Recruiting for War: Getting Your Significant Other to Play!

Editors’ Note: If you’re anything like us, you’ve spent nearly as much time extolling the virtues of the hobby to your friends and loved ones as you have actually playing the game – after all, the only thing better than playing a game of 40k is setting up across the table from someone you enjoy spending time with anyway. Unfortunately, if your experience is anything like ours, convincing someone to take the plunge is often easier said than done. Wargaming can be utterly mystifying to the uninitiated, and for those of us who’ve been talking about MEQ and invulns and other buzzwords for years, it can be easy to forget how intimidating all of this can be.

Don’t worry, though: today, we’ve got guest author Kya Vess here to help you break down some of those barriers and spread your enthusiasm for these games, starting right at home.

Kya and her Hive Fleet ready for war | Credit: Kya Vess

Hey Everyone, Kya here! 

Who am I, you ask? I’m just a humble Warhammer player like many of you. Some of our hobbyist readers who also play Magic the Gathering might recognize me as the “crazy chick who plays Timesifter” from EDHREC, a grand title I wear as proudly as I do being the local Norn Queen around these parts. Over the years I’ve accumulated about 40,000 (ha!) points in models and played hundreds of games at my local game stores. The reason I bring this up is not to brag too much, but to discuss today’s topic, which is the number-one question I’m continuously asked by many online and offline, regardless of the hobby I’m partaking in:

“How do I get my Significant Other to play?”

It’s a question probably every female player gets asked at any convention or game store or messaged when posting online. Someone approaches and gets excited about the idea of sharing the world of Warhammer to the love of their life, when they previously thought for one reason or another it wasn’t possible. While it’s always possible some people are simply not into the setting we all know and love, I can promise you there are a few tricks and tips you may have not thought of when approaching your loved one with the 40k universe. Without further ado, let’s get started! 

Welcome to the Grimdark!

Woah! Slow down there! While it’s tempting to buy your significant other 3,000 points of Dark Eldar right away, I’m going to strongly suggest we reel it back a bit. Think back to when you first started getting into Warhammer. What about our hopeless grim future lured you into the dark abyss known as 40k? Were you in love with background over all? The models? How it compared to other games or stories in your life? Well remember that this is someone’s first experience too.

Credit: Kya Vess

What would entice your partner or friend into getting into the setting? Do they like Lord of the Rings? Especially Legolas in all his golden-haired glory?  Well, then your significant other should know there’s an entire race of space elves so arrogant they’d make Elrond look humble. The beauty of their superiority complex? They messed up so royally they created a dark God by mistake and that same malicious deity now spends all its time looking to consume their very beings! How are these Eldar dealing with their souls constantly being nipped at by this evil hickey god? Well, some are now desperately flying around in bondage attire and flaying other races to sustain themselves so they don’t have a bad run in with Slaanesh later down the road. Congratulations, your partner is now interested in Dark Eldar and may take the next steps to rolling a few dice to see how well their new torture techniques go in today’s game!

It may seem like I’m being a little disingenuous about how easy it is to get someone into 40k, doesn’t it? Well then let me tell you a story of exactly how well world building works and how absolutely frustrating it is that some people don’t consider this as an important tool of getting newer people into Warhammer. My friend has been trying to get his girlfriend to play Warhammer with him for years. His girlfriend is a Batman fanatic to the highest degree and owns every comic and collectible she can get a hold of. I’m sure after reading this, some of your minds probably already clicked on what to do with just that limited bit of information. Not him though! Not once in all these years did it occur to him to bring up Konrad Curze and his Night Lords as the main selling point. Are you now as angry as I am reading that sentence? Well guess what? After a few minutes explaining the glory that is our Cannibalistic Space Batman, she saw our wonderful hobby in a whole new light. Now she spends her time deep striking Raptors into people’s deployments and whispering, “I’m Batman!” before charging. It was that simple. 

Playing More Than Just a Game

Tying in the above section, another large mistake I see often with couples is trying too hard to explain the mechanics of the game and not the meaning behind them. Not a single person became excited about this hobby because that Termagant on the table has a Ballistic skill of 4 and their Fleshborer is Strength 3. Heck I’m not even excited about that statline now. What excites the bypassers watching a 40k game is that this tiny Termagant is shooting a giant worm-like creature into someone’s flesh and it’s now slithering up into their victims body to consume them from within. Will the poor guardsmen survive it? Only the dice can tell!

Sound a little familiar? That’s probably because it’s how you got interested in playing all those years ago. I know that’s what hooked me into Warhammer when I was a teenager. Sometimes you forget the meaning behind what’s transpiring at the table when you roll those dice. There’s a lot of gruesome scenes happening in the battle! Proof in the above can be found every time I go to a game store. The tables that are flooded with watchers and soon to be fans are the ones where the players are acting out their armies and the model’s experiences.

