BoLS logo Tabletop, RPGs & Pop Culture

40K For the Masses: How To Build An Army For Fun – Part 1

6 Minute Read
May 17 2018


Move over tourney ringers. What if I like, just want to have fun?

While tournaments and highly competitive lists get a lot of focus in our hobby, for good reasons, they are not the be all and end all of 40K. The majority of players are not tournament regulars, and while they may want to win, they don’t need to. For this majority of 40K players building a list is still an important part of the game, and can be a daunting one. Let’s take a look at how one can build a good casual list.

The Goal

40K is about more than just winning.


No really, in fact having fun is by far the most crucial part of the game. So how does one go about building fun and casual list? Well maybe walking you through my process will help. Here are the goals.

  • A 2,000 point battle forged list following the Rule of 3, this is a super competitive list, but I’d like to be able to take it to local events for fun.
  • Fluff based, I want a good fluff idea to build it around.
  • Cool models, I want something that catches my eye.
  • Fun to play and hopefully fun to play against
  • Everything should be standard GW models as that’s what most people have access to, this means no 3rd party or Forgeworld, but could still allow for older models.

In addition to those fundamental goals here are a couple of things I think all players should consider when building a new army.

  • Cost/how easy it is to build the army- Like it or not cost is a factor in building armies for most players. While it need not be the deciding factor keeping it in mind will make your army building goals more realistic.
  • Competitiveness-  Even though we are just building an OK list we still want to be able to win. Even non-competitive players normally don’t want to build lists that are just going to lose every game.
  • Options for Growth- When you build a new army a good idea is to also keep in mind what you might do to grow it later if you like it.

So let’s get into the process.

The Idea


Astra Militarum are my jam. I love these little gals and guys to death and have played them through thick and thin since 3rd Edition. This is no bandwagon for me; I’ve got thousands of points of infantry, tanks, and flyers. There is no army that fires my imagination as they do or that I enjoy playing as much. Because of that, we are going to start with an Astra Militarum army.


Now I want to do something different with this army, something to set it apart from my other AM armies. The new Necromunda line offers a great opportunity here as it’s got a lot of new human infantry models that can quickly be conscripted into the Astra Militarum. I’ve always loved the old Escher models, and the new ones are even more amazing. Making an army of all Escher models seems like it would be cool. There is also good support for this in the fluff as we know there are AM regiments like he Necromunda 8th, drawn from individual gangs, so we are going to do that.

Conversion Viability

My decision to base the army on the Escher models is going to dictate a lot of what I can do with the army. The first step is to see what weapon options I’ll be able to make out of the Escher box. Let’s take a look at the sprues.

The Escher box comes with 2 of these sprues and can make ten models, perfect for an Infantry squad. Combined there are six lasguns and two autoguns in each box. I can easily just have these all count as lasguns, so that is the basic models done. It also comes with some power swords, whips, and other close combat weapons, as well as a couple of Needler/Boltguns. Luckily, Infantry squad sergeants can take both a power sword and/or a bolter. This gives me plenty of options to equip my sergeants out of the box. There is also a pair of plasma pistols which I can use for converting officers in particular.  The tenth woman in the squad also has some good options. If I want a stripped down squad the box comes with some shotguns, I can just give her one and call it another lasgun counts as. However, the box also comes with a chem thrower which makes a great flamer stand it and gives me some extra fire power.


Right off the bat then we see some things coming together just from looking at the models. My Infantry squads are going to look rad and will heavily feature flamers and sergeants with power weapons and bolters. Due to the all the other close combat weapons in the box, the other models will most likely have a lot of weapons on them as well. All of this screams an in-your-face army, and combined with the flamers tells me that we are going to count this army as Catachan for purposes of our Regimental Doctrines. These ladies are going to be TOUGH!

Looking at the box, I can also see it most likely won’t be all that hard to convert a few things from these models. Giving one of the squad a different special weapon is doable, just needing a simply gun swap. Heavy weapons are going to be harder, so for now we will stay away from them, though I might have some ideas.

Limited Infantry


One of the Things I love about the AM is their infantry. In the past I’ve run massive infantry hordes, driving them into battle for the glory of the Emperor. So my first inclination is to make this a mostly infantry force. However looking at the Escher box, a few issues come to mind. The first is simply cost, Escher boxes are a great deal at $40 USD for what you get, but they are about $11 more than Cadians, so going hog wild with the infantry might not be the best option.

The other consideration is the poses. The Escher box comes with five different bodies to make the ten models. While there are a lot of options to make each model unique, they are not quite as posable as the basic Cadains. This means that over a large force of infantry models will start to look similar. This may not bother some people, but I like my infantry to all have personality. I might try throwing in some of the Old Escher models to mix things up, but they might stand out too much next to the new models.


For these considerations, I’m going to keep the infantry force down (say under a 100 models) and add in more vehicles that I might normally. On the bright side, I can also convert some tank commanders uniting the Escher heads which should look pretty cool.

Starting to Come Together

So now we have the base of our OK army. We’ve come up with a basic idea for it and looked at the viability of building the army from non-standard models. We’ve seen how our initial idea and reality of the models are coming together to dictate our army composition.

Next time we’ll start putting things together and writing out the full list. Feel free to offer any feedback down in the comments and stay tuned for me.

Put on your rule-of-cool hats everyone! What’s your idea for a fun army? Let us know down in the comments? 


Author: Abe Apfel
  • Tabletop Gallery: Charge of the Light (Lance) Brigade