With roots dating back to the 1980s, Warhammer 40K has been around for decades, and the world has grown exponentially from the humble beginnings of being a simple table top where Space Marines fight Orks and Aeldari. If you’re new to the franchise the overwhelming amount of lore and characters can be enough to put anyone off. However, if you’re interested in getting into the action, or you want to prepare for the Amazon series that’s maybe or maybe not happening, a good place to start is with the factions.
Yes, some factions are better than others. While the creators at Games Workshop have tried their best to make the playing field even for all sides, it’s clear that some factions get more love and attention than others. We’ve compiled a list of every faction in Warhammer 40K and ranked them from best to worst in descending order.
Brutal and efficient, the space marines are a powerful force in the galaxy not to be underestimated. There is no battleground in which they do not excel with devastating weapons and an iconic design to their armor the Space Marines are a powerful choice. They remain loyal to the Emperor and will gladly sacrifice themselves for the glory of the Imperium. These modified humans stand at around 8′ tall and bring a variation of bolt guns, las cannons, and tanks to battle. They are led by a Primarch who is the leader of each Chapter and is significantly stronger than the rest.
There are multiple chapters of Space Marine, from the Ultra Marines to the Space Wolves, and they all have different preferred weapons and methods of combat as well as different modifications to their armor. They have a lower number of soldiers in their units, meaning they can find themselves overwhelmed by hordes of Tyrannids and the like.
The Craftworlds are huge planet ships that carry the remnants of the Aeldari, who are essentially the elves of the 40K universe. They place an emphasis on elegance and discipline which can be seen in their weaponry and quick-moving mechs. They use a combination of ranged and close-combat blades used by the highly trained Aspect Warriors.
The Aeldari are a well-rounded faction with plenty of units to choose from that are all more than capable of handling themselves in the field of battle. They hit hard, but they don’t tend to return fire with the same force.
They exist in a state of slumber on their tomb worlds awaiting to be awoken. The Necrons come from a time before humanity and populated a planet with harsh conditions, making it hard for life to flourish. They later went to war with the old ones and made a deal with the C’tan to destroy them. The Necrons exchanged their flesh for living metal but were tricked by the C’tan, who drank their cast of life energy. As a result, the Necrons lost their souls and became machines of death.
These unfeeling killers have mastered the art of brutal warfare. Due to their lack of a soul, they are merciless killers. However, that also keeps them from traveling in the warp, meaning they are relatively contained or, at the very least, can’t expand as fast. If they could travel the warp, the galaxy wouldn’t stand a chance.
These former Space Marines have deserted The Emperor and instead have chosen to worship Chaos. Those chaos gods have granted them all sorts of powers and afflictions that both aid and hinder them in battle.
The Chaos Marines are usually backed up by monstrous daemon engines or cult infantry. They have an assortment of ranged weaponry as well as being adept at close combat. However, Chaos Marines have outdated equipment and are typically less in number when compared to Space Marines, giving them a slight disadvantage in battle.
The horrifying Xenos insects operate as a hive mind and vary in size and strength. They are made up of multiple organisms that all share a genetic theme, and everything in the galaxy is prey to them. The Tyranids are one of the biggest threats to the galaxy, and are almost unstoppable. Although individually weak, their sheer numbers means that they can overpower any army.
With a massive range of units that operate like a swarm, they can easily overrun a planet, leaving a planetary exterminatus as the only option to deal with them.
These savage humanoid beasts are a fearsome faction. While they are violent, they’re also one of the lesser intelligent factions. However, what they lack in brains they more than make up for in brute strength. An interesting fact about the Orks is that much of their weaponry and machinery doesn’t operate. Due to their sheer belief that it will, it actually makes the machines work. As a result, a lot of what the Orks use in battle often looks like cobbled together pieces of junk.
The Orks also share physiology with fungi. The one thing stopping them from taking over the galaxy is their inability to stop in-fighting. If only they could unify, they would be the strongest force in the galaxy.
Specializing in hunting Daemons, the Grey Knights very existence is known to a privileged few. These psychic warriors are charged with protecting humanity from monstrosities from the warp as well as anything else that threatens the imperium. Their strength and training surpasses the space marines whom they could take in a fight. The Grey Knights are known for executing all Space Marines who have witnessed them in battle.
