
Even so, he's making the most of playing his Dark Eldar, which you can read all about in my first Space Wolves battle report this weekend!