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Battlefield Roles, Command Points, Detachments, Points and Keywords

A quick helper for those new to 40K...

Hello and welcome to this special little page all about Battlefield Roles, Command Points, Detachments, Points and Keywords. Its aim is to help you along the way in the Astra Militarum Getting Started series. There is an Astra Militarum Glossary to accompany this series.

Building a List

Before getting your mind ticking over the ways you can play with an Astra Militarum force I wanted to introduce some key concepts when creating your army list. These are;

  • Points
  • Keywords
  • Detachments
  • Command Points

With Open Play and Narrative Play, you’ll probably be using Power Levels, you don’t need to worry about this part, to begin with.

But with Matched Play you use points and your forces need to fit into valid detachments. If that sounds like a lot to get your head around, bear with me.

These ways to play 40K are covered in part 3 of the getting started series.


Points are used to give each unit, their weapons and equipment a value. The aim is to make each fighting force equal in their performance to try and ensure the battle is fair. Tougher and harder hitting units cost more points and their weapons also cost more points. Weak units with little firepower cost fewer points.

A Leman Russ costs significantly more points than 10 Guardsmen.


Each unit has some Keywords. These keywords are split into two sections; Keywords and Faction Keywords.

These govern certain parts of Warhammer 40K. And they’ll make a lot more sense once you get your head into a Codex.

But for example Imperium is a faction keyword and so is Astra Militarum. While Infantry and Vehicle are general keywords.

This makes more sense when you have a rule for example which can be used with Astra Militarum Infantry. This means the rule can be used on Astra Militarum units which also have the Infantry keyword.

Keywords are also used when creating detachments. For example, every unit in a detachment must share at least one Faction Keyword.

Battlefield Roles

Each unit in Warhammer 40,000 has a Battlefield Role. These are:

  • HQs – characters and single units often used for boosting other units – Lord Commissar
  • Troops – the staple of a lot of forces, cheap and numerous – Guardsmen
  • Elites – specialised units, often tough or with great firepower – Bullgryns
  • Flyers – flying units – Valkyrie
  • Fast Attacks – quick moving units – Sentinel
  • Heavy Supports – durable units that pack a punch – Leman Russ
  • Dedicated Transports – vehicles used for transporting other units –  Chimera
  • Lord of Wars – Knight or Baneblade


Your force will be split into detachments for Matched Play. Think of a detachment as a group of units for the purpose of building a list. Once on the battlefield, the detachment has little meaning. The Basic Rulebook contains info on each detachment.

I’ll mention a few of these Detachments later in this article but with a bit more context so they make more sense.

You can play with no Detachments, this is called an Unbound Army, but you’ll get zero Command Points. On the flip side if you bring Detachments this is called a Battle Forged Army. A Battle Forged Army gets 3 Command Points as a starting base.

Command Points

Each detachment gives you a number of Command Points. Command Points are used during a game on special abilities, these are called Stratagems. Some Detachments give you zero Command Points while others give you 12. And some take Command Points away!

I won’t hammer on about them too much now as it’ll just confuse the very newest players of Warhammer 40K. But you want Command Points to help your army during the battle.


So bringing all this together;

  • Units cost points
  • A unit has a Battlefield Role
  • Units make up detachments
  • A detachment must share Faction Keywords – you can’t place a Chaos Space Marine into the same Detachment as a Commissar as they share no Faction Keywords
  • A detachment has a minimum and maximum number of units for each Battlefield Role – e.g. a Spearhead Detachment requires at a minimum 1 HQ and 3 Heavy Support choices
  • Detachments give your army Command Points to use throughout the battle
  • Keywords are also used for abilities and some rules – e.g. Imperium Infantry within 9″ can re-roll hit rolls of 1

That is a lot to get your head around within a Codex or Rulebook!

Further Reading

Get in touch

If you want something else covered here, have a question or just want to say hello then please do. You can do so via, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit or email me at trooper@ the domain of this blog.