Warhammer 40,000 Elite Edition Starter Set Review

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It wouldn’t be a new edition of a Warhammer game without a new Starter Set, would it? Several of them, in fact. It’s been a policy of Games Workshop’s over the past few years to not only release a boxed set to mark the new edition of a game that includes and an enemy force, but also to release variants of the contents of said boxed set to suit various budgets. In this review, I’ll be diving into the Warhammer 40,000 Elite Edition Starter Set, which is – confusingly – the mid-tier variant of the new starter sets.

Shout out to Mighty Lancer for getting a copy of this to us at the eleventh hour – cheers lads.

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Warhammer 40,000 Starter Sets Compared

See a breakdown of all Warhammer 40,000 Starter Sets (with links to individual set reviews) by Clicking the image below

Warhammer 40,000 40K Starter Sets - Recruit Edition Featured

This quick overview should help you decide which is the best set for you

Warhammer 40,000 Elite Edition Starter Set Review – Summary

This is designed to be the box that you buy when you fancy playing Warhammer 40,000 but have no idea how to play the game and have very probably never built or painted anything.

The person buying this maybe wants a wee bit more than the Recruit Edition is offering, but doesn’t want to sink the kind of money required for the Command Edition.

The models are exactly the same as those found in the Indomitus set – you’re just not getting everything that was in that box. Honestly, for a box designed to be a starter set that is probably a good thing as you want people jumping in as quickly as possible.

If you have ever been unfortunate enough as a complete neophyte to a game like Warhammer to have been dumped right into the middle of a full-sized game with half a dozen different units a side, with another complete neophyte, you will recall what a completely overwhelming experience it can be.

Hint: that may have happened to the author during his first game of Warhammer Fantasy Battles.

Warhammer 40,000 Elite Edition Starter Set Review – Unboxing

Warhammer-40000-Elite-Edition-Starter-Set-Review-Box
The Elite Edition Starter Set. Think of this as the “Grande” of the new starter sets.

For all the box takes up a fairly large surface area, it’s rather svelte for a boxed game.

The red “Start Here” band at the top makes it clear to anybody who has accidentally wandered into a tabletop gaming store that they don’t sell Playstations, but that if they want to play a tabletop wargame this is the introductory set.

A great piece of artwork makes it very clear that this is Necrons vs Space Marines whilst really capturing the feel of the setting. Some lovely cosmic horror and grim darkness.

Warhammer 40,000 Elite Edition Starter Set Review – The Sprues

The box itself is nothing really fancy – none of the matte or gloss finish that you’ll find on the likes of the Warcry or Indomitus boxes. The bottom half is designed to be used in the missions within the Elite Manual, however, so don’t go chucking the box out right away!

Warhammer-40000-Elite-Edition-Starter-Set-Review-Open-Box
What’s in the box? This is in the box!

As is the norm with GW boxed sets, all of the plastic is at the top of the box. The books don’t get covered in dents and teeth marks from the miniatures and the miniatures don’t get battered and bent – a good way to pack a product like this.

Warhammer-40000-Elite-Edition-Starter-Set-Review-Contents
Sprues. Sprues. Sprues up inside ya.

As far as Space Marines go the Elite Edition includes;

Space Marines…

  • 1 x Space Marine Captain with Power Sword and Storm Shield,
  • 5 x Assault Intercessors
  • 3 x Outriders.

On the Necron side you’ll get…

  • 1 x Necron Overlord,
  • 3 x Skorpehk Destroyers,
  • 3 x Canoptek Scarab Swarms,
  • 10 x Necron Warriors and 1 Plasmacyte.

There’s a good amount of visual variety amongst the units of the 2 factions and all of them behave differently enough on the tabletop to give new players a taste of what a game of Warhammer 40,000 can be like without overwhelming them.

Warhammer 40,000 Elite Edition Starter Set Review – The Wargear

Using the Games Workshop nomenclature, we’re now referring to gaming accessories as “wargear”. No guarantess that term is less likely to get you chucked in a locker, though. Packed along with this stuff you’ll find the obligatory bag-o-bases for all of the models in the set and a set of 10 white six-sided dice. The dice aren’t anything to write home about, but they’re an important inclusion if the set is supposed to furnish players with everything they need to get started with Warhammer 40,000.

Warhammer-40000-Elite-Edition-Starter-Set-Review-Dice

After the plastic has been decanted we have the card divider we’ve come to expect in Warhammer boxes. These are usually far more visually impressive than they have any business being for the function they serve.

Warhammer-40000-Elite-Edition-Starter-Set-Review-Divider
The Artful Divider

I’ve actually framed a couple of these from other sets in the past (provided they’re not poked full of holes from the plastic), but this one is not quite as fancy as the ones from sets like Shadows Over Hammerhal or Blightwar.

