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The Warhammer 40k Primer: describing the numerous factions and races in the Warhammer 40k universe
By- Kingdoms Shield


It is The 41 millennium. For more than a hundred centuries the Emperor has sat immobile on the Golden Throne of Earth. He is the master of mankind by the will of the gods, and master of a million worlds by the might of his inexhaustible armies. He is a rotting carcass writhing invisibly with power from the Dark Age of Technology. He is the Carrion Lord of the Imperium for whom a thousand souls are sacrificed every day, so that he may never truly die.

Yet even in his deathless state, the Emperor continues his eternal vigilance. Mighty battle fleets cross the daemon-infested miasma of the warp, the only route between distant stars, their way lit by the Astronomican, the manifestation of the Emperor’s will. Vast armies give battle in his name on uncounted worlds. Greatest among them are the Adeptus Astartes, the Space Marines, bio-engineered super-warriors. Their comrades in arms are legion: the Imperial Guard and countless planetary defense forces, the ever-vigilant Inquisition and the tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus to name only a few. But for all their multitudes, they are barely enough to hold off the ever-present threat from aliens, heretics, mutants – and worse.

To be a man in such times is to be one amongst untold billions. It is to live in the cruelest and most bloody regime imaginable. These are the tales of those times. Forget the power of technology and science, for so much has been forgotten, never to be re-learned. Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in this grim dark future there is only war. There is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods.


Imperial Guard: These men are the backbone of the Imperium. They all come from different backgrounds and worlds, but their mission in life is always the same: to protect Humanity. These common soldiers number in the billions.
          Though their numbers are immense, they are still human. They have fears just like the rest of us. And when all of those fears bubble up to the surface, and their courage breaks, the Commissars are there to hammer some steel back into their bones. These political officers are attached to Imperial Guard regiments, in order to makes sure that the men keep fighting. These men have many different ways of keeping the men in line. There are some like the legendary Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt who inspire confidence in his men by leading from the front and being the first to the fight. But men like that are few-and-far-between. The majority detests combat and relies on fear to keep the men fighting. Battlefield executions are very commonplace. The commissars keep the soldiers of the Imperium in step with an iron fist.
          You hear that? In the distance, it sounds like and earthquake and thunder rolled into one. Now it feels as if a million feet are marching in step towards us. Yes, it is they; the massive armored divisions of the Guard. The Leman Russ main battle tank will roll over enemy defenses, scattering them to the four winds with its main cannon and bolter turrets. The Basilisk moble artilery piece fires massive, one-ton Earthshaker shells; its discharge can be heard from miles around. The Hellhound tank spews flaming death across the battlefield, the flames hot enough to melt armour plate. Then there is the awe-inspring Baneblade tank. Over 40 feet long and 30 feet wide, the ancient Banblade is an absolute terror. It carries a turret-mounted Mega Battle Cannon and a fixed-forward hull-mounted Demolisher Cannon, along with at least ten botler and las-cannon turrets mounted on the outside. They are truly a sight to behold and a daemon to it’s enemies.
          These proud men are ready to serve. Always they are ready to give up their lives in the name of the God-Emperor. With Las-rifle in one hand and courage in the other, these mere mortals are prepared to give their lives protect the one thing that they value above all else: The Imperium of Man.

Space Marines: These are the Emperor’s chosen. These are Humanity’s greatest warriors. They are an elite group of bio-engineered super soldiers fiercely loyal to only the Emperor and their Chapter Masters.
          In the 31st Millennium, there were the original 20 Space Marine legions. Just one of these legions was numbered over ten thousand Space Marines. Each was headed by one of the Emperor’s sons, a Primarch. They were both figures of immense beauty and perfection, and masters of the arts of war. Primarchs like Rogal Dorn, Roboute Guilliman, and Sanguinius were all honorable and powerful warriors, second only to the Emperor. But there was one among the 18 (two have never been found) Primarchs who was revered above all others. His name was Horus, the most beloved of the Emperor’s sons. Horus was given the title of Warmaster, and was put in command of all the legions, and continued the great crusade of reunification. But after 200 years of conquests and victories, he became corrupted by the fouls taint of Chaos. Then, believing that the Emperor planned to forsake all of humanity in some fabricated quest for godhood, Horus, with his immense charisma and stature, convinced fully half of the legions to side with him in his betrayal of the Emperor. This period of civil war that almost destroyed the Imperium became known as “The Horus Heresy”.
          After the Horus Heresy, the surviving Adeptus Astartes legions were split up into smaller, less powerful, groups called Chapters. As the Primarch Roboute Guilliman said,” No longer shall one man have control over the awesome might of an entire Space Marine legion.” These chapters were made up of 1000 Space Marines, led by a Chapter Master and 10 captains. Current numbers estimate there to be almost 1,100 chapters of Space Marines, each assigned a part of the Imperium to protect. Each chapter has their own venerable history, many grand heroes and battle honors. They are humanity’s front line. Without them the Imperium would have collapsed long ago. With bolter and chainsword, they silently protect us from those who seek to do use harm.
There is a quote from the Codex Astartes that tells of the Space Marine:
We are the Space Marines

