How to make a Battle-Forged army in Warhammer 40,000 8th edition 

With the new 8th edition of Warhammer 40,000 building a Battle-Forged army is both similar and different from building one in 7th. It is infinitely easier than sorting out the whole detachments, formations and allies cacophony of the last edition. But the edition is brand new and I thought I would write a post on how you go about making a Battle-Forged Chaos Space Marines army. I think it’ll help me sort out a few things, at least for me.

The key mechanics of building a Battle-Forged army are Detachments and Keywords. Let’s start off by looking at the Detachments.

Detachments are the framework of your army. They set the tone and feel of the force you’re bringing to the table top. There are 12 different detachments in the Advanced Rules section of 8th edition. They cater for all kinds of lists; from all Flyers to all HQ to Fast Attack lists and well-rounded take all comers FOC/CAD type Detachments. If you ever played 40k before you’ll understand this part intuitively.


Each Detachment share the same three features – minimum and maximum unit types, restrictions (all units must come from the same faction, i.e. share at least one faction keyword) and Command Benefits. A Battalion Detachment (the new CAD basically) requires you to bring 2 HQ and 3 Troops but you may bring 2-3 HQ, 3-6 Troops, 0-6 Elites, 0-3 Fast Attack,  0-3 Heavy Support and 0-2 Flyers. As long as you fulfill the requirements you can continue to add units, just don’t exceed the limits. You know this part.

Keywords is the new kid on the block and like most of the best changes to this edition the concept comes from Age of Sigmar. Each unit Datasheet have to sets of keywords – Faction Keyword and Keywords. Faction Keywords are used when you build your Battle-Forged army. All units in a Detachment need to share at least one Faction Keyword. The more Faction Keywords units in an army share the more synergetic the army will become. Buffs and abilities are shared between units that share specific keywords. So how does this work when you’re actually building an army? Let’s take a look!

I want to build a Battle Forged Thousand Sons army using the Battalion Detachment as a starting point. My first pick is an Exalted Sorcerer. That’s one of my HQ choices (I need two). For my second HQ I pick a Daemon Prince. Thousand Sons have the special ability to take Rubric Marines as Troops rather than Elites. Excellent I’ll take two squads of those automaton brothers.  To finish off the Battalion Detachment I need a third Troop choice – Tzaangors fill that role. With that final pick I have a Battle-Forged Thousand Sons army.

HQ – Exalted Sorcerer – <Chaos>, <Tzeentch>, <Heretic Astartes>, <Thousand Sons>

HQ – Daemon Prince – <Chaos>, <Tzeentch>, <Heretic Astartes>, <Thousand Sons>

Troops – Rubric Marines –  <Chaos>, <Tzeentch>, <Heretic Astartes>, <Thousand Sons>

Troops – Rubric Marines –  <Chaos>, <Tzeentch>, <Heretic Astartes>, <Thousand Sons>

Troops – Tzaangor –  <Chaos>, <Tzeentch>, <Heretic Astartes>, <Thousand Sons>

We still have a lot of space left in the Battalion Detachment to add extra units to the army. Thousand Sons are a bit restricted and can’t pick everything available to the Chaos Space Marines. There is a list of units that can be given the <Thousand Sons> keyword. If we want to keep the army fully synergetic we need to abide to the restrictions. To give the army a bit of long range punch we a Predator.

Heavy Support – Predator –  <Chaos>, <Tzeentch>, <Heretic Astartes>, <Thousand Sons>

It’s a solid little army but maybe we want to add something with a bit of plasma and melta magic. That’s hard to do for a Thousand Sons army. Helbrutes can help us out but let’s say we want Raptors and maybe Chaos Terminators. They can’t have the <Thousand Sons> Faction Keyword but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring them in the Battle-Forged army we are building here. In order to do that we need to assign them a new <Legion> Faction Keyword. That can be one of the classic Traitor Legions or your own Chaos Renegade Warband. We’ll call them, I don’t know, something like <Prophets of Lies> to keep with the Tzeentchian theme.

When we add these two units to the Battalion Detachment it is no longer a Thousand Sons Detachment since all units no longer have the <Thousand Sons> Faction Keyword. And because the army isn’t <Thousand Sons> the Rubric Marines reverts back their original Elites Battlefield Role. So we need to add two Troops units. [Edit – This actually isn’t the case; <Thousand Sons> Rubric Marines are always troops, even if the detachment as a whole isn’t. Thank you, Antoine, for pointing this out in the comments!]

Bring forth the Chaos Cultists (excellent bubble wrap, which you’ll need in an elite type army). The Chaos Cultist can have any <Legion> keyword so we’ll give them <Thousand Sons>. They will bubble wrap the Rubric Marines and the Predator. If we keep the Daemon Prince close they’ll benefit from its Prince of Chaos aura.

Finally we need a <Prophets of Lies> Chaos Lord in Terminator Armour to buff the units with the <Prophets of Lies> keyword since they get no help from the Exalted Sorcerer or the Daemon Prince. Now we have a <Chaos>, <Tzeentch>, <Heretic Astartes> army, which is cool too. If we would add say a unit of Khorne Berzerkers the army would loose the <Tzeentch> keyword since they have the <Khorne> Faction Keyword. And if we finally add a Soulgrinder the army would be reduced the <Chaos> Faction Keyword because the Soulgrinder doesn’t have the <Heretic Astartes> Faction Keyword. The army would still be Battle-Forged nonetheless since they all share one Faction Keyword.

