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Getting Started
Posted By Jake

Play Astra Militarum – Astra Militarum Getting Started – Part 4

This is a longer read, we are getting into it now; Ways to Play Astra Militarum...

I’m torn between making this a Tactics article and a Ways to Play Astra Militarum article. Are they the same thing? Yes. But they’re slightly different approaches I feel.

You are currently reading one in a series of articles. Part 1 of Astra Militarum Getting Started has an index of all the published and upcoming articles. There is an Astra Militarum Glossary to accompany this series.


This is a lengthy article. You’ll have learnt a lot when you come out the other side and will be armed with a few ideas about creating your first Astra Militarum force. And I hope a fire has been lit in you…

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Tactics suggest an understanding of the Warhammer 40K rules. You need to know the rules in order to know what those tactics mean, when and how to use them. And also understand your enemy enough to know when certain tactics are useless. The tactics are there to help you win.

Ways to Play Astra Militarum means just that. You want to play using a force of Astra Militarum and you need to understand what those ways are within a broader context. Rather than just the context of winning and the Warhammer 40K rules.

So for me, this article is a step before tactics in the learning process of starting your Astra Militarum force. This series is a Getting Started series after all, not an improve your existing Astra Militarum tactics series. That is coming.

Ways to Play Astra Militarum

There are many ways to play your army. Some forces in 40K have one or two play styles because they are very good at a specific task. E.g a force might be fast and excellent at short range attacks and hand to hand combat – but have zero long-range firepower or artillery. Like the Harlequins.

This is not the Astra Militarum way. If you want to do it with the Astra Militarum there will be a method. By The Emperor, we will make it so!

  • Tanks, check
  • Infantry check
  • Tougher infantry check
  • Artillery check
  • Flyers check
  • Mechanised infantry check
  • Massive tanks check
  • Close combat check – sort of

You get the idea.

So, however you imagine your army functioning, it’s certainly possible with the Astra Militarum! And that is why I enjoy them so much!

A Fork in the Road

It’s at this point things get tricky writing this series. Because now we are moving on to List Building. To very new players with no books, it’s a very tough concept to communicate. And for those who already own a Codex or the Basic Rulebook (or both), it’s a much easier concept to understand.

Therefore I’ve created a single page outside of this series that will cover Battlefield Roles, Command Points, Detachments, Points and Keywords.

I hope that will bring everyone up to speed and in-line in terms of their Warhammer 40,000 knowledge. If not, let me know!

It’s very hard to cover this without becoming very bogged down in the minute details of the Warhammer 40,000 rules and the way lists are built. But I hope this gives you an overview of what is possible and show you that a lot is possible – nearly anything is possible.

Remember the Glossary too!


Detachments are key to this next portion of the article and will be referenced a lot. At the most basic level a detachment does the following;

  • Sets a minimum number of units per Battlefield Role for it to be valid
  • Sets a maximum number of units per Battlefield Role for it to be valid
  • Gives you a number of Command Points for your army to use during the battle (this can be zero and it can be a negative number)

At their most basic level that is what a Detachment is. Your build up your force from Detachments. You might have 1, you might have 3. Its a way of organising your army into valid portions that give Command Points. You want Command Points :-)

If you’re playing Narrative or Open Play and yet to move to Matched Play Detachments and the various rules that govern them will be less of a concern for you. Detachments are used and enforced in Matched Play to try and keep the battle as fair as possible.


As we are starting with tanks I’ll give a more in-depth example of how a tank based Astra Militarum force can work. As we go on, these examples will be explained less and less – as the terms and ways of constructing a force become more familiar.

You can with the Astra Militarum bring just tanks. You’ll use the Spearhead Detachment for such an army. The Spearhead Detachment requires you bring three units of the Heavy Support Battlefield Role and one with HQ Battlefield Role. This Detachment gives you one Command Point (CP).

