Recently I have been showing many of my friends what Tabletop Wargames and Warhammer 40k is all about. Some of them are even jumping into the hobby and getting their own armies. So i have been giving lots of advice like what Warhammer 40K army to choose, how to get started and some more general tips around the hobby. If you’re new to the hobby or think about starting your own army, these tips will hopefully be helpful to you. So let’s start with 10 things you should know before you start and probably won’t hear from a Games Workshop employee.
1 – If you buy the Codex, you will play the army
You will most likely not go into a Games Workshop unprepared. Chances are you already took a look at the armies in the online shop or watched some Youtube videos about the game. So, you will probably have an army or two in mind when entering the shop and will leave with a codex of one of the armies. This is a good thing and is exactly what you need to get started with the game. However you should really think about what army you want to play beforehand, because once you read the codex, know a bit about the lore and what cool things the units can do on the tabletop, you will very likely want to play this army.
If you want to get started with a Warhammer 40K army, you should always buy the “Getting started with …” box of that faction. It has a great value for a reasonable price and will get you enough units to play your first games. What I personally like about these boxes is they oftentimes contain units that will give you a pretty good feeling for the faction you will be collecting and will fit in many lists even if they are not the best units that faction has to offer.
So you might as well do that immediately. Buy the Codex and the “Getting started” Box in one go. You will need clippers and glue as well to assemble your models. Just get that right now, and you’re set to play your first games. You can get a basic version of the rules for free. The big rulebook has a lot of story, pictures and fluff in that is interesting but not necessary for your first game.
2 – Take some time choosing your color scheme
First off, you should choose your color scheme after you assembled your first models, not before. Just by putting them together, you will get to know your models, the sense of scale and what details they feature. This makes deciding your color scheme a lot easier, as you will better know what’s realisticallly possible and what isn’t. Plus the codex features many examples of different color schemes, helping you in your decision. I will create a more detailled guide on color schemes for your first army in the future. But for now here are some quick tips to get you started:
Be realistic – you will not recreate the quality shown in the codex (and neither will I after years in the hobby), so choose an easy but interesting color scheme that looks good to YOU.
Get help – If you have a friend that can show you some painting tricks you should ask them for help with your color scheme. Chances are they know a trick or two that will help you out. You can always ask the people in your games shop to help you as well.
DON’T go for white – Seriously! When painting whites you will encounter many nasty problems that even more experienced painters struggle with. First of all white primers tend to be grainy on the model, resulting in unwanted textures. The main reason you do not want to choose a white color scheme is, that white colors do not cover as well as other colors and you will have to do multiple thin layers on the same areas. As nice as the white T’au Battlesuits look, getting a clean white look like this is unnecessarily difficult. Choosing a light grey color instead is what you want to do. If you plan on shading the white areas with a heavy wash or just want to do smaller white areas like shoulder pads, that’s fine. Just be aware, getting white miniatures paint to cleanly cover you will need two or three thin coats.
3 – Get cool equipment
This one seems totally trivial but you will thank me later, i’m sure. Warhammer 40k is a game of dice and you will roll many of them. I recommend you get yourself a set of 12mm dice in your army’s color. First of all the 12mm dice are great when rolling many at once. Let’s say you want to roll for 20 Necron Warriors in rapid fire range. You will need 40 (or 2 x 20) dice. This will be a lot more enjoyable, when they all fit inside your hand. Plus you will not be bowling over terrain and miniatures with these smaller dice. Picking colored dice matching your color scheme is fairly self-explanatory. This will set you back a measly five bucks but you will have a lot more fun during your games. The same is true for a tabletop tape measure, by the way.
Besides the utensils you need during the game there are several more meta equipments you might want to get. The Citadel clippers are really great when working with plastic sprues and foam trays are invaluable when transporting your minis (or storing the away for that matter). Get both sooner rather than later. Having cool equipment will make the hobby a thousand times more fun, and i will always recommend good equipment over another squad for your army.
4 – Thin your paints
If you ever visited the any Warhammer subreddit, you probably heard this phrase before. It is an important point and this is what it means:
When painting with regular colors, you should never move your brush from the painting pot to the miniature. Always use a palette! It’s really basic but the process is as follows.