I hope my ramblings can help sort thing a bit. It helped me at least.

Keep on burning.

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24 thoughts on “How to make a Battle-Forged army in Warhammer 40,000 8th edition 

  1. Weirdly, I’d been mulling over making sense of the new army building process all afternoon as I prepare for my first 8th edition game. It was on my mind as I logged on to my Word Press and saw your article first. Spooky! And a helpful post! Thank you, sir! 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    1. each index talks about the detachments and rules for building them but no where can i find a page stating what needs to be in a detachment far as i can tell detachments are limited to 4 total units ? so i am curies where rules are on making detachments cuz army is just made up of 1 to 2 detachments now. and you can have as many as like 5 detachments with each detachment having its own leader so that be a total of 5 HQ choices. at least that is way my index reads so far ? sense rules are now free as a PDF file on GW page i look that over and seen nothing about old standard or picture above that is used here also there no pictures of old standards used in the index exnos 1 or in index imperium 2 which i have.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You need to organise your army in detachments if you want it to be Battleforged. It is described in the Advanced rules section of the rules book. If you play Matched Play or Narrative Play you’ll need a Battleforged army. But if you play Open Play, you can just bring whatever units you like (and agree with your opponent on).

        Battleforged armies have some perks, giving you access to Command Points and Strategems. Well, check out the Advanced rules Section.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. Yeah both options can work. I am enjoying flicking through the Chaos Index at the moment, even if it lacks the fluff of full on codices. But we will get those in time.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. As a heretic at heart it’s great to combine the traitors with their Daemon overlords again, in one army. However, for the Imperium, bloody hell. The sheer level of army builds is obscene! It’s been awesome for my Inquisition list. Good times.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I haven’t peeked at the Imperium books yet but I can imagine the myriad of builds hidden within. At the same time, true power will come from abiding to a more restrictive build with more overlapping keywords. I think this will be obvious once the codices are released. Good times ahead.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Huh, thanks for the thorough analysis. As someone who hasn’t played proper 40k since 3rd edition, this whole battle-forged concept is difficult for me to understand. I guess it is designed to reward you for playing themed armies? It seems that the closer you get to Chaos Undivided, the fewer synergies you get on the battlefield.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers! Glad you found it useful.

      I think we will see more buffs and abilities connected to themed armies. When the new codexes come I bet we’ll see warlord traits, stratagems and artefacts that can be unlocked if you run a proper for example.

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  3. Hi, great write up, I really liked how you laid out the progressive expansion of the army and its effects.

    However there is a small issue. The Rubric Marines do not change their legion keyword automatically if the overall faction keyword for the army is changed to something other than THOUSAND SONS. The current rules only tell us who can have the THOUSAND SONS keyword, what they have to do to get it. In the case of MARK OF CHAOS and DAEMON allegiance they need to be Tzeentch. In addition it states that THOUSAND SONS rubrics get to be troops. It does not say that the entire army must be THOUSAND SONS for the rubrics to be troops, just that if they have the keyword they become troops.

    The question it raises is “If that’s the case why wouldn’t I always take these guys as troops? Surely the entire army has to be thousand sons to enable that upgrade otherwise they would just make them troops as standard?”

    The answer to this is, Abaddon. If a thousand sons rubric marine has the THOUSAND SONS legion keyword it can be taken as troops in an army with a primary keyword ranging from something like BLACK LEGION all the way to CHAOS.

    However that unit will be limited due to its legion keyword in the sources of its buffs. For instance if you want to buff rubric marines with Abaddon’s “Lord of the Black Legion” ability it would require the rubric marines having the “BLACK LEGION” keyword, as soon as you chose to change the keyword to this it would revert them back to elites but allow them to be buffed by Abaddon.

    This means you could have WORLD EATERS bezerkers and THOUSAND SONS rubric marines who are both troops in the same army with the HERETICUS ASTARTES keyword being the army keyword but there would be less synergy through buffs from charactters such as Abaddon as these two units would not match his LEGION keyword. However it would allow an army to run these units as troops rather than elites.

    What I think we all expect is that a “THOUSAND SONS” army would only include THOUSAND SONS and therefore if its not that type of army the rubrics must be the ‘normal’ elite version. However as the rules are currently written that is not the case. I expect when the codecies come out we will see a real benefit (Unique strategems) to sticking to a specific keyword but for now you can get away with mixing and matching without feeling too restricted (other than synergy loss from buffs).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for taking the time to write this lengthy comment. You are absolutely correct too. I don’t know how I missed it the first time around. I went back and checked the rules, and it is so obvious what you say. I’ll need to make a reference to your comment on the post.

      Cheers mate!

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  4. So if I get this right. I am an imperium player as long as all units in a single detachment have ‘imperium ‘ I can list them together? I could have a patrol detachment with a space marine captain as HQ some imperial guard as troops, some inquisition as elite and sisters of battle for heavy? All in 1 detachment??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t read the Imperial Indexes yet but unless their is some special restrictions on any of the datasheets there should be no mixing and matching units the way you described. As long as they all share at least one Faction Keyword you’re golden. I believe that you will get extra benefits (Warlord traits, stratagems, relics) if go for more specific builds.

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  5. This post was extremely helpful.

    I’m brand new to the Warhammer 40k scene. I’ve only been building and painting since April of this year. I’ve wanted to build an army (specifically a battle-forged army), but wasn’t sure how. This post cleared up a lot! Now I can get started on my project!

    Liked by 1 person

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