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A Beginner’s Guide to Warhammer 40K Starter Sets




Warhammer 40K Starter Sets

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I got into the Warhammer 40K tabletop hobby at the end of 2020, and the first decision I had to make was how to get started. After all, I needed miniatures for this, and in addition to many individual packs, I came across the starter sets for the 9th edition.

In this article, you’ll learn what these starter sets include, what you get for the money, and whether they are worth it. Additionally, I’ll present other Warhammer 40,000 sets, what they contain, who they are intended for, and whether they are also worthwhile.

What Are Warhammer 40K Starter Sets?

Warhammer 40K is not a cheap hobby, as individual fancy miniatures can cost $24, $36, or more. Of course, there are also “simpler” models where you get 10 pieces for $36. Even if you keep and play with the miniatures for many years (unlike many board games that only see a few plays), it still requires a considerable investment upfront.

Games Workshop, the provider of Warhammer 40K, understands this well. That’s why at the beginning of each new edition, there are one or more starter sets that provide an excellent introduction to the tabletop hobby.

Which starter sets are available for the 9th edition?

With the 9th edition of Warhammer 40,000, three starter sets have been released, each with different contents and price points.

Basically, a starter set includes miniatures of two factions (so that you can play against each other with a partner or friend) and accessories that are important for getting started, such as rules, dice, rulers, and a playing field.

Let’s take a closer look at these three starter sets, which all include the Necrons (an alien race of machine creatures) and the Space Marines (the fighters of the Empire).

Recruit Edition – Starter Set

The cheapest version of the starter sets is the Recruit Edition, which costs around $47 and comes with everything you need to get started.

Recruit Edition - Starter Set

It contains 10 Necron Warriors, a King’s Guard, and 3 Kanoptech Scarab Swarms on the Necron side. On the Space Marines side, you’ll find a Primaris Lieutenant and 5 Storm Intercessors.

While this isn’t a lot of models, it’s enough to get started. The included Recruit Manual provides background information, assembly instructions, an introduction to the rules, and first missions to help you learn the game.

In addition, there’s a paper game mat and a cardboard set that can be used as terrain.

Is the Recruit Edition worth it?

In addition to the necessary hobby materials, Games Workshop sets usually provide a financial advantage because you can save quite a bit of money compared to buying the models individually. However, certain models are currently not available individually, which is an advantage of the starter sets. To estimate the prices, I looked on eBay to see what one pays or demands there for individual models.

Model Single Price
10 Necron Warriors $38.15
1 King’s Guard $9.57
3 Canoptek Scarab Swarms $9.57
1 Primaris Lieutenant $29.89
5 Storm Intercessors $23.84
Total $111.02

With the approximate prices set by Games Workshop, you save more than half and even get accessories.

You can find the models cheaper at various hobby stores in Germany, but even then, you have to expect a total of about $96 for the individual prices. And even then, you still save a good half by buying the Recruit Edition set.

If you add up the point costs of the models, you get a total of 430 points, which are used in Warhammer 40K games to set up balanced armies. That means you pay about $2.16 per 10 points or $9.30 per 100 points in the Recruit Edition.

Elite Edition – Starter Set

The middle set, the Elite Edition, contains significantly more models and is therefore very interesting. There are 27 models in total, again from the two factions: Necrons and Space Marines.

Elite Edition - Starter Set

Included in the set are a Necron Highlord, 10 Necron Warriors, 3 Kanoptech Scarab Swarms, 3 Skorpekh Destructors, and a Kanoptech Plasma Cyte. For the Space Marines, a Primaris Captain, 5 Storm Intercessors, and 3 Excursors (cool bikes) can be found. Some of the models are similar to those in the recruit set, but there are also some additional ones.

That’s a total of 725 points of models. It’s still not enough to fight out the smallest official battle size (which would be 500 points per side), but it’s definitely a good starting point with lots of interesting core units.

The set also includes the Warhammer 40,000: Elite manual (72 pages), measuring sticks, 10 dice, data sheets, a paper playmat, and a terrain set.

Is the Elite Edition worth it?

The middle set includes 27 models, which would cost approximately the following if purchased individually:

Model Single Price
1 Necron Highlord $24
10 Necron warriors $41
3 Kanoptech Scarab Swarms $9
3 Skorpekh destructors $50.84
1 Kanoptech plasma cyte (in set with the destructors)
1 Primaris Captain $36
5 Storm Intercessors $24
3 Excursors $54
Total ~$238.84

If you take the list prices from Games Workshop, the individual models would cost about $240. Even if you purchase them a bit cheaper from retailers (or eBay), you would still have to pay around $192. Therefore, you save about half the cost when buying the Elite Edition.