HQs are often fulfilled by infantry based commanders. But the Tank Commander and the Pask Tank Commander are both Leman Russ tanks and both are HQ choices. Note, there is no Tank Commander model, it’s just a Leman Russ model. But many people will make it look different from their regular Leman Russ so it stands out as The Tank Commander.

So now we have our valid Spearhead Detachment;

  • 3x Leman Russ – to fulfil the 3x Heavy Support choices
  • 1x Tank Commander or 1x Pask – to fulfil the HQ choice

And that’s it. Our all tank army is complete and valid.

But, we can bring more Leman Russ if we desire and still use the same Spearhead Detachment. Each Leman Russ squadron can have 1, 2 or 3 Leman Russ in it. Therefore inside this single Spearhead Detachment, we can get;

  • 3x squadrons of 3 Leman Russ – 9 in total
  • 1x Tank Commander or 1x Pask as the HQ choice

Now that is a tank army! Ten Leman Russ!


You can take a similar approach with Artillery, as Wyverns and Basilisks are both Heavy Support too. The Spearhead Detachment actually allows you to bring a maximum of 6 Heavy Support choices. So you can bring;

  • 2x Leman Russ for two of your Heavy Support choices
  • 2x Wyverns for two more Heavy Support choices – total 4 Heavy Support choices
  • 2x Basilisks for two more Heavy Support choices – total 6 Heavy Support choices
  • 1x Tank Commander or 1x Pask as the HQ choice

As we go on I hope you can see how the Battlefield Roles work and how you can mix and match units to fulfil the requirements of a detachment. As we move on you will see more and more the versatility of the Astra Militarum and their ability to rack up more Command Points than most other armies in Warhammer 40,000.

My 2 Completed Wyverns

My 2 Completed Wyverns

Aerial Infantry

Let’s change course now and go for something specialised. The Vanguard Detachment requires 1 HQ and 3 Elites and allows a maximum of 6 Elites. It can also take zero, 1 or 2 Flyers. Let’s expand our flyer ability by adding an Airwing Detachment. Both Detachments give 1CP.

The Vanguard Detachment will contain;

And the Airwing Detachment will contain 4 more Valkyries. The Airwing Detachment can take a maximum of 6 Flyers.

We’ve now got 6 Valkyries, enough to carry all our infantry into battle! It’s only 2CP though.

My Valkyrie - Ways to Play Astra Militarum

My Valkyrie – Ways to Play Astra Militarum

Infantry, All the Infantry

With the Vanguard and Spearhead Detachments firmly in our mind let’s move onto another area that the Astra Militarum excels at, massed infantry.

Nearly all detachments allow some Troop choices. Even the specialised Vanguard and Spearhead Detachments allow you to have between zero and three Troop choices. But now, let us use the Battalion Detachment.

The Battalion Detachment requires 2 HQ choices and 3 Troop choices and provides 5 Command Points. You can also optionally include;

  • Up to 6 Elites
  • Up to 3 Fast Attack
  • Up to 3 Heavy Support
  • Up to 2 Flyers

And the Battalion allows a maximum of 3 HQ choices and 6 Troop choices.

From this, I hope you can see how flexible the Battalion is and how the various units of the Astra Militarum can fill this detachment. You can fill it with the minimum requirements to gain the Command Points or fill it and then start adding in extras.

For example, this force fulfils the Battalion Detachment and then adds in even more infantry – maximising the Orders the Company Commanders (see the Glossary regarding Orders) can dish out.

  • 3 Company Commanders – 3 models (HQ)
  • 3 Squads of Guardsmen – 30 models (Troop)
  • 3 Heavy Weapons Teams – 9 models (Heavy Support)
  • 3 Command Squads – 12 models (Elite)
  • 3 Special Weapon Squads – 18 models (Elite)

We’ve now got 72 models in our army! It’s extreme but that’s an infantry force!

Cadian Astra Militarum Guardsmen - Ways to Play Astra Militarum

Cadian Astra Militarum Guardsmen – Ways to Play Astra Militarum

Optimising Detachments

The last example is a bad example. We’ve gone infantry heavy but we can optimise such a heavily based infantry force into two detachments. We can take the above and slightly change it.

