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Tabletop Warhammer 40k RPGs, explained

Whether you want to be a mighty Space Marine, shrewd Inquisition agent, or foul servant of Chaos, there’s a Warhammer 40k RPG for you.

Warhammer 40k RPG Deathwatch - a Space Marine breaches a Space Hulk door, holding a glowing blue power mace

There are seven official Warhammer 40k RPGs, letting gamers play as almost any character imaginable from the dark and dangerous Warhammer 40,000 universe. Your might take on the role of Inquisitorial acolytes investigating foul Chaos cults in Dark Heresy; an Astra Militarum infantry squad in the trenches of Only War; servants of the ruinous powers in Black Crusade – and many other things besides.

If you want to know more about the Warhammer 40k universe, we have lore guides to each of the Warhammer 40k factions, as well as a deep dive into the Imperium of Man. And if the games on this list don’t scratch your roleplaying itch, have a look at our guide to the best tabletop RPGs full stop.

For now, though, these are all the Warhammer 40k RPGs:

  • Warhammer 40k Roleplay: Imperium Maledictum – grim and perilous investigations
  • Warhammer 40k Roleplay: Wrath and Glory – action-packed and heroic adventures
  • Dark Heresy – uncover heretical secrets as agents of the Inquisition
  • Rogue Trader – seek your fortune as the profiteering crew of a voidship
  • Deathwatch – purge the alien as elite Deathwatch Space Marines
  • Only War – protect the Imperium as front-line troops of the Imperial Guard
  • Black Crusade – wage war on the corpse Emperor as servants of Chaos

Warhammer 40k RPG Imperium Maledictum art - Hive Rokarth, a vast industrial city visible from orbit

Warhammer 40k Roleplay: Imperium Maledictum

Grim and perilous investigations

Format Print and digital
Focus Investigation, mystery, social, horror
First published by Cubicle 7

Imperium Maledictum is the most recent Warhammer 40k RPG. It uses a D100 resolution system, and player characters have very normal human capabilities – going into a scenario all guns blazing is a good way to get your head shot off. You’ll need to use subtlety, social manipulation, and guile, to unravel the problems your Patron tasks you with solving.

The Patron system is a unique feature for Imperium Maledictum. As in many RPGs, you’re working for a powerful figure – but unlike other games, the players collaboratively design their master. Your patron could be drawn from almost any organisation in the Imperium, from the Inquisition to the Adeptus Mechanicus, or even a tax auditor of the Adeptus Administratum, as in Wargamer’s playtest game with publisher Cubicle 7.

Warhammer 40k RPG Wrath and Glory - an adventuring party including a Space Marine, imperial preacher, noble, and techpriest

Warhammer 40k Roleplay: Wrath and Glory

Action-packed and heroic adventures

Format Print and digital
Focus Action, adventure
First published by Ulisses Spiele

Wrath and Glory puts a heroic spin on the Warhammer 40k universe, with an easy to use D6-based dice system. Tasks are resolved by rolling a pool of dice, with more rolls of 4+ meaning you’re more likely to succeed. A separate Wrath die can either give you critical successes on a roll of six, or let the GM add a Complication to the adventure if you roll a one…

Wrath and Glory‘s rules are narrative-first, prioritizing action, adventure, and keeping the story moving forwards. The game can also be tailored to different power levels: your party could contain Astra Militarum veterans, a tech-priest, a 40k psyker, or even Space Marines.

Warhammer 40k RPG Dark Heresy cover art - Inquisitorial Acolytes in black armor

Dark Heresy

Uncover heretical secrets as agents of the Inquisition

Format Digital
Focus Investigation, mystery, social, horror
First published by Black Industries

Dark Heresy was the first ever Warhammer 40k RPG. Originally published by Games Workshop’s now-defunct imprint Black Industries, most of the line was developed and published by Fantasy Flight Games. The D100 system used in Dark Heresy was the foundation for four other 40k RPGs, and was the inspiration for Dark Imperium.

Playing as servants of a mysterious Inquisitor, your party will investigate conspiracies, cult activities, and the servants of Chaos. The game’s many expansions add all kinds of character options to the game, letting you play as law agents of the Adeptus Arbites, Sisters of Battle, and even the daemon hunting Grey Knights.

Dark Heresy second edition was the final 40k RPG published by Fantasy Flight Games. Though its range was never as large as the first edition, it streamlined and modernised a lot of the rules.

Warhammer 40k RPG Dark Heresy cover art - Inquisitorial Acolytes in black armor

Rogue Trader

Seek your fortune as the profiteering crew of a voidship

Format Digital
Focus Action, adventure, social
First published by  Fantasy Flight Games

In Rogue Trader you take on the role of the bridge crew and officers aboard a mighty voidship. The Rogue Trader captain bears a hereditary warrant of trade, permitting them to expand the frontiers of the Imperium, discover new worlds, and exploit any resources they find.

How you seek your fortune is up to you. You could engage in politics, warfare, or seek lost treasure of archaeotech or Xenos artefacts from worlds far beyond the light of civilization. As long as you turn a profit and don’t stray too far from the Lex Imperialis, everything should stay shipshape.

Warhammer 40k RPG Deathwatch - a Space Marine breaches a Space Hulk door, holding a glowing blue power mace

Deathwatch

Purge the alien as elite Deathwatch Space Marines

Format Digital
Focus Combat, action
First published by  Fantasy Flight Games

Deathwatch puts you in the adamantium and ceramite boots of the alien-hunting Deathwatch Space Marines. These warriors are drawn from many Space Marine Chapters, each bringing unique skills and specialities to aid their squad.

The meat of this game is head to head combat against the many aliens facing the Imperium, from brutish Orks to sophisticated T’au and wiley Drukhari. It pushes the rules engine pioneered in Dark Heresy to the limits, piling on super powers and wargear to make your Space Marines feel truly potent, and their enemies even more dangerous still.

Warhammer 40k RPG Only War, a unit of Imperial Guard advance in front of a Leman Russ battletank

Only War

Protect the Imperium as front-line troops of the Imperial Guard

Format Digital
Focus Combat, survival
First published by  Fantasy Flight Games

Only War gives players the unenviable task of defending the Imperium with only a lasgun and their faith in the Emperor. With each player taking the role of a Guardsman with a different specialism – including the option to play as a hulking Ogryn – you’ll need to use teamwork to survive nightmarish foes and callous commanding officers alike.

Warhammer 40k RPG Black Crusade cover art - a Chaos Lord in black terminator armor

Black Crusade

Wage war on the corpse Emperor as servants of Chaos

Format Digital
Focus Horror, action, mystery
First published by  Fantasy Flight Games

Black Crusade was the last original 40k RPG published by Fantasy Flight Games, and it flips the script entirely. While all the other FFG RPGs put you in control of loyal subjects of the Emperor, Black Crusade gives you control of a band of heretics, mutants, sorcerers, and even Chaos Space Marines.

With your characters on the fringes of Imperial society, or even making their lair within a warp rift, Black Crusade is an opportunity to explore the weirdest parts of the 40k universe.

If you’re keen to play a Warhammer 40k RPG but would prefer to do so in a digital format, Owlcat Games is actually working on a digital  adaptation of Warhammer 40k Rogue Trader. Our Rogue Trader alpha preview gave us an excellent impression of the game, and you’ll find out more about it in our guide tracking the Rogue Trader release date.