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Warhammer 40k detachments guide

Warhammer 40k detachments are the core building blocks of every army in Games Workshop's premier tabletop wargame - here's what you need to know.

Warhammer 40k detachments guide - Warhammer Community photo showing Space Wolves and Orks models fighting

Warhammer 40k detachments are the essential, rules-mandated building blocks of a ‘battle-forged’ army – that is, one that’s properly structured and rules-legal for balanced play in most of the game’s formats.


Detachments have been around for many editions of the game, and their role has changed to reflect how the game designers think your armies should be organised. That’s about to change again in Warhammer 40k 10th edition.

Warhammer 40k 10th edition Detachments

In Warhammer 40k 10th edition Detachments provide your force with several bonuses: an army-wide special rule, a set of 40k Stratagems, and ‘enhancements’ you can use to upgrade specific models or units in you forcer. Your whole army is considered to be part of this Detachment – you can’t build a force containing more than one Detachment.

None of the current Detachments provide bonuses for Allied units.

Warhammer 40k Detachments - Tyranid Invasion Fleet detachment's Hyper Adaptation special rule, by Games Workshop

10th edition launched with free datasheets and a single Detachment for each Warhammer 40k faction. The Tyranids detachments revealed so far all provide bonuses to units with specific keywords, encouraging you to build your army in a particular way.

Future Detachments may place restrictions on the kinds of models you can include in your army, similar to the Armies of Renown from 9th edition. Expect new Detachments to appear in future Warhammer 40k codex books.

Adeptus Custodes Detachments

Detachment Source Restrictions
Shield Host Index None

Adeptus Mechanicus Detachments

Detachment Source Preferred units
Rad-Zone Corps Index / Codex None
Skitarii Hunter Cohort Codex Skitarii
Data Psalm Conclave Codex Cult Mechanicus
Explorator Maniple Codex Transports
Cohort Cybernetica Codex Legio Cybernetica, Vehicles

Aeldari Detachments

Detachment Source Restrictions
Battle Host Index None

Adepta Sororitas Detachments

Detachment Source Restrictions
Hallowed Martyrs Index None

Astra Militarum Detachments

Detachment Source Restrictions
Combined Regiment Index None

Black Templars Detachments

Detachment Source Restrictions
Righteous Crusaders Index None

Blood Angels Detachments

Detachment Source Restrictions
Sons of Sanguinius Index None

Chaos Daemons Detachments

Detachment Source Restrictions
Daemonic Incursion Index None

Chaos Knights Detachments

Detachment Source Restrictions
Traitoris Lance Index None

Chaos Space Marines Detachments

Detachment Source Restrictions
Slaves to Darkness Index None

Dark Angels Detachments

Detachment Source Restrictions
Unforgiven Task Force Index None

Death Guard Detachments

Detachment Source Restrictions
Plague Company Index None

Deathwatch Detachments

Detachment Source Restrictions
Black Spear Task Force Index None

Drukhari Detachments

Detachment Source Restrictions
Realspace raiders Index None

Genestealer Cults Detachments

Detachment Source Restrictions
Ascension Day Index None

Grey Knights Detachments

Detachment Source Restrictions
Teleport Strike Force Index None

Imperial Knights Detachments

Detachment Source Restrictions
Noble Lance Index None

Leagues of Votann Detachments

Detachment Source Restrictions
Oathband Index None

Orks Detachments

Detachment Source Restrictions
Waaagh! Tribe Index None

Necrons Detachments

Detachment Source Preferred units
Awakened Dynasty Index / Codex Units led by Characters
Annihilation Legion Codex Destroyer Cult, Flayed Ones
Canoptek Court Codex Canoptek, Cryptek
Obeisance Phalanx Codex Overlord, Lychguard, Triarch
Hypercrypt Legion Codex Monoliths

Space Marines Detachments

Detachment Source Preferred units
Gladius Task Force Index All
1st Company Task Force Codex Terminators and Veterans
Vanguard Spearhead Codex Phobos and Scouts
Stormlance Task Force Codex Mounted, some vehicles
Firestorm Assault Force Codex Units with Torrent weapons
Ironstorm Spearhead Codex Vehicles and Walkers
Anvil Siege Force Codex Units with Heavy weapons

Space Wolves Detachments

Detachment Source Restrictions
Champions of Russ Index None

T’au Empire detachments

Detachment Source Restrictions
Kauyon Index None

Thousand Sons Detachments

Detachment Source Restrictions
Cult of Magic Index None

Tyranids Detachments

Detachment Source Preferred units
Invasion Fleet Index All
Vanguard Onslaught Codex Vanguard Invader
Crusher Stampede Codex Monster
Assimilation Swarm Codex Harvester
Synaptic Nexus Codex Synapse
Unending Swarm Codex Endless Multitude

World Eaters Detachments

Detachment Source Restrictions
Berzerker Warband Index None

Warhammer 40k 9th edition Detachments

In Warhammer 40k 9th Edition your army has to be ‘battle-forged’ to get access to Command Points and Stratagems. To achieve that, all of your units organised into neat and tidy Warhammer 40k detachments. Battle-forged armies are also required for matched play at official events and tournaments.

