How to Play Warhammer 40k?

Hello everyone, Frankie here, aka the world’s greatest 40k player. Today I’m going to talk about how to play 40k. As I am an expert, this will be really good information.

 Most interesting man in 40k

So, the other day I played a game with the maelstrom cards. I was not super excited about it but my friend was in town and really wanted to play using them. I had played a game with them right when they came out and was not impressed, but decided to give them another go. So, we got setup and started the game. I started off really strong and killed a lot of his army quick without paying attention to the cards. Little did I know, he was racking up the points and when we came around to turn four he was kicking my butt (in terms of Maelstrom points). We had a blast! I tried to play catch up with little gain and ended up losing. But the game as a whole was a lot of fun. He had a blast even though his army was dying, just drawing cards and strategically scoring points. The maelstrom cards are not super competitive but are a way to play 40k that is a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it.


Now, the way I really like to play 40k is the no holds barred, competitive games that we play at tournaments. I like to play against the face-stomping lists and see if I have what it takes to bring them down. This is fun to me because I am a competitive person and would really like to see table-top gaming turn into something along the lines of pro Starcraft. 40k is a long ways off from that dream but in the time being I enjoy the closest thing to that (for me, anyway) and that is tournament 40k. Now there are all sorts of different tournaments. You have the restricted format events such as Highlander, or friendly format which is usually based on themed lists. However, my favorite is the 40k main event or championships, which is usually the more competitive format.


Another very common Format is Apocolypse 40k. This is where you play with massive armies usually played by 3-4 people on each side. These games take a long time to finish but are usually a blast as long as you have the right people playing. A lot of times the game will have a back story and a hard narrative will be forged. Not a huge fan of apoc, personally, just because of how long it takes and I prefer a more structured and competitive game. But there are plenty of people that this is all they play and that is awesome. Some of the best terrain and armies I have ever seen have been from straight Apoc players. If you haven’t played an Apocolypse game I recommend giving it a shot at least once.


Next we have straight up 40k, or,  “Warhammer 40k right out of the rulebook.” It is crazy, haha, you can take as many detachments as you want and take whatever combination of armies you want, or just whatever models you want with Unbound. It gets a little much for me, but there are a lot of people that love it. It lost me as soon as people were taking Marnius Calgar, Draigo, Azrieal, Dante, And Logan in the same army with Abbadon and thee Swarmlord. Just makes no sense from a fluffy perspective. I don’t readthe fluff much, but I still kind of like the game to make a little sense. Now the counter point to this is that the above army sounds awesome: you have the power rangers marching up the field, haha. As cool as it is though, i don’t want to play against that very often.

power ranger

The point of this article is that there are so many different ways to play the game that we love and it is really starting to show in the tournament scene. Tournament events are dropping in attendance for the main events and increasing for other style of events. It’s really strange to me as a tournament gamer, but the variety is something that I am really happy with. It’s also been showing with some veteran players. They are getting burnt out and not enjoying the game they used to. I think they just need to give other formats a try or go to some events to light the spark again. And luckily there is no right or wrong way to play 40k, so play however makes you happy.

I am loving that you can play this game basically any way you want to and as long as other people are willing to play the same way, then go for it. So my question to all of you is how do you like to play 40k? Do you like to play with the no holds barred lists against the Power Rangers? Or Maybe play the massive Apocolypse battles with your friends? There is no wrong way and I am excited to see what you all prefer.


About White925

Frankie is the greatest 40K player on the planet. Nuff Said.

15 Responses to “How to Play Warhammer 40k?”

  1. TrueKnight December 29, 2014 12:20 pm

    I prefer to not have to deal with crazy unbound/unlimited cad’s etc… I prefer to stay as close to the old school foc as possible. I like that they are providing us with endless content and variation, but I think it requires a conversation with ur opponent beforehand.

    • White925 December 30, 2014 2:45 pm

      Yeah I totally agree. So in that case do you not take allies?

  2. Rob December 29, 2014 12:20 pm

    How do you consider yourself the greatest 40k player if you only play 1 format ? To me its kind of like the winner of the NFL being World Champs. (tottaly kidding). But anyway you are right that this is a social game and its seems it harder to find a game these days due to this fact. I long for the days of just show up and play at my flgs. Now my opponent and I need to have a 30 minutes discussion about what kind of game we want and what we will allow.

    • Jason
      Rawdogger December 29, 2014 3:42 pm

      How dare you, sir. You don’t get to questions the greatest 40k player in the world

    • White925 December 30, 2014 2:47 pm

      Heck yeah I base my title off of the NFL titles so it doesnt need to make sense. Yeah ill bet pick up games are so complex.