The Champions of Humanity.

The Emperor's chosen warriors.

For every one of us who falls in battle
one hundred enemies will die.


The Horus Heresy: It was a time of great turmoil. Ties of brotherhood were broken, friends fought against friends, and Space Marine battled Space Marine. It got to the point when Horus’s mighty battle fleet laid siege upon Holy Terra. It was there that the final battle took place. The Traitor Legions, now fully corrupted by the powers of the warp, surrounded the Imperial Palace and began to wear down the defenders. Daemons of the Warp assisted them in the assault. It was a clash of titans, with thousands dieing every hour.
          The Emperor held on, and with one final desperate action; the Emperor, his honor guard, and the Primarchs Sanguinius and Rogal Dorn teleported onto Horus’s battleship in order to cut the head from the snake. But as they teleported onto Horus’s flagship, they were separated and were forced to fight their way to the bridge. Sanguinius was the first to reach Horus, and then they did battle. They fought for an hour, each trading blows. But finally Horus attained the upper hand and struck Sanguinius down. As this happened, The Emperor broke though the defenses of the command parapet just in time to see his most favored son strike down one of his own brothers. Then the final battle took place. The two squared off, one under the banner of the putrid Chaos Gods, and the other under flags of order and justice. The Emperor, even though witnessing the evil that permeated Horus, could not bear to bring his full strength against his former son. Horus, sensing his hesitation, pressed forward and grievously wounded the Emperor. Then one of the Emperor’s guardsmen charged forward and tried to fight off Horus. With a callous flick of his wrist, he slew the man. The Emperor, after finally seeing the depths of Horus’s cruelty, made one final attack. Using the last of his willpower, the Emperor cast a bolt of psychic energy at Horus, striking him down and forever casting his soul into the warp, never to return. Then, He collapsed, his strength failing him.
          The death of Horus rippled through the Traitor fleet. Their cohesion broken, and reinforcements of loyalist Space Marines coming into the system, they fled to a part of the galaxy in which the Warp manifested itself. That place was called the Eye of Terror. The surviving Primarchs then claimed planets for themselves, and began to raid the outskirts of the Imperium.
          Rogal Dorn, after making his way to the bridge, saw the corpse of Sanguinius and the dieing body of the Emperor. The Emperor, with his last breathes, told Dorn to bring him to the Golden Throne of Terra and attach him to the mechanisms there. Dorn follows his orders and the Emperor soon came to rest upon the Throne. Now that the Emperor was attached to the life support of the Golden Throne, his huge psychic presence created a beacon in the Warp that allowed humanity’s starships to safely navigate the Warp. Some say that he is slowly healing himself; that he will some day rise from his prison and once again guide Humanity to a period of peace and prosperity. But ever since that day, he has remained on his throne, silent and immobile. Maybe some day he will lead us again, but that day will be a long time from now.

The Inquisition: Wherever there are heretics; whenever aliens try to encroach on The Imperium; wherever there are those who strive to dismantle our proud race, The Inquisition of Man will be there to thwart them. This shadowy organization was founded is the wake of the Horus Heresy, when Space Marine fought Space marine, and the Emperor was struck down and force to forever sit upon the Golden Throne. The Lords of Terra demanded that there should be an organization devoted to the protection of The Imperium of Man, from threats both inside and out. This is how the Inquisition was born. The Inquisition is split into three bodies, each focused on one specific threat.

