The Importance of Starting Blind in Warhammer 40k

A guest editorial by Nolan Rush regarding the importance of choosing the 40k army that YOU want and not what the current meta tells you to do when first starting out in the hobby.

So this may sound a bit strange, but if you have any friends wanting to start the Warhammer 40k hobby, maybe you should give this advice some consideration. I believe that when it comes to picking your first force, the less you know about your army, the better.


Once you have decided to delve into the 40K world, the first thing you need to do is look at all the models, whether you go to a games store or Games Workshop website. If you are going to enjoy this new hobby, you need to choose the models that visually appeal to you the most. When I was selecting my first army, I was torn between Orks, Sisters of Battle, and Tau. In the end, my love of robots won me over and I bought Tau.  Before you get to the point where you can actually play the game, you will be looking at your models for weeks if not months as you assemble and paint them. In that time, they are nothing more than models, without rules or abilities, and you will stare at every inch of them as your force progresses. If you don’t like what you see when you look at your models, it is going to be hard to convince yourself to finish what you don’t enjoy.  Even though my army is unpainted currently, every time I look at my Tau, I am happy with my choice and eager to continue the game.


Many new players are overly concerned with which army is “best” and what will make you win tournaments and such. While I can understand wanting to do well, I believe that any faction, if played exceptionally well, can win a game of 40k. Even during “Signals from the Frontline,” we heard Frankie and Reece discuss how sticking to one army and learning its ins and outs is what makes an army and its player good, not always just being a result of that faction’s power levels.  If you are new or know someone who is new and curious, take a step back from the scene and tell yourself or your friend that stats are not as important as loving what you do. As competitors, we get too wrapped up in the winning and we lose sight of why we play in the first place: to make friends, have laughs, drink beers, and roll dice. Before all else, 40k is a hobby; a thing we pay money to enjoy.

Hobby Time

While I can understand the argument, “If I pay money then I want to know what is best so I don’t waste my money and time” one must understand: codexes change. Formations come in and go out. Counters are created and destroyed. What is strong now may not be strong a month from now. Wasting your time and money becomes a relative concept. Wouldn’t you rather have an army that you love no matter how well they do, because they appeal to you, and wait for them to have their moment in the sun, rather than one that is good now but won’t mean much to you when it loses its edge? I implore you to keep these things in mind when choosing a race to play.

So what do you guys think? Is this the best way to start into the hobby?


About Jason

Raw Dogger, aka, Phat J Sleaze (formerly of the Booty Boyzzz) is a highly opinionated, questionably skilled 40k enthusiast. When not working at Frontline Gaming, he can be found down on Jabroni Avenue.

25 Responses to “The Importance of Starting Blind in Warhammer 40k”

  1. Petey Pab
    PeteyPab July 2, 2016 5:07 pm #

    Good write up, though I do not agree with a few of the author’s points his main point shines loud and clear and I agree wholeheartedly. We should pick a faction that we like first, because that is the absolute best way to get “hooked” into warhammer 40k. I am looking forward to your next article Nolan, I hope it is in the same mould as this one, but a little bit longer.

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    TheMostGood July 2, 2016 6:33 pm #

    This is what I tell new players more or less. This is an expensive and time consuming hobby. It’s the worst place to get buyers remorse from.

    New players should look at all of the “main” armies and narrow down which one they’d like to play. Then from there look into all the little details that each faction can provide you. Once you are sold on a particular type of army, buy the codex and get the rules. Then go to forums, read up on everything and ask questions. Get a feel for what you can expect the army to do. Get all of the pros and cons. It would suck to get a bunch of Tau expecting to do some melee shenanigans with them only to find out that they don’t like melee at all.

    Create some lists and have them critiqued by other players on forums and see what works, what doesn’t work and what you can expect. It’s a lot of extra work, but it will be worth it in the long run.

    You’ll have an idea of what to get so you don’t waste any money or time buying models that suck or can’t do what you think they can do.

    In hindsight, I didn’t do all these steps. I picked an army that A) none of my friends currently had B) I thought was kind of cool but I did not look at any other army.

    I knew that there were other armies and had a vague idea of what they were based off of playing the RTS, but I didn’t know what they had or could do. Luckily for me, I really do enjoy the army I chose!

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      punchymango July 4, 2016 3:40 pm #

      The more painful experience is reading all the fluff about, say, Dark Eldar being all about aggression and melee shenanigans, and then discovering that they’re terrible at it.

      A whole bunch of 40k armies don’t play anything like the fluff says they should. Nobody’s seriously going to pick up Tau thinking they’re melee powerhouses, but it’s reasonable, based on the fluff and the art, to expect Tyranids, or Orks, or Chaos Marines, or even Dark Eldar to be good at melee, and then you actually play and discover that Imperial Knights/Wraithknights hard counter assault-oriented forces from any of those books.

