40K: What Inspires You to Play?

It’s a simple question but the answer is different and complicated for everyone.

This week in 40K has been pretty interesting to step back at watch. We had a look at an unbeatable list at Adepticon 2017, hints at the future in 8th, and folks airing complaints and condemnations against the game. But at the end of the day we’re all still here and deep down, I think we all want to love playing Warhammer 40,000. So what is it about this game that keeps us coming back?

Is It The Lore?

40k has a TON of lore. You can get lost for hours poking around at sister-site Lexicanum. Seriously. If you’ve ever gone down that wiki-hole you know that there basically is no bottom. Players of all ranks, from fresh recruits to jaded vets to grand champion tournament winners have all invested in the lore of the game.

What is it about the Lore that is so intoxicating? Maybe it’s this idea that the Good Guys aren’t all that Good and the conflict comes from a betrayal. Maybe it’s because there is so much lore every time of player can find something they can identify/latch on to and run with. Maybe it’s that every time we play we get to craft our own story. Whatever it is, the Lore is a big part of the reason that I enjoy this game and I know I’m not the only one.

Is it the Visuals?

No doubt about it, Warhammer 40k has some down right amazing visuals. When a fully painted army is presented on a fantastic display board or when two massive armies are squaring off against each other – visually, this game has IT, whatever “it” is.

Those visuals take a lot of work and not just from the hobbyists. The designers, sculpters and studio artists work at making those kits we love to build. They definitely provide that initial spark of inspiration that captures players attention from a visual perspective. I know for a fact that I would not have been interested in 40k if the first models I saw didn’t have the same look to them. I was heavy into Battletech at the time and the Terminators blew my mind. The visuals have only improved since then.

Is it the Competition?

I’ve heard it said that a good competition is a healthy thing. It can force folks to “up their game” and get better. I think this is true in the sports realm for sure. I also think that there is a subset of people in the world that truly enjoy competition – they feed off it. And I think a lot of the community of 40k has some of that in their blood too.

There have been lots and lots of heated debates about the rules, comp scores, over powered units, and broken combos. I think most of this stuff can be healthy to talk about and discuss. It’s when the finger pointing starts and the blame game kicks in that folks start to get burned.

“It’s the WAAC players ruining the game!” or “It’s the Lore-bunnies bringing weak lists and expecting to win that are killing the atmosphere!” – but really those two are different sides of the same coin. No, I think it would be more fair to say they are are different ends of the bell curve. I would wager that the majority of players fall in the silent chunk in the middle. We (myself included) enjoy tough, but fair games. Some of our fondest memories playing are when we pulled out a win in a tough game. We’re not WAAC players and we know a good deal about the lore. You can enjoy the competition and the still play for fun.

But that itch to win sometimes gets a bit too strong… because we’re people. And people like to win. Competition can be healthy but winning can be down right addictive. Does that desire to “win” keep you coming back to the table?

Is it the Community?

I don’t think we can deny that the community around us can make or break your 40k game time. Some folks will drive for hours to get to “game night” and play with little toy soldiers for a bit. Others will fly thousands of miles and spend hundreds of dollars on trips to destinations like Vegas or Chicago or (name your favorite city) to play in major Tournaments. Why? It’s not because they enjoy packing up their army and hoping the airline doesn’t smash their models.

The Warhammer 40k community is really cool to hang around. At the most basic level, everyone at the smallest gaming club or the largest tournament has at least 1 thing in common – they like to play 40k. Finding liked-minded people who enjoy the same things as you will keep you coming back for that sense of community over and over again. And there is nothing quite like walking around a massive tournament and seeing hundreds of painted armies and people excited to share them with you.

There is also something to be said for the folks you game with on a regular basis – your friends. They are also part of this community and you might just enjoy hanging out with them, too. The community at large and at home is definitely inspirational.

It’s Definitely the [Blank]


Everyone has their own reasons for playing and I could go on – but what are your sources of inspiration? Why do YOU keep coming back to play Warhammer 40,000?

  • vlad78

    Fluff and visual despite the awful rulesets.

    • Honest Kairos

      I think this actually describes the reason any human can enjoy anything, really.

      • ZeeLobby

        Haha, True.

      • vlad78

        Indeed, but this is also why I hate AOS.

        There are people however who just care for the rules.