          The Ordos Xenos focuses on all things aliens. Whether it is Eldar, Tau, Orks, or any of the thousands of spiteful and devious alien scum, the Ordos Xenos will be there to stop them.
          Ordos Hereticus is humanity’s first line of defense against the blasphemous, malign worshippers of Chaos. Their agents are spread far and wide throughout the millions of worlds forever searching for detestable followers of Chaos. When a cult is found, they will be dealt with swift fully and mercilessly. No quarter is given, none are spared; such is the reward for those who turn away from the Guiding Light.
          Lastly there is the Ordos Malleus, the Daemon Hunters. These resolute men fight the damnable creatures that inhabit the Warp. These people have spent their entire lives fighting daemons and their servants. The threat of the warp is so grave that they have an entire chapter of Space Marines, know as The Grey Knights, under their beck and call. The Grey Knights are specifically trained from their induction to combat daemons and their ilk.
One of the Inquisition’s saying outlines the reason for being very explicitly:
Burn the Heretic
Kill the Mutant
Purge the Unclean


Adeptus Mechanicus: They are the mechanics of the Imperium. Wherever some thing breaks down or need constructing, there will almost certainly be a Techpriest of the Adeptus Mechanicus will most likely be there. The Adeptus Mechanicus worship a being known as the Omnissiah. He is believed to be the origon of all human knowledge. He is also believed to be an aspect of the God-Emperor. Even though they are part of the Imerium of Man, they have a great deal of autonomy. The Mechanicus has been given many worlds that they have complete control over. These plases are called forge worlds. They are temples to the Omnissiah and are used to create every single piece of machinery in the Imperium, from the simple farm machine to the fearsome baneblade main battle tank. They also command a terrifying force, the Titan legions. These massive behemoths are hundreds of feet tall, brstiling with huge weapons capable of killing hundreds of men in a single blast. Just be luckey that they are on our side.

The Eldar: Many thousands of years ago, the Eldar were the rulers of the galaxy. Their empire stretched from one side to the other. Their psychic abilities allowed them to easily overpower all who opposed them. They once ruled with a benevolent hand, but soon they were becoming decadent. Quickly their excess spread through their empire and consumed them. Much is not known about what happened during that period, but we do know that in the ensuring civil war, all of the Eldar home worlds were destroyed. Nearly their entire race was perished in the burning of their empire. Then the survivors fled onto enormous Craftworlds, giant ships that could hold tens of thousands of Eldar. Now with their Craftworlds as their homes, they roam the void, vowing never to fall so low again. As they look upon the galaxy, they see a universe filled with war and death. They see a place much like their empire.
          The Farseers, their leaders, use their enormous psychic abilities to see into the future, and they see dark times ahead. They trust no one with this duty. They feel that only they can accomplish this enormous task. The Eldar now do whatever it takes to ensure the survival of their own race, and the preservation of the galaxy, whatever the cost. They use the Webways; ancient passages though the warp, to launch pinpoint strikes against both the Imperium and the forces of Chaos. With their Wraithbone weapons and amour, the Aspect Warriors of the Craftworlds, they plan to purify the universe. The wraith lords, spirits of fallen Eldar heroes house in immense suits of wraithbone, guard the Webways and defend sacred Eldar ground. All of the Eldar, even those who are not warriors, all follow the banner of the war god Kaela Mensha Khaine, or Khaine of the Bloody Hand. His Avatars of War lead the Eldar though the seas of conflict, allowing them to achive victory where defeat would have found them. The ancient Eldar will preserve the glaxay, and no one will stand in their way.

Tau: These aliens are relatively new to the galactic scene. Their blue-tinted bodies are very frail, but their powered exo-suits more than make up it. They are very technologically advanced, with their weapons firing plasma and their vehicles utilizing anti-gravity technology. What is most disturbing about the Tau, not just that they are xeno filth, but of their religion, known as The Greater Good. They believe that all they do is good for the Tau as a whole. They will do whatever it takes to further The Greater Good. There are five Castes in Tau society. They are the Fire Caste (the warriors), the Earth Caste (the builders), the Air Caste (their navy and air force), the Water Caste (the diplomats, and the Ethereal Caste (the leading body). The Tau rely on their high-powered, long range weapons to get the job done. The abhor close quarters combat and rely on other species like the Kroot Mercenaries to grapple with the enemy.