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    Duz_ July 2, 2016 8:51 pm #

    I usually suggest new players pick their army based on rule of cool.
    The only questions I really ask them answer is if they want a horde, well rounded or small specialist/elite style army. Then show them their potential options, but I always tell them pick the ones that they think look the best or they prefer the style of.

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    AngryPanda July 2, 2016 11:41 pm #

    I’ve heard this arguement a million times, especialy in the store I learned the game in. Listened to everyone telling new players to just get the models they want and I remember thinking they should stop lying to these kids. It’s like projecting their wishful thinking on how the game should be on the only people who will believe them.
    Maybe they will ask about which army is “best” and that isn’t realy the point. But what is true is that some armies are good and have been so constantly, at the very least over a span of years and some armies have been hot garbage for longer than many people play the game. Orks and Chaos aren’t going to suddenly get any love from Gw and we all know it.
    I think letting people walk into something like that, invest hundreds of dollars and at the very least weeks of time to build and paint is just not okay without warning them that they are chosing the game in hardmore. That they pick a faction that has been treated as an afterthought since the turn of the century.
    If someone starts out the game it is only fair to let them know that the marine dudes without spikes have gotten 3 books while the ones they are about to chose are still sitting on the same rules from the start of last edition.
    Same thing with something like Tyranids. It would be at least fair to warn them that the swarms of cool beasties they see there just go splat against power armor and that monstrous creatures on foot might look cool on pictures but will not actualy be any good in a game.
    Even if they don’t want to plan competetively no one wants to spend a ton of money and effort just to play and feel actively cheated then they see just how ridiculously the difference between their units and the stuff on the other side of the table is.

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      Heldericht July 3, 2016 8:46 am #

      Agree completely. If GW was actively balancing the game, I’d be all for it. But its clear that some armies are loved more than others. Eldar/SM/Tau/Chaos Daemons/Necrons are on a tier above the rest if the factions. While Dark Eldar/Orks/CSM are easily the red headed stepchildren of the bunch. The rest lie somewhere in between and this isnt likely going to change anytime soon.

      Why decieve naive new players by not telling them about this? You can find several overlapping styles and aesthetics in the top and bottom tiers. If they like DE, steer them towards Eldar with a darker color scheme.

      If all else fails you can always convert and use counts as armies to get the feel you want out of them. Heck Matt Root is no.1 in ITC right now and he uses War Comvocation with all converted Ork models. Why not encourage players to do that instead of having them waste time with a clearly underpowered army? It is a shame to make people waste time and money on these until GW makes some concrete changes. New players are not going to wait multiple years hoping for a change.

      The way I see it, aesthetics are irrelevant in a scene where conversions exist (actively encouraged in ITC). Pick the best army that also fits your playstyle, the rest can be molded to your tastes.

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        AngryPanda July 3, 2016 10:29 am #

        I absolutely support your attitude to conversions (and am building a “Sisters” army that will be counts as for whatever power armor codex I feel like..) I don’t think it is reasonable to asume that will work out for a new player. Getting into the game is hard enough as it is. So what a new player realy needs is an army in which most (I would like to say all but we’re talking about a GW game here and let’s not kid ourselves) units they buy will perform at least some role on the table and provide some sort of statisfactory moment that makes it feel like it was worth investing the time and money into them.
        These don’t have to be actual matchwinners. One hit wonders often make new players happy enough. But they should do something.
        Sadly 40k isn’t just unbalanced. It is so screwed that even the possibiltiy of a minor success often barely exist. Even in the unlikely case a Raider full of Whyches isn’t shot down they will just die charging something. Etc.
        I would happily point a new player to a weaker army (even if they ask for it the realy high end meta is beyond them yet anyway) but even then you play on the lower end there is a differnce between the utter failure of Tyranofex and handing a new player a Dreadknight.

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      Duz_ July 3, 2016 5:15 pm #

      You dont have to deceive a new player about power levels. As mentioned many new players do inevitably do ask the question.
      The point is more although you can tell the player what the state of the meta is. Making a decision based on pure perceived strengths isn’t the best way to enter 40k where things are often in flux and army play style and aesthetic often factor more into ones decision than power.

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      punchymango July 4, 2016 1:26 pm #

      I tend towards trying to give people straight talk on how those factions actually play. Like, “Tyranids are good if you like flying dragon monsters. But those hordes of little bugs, or the big awesome looking snake monsters, don’t do well unless your opponent builds specifically to not screw you over.”


      “Chaos marines can win, but they do it with a bunch of forge world units, psyker powers, and with demons or renegades helping them out. The army of power-armored badasses with chaos powers will frustrate and disappoint you, and your badass chaos lords are outclassed by the game’s real heavy hitters. If you like dark magic, demon summoning, and cultists and/or plague marines/noise marines, you might like CSM.”

