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A beginner's guide to Warhammer, the Game of Fantasy Battles (choosing a Warhammer army)

Are you a budding Warhammer beginner keen to crush your enemies on the field of battle ? Have you just started to get interested in Warhammer after seeing your friends play a game or after seeing all those awesome miniatures in a Games Workshop store ?

Well you've come to the right place !

I am going to be running a series of posts on how to get you started. Everything you'll need to know to get your army onto the Battlefield and to start experiencing the glory of victory when you vanquish your friends forces and see them flee before you :)

Warhammer Armies

The Warhammer Fantasy world is made up of dozens of different races and all manner of creatures. These are represented by army books which give you alll kinds of options you can take when choosing your own army.

In general, you can only choose models from a single army book so the first thing to do is decide which army you like the look of most (we'll come to that soon)

Warhammer Rules

The warhammer game is governed by rules just like all other games. These are broken down into phases. One player takes a turn and goes through these phases in order. For example, they will move all the troops they want to move, one 'unit' at a time, before progressing onto the next phase.

Before we go any further I should explain that a unit is a single model or a collection of models all grouped together. Your army will have several units in it, about 10 units in a typical game.

Choosing an Army

Some people have more than one army but it's best to collect a single army to start with. Generally your army is made up of one 'race' or a few similar races that like to (or are made to !) fight alongside one another, for example Orcs and Goblins. You cannot mix troops from different army books, there are a few exceptions but you should select your army book knowing that you can only choose the models in that book to build your army with.

Your army choice could depend on several things...

Most people choose their army based on the appearance of the models that you can collect (they vary a lot from huge bulking Ogres, winged Vampires, giant Lizards, wierd creatures twisted by warped magical powers through dozens of other different fantasy variations, including dwarfs, elves, humans, ratmen and even the undead). You certainly have plenty of variation to choose from.

There are other ways of choosing an army. Some people choose theirs based on the style of gameplay they offer. Different races are good at different things. Wood Elves for example are great at firing bows (just like Legolas in The Lord of the Rings). Firing bows and other weapons from long range appeals to some players while others prefer to get 'up close and personal' in hand to hand combat which Dwarfs are good at (think of Gimli)

The Army books are generally well balanced so that any army can win a battle against any other army. There are some armies which perform a little bit better or worse than others in Games Workshop tournaments but, in general, you have an equal chance of winning irrespective of which army you choose. Only the real pros know all the strengths and weaknesses of all the armies, as a beginner you need not worry about this for now.

If you really want to know, the best performers over the past few years have been Skaven (ratmen), Wood Elves, Bretonnians and Lizardmen (edit: in 2009 the best performers were Daemons of Chaos, Dark Elves and Vampire Counts). Remember these tournaments are played by real experts and for friendly amateur games it shouldn't make too much difference which army you select, it's the way you use it that counts, that is, your battlefield tactics. Also, remember that army lists are updated from time to time so what might seem the best army on the tournament circuit this year might not be the best next year.

I recommend choosing your army based on which one you like the look of most. Go into a GW store and browse through some of the books or have a look at their painted miniatures on the Games Workshop website.

The Armies you can choose from are:-

Beastmen (previously Beasts of Chaos)

A fairly quick moving and tough combat orientated army. Able to ambush and out maneuver enemy armies.


A very fast moving army of mounted armoued knights. This army concentrates on powerful cavalry charges.

Daemons of Chaos

A strong combat oriented army that has some natural resilience to enemy attacks and many strange looking creatures from other worlds (the realms of chaos !)


A very slow moving army that is adept in hand to hand combat, has great resilience and can attack from afar with long range weaponry.

Dark Elves

A balanced army with good martial prowess with both hand weapons and missile weapons and better than average spell casters.

High Elves

A balanced army that always strikes the 1st blow in combat. Strong in foot soldiers and very strong in magic.

Warriors of Chaos (previously named Hordes of Chaos)

A strong hand to hand close combat army. Especially strong in army characters (ie lords and heroes)


A high leadership army who are so unemotional they hardly know any fear and will do their general's bidding even if it means certain death..

Ogre Kingdoms

An army of tall, huge bellied, almost human looking beings. Their appetite for war and eating cannot be quenched. An army of few but powerful hand to hand combat orientated models.

Orcs and Goblins

A balanced army with a wide array of weaponry and unit types. Able to overwhelm an enemy simply through strength of numbers.


A massive rank and file army with a lot of unique and powerful 'ranged' weaponry. Will almost always outnumber it's enemy.

The Empire

A finely balanced army allowing for a rich variety of different tactics. Has the greatest number of long range 'artillery' options available to it.

Tomb Kings

A potentially fast moving army of the dead, steeped in magic, raised, supported and protected by powerful magic and special powers. Unbreakable in combat.

Vampire Counts

An army strong in powerful characters and magic. The army causes wide spread fear amongst low leadership troops.

Wood Elves

Adept at skirmishing, hit and run tactics and picking off the enemy from afar with bowfire.

Other Armies

You may also hear of Chaos Dwarfs and Dogs of War but very few people field these.
Dogs of War are really just mercenaries which can be added to most of the army lists for some extra unit choices. Chaos Dwarfs is a very old army book and has not been updated for a lomg time, the figures can also be difficult to acquire.

The End for now...

I hope that has whet your appetite. Warhammer Fantasy Battle is truly an awe inspiring game. It's a lot more than a game though, it's a complete hobby. From selecting your army, painting it, creating your battlefield terrain and scenery to even entering tournaments with hundreds of other people.

More will follow soon on what you need to get started and how to actually play the game.
Warhammer Battle is a hobby I have come to love, I hope you do to.
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