Beyond the divider, we have the literature and other bits and pieces that don’t play well with sprues that are going to be jostled about in transit.

Amongst these are some of the bases for the larger models in the set.

Warhammer-40000-Elite-Edition-Starter-Set-Review-Gaming-Stuff

The set comes with a transfer sheet for the more iconic Space Marine chapters – Space Marines, Dark Angels, Blood Angels and Space Wolves – which is a standard now for all Space Marine kits.

I like that this sheet affords players a few options with how they want to decorate their marines and doesn’t just lumber you with a set of Ultramarine markings as most of the multi-part plastic kits do.

Also included, is a gloss paper mat for playing on and 2 clear plastic measuring sticks.

The mat is couple sided to allow for a bit more variance in games which is a nice touch, and one side actually has marked deployment positions that are utilised in a lot of the missions in the Elite Manual. This speeds up things massively in games.

Let’s talk about clear plastic measuring sticks. These are a really clever bit of engineering.

Firstly, so many ranges in the game (charging, short-range, etc) cap at 12″ so it makes sense to stick with 12″ for a measuring utensil.

Secondly, each player has their own stick, but this can be lain down top to toe to measure distances greater than 12″ if needed. Not bad, not bad.

Thirdly, each increment has arrows on its edge indicating exactly where your model stops depending on how far it can move and is designed to be lain in front of the model to illustrate exactly how movement functions in Warhammer 40,000.

Now, I may sound like I’m being insincere here but this is a small innovation that really simplifies a core mechanic of the game. Not every game measures movement as Games Workshop games generally do, and some players may even reach a different conclusion on how to execute a move without such a visual aid. Kudos to whoever designed these.

Warhammer 40,000 Elite Edition Starter Set Review – The Datasheets

Tucked in behind the Elite Manual you’ll find 2 placards – one for Space Marines and one for Necrons.

Warhammer-40000-Elite-Edition-Starter-Set-Review-Datasheets

These datasheets – as they’re referred to in Warhammer 40,000 – contain the stats and profiles for all the units in the set and a wee bit (YOUR SCOTLAND IS SHOWING ;) – Editor) of fluff explaining what they are and what they do in their respective armies. More experienced players will notice that many of the abilities these units usually have are conspicuously absent. This is very much deliberate and will be explained further on.

The placards themselves are double-sided and made of durable, glossy plastic. These are great as they save so much time that would otherwise be spent passing the book back and forth all the time.

Warhammer 40,000 Elite Edition Starter Set Review – The Elite Manual

FauxHammer doesn’t like books, but I do. Onto the Elite Manual.

The first few pages are pretty much lifted from the Warhammer 40,000 9th Edition Core Rulebook which is very sensible.

Warhammer-40000-Elite-Edition-Starter-Set-Review-Elite-Manual

With composing books for a lifestyle game such as Warhammer it’s a good idea to be mindful that it somebody with no idea whatsoever of what Warhammer is could pick this book up for the first time.

Every time somebody picks up a book like this is an opportunity to spark interest, but it’s also a good idea to explain exactly what is involved in something as massive and diverse as the Warhammer hobby.

The book explains painting, collecting and gaming and directs the reader to Games Workshop’s various online resources.

Warhammer-40000-Elite-Edition-Starter-Set-Review-Lore

There’s also quite a bit of lore for Warhammer 40,000 and the two factions included in the box. Extremely important as there’s a reason we’re not all playing chess after all. Again, a lot of this text is lifted from the Core Rulebook but there’s nothing wrong with that.

What really impressed me about the Elite Manual was the way the pages that followed were structured. Once everything in the box has been explained and the game universe introduced to you, you’re given building instructions for the Assault Intercessors and Necron Warrios. And then you’re introduced to your first game (Mission).

As quickly as that. All of the missions and building instructions are interspersed this way and it’s really, really clever.

You’re a parent with no clue about Warhammer. Now you have an Elite Starter Set and a really excited kid. You don’t need to concern yourself with getting that pile of grey sprues all built and ready before you can get started; nor do you have to fret about the waning attention span of your exciteable child.

Build the first couple of sprues and you’re ready to go.

Warhammer 40,000 Elite Edition Starter Set Review – The Models

FauxHammer already took a very comprehensive look at the sprues included in the Starter Set in his Indomitus Review for Miniature Painters which also includes some very handy guides for assembly. (The Elite Edition Starter Set includes sprues A, B, D, E and F from the Indomitus set.)

I won’t dive into each sprue the way he has since I don’t think there’s much I could add to what he’s already said, but I’ll give some of my impressions from building the models.

For a tip on filling gaps down the centre these new Primaris Outrider bikes, check out our gap-filling guide where we used…. these bikes.