However, some of the models in the GW sets are designed differently from the ones that are available individually. But in terms of gameplay, this usually makes no difference.

The point cost of all 27 models amounts to the previously mentioned 725 points, which makes about $13 per 100 points for the set. Therefore, at least in terms of points, this set is slightly worse than the recruit set.

Commander Edition – Starter Set

Last but not least, we have the Commander Edition, which is the largest of the starter sets. However, that’s not because of the models, as they are the same as in the Elite Edition.

Commander Edition - Starter Set

So, why should you pay significantly more again? Because in addition to the already-known accessories such as dice, there is also a real game board (30 x 22.4 inches) and plastic terrain, which is of very high quality and looks great.

Moreover, the Commander’s Manual is included, which also facilitates the start and contains the complete rules as a handy A5 book. It lacks all the fluff you would find in the big rulebook hardcover, but it’s small and handy and perfect to take with you.

Is the Commander Set worth it?

Due to the rulebook and the plastic terrain, it’s hard to calculate exactly what the savings are here. But if we subtract the $230 that the models cost (or about $184 if you buy it in hobby stores and eBay), you still pay less here in the set and get the rulebook and the great terrain in addition.

I think that’s great because terrain is more important in 9th edition, and I don’t want to play with coke cans and shoeboxes as terrain. That’s why I bought the commander set.

However, if you don’t care about that, and you already have the normal rulebook (for about $68), you’re better off with the Elite Edition.

Which Warhammer 40K Sets are Still Available?

For beginners, the starter sets are really exciting, especially if you want to play as Necrons and/or Space Marines. But what other worthwhile sets are there for both beginners and experienced players?

Indomitus – Starter Set

For those who want to take a step further or already have experience with Warhammer 40,000, the Indomitus set is an exciting option. This set also contains Necrons and Space Marines, but offers almost exclusively models and no accessories. Therefore, you should already have dice, measuring sticks, etc. or obtain them elsewhere.

But the huge set contains a total of 61 models, and they are impressive.

The Necrons are represented by a High Lord, a King’s Guardian, a Plasmant, a Skorpekh Lord, two Cryptothralls, 3 Skorpekh Destroyers, a Canoptek Plasmacyte, a Canoptek Reanimator, 6 Canoptek Scarab Swarms, and 20 Necron Warriors. That’s a decent force to start with.

Indomitus - Starter Set

The Space Marines bring a Primaris Captain, a Primaris Lieutenant, a Chaplain, a Judiciar, a Bladeguard Ancient along with 3 Bladeguard Veterans, 3 Outriders, 3 Eradicators, and 10 Assault Intercessors onto the battlefield.

In addition to the models, the set also includes the complete 368-page rulebook and a 24-page campaign booklet.

Is the Indomitus set worth it?

You get a lot for your money with this set, and if you can do without a beginner’s guide and cardboard/plastic terrain, you’ll be very happy with your purchase, provided you like the included factions.

In the following list, I’ve compiled the individual prices of the models as best I can. Some of them are currently only available in the Indomitus set and not sold separately.

Model Single-Price
1 Necron Overlord $24
1 Royal Warden $9.60
1 Plasmancer $9.60
1 Skorpekh Lord $14.40
2 Cryptothralls $12
3 Skorpekh Destroyers $51
1 Canoptek Reanimator $16.80
20 Necron Warriors $70
6 Canoptek Scarab Swarms $19.20
1 Primaris Captain $36
1 Primaris Lieutenant $30
1 Chaplain $14.40
1 Judiciar $18
1 Bladeguard Ancient $18
3 Bladeguard Veterans $48
10 Assault Intercessors $54
3 Outriders $54
3 Eradicators $48
Total $564

You get two armies in the Indomitus set, each with around 1,000 points, which is already a great value. Even with a 10-15% discount, which you can often find at hobby stores, the set is still a real bargain. The set often sells for around $180. If you subtract the cost of the rulebook, which is $66 on its own, the set costs only a third of what you would pay for the models if bought separately.

It’s not surprising that this set sold out quickly and the reprints are still very popular. That’s why I bought it as soon as I could.

In total, you get a good 2,000 points in the set, which makes the price per 100 points around $28.20, which is very reasonable. So if you’re already familiar with Warhammer 40K and want to play as the Necrons and/or Space Marines, the Indomitus set is highly recommended.

“But I only need one faction”

I am building both a Necron and a Space Marine army, but some people may only want half of the sets. Since some models from each faction are not available separately, you can sell the extra models for a good price on eBay or other platforms, making the sets still a worthwhile purchase.

If you only need one faction, it might not be the best use of your money to buy the starter sets or the Indomitus set. Instead, it might be more cost-effective to buy individual models or the Start-Collecting and Combat Patrol sets.

