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One Weird Way To Start Your Warhammer 40,000 Journey

In the grim darkness of the far future, there are a hundred different ways to start down the rabbit hole that is Warhammer 40,000. You have the tabletop game, with its dozens of miniatures, eight different editions, constant spinoffs, and plastic-crack level of cash holes. There are half a dozen other tabletop games, a 50-book series that takes you 10,000 years into the past, countless video games…and yet, my original way into the franchise was through a bunch of incompetent soldiers.

The All Guardsmen Party was initially started by Shoggy five or so years ago. An ‘after-action-report’ of the 40K tabletop roleplaying game, Dark Heresy, it chronicles the tales of a bunch of Guardsmen. These Guardsmen are disposable grunt soldiers in a fight for their lives on some backwater planet. They watch all of their friends die, and are then recruited as extra muscle for low-ranking members of the Inquisition, the Imperium of Man’s special police force.

Throughout the adventure, you’ll be introduced to some of the most backwards soldiers imaginable: the no-BS leader, Sarge, the paranoid explosives expert, Twitch, the guy who can stand guard duty while sleeping, Heavy, the smooth talking pickpocketer who looks like a goblin, Nubby, the chainsword swinging insane bastard, Cutter, and there’s even more I’m not talking about here, because the surprises of what they get up to is half the fun.

Handed off to in-training Inquisitors like rented Pokemon, they travel to different parts of the galaxy, bringing their ‘shut up and soldier, soldier’ attitude to problems that really need a softer touch, usually (but not always) being dragged along by incompetent to outright malicious commanders, and dealing with every sort of bad guy in the universe. Over the course of 21 chapters and a story longer than most novels, the engaging writing (minus some typos here and there), fun character interactions between both the party and the secondary characters, multiple plot twists, and wacky crap that happens at a reasonable rate keeps the read thoroughly enjoyable.

As for how much it keeps pace with known Warhammer history, it is still pulled from a roleplaying game, so the entirety of the actions of the heroes don’t technically exist in ‘the lore’ – everything that happens, the individual characters – it’s all non-canon. Despite being a non-canon story, though, the tale actually serves as a great introduction to tons of factions from 40K–everything from Orks to Tyranids are introduced with enough detail to not confuse unfamiliar readers. As long as you pull from the general depictions and not the individual characters, you’ll be able to dive into 40K proper with a pretty good head start on understanding the universe.

There are so many other lovable bits to the story, including the 4chan style images that add a little bit of extra flavor to each set of paragraphs, constant callbacks to previous parts of the story (the inter-dimensional poker room being a highlight), but definitely the most enjoyable part for the layman is just how believable and non-insane the constant soldiering mindset is in this world.

Even the most paranoid of actions turn out to be totally the right call in context. Without Warhammer 40k as the background context, The All Guardsmen Party still manages to be a great tale by itself, so if you just drop the line of inquiry there, you’ll at least have had a good read.

Another easy recommendation to get into Warhammer 40k is Old Man Henderson, which shows what happens when you scorn a player that has too much time on their hands. Or perhaps, if you enjoy video games more than tabletop, the pass-and-play antics of Boatmurdered might be more your speed.

And of course, if you want to take things a bit more seriously in the same universe, you should have enough baseline information to hop right into any part of the Warhammer 40,000 media empire. I’ll let you know how things are going once I come above water to breathe for a bit.

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