Don’t believe me? Next time your partner is nearby, hand them a saving roll. Don’t just tell them they have to roll a 5 to save the model. Dramatically explain to them that if they don’t save it, Frank the guardsman is going to die a gruesome death as acid sprays across his face. Either your significant other is going to become Frank’s guardian angel, or they’re going to watch the hilarious cruelty of the grim dark as Frank melts into a puddle of biomass/ Regardless they’re going to have a good time and that’s what matters!

Screw the Rules, I Have Models!

I’m a little sad that not a single person will get the title’s reference. Homage to one of the best abridged series aside, the short of everything I said today is that teaching the rules and gameplay should be your last concern. I know what you’re thinking. How dare I even suggest such a heretical thing! The audacity of it all! It’s all about the rules! You love the rules after all! Everyone loves rules! However if you want newer people to play I’d politely suggest to take my words to heart for the time being. The knowledge and memorization of the game’s rules will come with time. It’s important to remember time will only be given by those invested enough to do so.

Credit: Kya Vess

You might have hooked your partner to become slightly interested in taking the next steps, which is great! However now, is not the time to drop an oversized rulebook, codex and several supplemental rules on their lap. Instead, I would recommend some small skirmishes where you play most of the game itself for that person. Their only concerns should be:

  1. The Movement Phase for their small army.
  2. What units they want to target in the shooting/melee phase.
  3. Rolling the dice as you instruct them.

The key to rule 3 in particular is keeping it simple. A new player doesn’t need to know the wound table in full detail on their first game. Having to roll 6’s because a glorified flashlight is futilely shooting at an approaching tank and praying to the God Emperor for salvation is all they need to know for now. Or that they’re rolling a 2 because that Carnifex is smacking poor Fire Warrior Janet so hard the Greater Good is going to feel it. As games continue, they can slowly learn the wound table in more detail. 

The logic behind this is a very similar process to getting newer players into EDH: giving limited options and having large (positive) reactions to your partner’s choices creates an environment where they’ll want to make more choices. Information overload is a very real thing for most people and is often the main reason why getting others into Magic the Gathering or Warhammer can feel like an uphill battle. Remove the initial headache and mathhammer for just a tiny bit and suddenly they will crave more. Soon after a few games they’ll be playing all on their own and quickly enough surprising you with a nasty alpha strike you didn’t see coming!

Who Will Win the Galactic Conquest?

Now that we have an idea of how to play with our partner, it’s time for them to pick 2 armies to battle! Maybe by now your significant other has purchased a Combat Patrol box of their very own and is ready to wipe the floor with you. Or if you’ve been playing as long as I have, you probably have a few different armies in your closet of shame to pick from. So which army do you and your partner choose? Well of course they should choose the faction that calls to them the most. If you’ve read this far you’ll know to encourage the army with the story and appearance that most interests them. Now it’s just a matter of what you should pick to face off with your new warmonger of a partner. I personally would go for the more thematic option if I have a choice, such as choosing Ultramarines or Guard if they like Tyranids. Or Chaos Marines if they want to play a loyalist chapter. In addition, I try and follow some core basic rules for list building when it comes to creating both armies:

  1. Keep the first few games to 500 points or less.
  2. Have your partner use the more durable unit choices of their army.
  3. Bring the one big monster or tank that really caught their eye, like a Tyrannofex or Repulsor.
  4. Ensure your partner is facing a nice body count of an army with one nice big target to blow up! 

Credit: Kya Vess

The above accomplishes the few major points in this article. First, the game is simple and quick at just 500 points. People don’t want to spend 4 hours on a game they don’t understand. Next, they’re going to get a lot of positive reinforcement as their choices within the game lead to some hilarious and devastating plays. After all, there’s not a single person on earth who isn’t going to enjoy watching your face go from neutral to pure horror as their Tyrannofex one shots your Leman Russ, or some Orks performing choppy overkill on some unsuspecting Fire Warriors! Finally, they get to see the models that drew them into their faction at work! The second rule might throw you off but it’s an important one as well. I found newer players are not a fan of watching their models die one after another, regardless of how you insist their or your plays still netted them overall value throughout the game. This is why I always avoid fragile units like Termagants, Sisters of Battle or Eldar troops. Instead I’d have them play Tyranid Genestealers for the extra toughness, fast movement and all the dice rolls! Or a bunch of far more durable Mortifiers to rip up the battlefield! Now let’s look at some of the example lists for our skirmish battles:

Hive Fleet Kraken Invade the Ultramarines!