The Chaos Space Marines: They are the once proud and honorable Space Marines of the Imperium. Under the command of Horus they turned away from the Emperor’s light and cast aside their human loyalties and joined the ranks of Chaos. When Horus was killed, all of the surviving traitor legions retreated to the Eye of Terror, a part of space in which the universe and the Warp intertwine. This is the foothold that the gods of Chaos need. After thousands of years inside the Eye of Terror, the Chaos Space Marines became a mockery of the noble beings they once were. They are now completely devoted to the furthering of Chaos. Many of the former Primarchs have ascended to Daemon hood, and have claimed planet in the names of their patron gods.
          Then there are the cruel and sadistic Gods of Chaos. Slaanesh, the god of excess, hedonism, pride, aestheticism, self-indulgence, and sensualism. Her followers act inwardly by enjoying every experience and every act. Nurgle, the plague god, is the embodiment of disease, decay, despair and destruction. His followers will spread horrific diseases across the galaxy. Tzeentch, the god of change, is the oldest and ambitious of them all. With his black sorcerers and corrupted black magicks, his followers are some of the most cunning of all the gods. There are those who worship the Khorne, the blood god. They are the most war-like of them all, attacking relentlessly until their enemy's bones are crushed to dust. The Khorne Berserkers are filled with blood-lust and a rage so strong that even the hardened and resolute Space Marines feel a twinge of apprehension when they battle them.
          Whenever a mutilated body is discovered, Chaos is most likely involved.  Wherever there is a rebellion on an imperial planet, the forces of Chaos are the most likely suspects. If a whole sub-sector goes silent, the Chaos Space Marines will soon be pouring out from there. The Forces of Chaos are the single-most greatest threat to humanity. They will stop at absolutely nothing to topple the Emperor from his Golden Throne. They cannot wait to see the day when our bodies are sacrificed to their cruel gods. The Chaos Space Marines are coming for you, be prepared.

Dark Eldar: They were once part of the of the ancient Eldar empire. These are the leftovers of the murder-cults and fraternities of excess that consumed their once great empire. Now they are pirates, constantly moving from system to system, preying on unsuspecting worlds. They all delight in giving pain to others. The Dark Eldar are masters of torture, often bringing a prisoner right to the brink of death, then magically snatching them from the jaws of death. These sadistic murderers were once part of a noble race of aliens, but now they have been reduced to burning, pillaging, and raping a path through the galaxy.

Orks: Greenskins. They know only war. These monsters only existence is to fight and die. Many of them are 8 feet tall and weight 500 pounds of muscle, bone, and rage. They are very primitive, always arriving at a planet on vast space hulks, most in such disrepair that it is a surprise that they still contain a breathable atmosphere. Their vehicles are a bunch cobbled together scrap heaps, but they still retain their deadly firepower. What they lack in intelligence they make up for with a dogged determination to survive and fight. These beasts know no fear. They will keep coming until each is exterminated. Many can lose arms and legs, but their battle lust knows no bounds. If you ever have the misfortune to meet these foul abominations, just pray to the Emperor Himself that you have more guns than they do. For if you don’t, then just hope for a swift and painless death.

Tyranids: They are like locusts, slowly spreading across the galaxy, consuming anything everything in their wake. They are controlled by a single being; known only as the Great Devourer. No one knows where they come from, only that they are not native to this galaxy. The Tyranids are very similar to that of a colony of insects. They all act as one and have an exoskeleton made of bone and claw. They bear a striking resemblance to a race in the video game Starcraft called the Zerg; and the Zerg were probably based off of the Tyranids. But while the Zergs’ largest creature is the Ultralisk, probably only 15 feet long and 8 feet tall, the Tyranids’ Hive Tyrant, Lictor, Carnifex, and Ravener are easily 2 times as large as the ultralisk. Each one is brisling with talons and bio-plasma weapons. Though they number in the trillions of trillions, there is one way to weaken them. The largest of Tyranids act like a conduit between the Great Devourer and the warrior drones. By killing the larger Tyranids you can sever the link between the two, thus disrupting them. They will fight more like animals and will be a lot easier to kill.

