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Warhammer 40k Factions Overview: Popular Armies & Races

Are you a Warhammer lover? If so, you’ll find this guide about Warhammer 40k factions highly useful in enhancing your experience of painting the Warhammer miniatures. 

Personally, I have gotten quite a grasp on the lore, factions, and playing style of Warhammer now. But there is so much more to learn about this universe, including the process of painting the Warhammer 40k miniature range produced by Games Workshop. 

During my streams (@everguarded2023 on TikTok, shameless-self-plug-come-check-me-out!) I frequently get enriched with nuggets of lore. Nuggets that want to make me dive deeper into the Horus Heresy (that which ignited what we now know as Warhammer 40000) and all the other books and novels. 

However, it also made me think. There is so much out there that it can be challenging to make a start. 

So, this is my attempt to introduce you to the Warhammer 40k factions. No deep dive yet, just something to give you a board to jump into the hobby. 

Overall Description of Warhammer 40k

The setting is 40.000 years into the future from now. The timeline is not much different than ours. Warhammer 40k launched the term grimdark was coined in this universe, and there is a reason for that. Humanity is beset by a myriad of alien threats, as well as internal conflict. And here’s where one of Warhammer 40k’s most iconic slogans comes from:

In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.

warhammer 40k factions

This wartorn galaxy as we know it consists of the following factions: 

The Imperium of Man

The largest and most powerful of all human factions in the Warhammer 40k Universe. Its authoritarian regime is headed by the Emperor of Mankind. Now not much more than a corpse sitting on a golden throne, empowering a psychic beacon to keep the empire cohesive and somewhat an empire. In reality, there is a council of leaders that direct the Imperium with all kinds of politics and intrigue.

On the tabletop, the Imperium of Man is divided into a number of factions, with each their own sub-factions; below is a list of all Imperium of Man Factions: 

Astartes (Space Marines)

The most iconic of all models and artwork. If you tell someone about Warhammer 40k, chances are they’ll picture a Spacemarine in their heads. Space Marines are bread to be superhuman, to such a degree that they are on the fringe of being demigods among men. 

Through gene-seed implementation, they gain enhanced physical abilities, resilience, and a gain a range of specialized organs. They can stand up to 9 feet tall and excel in everything a normal human can do. 

warhammer 40k factions

It is said that Space Marines are so devoted to the Emperor of Mankind that treason is impossible (Oh boy..). Indoctrinated from a young age with the Imperial Truth, they are humanities answer to anything the regular soldier can not handle (Which in this universe is a lot 😛)

They are divided into chapters, each with its own specialties, traditions, combat doctrine, and heraldry. 

Below is a small list of chapters and a snippet of what they entail. Otherwise, I would be writing a book. Almost all of them have extensive lore on the why’s and the hows of their existence. 

  1. Ultramarines: The Ultramarines are the most iconic and revered Chapter, known for their strict adherence to the Codex Astartes and disciplined tactical brilliance.
  2. Blood Angels: The Blood Angels are noble and tragic warriors, cursed with a flaw in their gene seed that drives them into uncontrollable bouts of bloodlust known as the Red Thirst.
  3. Dark Angels: The Dark Angels bear a dark secret related to their Primarch Lion El’Jonson and their hunt for the fallen traitor Space Marines known as the Fallen Angels.
  4. Space Wolves: Hailing from the ice world of Fenris, the Space Wolves are fierce and savage warriors who venerate their gene-father, the Primarch Leman Russ, and are deeply connected to their tribal roots.
  5. Imperial Fists: Renowned for their indomitable defense and expertise in siege warfare, the Imperial Fists are stalwart defenders of the Imperium and masters of fortifications.
  6. Black Templars: The zealous Black Templars are fervent crusaders seeking to purge the galaxy of heresy and Xenos threats in the name of the Emperor.
  7. Salamanders: Hailing from the volcanic world of Nocturne, the Salamanders are known for their affinity to fire and their commitment to protecting innocent lives.
  8. Raven Guard: The Raven Guard excels in stealth, guerrilla warfare, and hit-and-run tactics, using their mastery of shadows to strike at the heart of their enemies.
  9. Iron Hands: The Iron Hands are cold and calculating warriors who embrace cybernetic enhancements to replace their flesh, believing in the perfection of the machine over the weaknesses of the organic.
  10. White Scars: Emulating the ways of the Mongol warriors, the White Scars are fast-mounted warriors who prize speed, hit-and-run tactics, and lightning assaults.

Among others, these also translate to the tabletop with their own specialist rules.

Adeptas Sororitas aka Sisters of Battle

It is a sisterhood that devotes itself to the Emperor of Mankind through prayer and the well-known and renowned ‘Nuns-with-guns.’ And tank mounted with an organ. That shoots missiles. They are well-organized and believe in the divine protection of the Emperor, which manifests on the battlefield through miracles and saints. This also works on the tabletop. 

Like the Space Marines, the Sororitas have different Sisterhoods or Orders: 

Order of the Bloody Rose

They are a fervent and militant faction of the Adepta Sororitas, known for their unyielding devotion to combat, exceptional close-quarters prowess, and relentless assault against their enemies.

– Order of our Martyred Lady

They are a stalwart faction of the Adepta Sororitas, revered for their steadfast faith, disciplined combat skills, and unwavering dedication to defending the Imperium.

warhammer 40k factions

– Order of the Valorous Heart

They are a resilient and indomitable faction of the Adepta Sororitas, known for their unbreakable resolve, exceptional endurance, and unwavering fortitude in the face of adversity.

