ABSTRACT PRINCIPLES of 40k - Introduction

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I like 40k. This is attested to by the hundreds of games I've played over many years, and by the countless hours I've spent painting and converting miniatures, and by the unknowable amount of words and days I've spent talking about it with other people online. I say this not to demand that you listen to what I say because I'm some sort of authority figure, but only to give context to the reason I've written this essay. To try and explain what I'm hoping to achieve.

40k is a complicated game, and this creates innumerable barriers to being able to talk about what the game is, and why we're playing it, and why a player should make a certain choice rather than another. Without a common understanding (or even a common definition of certain words), a lot gets said about "what" people are doing, without the ability to communicate the "why" that they're doing it. Why should a player bring a certain kind of army list, or make certain decisions on the table? Even basic concepts are somehow strangely elusive and incommensurable.

What this essay is, is a way to bring some basic understanding to this entire mess. To provide some definitions of words, and hammer out a common language in the very least. My purpose here isn't to try and come up with a bunch of things I think are true and to try and force everyone to accept my idiosyncrasies. Instead, as much as I am able, I am trying to let the game itself tell us what the game is. To build reasonable and logical arguments just to describe what things are so that we can talk about the "whys" and the "shoulds" later. To be able to clear out sentiment and vague mysticism, and allow us to discuss things without being forced to make gut checks before we agree to listen to what others have to say.

This isn't a treatise on the basics of playing the game within the game itself. It's not a tactical manual teaching the principles of force concentration, focusing on missions, playing to the "meta", or building strong combinations of units. Others (well, and myself) have already written extensively on these topics, and as the game itself changes over time, their writings become more or (usually) less relevant. My point isn't to talk about concrete tips and tricks, but to make something more timeless and more useful. It is an essay about what 40k itself actually is.

As I said, I've played a lot of 40k, and have spent a lot of time talking about it. The intended audience of this essay is other people like myself. I use a lot of jargon and shorthand that the less experienced might find confusing, for which I apologize in advance. This also determines where I'm approaching this essay from. Rather than starting with a friendly "what is 40k?" section, I'm starting at a more detailed level and working my way backwards (the section on luck and skill will be particularly dense for those who don't have an intimate understanding of the game), as the people who are already well versed in the concepts are the people most likely to be talking (or trying to talk) about them. It is an exercise in making sense of what we already know, rather than teaching from a blank slate.

I thank you in advance for reading this ponderous work, and hope this helps you to communicate with others about the game. Perhaps it will even get you to re-evaluate what you are doing in 40k, and why you are doing it, and become a better person or a better players as a result, but such lofty hopes may well be beyond the scope of this simple examination into the game we all love.


I would also like to thank the people from DakkaDakka.com, without which my endless arguing, mind-changing, ranting and raving would have found poor purchase, and without being challenged by others, the ideas less developed.