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Warhammer 40K – Dark Imperium Starter Box Review

Dark Imperium Starter Set Review

For the as yet uninitiated, the expansive worlds created by Games Workshop as settings for their flagship games Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Age of Sigmar can be daunting. With tabletop war gaming surging in popularity in recent years you may be looking to break into a new and rewarding hobby, but with so many armies, sub-factions and units to choose from it can be hard to know where to begin. Fortunately, Games Workshop are always on hand with some handy road signs to get new players on the right path. For those looking to delve into 'The Grim Darkness of the Far Future,' with Warhammer 40,000 the most comprehensive starting point is with the box set Dark Imperium.

So what is it? Dark Imperium is a comprehensive starter kit to the Eighth Edition of Warhammer 40,000. Inside you will find an eight page core rule reference card to get you started as well as the full 280 page rulebook (this contains a tonne of background lore and artwork too, the rules aren't that dense), a set of dice, a range ruler and troops to start two separate armies (making it great to split with a like-minded friend), Space Marines and Death Guard, as well as booklets for each containing background, heraldries, colour schemes and rules for the units provided.

Before I get into the meat of this review, I'd like to take a moment to cover how this set and future war gaming products will be judged as it will be a little different to the usual board game reviews you may have read on the site. First, I should state that this is a review of Dark Imperium specifically and not of Warhammer 40,000 as a game and as such the emphasis is on the box's contents, primarily the miniatures. These will be judged under four criteria, Ease of Assembly, Options, Convertibility and overall Quality. I'll go into what this means more as I go on.

Dark Imperium Review - Rulebook Models

Ease of Assembly

If you're new to miniature war gaming you may have a mental image of yourself sat at a table sticking your fingers together with super glue while attempting to attach fiddly appendages to tiny torsos, and while this is not inaccurate it need not be the case with Dark Imperium. For many years now, Games Workshop have taken to filling these kind of starter boxes with 'Easy-to-Build', or 'Push-Fit,' miniatures.

This means that all of the models you will find in Dark Imperium can be assembled without the need for glue. Simply remove the components from the sprue (this highlights the first thing you will need that the box does not provide, a set of clippers) and push them together. Or so it is claimed. You will still need a little glue (not included) to attach the assembled models to their bases but this is simple.

The only other tricky part comes with one of the Space Marine units, the Inceptors. Inceptors are orbital drop troopers and are modelled on clear plastic stands to represent them flying over the battlefield. These stands are very narrow where they connect to the model and are hard to balance. This part also requires gluing and be ready to sit and hold it for several minutes while it sets if you expect it to hold.

Overall the push-fit design makes the included models quick and easy to put together though even as a fairly experienced Warhammer collector I still needed to have the instructions to hand during assembly. The design means that there is only one way the models will fit together and with Games Workshop endeavouring to make the most efficient use of space on a sprue, it is not always clear at a glance which pieces go together with parts of the same model sometimes fairly far apart.

Dark Imperium Review - Inceptors


In Warhammer 40,000 most units come with a variety of different weapon and equipment load-outs that can affect how they operate in the game as well as a variety of aesthetic parts that provide you choices of how you would like your troops to look. Dark Imperium does not give you these kinds of options. As your first models they are aimed to be used straight out of the box without need to worry about building them in ways that cannot be played on the tabletop, and so when fully assembled you should find you have no spare or alternative parts left on the sprue.


Point one, yes this is not a real word, but it fits my needs quite nicely. The more you delve into tabletop gaming the more you may be tempted to play around with your models, looking for ways to alter and personalise them or even turn them into something completely new. This can be through simple component swaps with other kits, up to complex reposing and hand sculpting of new elements.

While experienced hobbyists will be able to find creative ways to convert the Dark Imperium models, they are not the most easily manipulated for new players. The designs often mean that key points such as shoulder and hip joints are not the same shape as many other kits and as such require a lot of cutting and reshaping to make alternatives fit. If you do plan on purchasing other models alongside Dark Imperium you will find swapping heads an easy way to begin personalising your troops, especially with the Space Marine models, although this will require glue as the swapped heads will not include the necessary neck joints that the push-fit models feature.

Dark Imperium Review - Intercessors

Overall Quality

Overall, the models provided in Dark Imperium, as with most Games Workshop products, are of excellent quality, featuring sharp details with a bare minimum in the way of mould lines or faults. The two armies are deeply characterful. The Space Marines, with their clean lines, flowing capes, sculpted halos and insignia of wings and laurel wreaths bring to mind the idea of heroes from Greek myth transported into a science fiction setting.

Their heroes are posed dynamically and can be clearly envisioned leading a charge or holding a line while the rank and file troops are given simple advancing or aiming poses that provide enough movement to prevent them from looking static but not so much as to look strange when put together or repeated.

Dark Imperium Review - Ancient

Final Thoughts on Dark Imperium

Dark Imperium is an excellent starting point for anyone looking to get into Warhammer 40,000 for the first time or even those coming back from long hiatus from the hobby. While the fairly large price tag may seem off putting at first, it provides excellent value for money in both quality and quantity. It becomes even more palatable if you have a friend joining the hobby with you who is willing to become your new mortal enemy, with whom you can split the contents with also.

It's a shame a simple set of clippers could not be included to make it truly the only box you'll need to get started but that is a trivial gripe in the face of 53 fantastic models, a full colour, hardback rulebook and a full set of gaming accessories. So, what are you waiting for? In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war, and they're not going to fight themselves.

You Might Like

  • Two beginner armies of quality miniatures.
  • Full colour, glossy, hardback rulebook.
  • All the accessories you need to start battling.

You Might Not Like

  • Less appealing if you have your heart set on a different army.
  • Miniatures provide fewer options for more experienced hobbyists.
  • A couple of tricky assembly issues.

You Might Like
Two beginner armies of quality miniatures.
Full colour, glossy, hardback rulebook.
All the accessories you need to start battling.

You Might Not Like
Less appealing if you have your heart set on a different army.
Miniatures provide fewer options for more experienced hobbyists.
A couple of tricky assembly issues.