You can of course play without organising your models and units into detachments (known as an ‘unbound’ army) but generally, you won’t see this outside very casual play, or special events.

The rules below cover the basic principles of detachments and what you can do with them across all factions.

Warhammer 40k army building

With the release of Grand Tournament: Arks of Omen, there’s a big split between the rules in the core rulebook and the rules used in competitive play: we’ve noted how that changes things in this guide.

In 9th edition, you are allotted a budget of Command Points and detachments depending on the size of game you are playing – though there are always a few weird exceptions to 40k rules.

In the core rules, 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

You use the CP allotments above to purchase detachments for your army. Certain detachments will give you a rebate against their cost if you stick your general into them.

Players can earn CP via other means as well; for example, battle-forged armies generate 1 CP automatically per battle round. This helps to keep your tactical options open, even later in the game after your initial gambits have played out.

In Grand Tournament: Arks of Omen games you’re limited to these two levels:

  • Incursion – games up to 1,000 points, 6 command points
  • Strike Force – games up to 2,000 points, 6 command points

In GT Arks of Omen games you must uses a single Arks of Omen detachment.

Arks of Omen detachment rules

The Arks of Omen detachment costs no CP. It is also much, much more open than any of the normal detachments used in the base game.

You need to select a battlefield role, such as “Troops” or “Elites”, and take three units from that slot. You also need to take one HQ choice, unless you’re fielding Imperial Knights or Chaos Knights. Beyond that, you have incredible flexibility to pick units you like for the detachment – you could take three more Lords of War, or six additional Elites. You can take up to three additional Elites units beyond that limit, provided they’re characters.

Warhammer 40k Arks of Omen detachment - graphic by Games Workshop showing a force organisation chart for the game Warhammer 40k

Arks of Omen Allied detachments

GT Arks of Omen allows several armies to bring “battle brothers detachments” of thematically appropriate units. These use the same organisation charts as they do in the base rulebook, but cost no command points.

Main force Battle brothers Allied detachment type
Imperium (may only pick one) Agents of the Imperium Auxiliary support or Patrol
Imperium Imperial Knights Freeblade Super-heavy auxiliary detachment
Imperium Leagues of Votann Patrol
Asuryani (Eldar) Harlequin Patrol
Drukhari Harlequin Patrol
Astra Militarum Militarum Tempestus Patrol
Genestealer Cults Brood Brothers (Astra Militarum) Patrol, Auxiliary Support, or Super-heavy Auxiliary Support
Chaos Chaos Knight Dreadblade Super-heavy Auxiliary Support
World Eaters Khorne Daemons Patrol
Thousand Sons Tzeentch Daemons Patrol
Death Guard Nurgle Daemons Patrol
Emperor’s Chidren Slaanesh Daemons Patrol
Other Chaos Space Marines Chaos Daemons Patrol
Disciples of Be’lakor Chaos Daemons Army of Renown (may pick both) Chaos Space Marines Patrol
Disciples of Be’lakor Chaos Daemons Army of Renown House Korvax Chaos Knight Super-heavy Auxiliary Support

Warhammer 40k 9th edition detachments from the core rules

Each Warhammer 40k 9th edition detachment from the core rules costs a certain amount of CP to add to your army, though you’ll get a refund for the detachment containing your Warlord (or to another detachment, if you have a Supreme Command detachment).

Detachment type CP cost
Patrol 2
Battalion 3
Brigade 4
Vanguard 3
Spearhead 3
Outrider 3
Supreme  Command 0
Super-Heavy 3 or 6
Super-Heavy Auxiliary 3
Fortification Network 1
Auxiliary Support 2

Warhammer 40k Detachments Guide Space Wolves patrol photo

Faction keywords

A key thing to remember when building armies for 40K 9th Edition, as in its predecessor, is that some of your units’ rules and abilities may depend on them being part of a detachment (or sometimes  a whole army) composed entirely of units that share a given keyword in their rules.

All your detachments  must share the same top-level faction keyword – such as [CHAOS] or [IMPERIUM] – to be able to be taken in the same army at all; a detachment of Space Marines can fight alongside a detachment of Sisters of Battle, but they would never make common cause with followers of Chaos.

But, beyond that, some units benefit from additional special abilities if they are part of a detachment – or, in some cases, a whole army – made entirely of units with a particular matching keyword, usually the keyword for the sub-faction they belong to.

