40K: My First Steps Into The Grimdark

Matt talks about his return to the Grim Dark with Warhammer 8th Edition.

(Editor’s Note: Matt Sall is one of regular players on the BoLS Twitch Stream. He’s one of the most versatile players here at BoLS who can pick-up and play just about anything we can throw at him. That includes numerous tabletop games, board games and multiple 40k armies. He’s been tasked with documenting his return to the Grim-Dark and below are his experiences after a couple months of playing 40k roughly 3 times a week.)

From an outsider’s perspective, Warhammer 40k can be daunting. Each game looks intimidating with all the rule books and the miniatures and both players throwing as many statistics as they are throwing dice. That’s how I felt when I got started again, but I’ve come to realize Warhammer 40k is much simpler than it looks.

Warhammer 40k 8th edition has done an excellent job of simplifying things to encourage new players to join. The basic rules are a mere “4” pages, which explain everything a brand new player will need to understand to begin playing.

To be fair, it’s 4 double-sided pages. But still, 4 pages is 4 pages. Admittedly, there are other rules a player should know before getting into playing. However, the core rules explain how the players get to killing each other’s army, which is often pretty important in Warhammer. When I got started playing 8th edition, I already had a basic understanding of how Warhammer worked. However, I had not played 40k in about a decade and a lot had changed.

Ghazghkull has really grown up over the years.


The core rules (D6s, Movement with a tape measure, models cost points, WS/BS/S/T/etc…) remained mostly untouched, but there were a lot of race specific rules to learn. In Warhammer 40k 8th Edition most of the complexity comes from each race’s specific rules. Games Workshop does a great job of make sure each race plays and feels different. In doing so, every race has a lot of rules that apply only to them.

Beyond that there are also tons of different weapons within each army. Some are universally used by all races and some are specific to that race. Some are limited to only certain factions within that race… There are a lot of different bits and pieces to learn if you want to succeed in Warhammer; you really have to know each race’s strengths and weaknesses.

Pictured: Strengths and Weaknesses – I think we all know who’s who…

In my time playing Warhammer 40k 8th Edition, there have been a few things I’ve noticed are my own weaknesses.

  • Knowing what each race does and how their units and weapons function

  • Good positioning

  • Knowing where and when to focus fire

  • Rolling really, REALLY badly

Pictured: Typical Matt Roll

One thing that really helped me was setting a goal each turn. Every time it was my turn, I would ask myself “What do I want to achieve this turn and what do I need to do to make that happen?” The answers were usually either to kill a certain unit or to reach a certain game objective. Getting a better handle on that greatly improved my ability to make sure I stayed focused on what was important within the victory conditions of the game and also knowing which units to focus fire on.

Pop Quiz – Who do you shoot first?

The other main thing I needed to learn was knowing your enemy’s army and their units and each unit’s capabilities, strengths and weaknesses. Getting a better grasp on that greatly improved my positioning and ability to think a turn ahead.  In one of my first games against Tyranids, I let Genestealers get too close and they assaulted my army and shredded it to ribbons. If I had known that capabilities of Genestealers and how brutal they are in close combat, I would have made them a higher priority target. More importantly though, knowing their threat range and always thinking a turn ahead would have let me move tactically to stay out of charge range and avoid being assaulted at all.

They just want to hug…don’t mind the claws

Overall, I have greatly enjoyed getting back into Warhammer. The game has evolved a lot over the years since I played as a kid and everything I’ve seen so far as been a huge improvement over how it used to be. I like to think that with each game I play my tactics and strategy improve. There are an awful lot of things to remember if you want to survive the Grimdark, but that’s what reference sheets are for!

Download the 40k Rules HERE

We look forward to hearing more from Matt as he continues to play games of 40k. If you want to see him in action (and maybe offer some words of encouragement) be sure to hop by out Twitch Channel and let him know you’re rooting for him!

  • That title really made me hope for a “newcomer to tabletop games picks up 40k and enthusiastically talks about his first couple of months and the hobby aspects” article.

    Instead it isn’t even somebody *new* to 40k, but a returning veteran of countless tabletop systems who, as by the disclaimer, could even play multiple 40k armies off the bat before, focusing on the strategic aspects and summarizing some of the core rule aspects from the pamphlet, even comparing them to editions past…

    Whose “first steps” were these?

    • Mr.psyker

      Amen Battle Brother

    • Navaren

      See, I’m okay with this article because I feel like i’m in the same boat as Matt. I first and last played 40k when I was a freshman in High School. Codex: Armageddon was the new hotness. So 8th edition is a homecoming for me and its fun to watch Matt struggle to remember what things do. He may be a Vet but he is not a 20 years of 40k Vet he doesn’t instinctively know what units will make him “Rue the Day.” He screws up rules… A lot. He consults the codexes and BRB… A lot. It gives me more confidence to go down to my FLGS and just play.

      • BClement

        Being able to pick-up and play other games doesn’t mean he’s not new to 40k 8th. It just means he’s a fast learner and has had to learn to play a ton of new things quickly. You’ve obviously never watched the man play because he doesn’t know everything and it’s very much like watching a new player learn to play.

        Maybe take the stick out of your butt and give the guy a break.

        Sorry, not meant towards Navaren – that was meant for DarkChaplain.

    • ZeeLobby


      • zeno666

        Over here 8th edition has been great for Warmachine and Malifaux 🙂
        People brought their old 40k armies and played for a couple of weeks.
        Now they are back at with Warmachine and Malifaux realising how great those systems are.

  • Mr.psyker

    Pay no attention to man behind the curtain. BoLS if for us by use “seamless twitch plug” cough … Every FAQ and update for every game is based on “community” feedback. I’m pickle rick

  • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

    Eighth edition, easy to pick up, but dull as ditchwater.

    • ZeeLobby

      I found the who do you shoot first image as pretty spot on. That’s pretty much what tactics in the game has boiled down to at this point, and imo, the choice is easier than it’s ever been.

      • zeno666

        Indeed. And with true line of sight and those awfully crappy terrain rules.
        Its all about the shooting and getting first turn.

        • Doesn’t the new rule for hills allow you to shoot through them? I haven’t read the eighth edition rulebook very much…

      • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

        Its sad, because so many of the changes are really good. There was no need for it to be dull, because simple does not necessarily equal boring or untactical (is that a word?).

        They just took out a few too many elements that added depth.

    • zeno666

      So very true.

    • memitchell

      OK, you didn’t grow up in Louisiana. Though I’ve never used the term before, Crawfish are found in “ditchwater.” In the Spring, EVERY ditch in LA is full of water, and that water is full of Crawfish. Crawfishing is fun, and there’s never a dull moment (well, swat’n skeeters is never dull). You catch a mess’o Crawfish, and have a good ole fashion Crawfish Boil. That’s good living!

      • Damistar

        Word of warning: despite appearances crawfish do not taste like mini lobsters! They taste like the mud bugs they are.

  • Calgar

    Pop quiz answer: Mortarian is the closest target to the camera man, so I am going to say him.

    • I’d say Guilliman, but just because I have never seen Guilliman die yet, and I want to be the first person to do so.