Warhammer 40,000 Detachments Guide

By Joe Robinson 09 Nov 2020 0

In Warhammer 40,000, ‘Detachments’ is a concept related to army building, specifically building a ‘Battle-Forged’ army. It’s a term that’s been around for quite a few editions, but over the years it’s evolved with regards to how it works and how the game would prefer you build your armies. We say ‘prefer’ because you can of course play without organising your models and units into detachments (known as an ‘Unbound’ army) but outside of super-casual play this comes with restrictions.

In Warhammer 40K 9th Edition, if you would like to make use of the Command Points mechanic and utilise anything that requires CP as a cost (stratagems etc.), you’ll need to bring a ‘Battle-Forged’ army, which means choosing an army faction and organising all of your units into detachments. Battle-Forged armies are also a requirement for most organised events, such as Matched Play and other competitive gatherings.

Organizing your units into Detachments has been simplified and streamlined in 9th edition. The below rules cover the basic principles of detachments and what you can do with them across all factions.

Warhammer 40,000 Detachments - Army Building

In 9th edition, you are locked to a set amount of Command Points & Detachments that you are allowed to use depending on the size of game you are playing, barring any specific exceptions from other material.

At the time of writing, those limits are:

  • Combat Patrol - 3 Command Points & 1 Detachment
  • Incursion - 6 Command Points & 2 Detachments
  • Strike Force - 12 Command Points & 3 Detachments
  • Onslaught - 18 Command Points & 4 Detachments

A key difference from 8th edition is that, instead of gaining Command Points for filling out detachments, you instead use the CP allotments above to purchase detachments for your army. Depending on what you do you can get these costs refunded to then spend on more detachments (or keep for Stratagems). Players can earn CP via other means as well: for example, Battle-Forged armies generate 1 CP per battle round.

warhammer 40k patrol detatchment

Along with the basic abilities outlined below, individual attachments can also have additional rules and/or abilities applied to them depending on their composition and depending on existing bespoke rules.

For example, the recently released Codex: Space Marines (p93) includes special rules that can designate individual detachments as 'Adeptus Astartes Detachment's provided it only includes models with the Adeptus Astartes keyword. This confers additional benefits and abilities as outlined in later in the Codex. This serves to highlight that there can be a difference between 'Army Faction' and the regular term 'Faction'. For example, 'Imperium' can be an Army Faction, and thus a detachment can have units from several armies, such as Space Marines and Astra Militarum. If you had a detachment that mixed these sub-factions together however, you wouldn't be able to use any special rules such as the one we've just outlined.

Warhammer 40,000 Detachments

At the time of writing, there are eleven types of detachments available for use when building a Battle-Forged army. Three of these are considered ‘core’ detachments that serve as the backbone of most armies. It’s essentially the same detachment, just scaled up for use with larger game formats. A ‘Patrol’ detachment is fine for the Combat Patrol game type, but if you’re going up to Strike Force or Onslaught matches, you’ll probably want the Brigade detachment instead. The only real difference is the min-max numbers for units per category.

The defining trait of all three is that their CP costs are refunded if your Warlord happens to be in this detachment. This will allow you to use those points on another detachment (if applicable) or for various stratagems or other abilities that require CP to use.

warhammer 40k 9th edition codex

Other than that, they all require that the units within the detachment be from the same faction, they all bar the use of understrength units, and they all allow for you to take 1 dedicated transport for each ‘infantry’ unit in that detachment.

Patrol Detachment

warhammer 40k detatchments patrol

It’s worth noting that Combat Patrol format specifically requires you to take the ‘Patrol’ detachment as your sole choice, however Imperial Knights & Chaos Knights can only go in Super-Heavy Detachments. They can still take part in a Combat Patrol according to a foot-note in this article, however.

Battalion Detachment

warhammer 40k detatchments battalion

Brigade Detachment

warhammer 40k detatchments brigade

The next three detachments types are a bit more specialist and offer a way to bring more of a specific unit type to your army, themed around a military strategy, whether that be a rapid reaction/strike force (Outrider) or perhaps an elite group of shock troopers (Vanguard).

Like the cores detachment types above, units must be all from the same faction, and no understrength units are allowed. You’re also allowed one dedicated transport per infantry unit again. The key difference is that there’s no CP refund mechanic, regardless of whether your Warlord is present in this detachment or not. It's not advised you stick your Warlord here, unless you're wanting to run a specifically themed army.

Vanguard Detachment

warhammer 40k detatchments vanguard

Spearhead Detachment

warhammer 40k detatchments spearhead

Outrider Detachment

warhammer 40k detatchments outrider

Finally, there are currently five unique detachments that are very bespoke. There’s no unifying traits across these as they each serve a very specific purpose. For example if you want to bring some fortification units, they’ll need to be in the Fortification Network detachment. Things like Knights can only go in the Super Heavy detachment, and so on.

Supreme Command Detachment

warhammer 40k detatchments supreme command

It’s worth noting this detachment is essentially only meant to be used if you have a big named character for your faction, like one of the Primarch’s or a Daemon Prince. This was something that was also in 8th edition but the rules have been fixed to prevent exploitation. Also note this detachment doesn’t come with a dedicated transport rule.

Your warlord MUST go in this detachment, but you still essentially get the CP cost refunded of one of your other core detachments, so you’re not losing out.

Super-Heavy Detachment

warhammer 40k detatchments super heavy

The Super-Heavy Auxiliary option is, obviously, just a scaled down version - likely for smaller games such as Combat Patrols or Incursions.

Fortification Network

warhammer 40k detatchments fortification network

An example of a unit that would go in this detachment is the Space Marine’s Hammerfall Bunker, which is a new unit that was released after the launch of 9th Edition. At the time of writing, the Necrons have a unit for this category as well from their own codex.

Auxiliary Support Detachment

warhammer 40k detatchments auxiliary support

That’s (hopefully) everything you’d want to know about detachments in Warhammer 40,000 9th edition. We’ll keep this guide update if any new information comes to light that needs inclusion.



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