- Get a blob of paint on your brush
- Put the paint on the pallet
- Clean the brush in a cup of water
- Dry off the brush on some paper or paper towel
- Get a little water on you brush and thin the paint down
How much water you need to use depends on the paint. The consistency is right, when the paint creates a thin coat on the model and still covers well. If the paint runs into the recess areas or does not cover well enough, you have thinned your paint too much. Why is this important? Thick coats will obscure details on the model or create bumps on the surfaces. Especially if you want to shade or drybrush afterwards this is absolutely fatal.
5 – Get a wet pallet
This sounds way more fancy than it actually is. As we have learned thinning your paints is important. This also means it is important your paints stay wet on your pallet. The easiest way to create a wet pallet is to take a plate or the lid of a tupperware conatiner, put a towel, paper towel or spongy towel on it. On top of that put some baking paper. Done. Cut both the towel and the paper down to fit the plate, by the way.
Now you can wet the towel, so there is no excess water flowing in the plate, but the towel is completely soaked. The parchment will stick to it and the humidity below will keep the paints on the parchment paper nice and wet. It’s as easy as that. If you used a Tupperware lid, you can use the actual container as the lid now. This way the pallet will stay wet. You could as well just buy a wet pallet, but you really don’t need to.
6 – Take care of your brushes
Sure, but what exactly does that mean? Here is a list for anyone that has never painted models before:
- When not in use for longer than 5 minutes, wash out the paint
- Do not store upside down with the bristles on the ground
- Do not store upside down inside the water cup
- Do not cover the entire brush with paint, only use the first 2/3 of the brush (ever)
- When stiff or dirty, shampoo will take care of it
Most of these tips are important to not ruin your brushes. When you get paint into the base of the brush wash it out. If that dries, the hairs of the brush will split and you will have to replace it pretty soon as the effect multiplies.
7 – Buy the right brushes
This one is a bit tricky. If the store, they will most likely sell you different sizes and types. Especially when starting out you should not dump so much money into expensive brushes. I recently bought the army painter – wargamer most wanted brush set. This set contains everything you will need to get you painting. These brushes last longer than any citadel brushes i have ever used and are a true joy to work with.
When working with vehicles or scenery you do not need the big wargamer brushes. The dirt cheap brushes you get in a hardware store will do just fine as a basecoat or drybrush. When looking for an alternative drybrush you can also buy a cheap make-up brush. They work surprisingly well on terrain and big vehicles.
8 – Do not buy paint sets
You will most likely use only a tiny fraction of the paints. When painting for wargames you will need just the colors for your color scheme. These also include washes, contrast paints and drybrush paints, which are not included in these paint sets.
9 – When painting, put your hands together
And put your elbows on the table. This way your arms will stay still, when holding up the miniature. When holding the miniature you want to put the bases of your hand together. You can also put your pinky on the mini itself. You will have a lot of control over your brush this way.
10 – One primer is enough
Many times newcomers are told to prime black and then add a coat of colored primer to increase durability. In my experience one primer is always enough.
11 – Metal and resin miniatures need to be washed
Because of the way they are produced, you will need to wash resin and metal miniatures before you prime them. If you don’t, the paint will peel off the mini very quickly. Additionally, resin miniatures are sometimes a little bent. You will probably need to straighten thin parts of the resin model out.
Just wash over the miniature with soapy water and scrub each part a bit to get the oil off the material. It’s as easy as that. When working with resin, hot water will make the material soft, and you can bend the parts. So be careful with the temparature. Scrub first with cold water and then bend under running hot water if needed.
12 – Forget the Meta
You probably gathered a bit of information about the game from different pages. Maybe you looked at some models online or already planned some lists for the army you are starting. Don’t take that meta too seriously. You do you. Play your army the way you want to. Most armies are really well balanced anyways. If you heard “Unit XYZ is trash”, that is most likely a gross exaggeration. Just play what is fun to you, after all that is what it is about. If you want to copy a trounament winning list you also have to play it as such. And as a newcomer there is probably a lot of stuff you still need to learn about the game and your army. So don’t spam the best units of your codex like a madman and make the game boring for yourself. Plus you will most likely not make many friends with such a list.
The same is true for painting standards. Forget all the super well painted miniatures on instagram. Make sure your army is painted, choose a color scheme that fits your available time for painting and your personal standards. There is nothing worse than not painting your army at all. I have always set the goal for myself to not play with unpainted models. I consider them “not done”. This helps with motivation and managing your backlog.
13 – Have fun
After all it’s a game. Have fun with it. Invite some friends and have a good time.
I hope these 13 Warhammer 40k beginner tips were helpful to you newcomers. Welcome to the hobby and happy wargaming. 🙂
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