Covered in this article: Warhammer – The Horus Heresy, Warhammer 30,000, Warhammer 30K, and Games Workshop.
Warhammer – The Horus Heresy
Warhammer – The Horus Heresy (also sometimes known as “30K”), is one of the 3 major product lines in the Warhammer range. Warhammer – The Horus Heresy is set in the same wider Warhammer universe as Warhammer Age of Sigmar (AoS), and Warhammer 40,000 (40K), but is itself a stand-alone game and has it’s own setting and unique storyline.
Games Workshop is the company behind all 3 Warhammer product lines – Warhamer Age of Sigmar (AoS), Warhammer – The Horus Heresy (30K), and Warhammer 40,000 (40K), and the first models date back to the 1980’s.
Back in the 1980’s, Dungeons & Dragons (“DnD”) was the very popular roleplay game which dominated the tabletop for fantasy games enthusiasts. Indeed the early founders of Games Workshop we actually making models intended for DnD, when they started Games Workshop and subsequently the Warhammer ecosytem.
The early models were very much of the “medieval fantasy” flavour (which continues in both Dungeons and Dragons, and Warhammer Age of Sigmar), but as the model range expanded into futuristic Sci-Fi, the world of Warhammer 40,000 was born.
Thereafter, as the literature and lore around the Warhammer 40,000 (40K) universe grew and matured, a secondary key timeline emerged around the Horus Heresy, which then spawned the Warhammer – The Horus Heresy game and product range.
Gameplay – How to play Warhammer The Horus Heresy (30K)
Warhammer – The Horus Heresy (30K) is a tabletop game which is set far into the future, around the year 30,000.
The Horus Heresy gaming ecosystem includes a large range of both plastic and metal miniatures which are collected, and assembled together on a tabletop for the purposes of playing a simulated wargame using strategy, wit, and a bit of luck.
Warhammer The Horus Heresy gameplay is similar in nature to it’s cousin Warhammer 40,000, but has some unique differences and nuances.
A game of Warhammer – The Horus Heresy typically sees two or more players taking turns to move their models around the tabletop battle field. Each player then attacks the other by declaring actions such as weapons firing, rockets launching, flame thrower hits, grenades detonating. The success of each attack or assault is then determined based on each player’s dice rolls and scores.
A game of Warhammer – The Horus Heresy requires players to make use of both skill and chance. Skill is deployed in the form of the strategy and tactics being used by each player, and Chance shows up in the outcomes of each dice roll and the scores needed to win the game.
Before taking to the table to plan a games of Warhammer – The Horus Heresy, each player must first build and ideally paint their models.
Building and Painting models for Warhammer – The Horus Heresy
Collecting, building and painting model sets and assembling them into tabletop armies is a key part of Warhammer – The Horus Heresy and the wider Warhammer hobby.
To build and paint a model set takes time, but these activities are often treasured by Warhammer enthusiasts, and as the Warhammer Horus Heresy game has developed and grown over the years – so too has its fan base and avid community.
It’s now commonplace to find fan-art and professional-level painters, and content creators all around the Warhammer – The Horus Heresy community.
All new Warhammer – The Horus Heresy (30K) model sets arrive in a cardboard box, which contains the models attached to one or multiple plastic frames called a “sprue”.
The first step in building the models is for all of the individual components to be cut from the sprue(s), and cleaned to get rid of any debris and mould lines. After that, all of the pieces can then glued together in place, according to the instructions guide.
The team at BuildInstructions.com are a part of this online Warhammer community, and we help new and existing hobbyists to build their Warhammer – The Horus Heresy model sets, by sharing the instruction booklets for free.
For each model set in the Warhammer – The Horus Heresy model range – there is a set of “how to” construction guides. These instruction booklets typically come printed, and included in the box with all new model sets bought direct from Games Workshop or via an approved online reseller or hobby shop on the high street.
However, you can also now buy Warhammer – The Horus Heresy (30K) model sets on secondary markets such as Ebay, and often these will just be the raw model kits and won’t include the build instructions needed for assembly.
That’s where BuildInstructions.com helps out. Our team are continually crowd-sourcing a growing library of instruction booklets in PDF digital format, which we then make available to the Warhammer community as free downloads. The team does this to help the community and ultimately get more Warhammer built, but we’d also like to see Games Workshop consider moving away from paper based booklets and provide just digital copies in the same way we do. There are “Green” benefits to this paperless approach too, and you can read more about it here.
Games Workshop leads the way in Tabletop Wargames
Warhammer The Horus Heresy (30K) model sets are nowadays almost exclusively produced using unexpanded Polystyrene (PS).
Thankfully, unexpanded Polystyrene is a recyclable plastic, and is a very versatile material – ideal for use in the moulding and production processes used to make tabletop miniatures.