– Order of the Sacred Rose

They are a group of pious and devout sisters of the Adepta Sororitas, renowned for their unwavering faith, strict adherence to religious doctrine, and selfless dedication to protecting the faithful.

– Order of the Ebon Chalice

Work from the shadows. They are a secretive and mystical faction of the Adepta Sororitas, wielding potent psychic abilities, ancient relics, and specialized knowledge in the service of the Emperor.

– Order of the Argent Shroud

Strike from nowhere. They are a swift and deadly faction of the Adepta Sororitas, known for their lightning-fast assaults, expert marksmanship, and the iconic silver armor they don on the battlefield.

Among others, these also translate to the tabletop with their own specialist rules. 

Astra Militarum aka Imperial Guard

Your futuristic average Joe has joined the military. In the 40k universe. When a planetary defense force (PDF) fails to fend off the enemies of the Imperium, the Imperial Guard gets called in. 

They are the first to see battle and are often also the first to fall, victim. When their lines break, the Marines or Sisters get called in. They make up the largest part of the Imperium’s fighting force and number in trillions. 

Yeah, 500 TRILLION (500. skulls. Supported by tons of material like artillery, tanks, behemoth tanks, and flyers, this force is also referred to as the Hammer of the Emperor. 

They hale from different planets, and every regiment has its own traditions, doctrines, and cultures. Sometimes these are attached to Spacemarine Chapters; others are bound to planets or systems. 

warhammer 40k factions

Their specializations and traits also work through the rules on the tabletop. Some of the more well-known regiments are: 

– Armageddon Steel Legion

Hailing from the war-torn planet of Armageddon, they are recognized for their resilience, armored warfare expertise, and relentless determination in the face of overwhelming odds.

– Cadian Shock Troops

Lost their planet to the forces of chaos and are known for their steadfastness, extensive training, and mastery of defensive tactics in defense of the Imperium.

– Death Korps of Krieg

A grim and unyielding regiment of the Imperial Guard, distinguished by their stoic resolve, willingness to sacrifice, and their renowned expertise in trench warfare. Perhaps this has to do something with their cloning vats?

– Catachan Jungle Fighters

They were famed for their unmatched survival skills, deadly expertise in guerrilla warfare, and ability to thrive in the dangerous jungles of Catachan. Favorite Xenos to fight? Tyranids!

– Mordian Iron Guard

Known for their precise formations, strict adherence to orders, and impeccably maintained discipline on the battlefield. Styled after the French during the 1800’s (No specific models tho. Sadly.)

– Praetorian Guard

They are distinguished by their distinctive uniforms, ornate weaponry, and steadfast loyalty to the Imperium. Came straight from Buckingham Palace. Also no models. 

– Tallarn Desert Raiders

They are renowned for their mastery of desert warfare, hit-and-run tactics, and ability to strike swiftly from the arid sands of Tallarn.

– Valhallen Ice Warriors

They endure harsh winter conditions with unyielding determination and the ability to weather the most extreme environments of warfare.

– Vostroyan Firstborn

Expert marksmen and deep-rooted traditions of noble service to the Imperium. Styled after the Soviets.

Imperial Knights

They are huge bipedal death machines. Ruled by feudal houses. Man and machine combined to create a force of nature. Smaller to their Titan-kin, these giants of destruction look like regal robots ready to rumble. Once the pilots become fused with their machines, be it Armiger, Knight, or Dominus class, these towering war machines are nigh unstoppable. 

Each house triumphantly colors its knights according to their heraldry, and each knight specializes in either close combat (ROBO RUMBLE!) or ranged combat. Or a combination.

warhammer 40k factions

And like all the other armies, each house has its own specialisms. On the tabletop, this means that you can make your army good in one direction over the other. 

Some notable houses divided by those loyal to the Mechanicus and the Imperium of Man that you can play are: 


  • House Taranis: It is a formidable Knight House renowned for its technological prowess, mastery of advanced shielding, and relentless pursuit of battlefield dominance.
  • House Krast: It is a zealous Knight House driven by an unwavering hatred for Chaos, excelling in the hunt for heretics and traitors with relentless determination.
  • House Raven: House Raven is a renowned Knight House specializing in lightning-fast strikes and rapid maneuverability, striking fear into their enemies with their hit-and-run tactics.

Imperium of Man

  • House Cadmus: Known for its unwavering loyalty to the Imperium, strict adherence to codes of honor, and specialized skills in siege warfare.
  • House Griffith: Noble and chivalrous Knight House are known for their unwavering valor and heroic deeds on the battlefield, upholding the traditions of honor and bravery.
  • House Hawkshroud: Steadfast and resilient Knight House that has demonstrated unwavering loyalty to the Imperium, defending its territories with unyielding determination.
  • House Terryn: Knightly and honor-bound Knight House, renowned for its dueling prowess and adherence to chivalric traditions on the battlefield.


What is the top faction in Warhammer 40k?

Choosing a top Warhammer 40k faction is dependent on various factors like the game edition, personal gaming style, and the rules by which you play the game. Generally, the Imperium of Man is considered to be the top faction because it has diverse forces under it, such as Sisters of Battle. 

How many factions are in Warhammer 40k?

The number of available 40k factions keeps changing with time, but there are over 25 factions to choose from. 

What is the easiest 40k army to play?

Space Marines is one of the easiest Warhammer 40k armies. I recommend beginners to start with Space Marines as it is a versatile army, and you can efficiently learn the game with it.

Which faction is all female Warhammer 40k?

The all-female faction in Warhammer 40k is the Adepta Sororitas, also known as the Sisters of Battle. They are a religious order of women who serve the Emperor of Mankind as his most fanatical warriors.

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