  • Maitre Lord Ironfist

    Super Space Paladines with Super Nungunfriedns and the Inquisition (wich no one expected)

  • Zirkah

    the fluff and the customization options of the miniatures, rules are awful, game store communities are hit or miss.

  • SilentPony

    The giant talking rabbit that lives at the foot of my bed and tells me to throw dice at the unclean.

    • Iconoc1ast

      Then he is real!!!!!

  • John Bower

    Despite what people say they are the best ‘Jack of all trades’ rules out there, and 7th ed became the perfect ‘sandbox’ for me to write and play my own backstory. Sorry guys not keen on ‘everybody is an a-hole of the first order’ so created my own fluff.

    • markdawg

      In my mind no rule set can be considered good that will allow you to move shoot and assault your entire army before the guy gets to move a model. Also no good guys and everything always turning out bad for everyone in every store is the essence of the grim dark.

  • Defenestratus

    I play it because it is a sure fire way to have fun between two friends.

  • Hagwert

    Fluff, minis and mates !

  • Raven Jax

    Did BOLS change the way they do headlines? Because I’m getting one-word article titles on the homepage. This article was entitled “40K: What”

    • adamharry

      If you’re using safari, the latest updated has caused some issues… But if you refresh the page it should go back to normal.

      • Raven Jax

        Thanks! I wasn’t sure if it was an avant garde experiment.

    • Honest Kairos

      I mean, that is an intriguing headline though.

  • allheilstormcrow

    Because i have too much money and i needed a cure, hence gw

    • Sz

      “Games Workshop is God’s way of telling you you are making too much money.” Robin Williams

      Wait. What? He said that about cocaine? Not GW? Well, he played 40k too, so I stand by my statement.

    • Defenestratus

      If you think that GW is expensive, go ahead and try some other hobbies, like sailboat racing. 😛

      • allheilstormcrow

        Or cocain

        • Lord Elpus

          Or both! Sailboat racing whilst doing coke! (Not recommended)

          • ZeeLobby

            LoL. The next GorkaMorka?

          • Lord Elpus

            After doing a few lines you don’t have to buy miniatures you can see rebel grots crawling out the walls! Though no amount of illegal substances will EVER turn Matt Ward into a decent fluff writer…

          • Iconoc1ast

            It just makes a mess.

          • Lord Elpus

            I can imagine! :o)

          • Dustin Zaccaria

            Ninja’d by six hours

          • Honest Kairos

            But extremely common in Florida.

          • Lord Elpus

            Because of all the old folk in Florida, is it true it’s twinned with Jurrasic Park?

        • Dustin Zaccaria

          Or taking cocaine while sail boat racing:)

      • vlad78

        Honestly, I think what you have in return is more worthwhile with sail racing (that is if you love sailing and racing). ;p

      • Iconoc1ast

        Now that does sound expensive….

  • DDisforDangerous

    A combination of lore and the models. My brother and I jumped into the hobby together after playing Dawn of War: Winter Assault and realising we could actually have a ‘real-life’ Basilisk and ‘shoot’ things with it.

  • What…is up with BoLS new titles…? They’ve gone from misleading to uninformative.

    • Honest Kairos

      FAKE NEWS! (….BoLS may or may not have been purchased by Russians.)

  • Agent of Change

    It’s the lore, it’s always been the lore. I haven’t even played the core 40k tabletop since 6th becasue I got fed up of the endless power creep treadmill, the general second hand status to anything that wasn’t imperial in in particular marine.

    And yet i still come to this site, i read the rumors, I read the rules articles, I have no intention at current to actually play the table top again. but you give me just about anything 40k universe themed and i’m there. I have everything fantasy flight put out, my own 40k fiction collection resembles the black library itself.

    And now with specialist games I’m dipping my toe back into actually playing a miniature games in the 40k universe. And that is the key phrase… 40k universe. If i had a choice between the fluff going away vs. never having access to another gw model or game… i’d pick the fluff first and always.

  • caljenks

    Lore and models. Blood Angels Death Company models caught my eye circa-93, the lore blew my freaking mind. Not touched a brush in years, but I’m still here; lurking.

    My wallet drools, while it cries in anguish. It is a good pain!

  • Raven Jax

    I got started painting because I spent all day on a computer for work and wanted to actually do something with my hands during my free time. I used it as an outlet for artistic expression. That was my gateway.