Start-Collecting and Combat Patrol Sets

The Start-Collecting and Combat Patrol sets are another option from Games Workshop for starting your own army. These sets contain models from individual factions and go beyond just Necrons and Space Marines.

For example, the new Codex books, such as Blood Angels or Dark Angels, have their own Combat Patrol sets, which already include special models for these sub-factions of the Space Marines. This means you can get a small core army for a sub-faction at a good price.

There are also smaller sets for various Xenos peoples and Chaos factions, which only contain models from one faction. However, these sets are often only available for a limited time.

In a future article, I will provide more details about these faction and race sets and assess whether they are worth the investment.

What should you start with in Warhammer 40K?

So there are a few ways to get started with Warhammer 40K, but the starter sets are a really good and inexpensive option for beginners. However, these are limited to the two factions Necrons and Space Marines.

If you want to play with other races, you’ll have to buy individual models or wait for the Start Collecting sets or Combat Patrol sets to be released. As Games Workshop is gradually releasing new Codex books for the various factions for 9th Edition, there will always be such sets to go with them.

I’m already well equipped with my Commander set and the Indomitus set and am currently building these models and learning the rules. I’m also learning how to paint models, but that’s another story.


Notwithstanding the fact that Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40k and Age of Sigmar are probably the most expensive tabletop systems on the market, (there are better playable factions for the money in Freebooters, Frostgrave, and Carnevale), I would not recommend starting with the aforementioned starter sets, even if the amount of plastic for the money seems tempting.

Based on my own experience and after putting several tabletop systems to the test, skirmisher systems are more recommended, even within Games Workshop. This is especially true if you come from a board game background, such as Warhammer Underworlds, Warhammer Warcry, or Warhammer Kill Team (which is also quite expensive). My findings show that by painting a handful of miniatures and playing Warcry and Kill Team, you can get an impression of tabletop gaming without being overwhelmed by large plastic armies. The miniatures can then be used later for the respective big brother.

If you want to play Warhammer 40k directly, my investigation has shown that you can try getting the Conquest series or ordering it. Here, you get a good price-performance ratio for a manageable monthly fee, along with step-by-step rule and painting instructions. Alternatively, you can buy entire used armies at a reasonable price.

Here’s a tip: The old Space Marines are much smaller than the current Primaris Marines.

When calculating the costs of an army, don’t forget about “small” expenses on the side. Through trial and error, I found that a decent paintbrush can cost $3-5 (more is possible, but for me, the more expensive ones are not worth it; I prefer to use Army Painter). A paint (I highly recommend Vallejo, for “washes” Army Painter, and definitely not Citadel) costs ~$2.50. In the end, you may also need a playmat ($30-60) and some terrain (GW’s terrain is very fancy but quite expensive; 4Ground or TT Combat are good alternatives).

According to my experience, when it comes to tools, don’t always listen to the advice given in your local Games Workshop store; instead, go to a hardware store around the corner. A pair of side cutters, a cutter, and a file can be bought for a fraction of the price and in better quality.

But this should not deter you at all. As a result of using various painting tools and materials, I found that painting with a nice audiobook or music can be very enjoyable and is a great pastime.

However, after trying various products and approaches, I restarted my hobby about four years ago after initially starting with a starter set from GW for Warhammer 40k and another for Warhammer Fantasy about ten years ago. By the time I had painted the contents of the first set (only one faction) and expanded it to a playable level, I had lost all motivation. Four years ago, I started again with X-Wing (no painting) and finally, three years ago, with Underworlds. Now, I have around 70 self-painted miniatures at home and probably around 30 unpainted ones.


How many miniatures come in a Starter Set?

The number of miniatures included in a Starter Set varies depending on the set. Some sets may only include a few models, while others may include dozens. Make sure to check the product description before purchasing to ensure that the set meets your expectations.

Do I need to assemble and paint the miniatures in a Starter Set?

Yes, the miniatures in a Starter Set will need to be assembled and painted before they can be used in a game. This process can be time-consuming, but it is an important part of the Warhammer 40K hobby.

Can I use the miniatures in a Starter Set to play other factions?

Yes, the miniatures in a Starter Set can be used to play other factions if you choose to expand your collection. However, keep in mind that each faction has its own unique rules and playstyle, so you may need to purchase additional units to create a well-rounded army.

Can I play Warhammer 40K online?

Yes, there are several ways to play Warhammer 40K online, including through virtual tabletop platforms like Tabletop Simulator or by using software like Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds.

Hey there! I’m Richard Baker, a miniature painter who’s been in the game for a solid decade now. I’ve been painting miniatures for ten years and I’ve got a ton of tips and tricks to share with you all. My website is a treasure trove of knowledge that I’ve gathered from both my own personal experiences and from reading all sorts of books.

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