Xenos Factions Warhammer 40k

These are all the Warhammer 40k Xenos factions

By Nicholas James

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Apr 4, 2023

Reading time: 8 min

Warhammer 40,000 is a hugely popular tabletop wargame. If you’re looking for information on all the alien forces, here are all of the Warhammer 40k Xenos factions explained.

The Warhammer universe is loosely divided into three broad categories of factions, Imperial, Xenos, and Chaos. The Imperial factions are those aligned with the fascistic human empire. Chaos are sworn to the otherworldly forces of the Warp.

Meanwhile, Xenos is the grouping of all the non-human or Chaos factions. If you’re interested in dabbling in the mystical, terrifying, and exotic factions of the 41st millennium, here’s everything you need to know.

Warhammer 40k Xenos factions

Aeldari

Aeldari Warhammer 40k

The Aeldari are the elven civilizations in Warhammer 40,000, ancient and equally technologically and magically powerful. They are collectively known as the Eldar. They once were a single galaxy-spanning civilization that collapsed after it accidentally created a Chaos god.

In current-day 40k, the Eldar are divided into four distinct factions, the Asuryani, the Drukhari, the Harlequins, and the Ynnari. Each of them is a slightly different sect of elven society after untold millennia scattered across the stars. Here’s what you need to know about the space elves of 40k.

Asuryani – The Craftworld Eldar

Craftworlds 40k

Before Eldar civilization fell, many elves saw the writing on the wall and departed civilization in enormous spaceships known as Craftworlds. These Craftworlds protected the Aeldari’s souls from death, reincarnating them through a magical device known as an Infinity Circuit.

Nowadays, these Eldar are the most civilized and organized remnant of the elven civilization. They are incredibly psychically powerful and wield devastating power, though they are a dying race trapped in a purgatory-like cycle of reincarnation in order to avoid a heinous fate.

On the tabletop, the Asuryani are blindingly fast, psychically powerful glass cannons that thrive on speed and finesse over brute force. If you like outmaneuvering your opponents with powerful spells and lightning-fast elven warriors, the Asuryani are a great choice.

Drukhari – The Dark Eldar

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Unlike the Asuryani, the Drukhari, known as the Dark Eldar, made a distinctly different choice. The Aeldari empire collapsed after its excess and debauchery brought about the birth of the Chaos god of excess, Slaanesh. Slaanesh consumed the vast majority of Eldar souls immediately, but the Drukhari made a dark deal with the new god.

Instead of consuming their souls, the Dark Eldar would go throughout the galaxy spreading pain and excess to feed Slaanesh. Their twisted, horrifying experiments and indulgences feed this god, and she grants them continued life. The Dark Eldar are the “evil” version of the elves. They play similar to the Asuryani, with an increased focus on putting infantry in transports that provide additional fire support as they blitz up the board.

The Harlequins

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The Harlequins are a mysterious sect of Eldar who guard the Black Library, an enormous repository of knowledge. They are brightly colored combatants who perform dances as they do battle, mysterious and esoteric performers and guardians. The Harlequins serve Cegorach, the Eldar “Laughing God” and a mysterious influence on the galaxy.

The Harlequins take the infantry and transports strategy to its most extreme conclusion, often running enough transports to fit their entire army inside and ferry them around the board. Fast, killy, but with more limited models than the Asuryani and Drukhari, the Harlequins are a colorful and fun addition to the elven roster.

The Ynnari

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The Ynnari are a cult of elves who worship the elven god of the dead, Ynnead. They are a mishmash of the other three elven factions and can include members from the Asuryani, Drukhari, and Harlequins. The Ynnari are a small subfaction, that mostly focuses on using one of its unique models, The Yncarne, to sow havoc in enemy lines as it plays a fast and melee-focused game.

The Forces of the Hive Mind – Tyranids

Tyranids are a monstrous horde of aliens from outside of the galaxy that consume all living material in their way as they assault the edges of the galaxy. They are a massive, unknowably huge hivemind of frightening bug-like aliens who consume all that is set before them, using it to evolve and feed themselves for further assaults on the other factions of the galaxy.