Historically, Games Workshop also used to produce model kits which in metal. These were sold in “blister packs” which typically contained 1-2 models, often either a hero or a special troop type. However, the company has since moved away from metal products.
The reason for this (and the adoption of primarily plastic based kits), largely lies in the improvements in the underlying production technology.
The process injection moulding unexpanded Polystyrene has improved significantly in recent years to enable ever more detailed and high quality model sets to be produced in plastic.
Resin is still used as one alternative though, and remains the preferred material for any Forge World models (Forge World is a subsidiary of Games Workshop).
Similarly, Forge World is able to produce very high quality and detailed model sculpts in resin, but this production method appears to be reserved for production runs in smaller quantities or physically larger model sets.
Ok, so what is Warhammer – The Horus Heresy (30K), and how does it differ from any other forms of Warhammer?
Warhammer – The Horus Heresy (30K) is a specific game setting within the wider Warhammer ecosystem.
In terms of relative timeline, the events of Warhammer – The Horus Heresy (30K) falls 10,000 years prior to the setting of Warhammer 40,000.
At the time of Warhammer – The Horus Heresy, the universe is full of very technologically advanced races, including the likes of Humans, the Aeldari (Elves), the T’au Empire, and the Tyranids, and there is an Imperium of Man, led by a (super) human Emperor.
What unfolds right around the turn of this millennium though, is civil war amongst the human race and more specifically amongst the factions of their engineered super-human warriors the Adeptus Astartes (precursors to the Space Marines of Warhammer 40,000).
As the name suggests, The Horus Heresy timeline concerns the events leading up to, during and immediately after the ‘heresy’ of Horus – a super-human Warmaster and leader of a significant part of the Emperor’s best forces, and the ensuing Civil War.
TLDR; Horus falls out with his dad (the Emperor), starts a rebellion and Civil War (the Heresy), and tears the Imperium of Man in two, with half of the Adeptus Astartes remaining Loyal to daddy (the Emperor), and the other half joining Horus and marking themselves as Traitors.
The world of Warhammer – The Horus Heresy is full of huge characters, technological advancements and weaponry that wouldn’t look out of place in a Sci-Fi movie today.
Armoury such as heavy bolters, force fields, lascannons, and flamethrowers are all commonplace in Warhammer – The Horus Heresy. So too is a vast race of humans who have occupied countless planets across the galaxy and now find themselves locked in a constant state of war and strife with exotic new species.
Warhammer – The Horus Heresy (30K) differs from the other 2 main “Warhammer” products, Warhammer Age of Sigmar (AoS) and Warhammer 40,000 (40K), predominantly by where it sits in the assumed relative timeline.
Both the Warhammer The Horus Heresy and Warhammer 40K worlds are very much set in a timeline which is assumed to be 10’s of thousands of years ahead of where we are right now. Warhammer – The Horus Heresy is set around the year 30,000 (if we go by our current timekeeping conventions), and Warhammer 40,000 falls 10,000 years afterwards.
A nice feature of how the timelines of the 3 main Warhammer product ranges intersect, are the human and alien (Xenos) species which appear in all of them.
An obvious example are the long-loved fantasy favourites the Orcs and Goblins.
In Warhammer Age of Sigmar these turn up in the factions of the Orruk Warclans, the Gloomspite Gitz, the Kruleboyz, and the Ironjawz. Whereas over in the futuristic settings of Warhammer – The Horus Heresy and Warhammer 40,000 – we have the Orks and their smaller cousins the Grots.
Can Warhammer – The Horus Heresy (30K) models be used in Warhammer 40,000 (40K)?
Even though the two model sets are set 10,000 years apart in terms of timeline, they do both exist in the same Universe and their game systems, armies and lore are all very similar. The model range for The Horus Heresy is also set at the same tabletop scale as that of the main Warhammer 40,000 product line.
If you read through the storied history of The Horus Heresy and then Warhammer 40,000, you will quickly gain an appreciation for how connected and intertwined their histories are.
Essentially, the Warhammer – The Horus Heresy table top game and accompanying model sets represent a point in history which precedes what then emerges and exists in Warhammer 40,000.
Many things have changed in those 10,000 years – countless battles fought, empires risen and fallen, technology has advanced (or been lost in some cases!), but in general – the same species and races exist.
This makes for some great game play and some fantastic opportunities to re-use “classic” Horus Heresy models in games of Warhammer 40,000. Indeed – there is a wealth of lore and content out there which tells us which characters have (somehow) survived the 10,000 year timespan, which technologies have survived, and what changes have come about.
In general – players of Warhammer 40,000 find that they can field “old” models from the Horus Heresy model range, in their games of 40K. Most commonly, this might come in the form of a Space Marines army which has retained or “restored” an old relic from the Horus Heresy – such as a Contemptor class dreadnought.
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