Detachments, Formations, and Army Building in 7th 40k

I feel like every one of my posts needs a subtitle, but this one didn’t make much sense.  All I could come up with is a single word:


Only 6000% of your daily intake of sodium in one can!  Danger: May contain spam

I feel like at the onset of 7th edition a lot of the gripes with 6th were “Deathstars” or “Spammy Lists” which:

  1. May have upset the competitive balance of the game (I understand Screamerstars and Beast-stars and Warlock Councils were very rage inducing back in the day, but I don’t have extensive experience with them in my circles… I once tarpitted an invisi-beast-star unit in close combat with 150 points of armoured sentinels, but that’s about it — lulz)
  2. Make the game very BLAND to play.  (Should I shoot at Wave Serpent #1, #3 or #6?  Hmmm.)
More after the…


Naturally the above two points are very subjective, and would depend on what you like in a game.  I think something we can all agree on however is that we like a game that is both exciting and features a certain competitive balance, which implies to me that both of the above points are something that need to be phased out of the game.  

It should be noted that the gaming community at large has been self-policing in this respect.  Locally, there’s been a general increase in popularity of the “Highlander” format which limits armies to ONLY ONE of each type of unit but this can really handicap a persons’ playing style from both a competitive perspective and a fluff perspective.  
I’ll also point out that the tournament circuit has limited the number of detachments a person can take, which prevents someone from spamming allies or spamming heavy-support slots in the case of a double-Combined Arms detachment.  This is kind of an attitude that’s held over from 6th edition, before there were more codexes out in 7th however, and it’ll be interesting to see if this practice continues.
So what’s really changed in 7th?

I like to think that GW has also noticed the beef with respect to spam and death-stars, which is why we’re seeing broad sweeping changes in the codexes and how they’re formatted as opposed to the core rules which didn’t change dramatically from 6th to 7th with respect to Force Organizations.

To clarify:

Detachment – a force made up a specified number of unit types (Troops, Elites, Fast Attack, etc.).  Typically comes with a bonus to re-roll a warlord trait, plus an added bonus.

Formation – a force made up of specified units and generally benefit from more specific and very useful bonuses.

EG – Phodian Annihilation Swarm.  In this case, the bonus(es) for this formation is that everything comes with Stealth (because sneaky) and anything that was already sneaky becomes sneakier meaning that Genestealers come with a 4+ cover save in an open field.  Also, the entire formation benefits from Preferred Enemy while the Broodlord is alive.

I’ve taken the liberty of instructing some HoP interns to create a diagram of how this all works out practically…

Goddammit… It’s not at all like Russian Nesting Dolls.  But neither is it really like a Venn Diagram anymore.  *casts intern into abyssal tentacle pit* 

An army can be made up of any number of detachments or formations.  This is huge.  But the really good detachments and formations are released in codexes and supplemental material now, in every new book since 7th dropped.

Each faction has their own special detachment which varies from the core rules in a unique way.  
In the Blood Angels book for example, every BA unit has Furious Charge, but if you take their snowflake detachment they also get a bonus to their initiative… very valuable for an army that is akin to a woodchipper in close-combat.  There are also 10+ specific formations that range in size from Apocalypse scale to ones that can fit comfortably into a 1,500 point list (although, they’re located in another book.  NURRRR)


In the case of Necrons and Eldar, you can turn it up to 11 and have Formations WITHIN Formations, and all their bonuses stack.  This is rule stacking on an almost exponential scale, and is proving very difficult to beat just now.

So what?  

These bonuses are too good to overlook in many cases.  You can play an army however you want (unbound or a standard Combined Arms Detachment), but you may not be maximizing your potential damage output or utilities.  When the army-wide bonuses begin stacking up on the whole it’ll be a better option than spamming one effective unit over and over again in a standard or regular detachment.

I’ll take the Necron special, ain’t got much spam in it.

Your traditional Force Organization isn’t as simple as it used to be, as an army may be greater than the sum of its parts, and this certainly comes true with Formations.

I think this is why GW is churning through seemingly ‘fine’ codexes in an absolutely alarming rate, in order to make sure each faction has all these formations and detachments available to the players.  Whether or not it was a viable business strategy to do so remains to be seen.  Given that this is really only a sheet or two, it’s not clear to me why they couldn’t have released this immediately with 7th edition as opposed to crunching through every single faction.

Anyways, these are just my general ramblings and observations.

Which may or may not be glue-fuelled… Been converting lots lately…

Anyone else been noticing a broader diversity on the table top the past year or two?  Or have we been seeing more of the same lists over and over again…?  I’ll be lurking in the comments….  Cheers 😀

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  • Jim Jimjim

    You realize that combined arms is a real military term yes?