Warhammer-40000-Elite-Edition-Starter-Set-Review-Space Marine Models
I made some slight adjustments to the Marines to make them look more like Salamanders

Generally, I much prefer multi-part plastic kits to push-fit or easy-to-build kits.

I enjoy the wealth of options the come with, I find them easier to break into sub-assemblies for painting and I like that I can customise and project a bit of personality on to them.

Also, there have been some rather poor push-fit kits over the years so I still feel a wee, tiny bit of cynicism kick in whenever they are mentioned.

That has changed considerably in recent years, however.

Warhammer 40,000 Elite Edition Starter Set Review – Space Marines

Games Workshop is always getting better at bringing dynamism to push-fit models and are finding more ingenious ways to conceal and/or limit mould lines. Soul Wars was a massive leap forward for push-fit. The Indomitus era is a bit mixed.

More experienced modellers and painters will also be pleased to know that the Space Marines can be easily converted and work very well with the various chapter-specific Primaris conversion kits available.

Warhammer-40000-Elite-Edition-Starter-Set-Review-Converted Assault Marine Salamander
Hammer time. I just wanted this lad to look fancy – this isn’t a loadout that occurs in the guide.

The Space Marines in this set are incredible. They go together very easily and there are levels of dynamism and motion that leave almost all of the previous Primaris Space Marine kits in the dust. With the possible exception of the bikes (which are still surprisingly easy to build), there is also very little mould line cleanup required.

Here comes the “but”.

Warhammer 40,000 Elite Edition Starter Set Review – Necrons

Don’t get me wrong – the Necrons are beautiful models and they go together very well. They, too, have very minimal mould line cleanup and a very beginner-friendly range as far as painting goes.

But they are very spindly and can actually be quite fragile in places.

I had a few near breakages whilst I was assembling the Necron Warriors in particular and I had one that broken completely.

Warhammer-40000-Elite-Edition-Starter-Set-Review-Necron-Warrior-with-Gauss-Reaper
This wee guy broke right at the left wrist but I amanged to patch him up.

I was able to repair it easily enough but it did make me question whether these are the best models for a beginner to be having a go at. Certainly, the Elite Manual advises building the Intercessors first so there is that.

It’s worth noting that the Elite Manual instructs you to build all ten of the Necron Warriors with Gauss Flayers and the first Mission requires these. Outside of that, however, it’s really up to you. I decided to build five with Flayers and five with Reapers since the datasheet allows you freely mix up what you have.

Warhammer 40,000 Elite Edition Starter Set Review – The Game

I managed to convince my wife to play through some of the Missions in the Elite Manual in order to get a feel for how the manual guides you through your first games of Warhammer 40,000. Before we dive into impressions on the missions let’s get some background on our 2 gamers to give some context to the review.

I’ve been playing tabletop games on and off for about 8 years now. I’ve played a lot of Warhammer Fantasy Battles and Age of Sigmar. I’ve dabbled in Warcry and Kill Team but have never played Warhammer 40,000.

My wife plays a lot of board games but isn’t so interested in wargames. She’s been enjoying playing a bit of Warcry lately but tends to get a bit anxious with having to do mental arithmetic in front of people. I’ve tried to get her to play Age of Sigmar, but she hasn’t been too keen in the past.

Warhammer-40000-Elite-Edition-Starter-Set-Review-Mission 1-1
For the Emperor!

The Elite Manual is a masterclass in teaching a tabletop game.

The first mission has the Space Marine player using 3 Intercessors and the Necron player using 5 Warriors and simply talks the players through using movement and shooting.

There is no combat, no advanced rules, no morale tests, no unit cohesion. Just moving, shooting and resolving hit and wound rolls.

The Mission is lightning quick to play through, too, so it means that if you grasp those concepts laid out in there quickly enough you can go straight into the next one, or you can play through the same one a few times to really get to grips with the rules without having to sink too much time in.

We played the first Mission twice, introducing the Rapid Fire rule the second time so that my wife could wrap her head around it.

The missions continue on in this fashion, introducing new rules by degrees so that new players are not mired in new information (which was a problem I very much had learning the game many years ago).

The other good thing about the Mission structure is that it doesn’t feel as though one faction has overall advantage over the other; one Mission sees the Necron player going to town on an unlucky group of Intercessors with the Skorpehk Destroyers, whilst another is just a Primaris Captain smashing bugs.

There’s also a shallow narrative threading these Missions together, serving as a very subtle way of giving new players a taste of campaign gaming.

Very clever.

The double-sided mat is a great touch, giving players a feel for fighting in different environs. Clocking in at roughly 76cm x 56.5cm it also fits very neatly on a small dining table – a table hog this game is not.