    Only after that did I discover that I really enjoyed the rules and loved the strategy element, plus I was meeting some great people sitting around the painting table chatting.

  • Honest Kairos

    What inspires me to play? Well, that’s been a range of things over the years.

    The spectrum went from Hobby and Fluff to playing for Competition, then towards Narrative and Campaign play when FW first released Vraks, Kriegers, and Chaos Renegades – and that’s where I’m at now. Vraks changed everything for me, and I’m still, all these years later, inspired to play 40K because of what Vraks of all things, showed me about a new way (for me at least) to play 40K.

  • MechBattler

    I enjoy immersing myself in the lore and a couple hours of gaming are the perfect way to have fun with like minded people and unwind.
    Building models is also very zen for me. It’s meditating with my hands moving.

  • silashand

    The backstory and models are why I enjoy 40K. I just wish the rules encouraged games that actually look like they belong in the 41st Millennium rather than being whatever idiotic deathstar some internet dweeb came up with on a sheet of toilet paper.

  • Ray Lairmore

    The Guard. The lore, the look, and how they play. nothing beats your opponent rolling there eyes at your 5th pie plate on turn 1, or a blob of conscripts rapid firing to death a Deamon Prince.

  • Admiral Raptor

    I’m glad the author didn’t include the rules on this list. Almost nobody pretends it’s a good game anymore.

    For me it’s Fluff. I can’t get into competitive wargaming at all, I have no patience for list building, and I roll ones all the damn time.

  • WhenDidVicesBecomeVirtues

    I am actually more a fan of the setting. Dawn of War 1 really got me into it. I have some models but most are poorly assembled and terribly painted (mold lines that I tried to remove but wind up scraching, bad seals between parts with sloppy green stuff in a failed attempt to hide it). I feel like it becomes a failed expectations vs reality example when I look at the box and try to paint it to see what I wind up with.

  • Crablezworth

    it’s the sunk cost fallacy of it all

  • Baldrick

    Definitely the fluff and the minis. The rules currently suck.

  • nope none

    List Building and gaming friendly gaming, also love building and posing models

    • nope none

      The setting is great. The fluff is really, really bad. 3rd rate sci-fi bad.

  • ZeeLobby

    I mean the fluff is undeniably amazing. Years and years of great background, stories and characters. While the newer stuff is becoming very super hero magaziney, the old stuff is just great, and you have a whole galaxy to game in!

    One of my favorite stories will always be back in 3rd/4th, during one of the tyranid releases, and it followed a bunch of characters across a world that was being invaded. Super grim dark, but man did it make me want to sling some dice. And it was spread across several White Dwarves no less!

    I also like competitive and narrative events. Lots of fun. And I used to be a huge fan of PUGs at my local stores. Sadly poor rules have basically robbed me of desire to play outside my gaming group. But who knows, maybe 8th can return that glory.

    Sadly the recent writing is just not catching me like the old stuff did. Whether I’m just growing out of it, or have just read a lot of great literature lately, it just seems all over the place, macro/micro, and just poorly thought out. Again, not that it matters when you can create your own, but gone are the days I used to buy codexes of armies I didn’t play to read the stories.

    • Thomas

      “Super grim dark, but man did it make me want to sling some dice.”

      That’s what’s missing from the new fluff. That feeling of “man, I can’t wait to play this stuff out on the battlefield myself!”

      I remember waaay back when, reading the fluff for the Armageddon war. I have never, before or since, been so filled with the desire to collect, paint and game. It just felt so… *gritty.* It wasn’t on the level of super-powered demi-gods like it is now.

      And that was the best part; when something like a Titan showed up, that was HUGE. Hell, even just a squad of Terminators! These were basically living legends, heroes clad in ancient and unknowable technology.

      And then you felt like you were stuck in the trenches with these Guard and Astartes. There was no “Guilliman punching a Terminator through a statue” moment. Just grinding, violent warfare and heroic last stands. The fluff made war seem so dirty and bloody and exhausting. The new fluff is just full of comic book-esque “cool moments” like Guilliman blowing up Skarbrand with a Black Blade.

      /end rant haha

      • ZeeLobby

        Nah. I think you hit it on the head much better than I did. The new stuff definitely doesn’t get me excited to put MY army on the table. It makes me feel like i’m no longer part of the story because I don’t play Ultramarines or Thousand Sons, haha. If they want me to run around buying armies to follow the stories then they’re out of luck.