      Telling people “oh, yeah, pick the guys you like. You like orks? That’s great” just leaves a bad taste in my mouth when even a non-optimized Tau or Eldar list can just smoke them without even trying all that hard.

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    Lord Krungharr July 3, 2016 6:06 am #

    I was wanting to put cool evil looking wing-jumppacks on my Cabal of Cyclopia sorcerers, but in gameplay terms bikes are so much better. Screw that noise. Wings, for evil!

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      MidnightSun July 3, 2016 1:49 pm #

      Are Wings still a separate and importantly distinct item of wargear in the Codex? Back in the old Codex: Lash of Submission, Wings just let you move as jump infantry without actually becoming jump infantry, and many times did I surprise some poor fool by a Winged Lash Sorceror bursting out of the top hatch of a Rhino with a thunderous “cacaw!”

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    ryan July 3, 2016 6:57 am #

    Nice writeup but its been my experience at my club with new players that while EVERYBODY still picks a starting army they like the lore/look of the army, when they lose every single game they play because the army they played is dogshit, they just quit playing.

    We recently gained and lost an orc and CSM player at my club after less 6 months as even playing against toned down eldar and tau (which are a plague at my club) they cant win a game, nor is it remotely fun being blasted off the table. I know make it very clear to new players when they ask my advise what i would do if i started today, and thats to buy a marine/eldar/tau or necrons, all of which are competative in our local meta.

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      AngryPanda July 3, 2016 7:29 am #

      Exactly this. New players put alot of effort into those armies and seeing them just scrubbed off tables against even casual opponents because the books are just in different leagues is going to be extremely frustrating.

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      TheMadMek July 3, 2016 10:25 am #

      I think it really depends on the mindset of the player. When my friends first got me into Warhammer, when I was debating which army to start, my wife told me to pick Eldar because they were the most powerful from her research online. I thought about it and just ended up getting Orks because I like them (and I can glue like crap and call it Kustom). I played around 10 games before I won my first one. Again it depends on the player. I love my Orks regardless of the”underpowered” Codex they have. I have fun with the people I play with because they are my friends. If I wanted to play something truly competitive, for no other reason than to win, I would play Magic again.

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        AngryPanda July 3, 2016 10:31 am #

        Nothing against your attitude but I think oneof the most poisonous things in the 40k community is the attitude that anyone who wants a competivie army is accused of “just wanting to win”. Most people don’t just weant to win. They just want a fair chance. And that’s not too much to ask. In fact playing fair is one of those things people tend to hold in high regards. It shouldn’t be any different to want that in your list.

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          TheMadMek July 3, 2016 4:56 pm #

          Yeah, it comes off a little harsh after I read it again. The point still remains, however. It all depends on the player. If winning at all costs is your responsibility thing, go do you. If playing an interesting fun scenario floats your boat, do that. If looking at cool models is your bag, get the army that you like the best. Everyone is different. I’m not here to say “Your fun is wrong.” I wasn’t trying to single out personality types. The original author seems to believe that blind choice is good, and it can be for the right person. It all depends on the player.

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        Heldericht July 3, 2016 2:01 pm #

        Not everyone wants to switch games just to have a chance at winning.

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          TheMadMek July 3, 2016 4:57 pm #

          True, but I am way better at Magic than 40k. 🙂

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        punchymango July 4, 2016 1:45 pm #

        Thing is, that’s an informed choice you made. You had someone, your wife, telling you that Eldar were strong and Orks were weak, and you went with the weaker choice aware that you were facing an uphill climb.

        “Just play the guys you like best/like the look of” leaves such a bad taste in my mouth because it’s willfully obfuscating the uphill climb and how steep it is for some factions.

        Can CSM win games? Sure. There are some units and interactions that can do well, if you’re willing to stick with them.

        But it’s much harder, and will take you much longer to reach the point where the army doesn’t feel like trying to fight dudes swinging live steel with a pool noodle, than if you go with one of the top tier armies. Pretending that learning curve isn’t there, or encouraging newbies to pick armies that are barely playing the same game as the top 4, is not how you get people to stick around.

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    hillshire July 3, 2016 8:50 pm #

    There is merit to the idea that a person will have more patience and fervor for an army that they feel a connection with. There’s more to this hobby than winning (although winning is great too). Trying to give new players a boost by guiding them into a mid to top tier army might help them in regards to not getting devastated game after game but really, the power of the army is less important than the lack of knowledge and experience of the player.

    Regardless of what army a new person chooses, they are going to need help from their local 40k community to grow into a player. Not just another target to be trounced.

    Some things that can help in no particular order:

    A mentor (or two or more). Someone who can help the newbies master basic mechanics and maneuver. You can hand someone a top flight Eldar list but if they don’t know how move their units tactically, have decent target priority, and take advantage of the specialized rules . . . they’re just going to be shot off the board.