One thing that we both found a bit of a pain is that there are no wound tokens or trackers included in the set. When the only unit that doesn’t have multiple wounds in the set is the Necron Warriors this does feel like a bit of an oversight. You could use the dice, it’s very easy to forget they’re there to track wounds and end up scooping them up to make a big attack roll.

This isn’t a major issue but in set that’s supposed to include everything you need to start playing a game with a lot of moving parts it can be problematic.

Finally, I have to talk about Archeovault. AKA the box that the game came in.

Warhammer-40000-Elite-Edition-Starter-Set-Review-Archeovault
-.-

Understandably, a core concept of Warhammer 40,000 is the terrain and how it can be used to block line of sight, how vertical movement is counted, etc.

Which also means it’s a good idea to have some basic terrain included in the set so that you have everything you need to play. This terrain piece is literally the box the game comes in turned upside down.

It looks awful and takes up a huge amount of space on the mat.

A couple of the Missions actually have you set the table up like this.

This is probably the thing that annoyed me about this box set the most and it’s really not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. But for what it probably cost to mock up and print the box to look like an “Archeovault”, surely they could have included a sheet of card with some punch-out barricades and some box nets to fold into crates?

Anyway, in spite of the weird box terrain, the set does a great job of introducing newbies to playing Warhammer 40,000. No faction abilities, psychic powers or other synergies here. Just the rudiments of the game.

Warhammer 40,000 Elite Edition Starter Set Review – Final Thoughts

ProsCons
Great Value
Beautiful Models
Everything You Need to Play
Comprehensive Guide
Doesn’t Overwhelm Newbies
Necrons are Fiddly
Cheap Dice
That Archeovault
40k is Complicated

As an introduction to Warhammer 40,000, it’s hard to fault this product. For roughly the price of a new board game or video game you’re getting a beautiful collection of some of the best Warhammer 40,000 models produced thus far, with literally everything you need to play the game.

Gone are the days of playing with starter sets on bare tables, having to source your own boxes to use as terrain!

Although the Elite Manual does an excellent job of coaching players through their first few games of Warhammer 40,000, the fact remains that it’s still a vast and complicated game. On more than one occasion, my wife remarked that she felt overwhelmed just looking at the stat-lines of the units on the placard, which was something I was a bit oblivious to having played similar games for a while.

As far as the Warhammer 40,000 range goes, Space Marines and Necrons are probably the most beginner-friendly when it comes to painting. But they are still sci-fi models with buttons, vents and cables galore. Unless the newbie in question has their heart set on Warhammer 40,000, I’d say that Age of Sigmar’s Tempest of Souls and Storm Strike sets serve as better products to introduce someone to the hobby. Stormcast Eternals and Nighthaunt are both easier to paint than Space Marines and Necrons and Age of Sigmar’s rules are generally more accessible.

But as an introduction to Warhammer 40,000 specifically there can be no doubt that this is where to start.

Games Workshop’s Starter Sets have been getting better and better and it’s extremely reassuring to see that a company so dominant within the industry continues to lead the way with innovation.

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Author

  • FauxHammer's dwarf/duardin enthusiast (every group has one, right?). Benjamin Porter lives in Glasgow, Scotland with his wife, baby son, a cat that thinks it's a god, and a hyperactive tortoise. He enjoys painting and collects just about every sort of miniature. But mostly Fyreslayers, Stormcast Eternals and Ancient Greeks.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Warhammer 40,000 Elite Edition Starter Set
Author Rating
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Product Name
Warhammer 40,000 Elite Edition
About Oberael 10 Articles
FauxHammer's dwarf/duardin enthusiast (every group has one, right?). Benjamin Porter lives in Glasgow, Scotland with his wife, baby son, a cat that thinks it's a god, and a hyperactive tortoise. He enjoys painting and collects just about every sort of miniature. But mostly Fyreslayers, Stormcast Eternals and Ancient Greeks.

4 Comments

  1. Great review of the box and game play. May pick this up to help understand the core rules better ??. Look forward to future articles and reviews

  2. I’m interested in the rule book and tutorial missions. I picked up the Battletech box set a while back and it was a daunting experience; the game basically just throws a 50 page rule book at you and says “memorize all of this, fool!” which isn’t super helpful for someone who’s got interest and some painting experience but is not a seasoned veteran of tabletop wargaming.

    Can anyone comment on whether the Elite rule book is substantially more helpful for learning than the Recruit book? Or is it just more units and background story?

  3. If you just want to learn the core rules you could probably go Recruit, but remember that the extra units you get are high movement high damage output and so introduce the idea of battlefield roles and illustrate what higher performing units do.

    Also, Outriders and Destroyers look badass.

    Also, the characters you get in the 2 boxes are different.

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