        • Thomas

          I think it doesn’t help that the fluff has become so… I dunno, specified? Like, back in the day it would present you with a vast event like the Black Crusade or Armageddon and say “go nuts. Your guys may well have been there so get to it on the tabletop.”

          There was an ambiguity that allowed you to craft your own narrative within the context of this gritty setting. It was the very definition of the “YOUR dudes” philosophy.

          The newer stuff is much more concerned with presenting a coherent (though that’s debatable!) narrative than a setting, so you get all these events and details that limit that feeling of creativity and ownership. Like, because you know exactly who was present for X event and who was doing what, it means you don’t have that awesome freedom to get stuck in that you did before.

          • ZeeLobby

            Agreed. And unlike the original Armageddon campaign, there’s no random story here/there of heroic things happening in random places in the setting. I remember some great stories about Steel Legion out in the middle of nowhere battling Evil Suns. It now seems like if they can’t attach a new special character, or the latest tank/unit, then it didn’t happen, haha. Like I’m sure there were tons of epic moments on Cadia, but a lot of it seemed like filler til they could get to the Eldar/Admech/Space Marine/etc. friendship squad. Like why they left out the initial assault is beyond me. Must have been epic, lol.

            I just don’t know if they’ll get any of this back. They’re definitely moving to a more Marvel-like structure. I feel like they wen’t through this period where they saw how much money the Horus Heresy was making, and then slowly dragged everything unique about that system over to 40K. In came the GMCs, SHs, and god-like characters, formations/detachments, fliers, etc.

  • Lore. Always the lore and novels. I couldn’t care less about the rules if the lore isn’t compelling. Hence my distaste for Age of Sigmar.

  • Karru

    To me it’s the lore, miniatures and the way armies were made back in the day. I loved to look at my armies grow slowly using the regular CAD and see it become bigger and bigger. These days I just mostly enjoy painting and the old lore. The current edition isn’t really for me as it encourages way too large armies and spamming, so I just went back to 5th edition.

    Also the customisability and rule reflection is a nice bonus. I always loved the fact that I could customise my units in fun ways to make them unique and I had the ability to reflect that in the rules as well. I can give them different weapons or other wargear so they would differ from other units.

  • thereturnofsuppuppers

    having fun playing toy soldiers with my friends with beers and some good terrain.

  • Private Skittles

    Can we get some friggin new Death Guard pics already? Jeez louiiiiise double cheese!

    • Honest Kairos

      This inspires you to play 40K? Your fortitude and patience are impressive.

      • Private Skittles

        Well hell i’m not exactly rolling in dough here, but my pizza jokes can’t be topped

  • David

    It’s the complexity of the formations and ally system I never bring the same list twice outside a tournament, every comparison game I play ends up in a winning formulae and then gets stale. 40k theres always something new to try.

  • Darkcat

    I buy the miniatures. Grind them to powder and snort them while pretending its cocaine.

  • Aaron King

    Hope that the awful rulesets will one day reflect the fluff in a compelling manner.

  • Thomas

    Lore and the unique gothic/fantasy/sci-fi aesthetic for me.

    I don’t find the game on its own to be particularly fun and the community is honestly one of the worst parts of the hobby for me (thankfully I have a good group of buddies to game with).

  • EsporcTV

    I don’t play yet, i paint for now.

  • Mike

    Haven’t played 40k in over 20 years. . Won’t be doing any time soon due to the high entry-level costs and lack of time (family + job + other pastimes) but i still love the fluff and seeing what’s going on.

  • Ruinous Potato

    FLUFF and visuals.

  • Nyyppä

    It used to be the cool setting and rules that represented the factions in a way that made the game worth the hassle. Now it’s pretty much Grim Dark Pokemon where you pick and choose the units that counter the opposing faction perfectly.

    What’s the point if there is no narrative to be forged beyond the setting? The game itself has no potential for dramatic situations. It’s just glorified rock/paper/scissors with multiple other options that lose to the current big 3 100% of the time.

  • markdawg

    Double Eagles fly in the dark grim sky. 🙂

  • lee payne

    for me playing space hulk made me play 40k because you could use genestealers with nids.

  • Seismic Ghost

    The fantasy that some day this game will be balanced and fun like I thought it was when I started playing.

    I’ve been chasing that dragon too long though.

    Goodbye, 40k!