What is the best Warhammer 40k starter set in 2023?

There are many ways to start playing Warhammer 40k, with a range of starter sets on offer from Games Workshop - here's what you need to know

Warhammer 40k starter set guide - Games Workshop official photo showing the models of the recruit edition starter set in play

There are three, main Warhammer 40k starter sets available from Games Workshop at the moment: Recruit Edition, Elite Edition, and Command edition. This guide explains the differences between them, which one is right for you or the person you’re getting a gift for, and the other ways you can get started with this sci-fi miniatures game.

New 40k players can feel bombarded with confusing questions: which Warhammer 40k faction should I play? What is a Warhammer 40k codex and why should I get one? Come to think of it, what is Warhammer 40k, anyway, and why are Space Marines‘ shoulders so big?

Fortunately, all the different Warhammer 40k starter sets do a good job of introducing new players to the game. Some allow you to dip your toes into the shallow end of the hobby, others will help you dive in head first – it just depends on what you want to do and what your budget is.

Here are all the different Warhammer 40k starter sets and ways to get started:

YouTube Thumbnail

Warhammer 40k 10th edition launch box set

A new edition of Warhammer 40k is coming this summer, and Games Workshop will release a new Warhammer 40k 10th edition launch box set to go along with it, called Leviathan.

Leviathan will feature: 25 Space Marines; 47 Tyranids; a 392-page hardback rulebook that contains the Leviathan narrative campaign, background, and the core rules; and a deck of mission cards. Check out our article for a full rundown of everything inside Leviathan.

Games Workshop confirmed that Leviathan will cost more than the Warhammer 40k Indomitus, the 9th edition launch box, which was $199 (£125), and less than the Age of Darkness box set for Horus Heresy, currently at $310 (£185).

Indomitus contained forces of android Necrons, power-armoured Space Marines, plus the Warhammer 40k core rulebook. In July 2020 it had an RRP of – buying all the components separately would cost you $454 (£217.50). Indomitus flew off the shelves.

We don’t yet know the exact 10th edition launch box set release date, other than that it will be Summer 2023. 

Warhammer 40k Recruit edition

Warhammer 40k starter set guide - Games Workshop photo showing thepainted Space Marine and Necrons models in the recruit edition starter set, which you can use to learn how to play Warhammer 40k

Warhammer 40k Recruit Edition is the cheapest and quickest way to get started in Warhammer 40k. If you just want to give Warhammer 40k a try, or you’re buying a gift for someone, Recruit Edition is where you should start. You can pick up the Recruit edition starter set from Amazon for $43.

Recruit edition contains everything you need to get started – 20 plastic miniatures; a booklet of all the basic rules; a bag of dice; plastic rulers to measure how far your little guys can shoot; and a paper mat printed with sci-fi landscape to play on. The box itself even flips over to make a building for terrain in your game!

Warhammer 40k Recruit Edition has 20 ‘push-fit’ minis, which you can assemble without any special glue.

  • Necron Overlord
  • Necron Warriors x 10
  • Canoptek Scarab Swarms x 3
  • Primaris Captain Space Marine
  • Assault Intercessor Space Marines x 5

With Warhammer 40k 10th edition on the way the rules in this box will be superseded soon. However, GW has confirmed that the rules for 10th edition will be free to download, and the simple beginners rules in this box don’t add anything to its cost.

Warhammer 40k Elite Edition

Warhammer 40k starter sets elite edition armies - Necrons and Space Marines

Warhammer 40k Elite Edition retails for $99.99 (£65), and is a good way to get started if you’re determined to take the plunge into Warhammer 40k, but you don’t want to blow the bank with the pricier Command Edition.

Warhammer 40k Elite Edition has 27 miniatures push-fit miniatures, all 20 from Recruit edition, plus these seven:

  • Skorpekh Destroyers x 3
  • Canoptek Plasmacyte
  • Outriders (Space Marines on motorbikes) x 3

It also has an Elite Manual, which is a slightly more in-depth set of starter rules, plus play mat, plastic measuring sticks, dice, and a way to turn your box into a building. While the imminent Warhammer 40k 10th edition will supersede the rules in this box, the miniatures in it are a great way to start their respective armies, and are discounted from buying them separately.

Warhammer 40k Command EditionWarhammer 40k starter sets Command Edition terrain

Warhammer 40k Command Edition is deluxe all-in-one box for getting started with Warhammer 40k. Retailing at $185 (£110), it comes with armies, plastic gaming scenery to fill up your tabletop battlefield, and the complete core rulebook.

We have to note that the core rulebook in Warhammer 40k Command Edition will soon be out of date, as a new edition of the game is coming this summer. While this box still gives you a discount on all its other contents, you would be paying for a book that will be strictly ornamental in a few months – so if you’re thinking of spending this much money, consider waiting for the 10th edition starter sets later this year.

The box contains everything from Elite edition. The terrain (model scenery) included would ordinarily retail separately for $110 (£65), and consists of a double-sided, fold-out cardstock gaming board and a set of ruined industrial buildings.

Warhammer 40k Combat Patrols

Warhammer 40k Combat Patrol boxes are army starter sets. They retail for around $135 (£80) and provide enough models to field a small force – enough to play a small game with, and a good start for a fully fledged army.

Even better, as Games Workshop will make the rules for Warhammer 40k 10th edition free on launch, you can pick up a Combat Patrol and get straight into the fight. 10th edition will even have a dedicated Combat Patrol mode: you and your opponent each turn up with the contents of one Combat Patrol box, and have at it!

Just about every Warhammer 40k faction has a Combat Patrol box, each with their own range of units, rules, play style, lore, and background.

First, there are the Imperium factions – those aligned with the galaxy-spanning empire of Mankind. If you’re a true servant of humanity, you may well want to build an army of Space Marines – or form a band of more elite battle brothers from among the towering, gold-clad Adeptus Custodes; the alien-stalking special operatives of the Deathwatch; or the psychic daemon hunters of the Grey Knights.

Or, if hulking super-soldiers don’t appeal, you might prefer the cyborg tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus; the hyper-religious battle-nuns of the Sisters of Battle; or foot-slogging infantry and tanks of the Astra Militarum armies. If all else fails, roll out the big guns and take on an army of hulking, robotic Imperial Knights. We’ll categorise the Leagues of Votann – a dwarf-like descendent from the human species – as an Imperial faction for now.

Then we have the Chaos factions – the twisted followers of the dark gods of the Warp. You might take a shine to the Chaos Space Marines – corrupted mirror images of their loyalist brothers – the disease-ridden Death Guard, sorcerous Thousand Sons, or blood crazed World Eaters legions. Take a step deeper into the Warp, however, and you might collect an army of Chaos Daemons, or the terrifying Chaos Knights.

Finally, there are the Xenos factions – the various deadly alien races living in our galaxy. You may wish to lead murderous piratical raids of Drukhari gunboats, or steer a warhost of proud, ancient, psychic Aeldari. You could lay waste to planets as mighty warboss of a wild, untamed Ork Waaagh!, or simply consume all life in your path, at the head of a merciless Tyranid hive fleet.

As Overlord of your own Necron Dynasty, your deathless, soulless robot warriors could sweep the galaxy – or, as a Commander of the high-tech T’au Empire, you could blast them all to wreckage with spectacular firepower. Lastly (for now, at least), you could always lead an uprising of the insidious Genestealer Cults, mutating and indoctrinating the downtrodden underclasses of humanity into alien guerilla revolutionaries. The choice is yours.