We have our Battalion Detachment for 5CP.

  • 2 Company Commanders
  • 3 Squads of Guardsmen
  • 3 Heavy Weapons Teams
  • 3 Command Squads

And that fulfils the requirements to get us our 5CP. Plus includes some extras in the form of Heavy Support and Elites.

We can now create another detachment, a Vanguard Detachment.

  • A Company Commander
  • 3 Special Weapons Squads

We have the same units as our All the Infantry example but in two detachments. And we’ve gained 1CP from the Vanguard Detachment by doing this.

Deployment at the start of my most recent battle - Ways to Play Astra Militarum

Deployment at the start of my most recent battle – Ways to Play Astra Militarum

Summary – Ways to Play Astra Militarum

I hope that this introduction gives you a glimpse into the joys of list creation. There are other Detachments available too that allow you to bring lots of Fast Attack units, HQ units or Lords of War. There are A LOT of combinations!

Then there is the Brigade Detachment which gives you 12CP. It requires masses of units to fulfil and the more elite armies in Warhammer 40,000 find it impossible to fulfil the requirements of a Brigade Detachment. Their units are too expensive, in terms of points, to fill a Brigade at a reasonable points limit. A squad of regular Guardsmen are 40 points, they are a Troop choice. Custodian Guards are also a Troop choice, they are 156 points for a single unit. The ability for the Astra Militarum to gain Command Points is unrivalled thanks to their cheap units.

The Brigade requires 3 of every Battlefield Role (but not Transports or Flyers) and a minimum of 6 Troop choices. That’s 60 Guardsmen right away without any other forces at all!

The Best of All Worlds

The above examples are extreme examples; lots of tanks or lots of infantry or lots of flyers. These armies are fun, for sure.

But they can lack certain abilities that make winning or even holding your own against a tough enemy hard work. Of course, some extremes can be a superb winning formula. Taking only Leman Russ and Artillery can blast your enemy from the board in two turns and seal a magnificent victory.

I find a mixture of Battlefield Roles and unit types gives me a diverse force that’s fun to play with and fun to play against.

Each to their own, you’ll find your own methods in time.

My mixture of Artillery, Leman Russ and Transports - Ways to Play Astra Militarum

My mixture of Artillery, Leman Russ and Transports – Ways to Play Astra Militarum

Rule of Three

In the Big FAQ, there are some Beta Rules regarding The Rule of Three. This is worth mentioning here in case it bites you in the ass in the future.

The Rule of Three states that;

Each datasheet can be used up to 3 times per army.

A datasheet is a type of unit. A Tank Commander is an HQ choice and a Leman Russ is a Heavy Support choice – they both use Leman Russ models but are two different data sheets. What this means is that that you can’t take 4x units of Leman Russ from Heavy Support. Because that 4x breaks the Rule of Three. You can have 3x units of Leman Russ to make nine like we did at the start of the article.

If you want more Leman Russ? You need to use another datasheet. The Tank Commander and Pask are not the Heavy Support Leman Russ choice. They are both their own data sheets. So this is valid;

  • 3x squadrons of 3 Leman Russ – 9 in total
  • Pask
  • 3x Tank Commander

We don’t have more than 3 of any one datasheet in that list. Pask is a named Character, there is only one of him in the universe, therefore we can only take one of him in our army.

This is invalid;

  • 4x squadrons of 3 Leman Russ – 12 in total

The Rule of Three does not apply to Troops or Dedicated Transports.

And that’s that!

Get in touch

If you want something else covered in this Astra Militarum 8th Edition Getting Started series, have a question or just want to say hello then please do. You can do so via the comments below, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit or email me at trooper@ the domain of this blog.

Finally, you can  to get an email notification as soon as a new article is published.

Read Part 5 – Where to Play 40K

Index of Getting Started Articles

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