There are two parts of the factions associated with this hivemind, one is the Tyranids themselves, and the other is the Genestealer Cults. They’re certainly the most inhuman of the Warhammer 40k Xenos factions.

The Tyranids

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The Tyranids are the bulk of the hivemind’s efforts to conquer the galaxy. Divided into multiple enormous “Hive Fleets,” the Milky Way galaxy is assaulted on all sides by planetary system-conquering hordes of chitin-sporting aliens.

These are the Tyranids. They consume all living material of their enemies and the planets they conquer, breaking it down into a material known as Biomass that is used to create more Tyranids and fuel their advance into the galaxy. The Tyranids are an incredibly varied force on the table, if you can think of a battlefield role there’s likely a creepy, gribbly alien that does the job well.

From psychic to melee to ranged combat, the Tyranids are a diverse force of everything from hordes of tiny lifeforms to titanic monsters.

The Genestealer Cults

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The Genestealer Cults are the Tyranids’ way of infiltrating human society and preparing them for invasion. The Tyranids will send Genestealers, stealth-focused alien lifeforms, as advance infiltrators. These have the ability to steal and modify genetic information, and are sent ahead on human transports into highly-populated worlds.

These Genestealers will then slowly modify the genetic makeup of humans on that world. This results in them slowly forming an army of semi-human Tyranid hybrids. These cultists live under the psychic yoke of the Genestealer Patriarch, who starts the cult. This patriarch prepares them for an eventual insurgency that will distract and weaken the planet’s forces.

This allows the alien swarm to more easily and effectively conquer the planet. The Tyranids then arrive, devouring all life, even the cultists, when it is done with a planet. The Genestealer Cults are a fast and tricky army that uses improvised weaponry and tools of labour to do battle with the other forces of the galaxy, relying on trickery and subterfuge to win.

The Leagues of Votann – Space Dwarves

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The Leagues of Votann are technically human by descent. But they are Warhammer 40,000’s dwarven empire, for all intents and purposes. They are descendants of human who left Earth long ago and settled on high-gravity planets. The Leagues of Votann have evolved into stout and durable humanoids with great technological prowess available to them.

Their generational ships possess huge AI cores known as Votann. These cores help them produce technological wonders. They also can be found genetically tailoring every generation of the ‘kin’ to the clan’s needs. The Leagues of Votann are a durable but mostly slow faction with overwhelming firepower and some tools for potent melee. They’re also the newest kids on the block, with the faction debuting in 2022.

The Necrons

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The Necrons are an artificial race that was once biological. After making a dark deal with powerful star gods known as the C’Tan, the Necrons had their souls transferred into undying bodies made of living metal and conquered most of the galaxy.

After a long-term war with the Eldar and Orks, the Necrons were put to sleep beneath the surfaces of the worlds they had claimed. Millions of years laters, the Necrons arise once more to find the galaxy crawling with what they few as inferior species. The Necron desire to reclaim the galaxy and subjugate all the living races around them.

On the tabletop, the Necrons are an army of metal undead, as unkillable and durable as that implies.

The T’au Empire

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The T’au Empire are the most recent player on the galactic stage, going from a tribal society on a single planet to a technologically advanced star-faring empire. They are one of the more diplomatic factions in the galaxy. Some of the only ones who tend to try and convince enemies to join their side before resorting to warfare.

On the tabletop, the T’au Empire uses the most advanced weaponry of any of the Warhammer 40k Xenos factions. They use all sorts of futuristic weaponry, from battlesuits to railguns. Incredibly shooting-focused, if you play the T’au you’re likely to spend more time blasting your opponents off the board than anything else.

The Orks

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Finally, the Orks are the most similar to their fantasy counterparts in many ways. The Orks were created long ago to fight the Necrons by a race known as the Old Ones. The Old Ones also created the Aeldari. Since then, they’ve evolved into a warlike faction of latently psychic beings who live only to do battle.

They are able to cobble together weaponry that functions only through sheer power of belief. Orks are a borderline comical horde of enormous green warriors who seek out ways to ‘krump’ enemies for fun. Orks tend to be a melee-focused army that preoccupies itself with closing the gap with the enemy and overwhelming their forces.

If you want to know about the human forces of Warhammer 40,000, check out our article on all the imperial factions of 40k.

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