Necrons: Many millions of years ago there were the Necrontyr. They were one of the first sentient races ever to exist. The Necrontyr quickly advanced technologically, soon reaching the stars. It was then that they discovered something peculiar about the star in their home system. They found out that something was consuming the energy and power of the star. When they investigated further they found a being of enormous power residing inside the star. At that time the being, part of a race of gods know as the C’tan, contacted the Necrontyr. The Being, known as the Nightbringer, started whispering promises of power and immorality into the ears of the Necrontyr. The Necrontyr, thirsting for more power and a way to extend their already short lifespan, gladly took the C’tan up on their offer. But then they realized their mistake. They were given great strength and their lives never ended, but it came with the price of their freewill. Their souls were encased within living metal and they were bound to the C’tan, forced to do their bidding for all of eternity. Directed by their masters, the Necrons swept across the galaxy, exterminating all who opposed them in the name of the Nightbringer. Millions of species were cast asunder, and the galaxy became a barren place. Then, somehow, a relatively new race called the Eldar was able to defeat them. Pushed back, the Necrons retreated to their Tomb worlds and began their million-year sleep.
          Now, it is The 41 millennium, and they are slowly waking up. Planets that are inhabited by humans are beginning to run silent. Worlds across the Imperium are have began to realize that they are not alone. The Necrons are waking up. Their soulless eyes are set upon the galaxy, seeing a life just waiting to be harvested. With their gauss flayers, their impenetrable bodies, and their never-ending numbers, the Necrons are slowly starting their march across the universe. The seeds of life have been sown, and the Necrons are here to reap the harvest.
This is a primer that I made up for the imaginary universe called Warhammer 40k. It contains descriptions of almost all of the races/armies/organizations that are in Warhammer 40k. I am not sure if I got all of them, so if you think there is one that I did not mention, please tell me and I will try to add them to the list.

All of this is made in my own words, with the exception of the first three paragraphs that are italisised. Those three paragraphs can be found the any book printed by the Black Library, or in any rule book from Games Workshop. The 40k universe do not belong to me, it belongs to Games Workshop.

EDIT: I have rewrote the entry for the Imperial Gaurd. there is now a lot more information about the tanks and the commissars.
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:iconholyfurryfish:
HolyFurryFish Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2012
The great devourer is the name given to the tyranids, the hive mind controls them, anway well done
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:iconnovelist888:
novelist888 Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012
Love your work!!!

This is my website [link] Check it out!!!
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:iconrecklesscharge:
RecklessCharge Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Jokareo and Hrud are two minor races, really not much to mention but the Jokareo are ape like critters that make Digi Weapons. Hrud are Skaven like and have some sort of relationship with the Eldar.
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:iconjim028:
Jim028 Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2011
Perfect, I was trying to figure out how to describe the 40k Universe to a friend and just couldn't figure out where to start.
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:iconkingdomsshield:
KingdomsShield Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2011
well thanks for the fave. every once in a while, I think about updating the thing. there is so much of the Tau, orks, the Imps, Mechanicus, that I haven't really even touched upon. heck, I haven't even mentioned the the sisters of battle and the Gray Knights! but then I get lazy it never happens XD
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:icongeryfon:
Geryfon Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2009  Student Digital Artist
Pretty cool stuff there :)
but just to say that there are at last count 1,093 chapters of loyalist space marines in the imperium
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:iconkingdomsshield:
KingdomsShield Featured By Owner Nov 26, 2009
thanks for the comment. When I wrote 150 chapters, I was thinking of the around 150 original chapters that were made by Games Workshop. I have a poster that shows over a hundred different space marine chapters, so I baesed my numbers off that. I guess that that poster just listed the more famous one.
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:icondata549:
data549 Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2009
The Imperial guard one must be longer, with more about the commisionars. You also forgot about how the Tau Empire continiously expands and how they try to avoid War and use diplomacy. And you forgot the Kroot, yah they are just apart of the Tau, but have their own units.
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:iconapotheosi:
Apotheosi Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2008  Hobbyist General Artist
wow...this is quite detailed and well explained. aside from a few spelling errors this is good stuff.
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:iconkingdomsshield:
KingdomsShield Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2008
thank you. I wrote this when my parents took away all of my video games, so then I had a lot of time. but now that I got them back, I kind of stopped spell-checking and addding new stuff to it. so until I A)get grounded again, or B)get really, really bored, I probly won't do anything more with it.^^;
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