So you want to get into Warhammer 40k. But you don’t have the time or patience to paint the models? And even if you did are unable to meet up with people because of lockdown? Or maybe you want to see them move about; well fortunately I have one of the answers for you with Dawn of War and all its expansions.
Released in 2004 for the PC, Warhammer 40000 Dawn of War is a real time strategy game set in the 40k universe. You get 4 playable races with Space Marines, Eldar, Orks and Chaos. This is done with a base building system which as you construct new buildings and capture strategic points for recourses so you can build more units, build stronger or more specialist ones or gain new improvements and upgrades to your units to destroy your opponent.
The first game’s story has you control the Blood Ravens lead by Gabriel Angelos. What starts out as him protecting the planet of Tartarus from the Orks soon turns out to be a darker plan, first by Eldar impeding our work because of arrogant morons and then finding the forces of Chaos in the form of the Alpha Legion. The plot is a bit head scratching at times for people like me who are asking why a Chaos sorcerer is praising Khorne, the one Chaos god that doesn’t like sorcerers, and has me wondering just how much the story writer understood that faction (it’s something I’ve noticed with a lot of bad writing in Warhammer they treat Khorne the most boring of Chaos gods as the main or only one even when the other 3 make far more sense) . Still the campaign is solid and mechanically is handled very well with it introducing mechanics to you when you encounter areas that require its use.
The first expansion Winter Assault adds the Imperial Guard as a playable faction, having already had units in the original game’s story mode. This game’s story mode features 2 main routes one starring the Guard and Eldar the other featuring Chaos and Orks. These have multiple endings. Unfortunately this is where the use of the Necrons came in. One thing you have to remember these games were produced back when the Necrons were in their C’tan or Robo Nid phase (the Tyranids weren’t in any of the original games) so they have absolutely no personality and are just boring.
Dark Crusade was the second expansion bumping the Necrons up to playable and also giving us the Tau as a playable faction. The story mode had been replaced with a campaign mode where your chosen faction sets up on a terrain grid and slowly tries to conquer all areas by wiping out the other factions. This was aided by each captured region giving you bonuses such as troops you can have right at the start and completing tasks will give your commander equipment. Basically by the end of it you’re probably running a full army before building your first base and running about like you’re the god emperor himself.
Finally there is Soul Storm. Since they apparently had difficulties bringing the Tyranids in that left some rather odd choices for the final game. So it’s Sisters of Battle and Dark Eldar, both while neither had had a real release in ages or wasn’t a standalone army. It is more of an expansion on Dark Crusade since the campaign mode is back but now even larger, having 4 planets rather than 1.
Of course it wasn’t just new races each expansion gave but new units for the existing one. Of note Soul Storm gave fliers to all the armies before that made its way into Warhammer 40k proper.
Now if you’re asking me which to play? Play the first game’s story mode since that also helps you learn how to play the game. Then either Dark Crusade or Soul Storm so you can play a sort of story with one of the other races. There is multiplayer but I’ve always been more of a cooperative than competitive person so I’ve not really had my shot at that.
Just a warning. As a RTS on harder difficulties the game starts to massively use being a computer to its advantage. While maintaining multiple bases for you is tricky since you would have to constantly zip along the map especially during combat, it has no difficulty. As such you may just want to stick to normal difficulty. But the games are fun and proved popular enough for a true sequel with Dawn of War 2, where they brought in the Tyranids at last.
You can watch a trailer here: Dawn of War It is age restricted .