    Lend an army. Let them try some different armies out before they commit to purchasing models. Have an experienced and supportive player assist them while they’re experimenting.

    Team games. 4 players, 2 per team consisting of a novice and a vet on each team. The noobs still make decisions for their own half of the army (with some guidance but not being ordered around) but at least the full weight of success or failure isn’t on the noobs’ shoulder alone. They can learn a lot from the vets while still contributing to the game.

    Cheat while teaching. Not in obvious ways. Keep your guys in their transports unless they get blown up. Keep moving the heavy weapons guys to “grab objectives” so they’re only snap firing. Leave the complicated and/or game winning models off the board or at least limit them to simply guarding an objective without laying waste to the rest of the board. Even better, leave opportunities which seem obvious to you because of your experience but will feel like tactical genius when the novices figure it out for themselves. If done well, they’ll have no idea you’re pulling your punches. The point isn’t to throw the game for them. The point is to limit and hide your own experience while they acquire their own.

    If all else fails, let them run an Exalted Court for a few games. With 5 Imperial Knights gunning and stomping, they’re bound to win a few games even if it’s by accident!

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    miggy July 4, 2016 3:06 am #

    I’ve discovered it’s a helluva lot easier getting someone into the tabletop once they’ve played DoW. Specifically Soulstorm with the Ultimate Apocalypse mod. A friend of mine whom I play SS with constantly wants to get into the tabletop and he already has a complete idea of what he wants, mostly because he’s played Soulstorm so much that now all he does is play Necrons. Lucky him, they’re OP is hell in both DoW and the tabletop.

    Given I started playing CSM (And started when 7th ed came out) and still loved it, I think he’s in for a party.

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    Obben July 4, 2016 12:52 pm #

    I started playing a year ago and I followed every ones advice, go for the unit you like.
    For me the unit is Trygon so I built my army around that unit. I was so happy when i found Subterranean swarm. There is something magical when seeing your painted Trygon emerge on the battle field and get instakilled.

    I also loved Hormagaunts until I had my first game.

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    James July 4, 2016 7:40 pm #

    Yeah, that last paragraph is very important. I have a buddy here who read online about how powerful some combo with Trazyn was…buys a bunch of Necrons…current dex comes out a few months later. He’s currently trying to sell the necrons (which he didn’t have any passion for)

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    Threllen July 5, 2016 10:29 am #

    While I agree with this somewhat, the author’s point of view may be skewed by the fact he chose to go with his favorite looking army which happened to be Tau. You would have had a far different experience if you had chosen SoB like you were contemplating. Then you might be sitting here writing an advice column about how choosing purely based on looks is a terrible idea.

    There is no blanket answer to how a newbie “should” choose their army. For me, I like the combo platter of aesthetics, playstyle, and competitiveness. I started with Tyranids because I liked bug xenos aesthetic, but the army just didn’t gel with my playstyle and I ended up selling it for Dark Eldar. This was right around 5th and when 6th dropped and neutered DE, I sold them as well. I liked the playstyle more than ‘Nids and I liked the aesthetic but the repeated nerfs just made it no fun for me to play. Sure I could do pretty well in some games/tournaments but overall the army just kept getting less fun (and less unique when the new dex destroyed their cool HQs and most of their wargear).

    Now I’m settled on CSM and Daemons. I like the playstyle and aesthetics of both and if I want a more powerful army for a tournament, I can easily leave the CSM at home and just bring daemons. The point of this rambling is just to say that sometimes aesthetics aren’t the only thing newbies care about. You have to carefully consider what you, as a gamer and a hobbyist, want to get out of Warhammer. Do you just care about competitive play? Research what armies are strong right now and pick one. Of course, it might get nerfed in a few months but no one can control that. Do you care more about the playstyle of an army? Pick one that fits your mentality. Do you care more about narrative games or the hobby itself? Pick the army you think looks the best – as the OP suggests. Maybe you want some combination of all of the above.

    My best advice is to tell your new friend to think carefully about what they really want to get out of the hobby and then you can help them from there. There’s no one right or wrong way for a new player to get into Warhammer.

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    Wayne October 24, 2016 5:26 pm #

    Late to the party but adding this for posterity. The problem right now is that if you tell somebody to pick what they like and it does not play well they will drop hundreds of dollars and then when they constantly lose just give up and quit. You need to be honest about what is good and what is not so the person can make an informed decision. If they want to play chaos or orcs for example, they should know what they are getting into so if they decide to still do it it is on them.

    In balanced games you can follow this advice and just tell people to pick what appeals to them. However in Warhammer that is not always a good thing because of the investment and because of the huge power gap between codexes. The last thing you want is to have a bunch of eager newbies start playing and then a couple months later say screw it this game is terrible and stop because they’ve just gotten steamrolled every single game they played. Speaking from experience losing all the time makes you not even want to bother

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