If you’re looking to get into Warhammer 40k and want a recap of all of the Imperium factions that you can play in the tabletop wargame, look no further.
This is a comprehensive list of all of the Warhammer 40k Imperial factions, including some tidbits about their lore and how they play on the tabletop. From the poster boys of Space Marines to the enormous Imperial Knights, here are all of the imperial factions in the grim darkness of the 41st millennium, and what to expect from them inside of the wargame.
All the Warhammer 40k imperial factions
The Imperium of Man
The Imperium of man is a brutal, fascistic empire once led by the God-Emperor of Mankind. In current-day Warhammer 40,000, it is a bloodthirsty regime twisted by the corrupt religious influence of the Ecclesiarchy, the imperial church. Humanity has many forces at its disposal in the setting, and many of them are unique factions that are available for play in the tabletop wargame.
Space Marines – Adeptus Astartes
The Space Marines, or the Adeptus Astartes, are the most popular faction in Warhammer 40,000. They are transhuman warriors designed by the Emperor to fight humanities most dangerous enemies. Space Marines belong to one of nine Space Marine legions still loyal to the empire, each with their own tactical specialty and playstyle. Space Marines are the elite generalist faction, with each legion adding its own spice to their story and playstyle.
1st Legion – Dark Angels: The Dark Angels are known for their vast collections of powerful weaponry, their mixed-arms use of heavily armored infantry and fast vehicles, and their proclivity for keeping secrets.
5th Legion – White Scars: The White Scars specialize in highly-mobile warfare and hit-and-run tactics, often using futuristic motorbikes. They are a loose parallel for the historical horseback Mongol cavalry.
6th Legion – Space Wolves: The simple description for Space Wolves is that they are the viking-themed Space Marines, complete with runes, grog, and even a werewolf-esque curse on some of its members.
7th Legion – Imperial Fists: The Imperial Fists are focused on defensive warfare, reinforcing key positions and fending off sieges. They’re pragmatic engineers focused on keeping the Imperium’s most-valued locales safe from enemies.
9th Legion – Blood Angels: Blood Angels are melee-focused noble warriors with dark curses on their bloodline that cause them to crave blood and sometimes be lost to a madness known as the Black Rage. If you like a mix of angel and vampire thematic as well as brutal melee, the Blood Angels are for you.
10th Legion – Iron Hands: The Iron hands are a highly-mechanized, vehicle-focused legion. From enormous combat walkers to huge tanks, if it’s made of metal and has a big engine, it’s right up the Iron Hands’ alley.
13th Legion – Ultramarines: Ultramarines are the jack-of-all-trades Space Marine Legion. Renowned for their flexibility in both lore and gameplay, it’s hard to find a more generalist Space Marine faction than the Ultramarines.
18th Legion – Salamanders: The Salamanders are the most heroic of the Space Marines, considering it their duty to protect the normal humans of the Imperium. Specializing in super-heated weaponry like flamers and Melta weapons, The Salamanders are the most straightforwardly “good” of the Space Marine legions, if that’s possible.
19th Legion – Raven Guard: The Raven Guard are the stealth and guerilla warfare-focused legion of Space Marines. Striking from darkness and ambushing enemies, they play into their name with avian aesthetics and lots of quick, brutal ambushes.
Deathwatch: The Deathwatch are an inter-legion force that specializes in fighting the alien life forms of the galaxy. Formed form veterans of all the other loyal legions, the Deathwatch are a mix-and-matched version of a Space Marine legion, essentially the special operations version of a regular legion.
Grey Knights: Not technically a legion of their own, the Grey Knights are psychically-gifted Space Marines rumored to be drawn from the genetic lineage of the Emperor himself. Essentially the warrior-wizard order of Space Marines, the Grey Knights are a more-elite Space Marine group who master psychic magic to bolster their power.
The Imperial Guard – Astra Militarum
The Astra Militarum are the most numerous armed forces of the Imperium, composed of normal human beings wielding many of the tools seen in modern-day warfare. From aircraft to artillery to boots-on-the-ground infantry, the Astra Militarum does it all.
Given that they are mere humans taking on a galaxy of terrors, the Astra Militarum tend to leverage sheer numbers and mechanized firepower to defeat their enemies both in lore and gameplay.
There are tons of regiments with individual character and flavor in the Imperial Guard, leaving space for players to customize their forces. If ranks upon ranks of regular men and women facing the alien forces of the galaxy appeals to you, look no further in the Warhammer 40k factions than the Astra Militarum.
Sisters of Battle – The Adepta Sororitas
In a biting parody of religious bureaucracy, the imperial church was once made to de-militarize itself after an attempted coup. The agreement it signed said no men of the church would take up arms, so it happily made a brand new army formed from women only.
These women-of-faith take up futuristic power armor and powerful weaponry to take the fight the enemies of the Imperium. Able to manifest literal miracles through their zealous faith in the God Emperor, they are warriors of unparalleled commitment. Filled with religious imagery, from pipe organ missile launchers to cherubs that reload their weapons, the Adepta Sororitas are a mildly-elite army that does everything but psychic magic well.
As Space Marines are superhuman warriors beyond a regular human, the Adeptus Custodes are to Space Marines. The Custodes are the elite of the elite, once the God Emperor’s personal bodyguards. Armed with ancient relic weaponry from humanity’s past, each Custode is worth hundreds of regular humans in battle.
The Adeptus are a hyper-elite army with a low number of individual models that each possess enormous damage output and huge durability. Cost-efficient to collect, the Adeptus Custodes are a great starter army and have very deep lore.
The Machine Cult – Adeptus Mechanicus
The Adeptus Mechanicus are an isolated faction of Humanity who spent hundreds of years on Mars after human civilziation collapsed. They evolved into an esoteric, technology-worshipping cult who believe that all machinery is an aspect of a divine being called the Machine God.
After all AI is outlawed, the Adeptus Mechanicus create a variety of twisted machines with biological cores, taken from regular human beings and augmented beyond recognition. The Adeptus Mechanicus are a shooting-focused faction that focuses on overwhelming firepower and tons of vehicles and robot-like soldiers.
The Imperial Knights are enormous stompy robots that belong to familial monastic orders, simple as that. Imperial Knights armies are formed from usually single digit models, each a huge mechanical powerhouse that is more powerful than most enemy units on its own. If you want to send your knightly forces stomping across the board with weapons larger than most enemies, Imperial Knights are the big bashy robot faction for you.
Those are all of the Warhammer 40k imperial factions that you can play in the tabletop wargame, check our articles on the Xenos and Chaos factions to learn more about the alien and the heretic.