So lets skip the talk about the birds and the bees for a moment and move onto a topic that I think is something people never think about in terms of learning this game. 40k is, at it's core a strategy game. It shares a lot of similarities with games like Chess, where a lot of the game rides on how you think, and how your opponent thinks. Taking the dice out of the equation for a moment we know that in order to win we have to play the mission, but in a lot of ways we need to play the player as well.
In a game where thinking and strategic moves are as crucial as they are here... we have to find more and more ways to look at this game. Experienced veterans will come to the table and in little to no time once they have determined where they will set up and what the mission is, they will generally have a plan for the upcoming 5 to 7 turns; while newer player will take a little more time to examine the terrain, how their units will interact with it, and what units benefit the most by being in one spot or another.
This is where knowledge and time interact pretty differently. A new player will take this time to focus on how they will play, and what their units will be doing. A veteran will already have these questions answered in a very short time, and can then spend the rest of this time evaluating what their opponent is doing. Studying units, where they are set up, and how the army will most likely play. Everything that is on the table, and even units in reserve tells a player who knows how to "read a unit" what their plan is.
So how can new players try to reduce this disadvantage? Besides playing dozens of games against dozens of armies and players... it is hard to get that experience... or is it? I devised a way (quite accidentally) to help players better themselves as players and it only requires you and yourself.
I grew up with a brother and some of his friends who played this game... Their commitment to playing was sporadic at best and after many of them left for college (as they were much older than me), I soon found myself with no opponents. So I began playing against myself. I started off small, taking small armies that met force org rules and pitted them against the other units in my army that also met force org. Over time I began to teach myself more and more about not only my army rules, but also game rules, strategies, and even how units could be used against other units. It provided such a unique challenge.
Something else that has come from this is how to out think your own self. Many times we take the same or similar units repeatedly, and generally run them the same way every game. But when the person sitting on the other side of the table is you, it becomes pretty clear that often times your go to strategy is often not the answer... and your other self will know exactly how to counter it. This forces you to rethink your strategy. It also serves as a way for even experienced players to stand to gain from this.
Whether you are new and are trying to find a way to better understand the game, or an experienced veteran seeking a unique challenge... playing a game against yourself often provides a challenge that is almost impossible to gain anywhere else. Knowing that our opponent already knows what you are planning can often help force yourself to think of better strategies relying less on chance and more on skill than playing against another skilled player. It will help give you an edge when you look at your list, and you know exactly where the weak points are, so that you can guard them with your strengths.
I urge everyone to take some time, even more time than you would spend on a usual game... talk out loud to yourself (even have conversations with the other you... try to get into the head of both players at once). It sounds weird, and your room mates might think your a little nuts... but I have found it to be an invaluable aid in learning the game, how I play, and how to prevent people from stopping how I play. I hope you guys give it a shot. After all, I'm sure we all know how much fun playing with ourselves can be. :D