  3. Ming December 29, 2014 1:38 pm

    Locally, I have no problems finding a 40K game, I just show up…my issue is with the rest of my life, interfering with the time I want to play 40K. I’ve missed the past three or so local tournaments, and the last two or so weeks of club night to things like “work” and “holidays”.

    40K could achieve a certain level of pro-play if there was a non-model (aka computer) big screen format, and all you had to do was arrive with a list, pull it up on the display, and play it. Maybe one of the current 40K-based computer games could be used in a head2head format on a big screen real time at the LVO for fun. However, that would kill the table top game as we know it.

    Overall, the 40K tournament attendance is also impacted by the presence of other popular game systems in their own tournament style format. They all compete against each other for time and $$. To keep the attendance up, I’d keep the formats defined so that the “common player” can have fun at the event, and make sure they know the event is geared for that purpose. I always hate it round one when someone gets “baby sealed” by a top tier player, rather than having the top tier players be paired with their peers. Award recognition to “new” players can also be great. Especially when Frankie “chooses” to award them some recognition.

    Creative Twilight had a recent article on dealing with Maelstrom missions in local tournaments. Its worth a read.

  4. Chris December 29, 2014 2:15 pm

    Recently I played in a 5 round tournament that had a “standard” ie old-school mission as primary, a Maelstrom as secondary, plus SlTW, FB and LB as tertiary battle points. FW and LoW (within reason) were in, and you could have 4 sources.

    It was Awesome. There was a bit of a divide between the top 5 or 6 lists and the rest of us, but most were there for the beer anyway (including those with the competitive lists), but the best part was the sheer variety and occasional ridculousness of opponents.

    Getting to vary your diet in tournaments is a good thing. Besides I heard digesting too much Serpent Spam gives you gas……

  5. Painjunky December 29, 2014 8:24 pm

    Glad you enjoyed playing with the maelstrom deck. Good on you for trying something new.

    I too did not think much of maelstrom cards when they first appeared but now they are my favourite way of playing 40k. New objectives every turn is great fun and keeps you on your toes, you have to be ready for anything.

    A fortnight ago my DE were facing a mean AM + IK list that included a baneblade. Nobody in the club thought I had any chance. I was able to take down the Knight and half his tanks and infantry while he vaporized any poor DE unit that popped its head up.

    End of T6 I only had a handful of warriors, 2 venoms and some reavers left but I had won convincingly 10-3 on malestrom points!

    We both had a great time and the onlookers agreed it was one of the most interesting games they had seen in ages.

  6. Thomas December 30, 2014 12:42 am

    Can somebody please explain this paragraph, it makes no sense to me:

    Little did I know, he was racking up the points and when we came around to turn four he was kicking my butt (in terms of Maelstrom points). We had a blast! I tried to play catch up with little gain and ended up losing.

    I’m pretty sure that Frankie can’t be beaten. Being the the world’s greatest and all. 🙂

  7. T2-Keks December 30, 2014 4:08 am

    Personally i switch the playstyle a lot. I play from KillTeam to Apocalypse, games by local tournament rules or straight out of the book. Usually we go as competetive as possible in the given formats but from time to time i ask to take a step back and not play the most nasty stuff possible to enable competetive games with a less powerful army. For example if i want to field a plague marine horde i might ask my opponent to maybe bring a list of comparable power and not something that will just roflstomp it.

  8. Matais Yohansen December 30, 2014 5:39 am

    My friends and I play a sort of combined version of Maelstrom and old 6th edition scoring rules. We do Maelstrom like normal – whoever’s scored the most Maelstrom points at the end wins there – but we also give players 3 Victory Points for each objective they’re holding at the end of the game, and a further 3 Victory Points to whoever has the most Kill Points (as well as the normal 1 point each for First Blood, Linebreaker, and Warlord).
    We’ve played probably 8 or so games in this format and every time, as long as one player didn’t get tabled, the ultimate scores ended up being incredibly close. Player 1 would score 12 Maelstrom points and win in Kill Points, and getting Warlord for a total of 16 points. Player 2 would have maybe 8 Maelstrom points, be holding two objectives, and have First Blood and Linebreaker, which would give them a total of…16 points. So even though they lost in Maelstrom, they ended up tying the game overall.
    Now granted my friends and I don’t play the most competitive lists in the world so I don’t know how effective this would be for tournament play, but for friendly games it seems to even out the imbalance of pure Maelstrom.