Capable of wiping out entire regiments, these hulking beasts rarely have to worry about being outnumbered. With massive amounts of firepower and the ability to send tanks flying with a single blow, these knights are not to be trifled with.
Imperial Knights have no form of psychic attack, meaning in the tabletop they don’t get a turn for psychic moves. They are also weak to heavy anti-tank weapons and often struggle with terrain.
A twisted mirror of the Imperial Knights, these war engines tower over the battlefield using their huge reaper chainswords to scatter enemies. They possess enough firepower to wipe out entire squadrons, and their sheer size makes them an unstoppable force.
The Chaos Knights share much of the same weaknesses as the Imperial Knights, those being heavy anti-tank weapons and trouble with terrain.
The human force of the Imperium of Man, these fighters rely on numbers rather than strength. An individual human would be crushed by a single soldier from any of the other factions, but the Astra Militarum relies on strategy, technology, and numbers to get the job done.
Obvious weaknesses of the militarum revolve around the units primarily being composed of soft squishy humans. However, they have managed to work around their weaknesses.
Immortal servants of the chaos gods, these beings possess eldritch powers that make them a force to be reckoned with. These beings are strong and possess bizarre abilities which they use on the battlefield.
The Chaos Daemons do struggle with ranged weapons though. Chaos troops, known as bloodletters, can hit hard but go down easily, making them a bit of a glass cannon.
Sisters of Battle
The all-female division of the Imperium of Man, the Sisters of Battle excel at mid-to-close-range combat. Backed up by a battalion of shock troops, these warriors are one of the most pious followers of the Emperor.
The Sisters of Battle have limited options for dealing with all kinds of armies. They have no psychic abilities, and the Battle Sisters are the only troop option, although they do hit hard. They also lack anti-vehicle firepower, which is vital on the battlefield.
Relatively young in relation to the rest of the 40K universe, this new faction has just begun to expand. They hold to a philosophical concept known as the “greater good” which drives their decision to expand and spread the concept. The Tau were discovered as a fledgling species but advanced rapidly. While the Tau soldiers are small compared to even humans, their mechs make up for what the foot soldiers lack. They are nimble and powerful and can take down even the largest of the Imperium titans. Like the Necrons, the Tau aren’t able to quickly expand as they cannot travel in the warp. Their souls are weaker than other beings, so they can only skim the warp. However, they still use warp drive technology.
The Tau are still woefully underdeveloped for combat when compared to any of the other factions, making the 40K universe just too brutal for the Tau to compete.
Creations of the Emperor, the Adeptus Custodes are more powerful than the strongest Space Marine. A single warrior could take on an entire regiment of any other soldier, so being outnumbered is never a problem for these fighters.
With that being said, the Custodes do not have many units due to the difficulty of creating them. Although they can hold their own against large units, they will more often than not find themselves outnumbered and outgunned and can only hold out for so long.
The Adeptus Mechanicus value technology above all else. They have altered their bodies and cast away their flesh, which they view as weakness. As such, they have become machines of war. They still retain their minds unlike Necrons. However, they are not as efficient. The Mechanicus are fragile when it comes to melee combat, and they also lack any Psykers, making them vulnerable to psychic units.
Merciless and sadistic, the Drukhari live off the suffering of other living beings. Exiled from the rest of the Aeldari, these pirates raid cities and treat the universe as their plaything. They are fast, with speedy transport to help in a gunfight and an emphasis on quick attacks that deal heavy damage. While fierce in combat, the Drukhari sacrificed their durability for those skills, meaning these warriors aren’t as tough.
To the Harlequinns, warfare is an elegant dance. These nimble fighters are capable of running circles around the average soldier. They’re great at getting close to the enemy and finishing them off with devastating melee attacks. They can easily win fights when outnumbered, but they lose the advantage in ranged combat.
Worshippers of the Tyrannids, these humans have been mutated into beings that possess strange powers giving them the upper hand against humans. They are insurrectionist that can bring down human colonies from within.
As they are formerly human, much of what they use in battle is human equipment, including run-down civilian vehicles and weapons. Obviously stronger than the average human, these mutated cultists would not be much of a challenge for many other factions. However, their cunning has allowed them to overrun planets with ease.