Choosing a Starting Army in Warhammer 40k
Choosing an army is the most difficult thing about playing Warhammer 40k. There are many things to consider and far too many intricacies to notice. To make a careful choice one should borrow some codex’s of armies of interest. But, but to even know where to start is difficult.
The first thing to base your army choice on is what sort of main army advantages you want to focus around. Basic traits to look at are their troop defensive abilities, armor support, speed/mobility, firepower and their martial abilities. Most armies are composed of cheap basic troops though others are advanced, tough and nigh impossible to kill.
This choice here is the main decision between a horde army and a armored contingent. To choose weaker troops is to choose the horde or flood armies to a varying degree. Armies like this are often all troops or mostly composed of troops and anywhere from 50-200 models. The advanced armies field far less troops as they are not needed and are far from plentiful. These armies can often field staggering odds with only 30 or so models.
Armor support or the mechanized models and tanks are expensive and limited in many ways. The armor available to armies can often change the entire battle strategy the army offers. This often is the choice that influences an armies ‘horde’ nature. The tanks are usually either pure machines of destruction or transport vessels with minimal firepower. Their armor hull that defines this class of machine gives them a defensive value often far superior to having the toughness and armor of troops.
All armies have some sort of fast attack units but not all armies have true speed. These are the units that have vast abilities to outflank. Instead of paying more for defensive capabilities you can often achieve mobility that often gives you the ability to define the battle. Some armies are best at shooting compared to martial combat. These armies are often looking to avoid hand to hand combat for the chance to shoot into their enemies. The armies that look for hand to hand combat are often trying to bridge the no mans land where they can lay waste to the enemies. Any army can be seen on a scale to where it wants to do the killing. Often most do not mind either, where as others can see a hundred models die smiling knowing that only a few need to hit the enemy for a victory. There are about 15 codex’s of separate armies. These are the basic traits of these armies compared to the above ‘guidelines’.
Chaos Daemons: more elite than numerous, strong armor but few options, high mobility, their units specialize to advanced combat or firepower.
Chaos Space Marines: more elite than numerous, strong armor many choices, medium mobility, specialization toward shooting though often high combat nature.
Dark Eldar: numerous horde nature, weak armor high speed transports, high mobility, advanced toward martial abilities. This army has not been redone for a long while and desperately needs it.
Eldar: a middle ground of weaker elite natures, strong armor with many choices, highly mobile, they have specialization's toward many areas.
Orks: This is the ‘horde’ army, many weaker armor choices, highly mobile though often cluttering the battlefield with models, their firepower is strong but not well aimed and combat is their life.
Imperial Guard: horde army, many armor choices, medium low mobility, firepower is strong.
Witch Hunters: medium elite, medium armor choice, high mobility, firepower and combat specialist.
Daemon Hunters: medium elite, medium armor choice, mid mobility, strong firepower and incredible combat.
Space Marines: medium elite, high armor choice, mid to strong mobility, strong firepower and good combat.
Blood Angel Space Marines: medium elite, high armor choice, strong mobility, good firepower and strong combat.
Dark Angel Space Marines: medium to high elite, high armor choice, great mobility, good firepower and good combat.
Dark Templar Space Marines: medium elite varying on horde nature, high armor choice. good mobility, good firepower and strong combat.
Space Wolves: medium elite, high armor, medium strong mobility, great specialization within squads.
Tao: horde nature with strong elite’s, higher armor choice, strong mobility, completely firepower oriented.
Tyranids: horde nature with incredible elites, no armor, strong mobility, nearly always combat oriented, though they can field strong firepower.
Necrons: elite nature yet horde’ish capabilities, few armor choices, high mobility, strong firepower.
Long winded, but I’ve started and played many armies. It is always hard to see what your looking for before you buy. This bit of mystery must lend some of the reason why so many people play multiple armies. Most though are likely to say they just want to keep variance in their forces.