For example, a battle-forged Space Marine army could contain one detachment of the Ultramarines Chapter and one of Black Templars – but it could not benefit from the Ultramarines special rule ‘Scions of Guilliman’ unless every detachment within the army was fully Ultramarines (or Ultramarines successors). Read the army rules in your codex carefully to make sure all your units and detachments have access to their snazziest abilities right off the bat.

These fiddly bits aside, though, let’s get into it:

Warhammer 40k detachments guide Guilliman fight scene artwork

Warhammer 40k detachments

At the time of writing, there are eleven types of detachments available for use when building a Battle-Forged army. You can use the links below to jump to your detachment of choice.

Three of these are considered ‘core’ detachments that serve as the backbone of most armies. These three contain essentially the same balance of unit types, just scaled up for use with larger game formats.

A ‘Patrol’ detachment is fine for the smaller Combat Patrol game type, but if you’re going up to Strike Force or Onslaught matches, you’ll probably want to build your list on one or more Battalion detachments instead – or even the mighty Brigade, if you’ve chosen a troops-heavy ‘horde’ type army like the Astra Militarum. 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 detachments guide ultramarines army photo

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

Warhammer 40k Detachments Guide Patrol

Patrol detachment

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.

Warhammer 40k Detachments Guide Battalion

Battalion detachment

The most commonly-used detachment in the game and the first building block of maybe 70%+ lists. If you’re not using a Battalion in your army, ask yourself why not.

Warhammer 40k Detachments Guide Brigade

Brigade detachment

For use when one of your army’s principal battle strategies is “throw lightly-armed bodies at the enemy until either we win or we run out of bodies”. This technique is so fundamental to the strategic doctrines of the Astra Militarum that it inscribed into the medals of senior – [That’s enough of that now- Ed.]

Warahammer 40k detachments guide admech fighting necrons image

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 core detachment types above, units must be all from the same overall faction, and no under-strength 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.

A commonly-seen army structure is one battalion, supplemented by one of these specialist detachments, depending on the kind of playstyle or strategy the army is aiming for – be it taking and holding objectives with powerful elite troops, pounding enemies to dust with heavy firepower or encircling them with rapid, manoeuvrable assaults. 

Warhammer 40k Detachments Guide Vanguard

Vanguard detachment

The one with all the elites – load it up with Terminators, wind it up and watch it smash things.

Warhammer 40k Detachments Guide Spearhead

Spearhead detachment

The one with all the heavy weapons – in 40k there is a saying: “Big guns never tire”. This is where you put your tanks, missile launchers and giant ramshackle scrap-metal energy cannons.

Warhammer 40k Detachments Guide Outrider

Outrider detachment

The one with all the fast-movers. Hulking gun-strapped motorcycles, floating jetbikes, green dudes with incredibly unstable-looking jetpacks, shoals of bat-winged alien monstrosities – they all live here.

Warhammer 40K detachments guide

Finally, there are currently five unique detachments that are very bespoke.

There are no unifying traits across these, as they each serve a very specific purpose. For example, if you want to bring some stationary armed buildings as part of your army, they’ll need to be in the Fortification Network detachment; mighty war engines such as Imperial Knights can only be deployed in a Super-Heavy detachment, and so on.

Warhammer 40k Detachments Guide Supreme Command

Supreme Command detachment

It’s worth noting this detachment is essentially only meant to be used if you’re fielding a major named character from your faction, like the Ultramarines’ Primarch Roboute Guilliman, or the newly-returned monarch of the Necrons, Szarekh the Silent King.

This 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.

Warhammer 40k Detachments Guide Superheavy

Super-Heavy detachment

For the big ‘uns. The Super-Heavy detachment is for building a complete list composed of super-heavy units (such as a Lance of Imperial Knights), while Auxiliary option is there to allow you to ‘ally in’ a single super-heavy unit to assist an army of foot-sloggers. 

Warhammer 40k Detachments Guide Fortification Network

Fortification Network

Fortifications have had their ups and downs through successive editions of 40k, but have never really played a starring role in the game – whether it be the Star Wars-y floating, shielded platforms of the Tau or the suitably ridiculous, vehicle-repairing Mekboy Workshop that the Orks sometimes bring to battle. Still, maybe that’ll change with the Space Marines’ new Hammerfall Bunker. We’ll see.

Warhammer 40k Detachments Guide Auxhiliary Support

Auxiliary Support detachment

If you really can’t find a way to fit a critical unit into one of your other detachments – or maybe if you’re at a tournament and have limited models with you to make necessary swaps – you can use the Auxiliary Support detachment to transplant in an extra unit, at a cost of 2 CP.  Worth avoiding unless absolutely necessary.

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.