What is the difference between ‘Warhammer’ and ‘Warhammer 40K?’

Humans, Orcs, and Elves are locked in a huge stand… It could be any of the fantasy bags that have spiraled from the hugely influential Lord of the Rings story.

JRR Tolkien drew heavily from many traditions to create his new mythology. Under his pen, rather similar elves turned into human-sized spiritual creatures based on Ljósálfar of Norse legend. The name of the orcs was taken from the oldest poem known in Old English, Beowulfand adds monstrous features from northern European folktales and Victorian fantasy.

These concepts slipped into popular culture when Tolkien kick-started the epic fantasy genre. Today, millions enjoy sprawling sagas that wouldn’t be the same without them Lord of the Rings. Like Tolkien’s saga, epic franchises The Legend of Zelda, Dungeons and dragonsand Warcraft constantly expanding into new media, and finding new fans on the way. At the moment, the momentum of the vast mythology is about Warhammer.

Chances are, if you’re not already familiar with it Warhammer saga, you will be soon, one way or another. Warhammer 40K has established a vast mythology across collectibles, epic war guides, book series, and video games. In December 2022, it was announced that an Amazon exclusive series is set to bring the epic to the screen, with Henry Cavill producing. But why is there a 40K at the end of Warhammer? For those new to the world of table games, they are actually two separate entries.

How is Warhammer and Warhammer 40K different?

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Image via Games Workshop

While both are board games focused on conflict and with similar terms and species, Warhammer 40K is a clear spinoff from Warhammer which has surpassed the original.

Released by British manufacturer Games Workshop in 1983, Warhammer was the first tabletop game to use its own miniature figures to fight. Fantasy games codified by rulebooks pit players against each other across a table where their warriors battle for victory decided by dice rolls and math. Warhammer took the lead from existing war games, with dark gameplay based on medieval warfare. Set on another world, its likeness to Earth explained by internal logic, heavy fantasy elements such as magic and mythological creatures drew on the work of Tolkien, Poul Anderson’s Broken swordand Michael Moorcock’s Elric series. Playable factions included the Empire, Beastmen, Daemons of Chaos, High Elves, Dark Elves, and Dwarfs.

It inspired a wider universe, including novels. still, Warhammer is in the past tense as the last supplemental rulebook was released in 2015 when Games Workshop relaunched the game as Warhammer Age of Sigmar. The new Warhammer introduced a new game system and setting in Mortal Realms.

The future to Warhammer

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Image via Games Workshop

Warhammer 40K is a miniatures wargame as its similar name forbears. As the figure suggests, it is set in the far future. Launched by Games Workshop in 1987, it transported fantasy elements into a dark and dystopian sci-fi setting.

Warhammer 40K is an irresistibly wretched conception of humanity’s future, or it is now, anyway. The second rulebook, published in 1993, changed the game to make it unequivocally bad news for humanity. At this point, human civilization covers millions of worlds, but lies dormant under an immortal emperor never seen before, who is destined to fall to the alien, supernatural and chaotic forces that besiege it.

Players create armies from factions, including the Imperium of Man’s Space Marines. Other factions include the armies of Chaos, the android Nekron, elven Aeldari, and warlike orcs.

Although it translated many fantastical elements into the future, it added a science-fiction spin, Warhammer 40K drew on wider influences. Among them were John Milton’s paradise lost, Frank Herbert’s Dunethe works of HP Lovecraft, and the usual satirical content of the British dystopian comic and original publisher of Judge Dredd, 2000 AD.

Warhammer 40K soon surpassed Warhammer, becomes the most popular miniatures wargame in the world, creating a massive spinoff universe. Official literature began as soon as the game launched in 1987, and rulebook updates have been released regularly to adapt and refresh the gameplay, the latest being the 2020s ninth edition. With 65 video games published in just seven years, the game has won millions of fans on PC and console.

Do Warhammer and Warhammer 40K exist in the same universe?

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Image via Games Workshop

It is easy to draw links between elements Warhammer and Warhammer 40k, but both are set in completely different universes. The line is far more distinct than the original vision that saw Warhammer 40K like a sci-fi version of Warhammer. While Warhammer is limited to a world that could theoretically be one of the many i Warhammer 40K universe, ended the early proposal when the original game was destroyed at End of Times, and launched the sequel, Age of Sigmar.

The artificial Necron of 40K can remind the undead of Warhammer, but they are not related. The same goes for the Orcs and Aeldari, where the archetypes set by the epics act as Lord of the Rings has been stuck. Usually, chaos doesn’t follow the rules as much. Some Age of Sigmar models can be used in Warhammer 40K as part of the Chaos Factions, as Chaos Gods are shared between the games. However, the technology is there 40K means you send these models the other way.

That unpredictability aside, Warhammer and Warhammer 40K are as different from each other as they are from the vast influences that inspired them.

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