  9. rexsxcarlet December 31, 2014 3:53 am

    Start-up games seem to be the majority of games played.
    Many are growing tired of having to discuss, argue, and/or decide what rules and units to use before they play. (one of the reasons MTG, and X-Wing are so popular, just open and play)
    Additionally, not everyone has all the rules, especially E-rules, which causes even more issues.
    Then add in unpainted, non-wysiwyg, Proxy, poor-counts-as, no written lists, and etc. and that is the mess we call 40k.
    Following set standards, house rules, and/or tournament rules is the key.
    (Frontline is one of the only groups linking FLGS together on this!)
    Structure = Less; arguments, cheating, gimmicks, overpowered units, “tailored*” lists, and etc.
    Standards = More; painted, wysiwyg, written “all comers*” lists, balanced points, and quickly resolving issues, and etc.
    I am all for pew-pew, scenarios, and etc. but those games a few and far between. (we had a game where everyone brought a BaneBlade, those that did not have one, were lent one),
    *List tailoring
    A) Hi you want to play 40K
    B) sure
    A) what army do you run?
    B) SM
    A) cool, pulls list from “front shirt” pocket…
    A) Hi you want to play 40K
    B) sure
    A) what army do you run?
    B) Necrons
    A) cool, “pulls list from “rear pants” pocket…

  10. Cashman January 1, 2015 9:51 pm

    Hey Frankie, when are you going to delve more into the Thunder done list? Really would like to see more bat reps against some tough list also. Not many armies left in 40k that can work the assault phase like Thunderwolves.

  11. grossguts January 4, 2015 10:47 pm

    Apocalypse, maelstrom and tourniment play. I have 40k points of 40k with 10 armies (6 really if imperial forces are one army). My favorite by far are my orks. I have 15k points of them. Apocalypse is awesome fun with them, killing happens everywhere, there is no ground to close, when my guys kill themselves it isn’t that big of a deal. I also love maelstrom with them, I can play something goofy and fluffy and still stand a chance of scoring more points than someone with a more serious list. The other mode of play is fun for a short, competitive game.

  12. Kartr Kana January 8, 2015 8:17 am

    As a newer player (started in April 2014) I vastly prefer Maelstrom to Eternal War and “older” scoring formats the vets want to use. And the Vets are usually the ones who don’t want to play Maelstrom, or modify it to resemble older scoring systems. And it seems like the more senior the vet the more insistent they are that Maelstrom sucks and we should score a different way.

    The more I play the more I realize the veterans want the older style of scoring, because they don’t want to change their lists/thinking/strategies. Older scoring systems lend themselves to simply standing up and beating the snot out of each other. Tau, Eldar, TauDar, IG and other hard to kill or very shooty armies excel under Eternal War or modified scoring and that’s what the veterans are running and building their lists for.

    Newer players, like myself, playing against each other using almost zero modifications to the book* and playing Maelstrom have been enjoying much more balanced matches. AdLance v Tactical Marine spam is still scary, but I can play to objectives and win on points and just use my Rhinos to stay mobile. That’s the other thing, a lot of “useless” and “sub-par” units actually wind up being very useful. Vets are always telling me “use pods instead of Rhino’s” because pods will get me in firing range faster, but my Rhinos keep winning me games by keeping my army mobile to score objectives. Assault Marines are similar, their mobility and ignore terrain Jump Packs let them quickly re-position to take or contest objectives giving them great utility despite being sub-par melee units.

    I’ve seen the argument made that pure Maelstrom objectives in tournaments will just make the Eldar Wave Serpent Spam even better. However that ignores the fact that the Wave Serpents will have to move up to take/contest objectives. As will any shooting army. Forcing Wave Serpents and shooty armies to move closer to you in order to take objectives means that your Assault Army, or Krak Grenades have a better chance of taking down Wave Serpents and shooty units. Why wouldn’t CC armies want Maelstrom objectives? Get close to an objective and then when they have to take it for a mission, jump out and punch the shit out of those ugly Tau/Eldar/IG faces!

    Maelstrom also forces shooty armies to re-think their entire make-up. No longer can you just bubblewrap squadrons of Russes, Baslisks and Hydras in a 200 Conscript fearless (Priest) blob and not move all game long. You’ll kill a lot of stuff, but you won’t score very many points. Now, with Maelstrom, those Chimera’s with Veterans have a place in your list. Send out that Autocannon+bolter+las arrays+heavy flamer+melta gun, ObSec mini-forts to capture/contest. Field those Rhino’s, those Devilfishes, all the transports!

    *We do play that if it is impossible to fulfill a card such as “kill a flyer” (when there are no flyers in the game), then you discard that card and redraw. If it’s pseudo-impossible “hold all objective markers” you have to keep the card.