Tyranids: Kraken

  • Broodlord: 125 points
  • Genestealers x12: 180
  • Tyrannofex w/ Rupture Cannon: 190

Credit: Kya Vess

Adeptus Astartes: Ultramarines

  • Primaris Captain with Master Crafted Bolt Rifle: 90 points
  • Intercessor Squad x4, Intercessor Sergeant w/ Bolt Rifles: 100 points
  • Intercessor Squad x4, Intercessor Sergeant w/ Bolt Rifles: 100 points
  • Gladiator Lancer with Auto Launchers, Icarus Rocket Pod: 210 points  

Ork Waaaghh Stumbles Upon a Taken Hive World

Orks: Evil Sunz

  • Warboss: Kustom Shoota, Power Klaw: 83 points
  • Ork Boyz, Choppa/Slugga x13, 1 Tankbusta Bombs: 104 points
  • Ork Boyz, Choppa/Slugga x25, 2 Tankbusta Bombs: 200 points
  • Deff Dread: Klaw, Klaw, Saw, Skorcha: 110 points

Credit: Kya Vess

Genestealer Cult: Bladed Cog

  • Abominant: 110 points
  • Acolyte Iconward: 60
  • Neophyte Hybrids w/ Autoguns x 10: 60 points
  • Neophyte Hybrids w/ Autoguns x 10: 60 points
  • Brood Brothers w/ Las Guns x10: 60 points   
  • Biophagus: 40
  • Goliath Rockgrinder with Clearance Incinerator: 110 points

These lists are a ton of fun and can be tweaked a little bit for the reverse if you have a significant other interested in Astartes or Genestealer Cult. Having your partner swarm your defenses and overwhelm you with dice will lead to some memorable moments. I can only imagine how the Orks are laughing as autoguns bounce off their hides and they dash in for the kill! Surprised because the ambushers are now being ambushed, the Biophagus tries to stitch dark magic into the Abominant but he gets krumpt by the Deff Dread anyway! 

Or the hilarious joy of that Tyrannofex crippling the Gladiator into oblivion while the Genestealers rush in and slay the Primaris in their last stand against the Tyranid invasion. While they may fight valiantly against the brood, its lord will sweep up the remaining marines with ease. The Corpse Emperor on the marine’s side and rolls are godly? Well they’ll soon discover how useless bolters are against the still living Tyrannofex!  

In short, these lists are not meant to overwhelmingly dominate the other, but as the more experienced player you can guess how these battles will end. With your defeat of course, buahahaha! Don’t be too depressed though. After all you know what they say: happy wife, happy satisfaction as the last remnants of a race of foolish elves has been all but snuffed out – I mean life

Double the Dates, Double the Fun!

Credit: Kya Vess

Hopefully by now if you followed this tiny guide, your significant other is slaughtering heretics with the best of them. But wait, there’s more! Now that your partner is playing you’ve also unknowingly unlocked a new story progression of endless entertainment! Double date nights of Warhammer! Find your inner Nurgle and spread the sickness known as the Grim Dark to other couples and expand your dice throwing empire! 

Credit: Kya Vess

Just recently we brought over 2 armies of 500 points to our friend’s house for board game night. We split the teams to Girls vs Boys and my friend fell in love with Nomming on my fiance’s poor unsuspecting Blueberries. Did that sound right? Can I write that here? Well we’ll find out. Editors’ Note: Sure, whatever. Anywho, the night became an amazing time of fun and smack talk. Of course, the other couple had little clue of what was going on throughout the game. All they knew was they loved playing Warhammer and having the dice dictate the fate of their miniatures. Now they’re talking about wanting to play next week! The husband of our friends is talking about building a Word Bearer army, though, so maybe we might not come around anymore…

Wrap Up

I hope you enjoyed this guide into sharing Warhammer with your partner. As a tiny disclaimer I want to make it clear that the tips mentioned above are not the only way to get people into the hobby. Also, as briefly mentioned before, some people simply don’t find the game or setting appealing. And that’s completely fine. I’ve just seen a lot of success throughout the years with this method in getting newer players into 40k and EDH and wanted to share it with you. I think the biggest objection to this write up is many might assume I’m calling for dumbing down the game. Put simply, I’m not. The complexity of the 9th and previous editions is an important component in making the game what it is today. Removing that would hurt many aspects of what I and I’m sure many of you love so much about it. The only aim of this article was to strongly encourage taking steps to ensure your partner can safely swim in these waters instead of kicking them into the ocean and seeing if they sink or not. I’m sure there’s a warp analogy in there somewhere as well but I don’t think many would care for the idea of their significant other floating around in those particular waters. Or maybe you do love the idea? I know I can feel that way when a certain someone starts gunning for my Hive Guard right at the start of the game.

Credit: Kya Vess

Have a story of getting your loved one or friend into Warhammer? Let me know in the comments below! Do you play Warhammer with your significant other now? If so, how did that start? I’m always curious to know how relationships are maintained after one player collects Khorne and the other starts collecting Tau!  

Until next time,

Norn-Queen Kya