Getting Started in Warhammer 40K Part 1: Box Sets

The biggest jewel in the crown of Games Workshop is undoubtedly Warhammer 40K.  The fans just can’t get enough of that grim darkness.  For many years it seemed that Space Marines, one of the many factions available, outsold the entire Fantasy range.  With the upgrade to a new edition last year the game has become much more accessible than it was in the past.  So, let’s have a look at the options available for getting started in Warhammer 40K.

Testing the Waters

First of all, it is important to be sure you are definitely interested as this is not a cheap hobby.  Many veterans can no doubt enlighten you as to the fortunes they have invested into it.  If you like the look of it though, I would recommend getting along to shop, ideally a Warhammer one, to have a look at some models in person.  Even better would be to have a go at the game, the staff will usually be happy to help you out with an introductory game.  You may even get a free model to get you going.  It would be very surprising if any of this put you off, it usually just reinforces how fun it can be.  However, it’s always worth making sure before spending your hard-earned cash.

Box sets

Games Workshop have done a really good job of making the game much more accessible and providing us with lots of levels and options.  To cover them all in one post would take a very long time so today we are going to look at the box sets.  This is the traditional method of getting started in the chosen game system, be it AOS, 40K or LOTR.  Although it requires a reasonable investment, you will receive almost everything you need to get started gaming.  All you will need to add on is some glue and some snips to cut out and assemble your figures.  I would also recommend a hobby knife or similar to get rid of mould lines, but you can worry about that when you get to the painting stage.

Versions and What’s Included

All the starter set boxes currently available contain the newly released Primaris Space Marines of the Imperium and the Death Guard, a Space Marine chapter fallen to the ruinous powers in the classic Imperium vs Chaos match up.  All the sets come with a transparent ruler, some dice and transfer sheets for markings on your Marines.

Dark Imperium

The most complete set you can get is Dark Imperium at £95.  This set includes the full hardback rulebook which is a high quality (as always from GW) 280-page tome.  Don’t worry, it isn’t all rules.  There is a lot of background and gorgeous artwork.  There is also a booklet for each faction included which is sort of a mini codex giving you all the info you require to use them.  Now the armies themselves.  Of the whopping 53 miniatures included, 22 are Primaris Space Marines and 31 are Death Guard.

The big starter boxes are always great value for money.  To give you an idea, just buying the rulebook, an Intercessor squad and Inceptor squad would cost £100 separately.  That only gives you 13 of the 22 Primaris miniatures included in the set and a rulebook.  In addition, as you have 2 armies in the box you are able to play with a friend that has no miniatures.

Know No Fear

Know No Fear Box

Coming in at £50 the Know No Fear set is a shrunken down version of Dark Imperium.  For the reduced-price tag, you will receive 31 miniatures (22 less than the big set) and a set of core rules instead of the full rulebook.  At nearly half the price though this is still a good deal if you are looking to start off with a smaller investment.  With 14 Primaris Space marines and 17 Death guard you have a decent starting force for both sides.   However, this set also includes a double-sided gaming mat and a simple terrain piece.  As well as having all the required rules to play it also includes a ‘start playing’ guide taking you through set missions.

Know No Fear Contents

This is an excellent box set for new players.  The reduction in miniatures makes it a little less intimidating when it comes to building and painting.  In addition, the start playing guide is a great step by step introduction to how to play the game.  Although this edition is significantly simplified in comparison to 7th it can still be a bit overwhelming at first.  It is a much more self-contained box with everything you need for a great game of Warhammer.  It can even be used as a standalone game if you decide not to build on it.  Again, it is a great value box for what you pay.  Separately the Inceptors and the Bloat Drone (which are included in the box) cost £60, already more than the entire Know No Fear set.

First Strike

WH40k First Strike Box

The final set up for comparison today is First Strike, the smallest of the three.  At a price of £25 it is sitting at a very accessible price point.  Included in the box are: 15 miniatures (6 Primaris and 9 Death Guard), a rules booklet, a background/painting booklet, a double-sided gaming mat and a scenery piece.

First Strike WH40K Contents

This set is at the very start of the introduction spectrum.  It is more designed to give you a sample of the game and the Warhammer 40K universe than give you a good starting force or standalone game.  This is something it does very well. There is no better way to get a feel for 40K than you can get from this set at this price point.  The Primaris marine models cost £20 alone, so you are getting all the Death Guard, mat, scenery, booklets and dice for £5.  As always, a great value box.

So, which to go for?  I’m afraid that depends on you.  I would always recommend the largest box as it is the best value and you can sell off a half or trade it away if you aren’t too keen.  I am already a big Warhammer fan and collect Space Marines though so that makes sense for me.  If you are brand new to the game and haven’t had a chance to give it a try I would try one of the smaller boxes at first.  There is always  the option to upgrade later rather than having a big expensive box gathering dust.  Once you are hooked in you will have plenty of small boxes doing that.  Hobby hoarding is maybe something we can touch on in the future, in the meantime, enjoy.



Fan of the Warhammer and 40K hobby. Back into it for the last three years after a long break.

2 thoughts on “Getting Started in Warhammer 40K Part 1: Box Sets

  • April 25, 2019 at 12:32 pm

    FWIW as someone looking to get into 40K, I bought the Dark Imperium set – but I now wish I’d got the Know no Fear set. Without a mat, step-by-step missions and pre-coloured miniatures, the Dark Imperium set is pretty daunting for getting a game going.

    • May 29, 2019 at 12:43 pm

      Great point. Dark Imperium is excellent value for money but even trimmed down for 8th edition the rules can still be daunting. The amount of miniatures included too is many months work for the casual wargamer.


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