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How to Build Unbound and Battle-Forged Armies in Warhammer 40K, 7th Edition

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I work in the internet service industry and as a professional educator. My interests and hobbies include books, science, and gaming.

7th Edition 40k Battle-forged Armies

7th Edition 40k Battle-forged Armies

Hot off the presses, the 7th edition of Warhammer 40k brings several changes to the game. Murphy, here, and this time I'm going to write about how to start a game of 7th edition and, more specifically, how to create your army.

The 6th edition gave players more options on how to play, and what they could bring to the tabletop. The 7th edition continues this trend by codifying more options into the rules. Several months ago, I commented to a friend that the next edition of 40k would be like Apocalypse and they would just let us bring whatever we wanted. I wasn't far off! Let's get started by looking at the biggest change, by far.

What Are Unbound Armies?

Unbound armies are either your dream come true, or an utter nightmare. The truth, as always, is somewhere in the middle. This single change promises to change the game forever... except it won't. Yes, despite the clamoring that you've heard across the internet, I don't think unbound armies will do much of anything to impact the 40k community.

What are unbound armies? Quite simply, if you choose to play an unbound army, you simply pick whatever units you want, following their unit options and paying the points for them, and then smash them all into one crazy army. You can have as many models from different factions (codexes) as you'd like. Space Marines, Dark Eldar, and Orks? Smash them together, it's okay; it's unbound, so there are no restrictions.

There is are no force organization slots for Unbound armies. You literally just put models on the tabletop, choosing upgrades, etc from their codex, and pay the points. If you want 10 Heldrakes to fly around the field, you can do it. Do you want six or seven Wraithknights to stomp on your enemy? You can do it.

These are terrible examples that will break the game. Armies like these are why people are freaking out. You see, these unbound armies are free to play against regular ones. You can bring your standard tactical squad space marine army, and face off against an entire command of Eldar fire dragons. It's an annoying idea that you might be bombarded by a cheesy list at any given game.

Except that I don't believe people will do this. First, there is an important, bolded line of text in the new rulebook about starting a game:

"... players must agree how they are going to select their armies, and if any restrictions apply to the number and type of models they can use."

Games Workshop wants players to have a discussion before a game starts. Obviously, in a competitive tournament setting, you will not be able to discuss and limit model options before a round begins. However, the organizer will have already had this discussion and made decisions for the tournament. They might simply say, "No unbound armies," and call it a day.

If you play a lot of pick-up games with a group of friends, have that conversation with them right now. Tell each other that you don't want to play games where the best units in a codex are spammed up to the points total. It will save you later aggravation and it will save somebody hundreds of dollars in Riptides that nobody will want to play against.

7th Edition 40k Unbound Armies

7th Edition 40k Unbound Armies

Why Is There an Unbound Option?

So why did Games Workshop create an unbound option? For two reasons, one financial and one "gaming" related. First, no longer will a customer's purchases be determined by a force organization chart. For instance, "Gee, I really like Predator Tanks, but I already have three . . . and I'll never play Apocalypse. I want to build and paint another Predator, but I'll pass because I can never use it." Now players can purchase the models that they want to build, paint, and play with and have no reason why they can't enjoy all three parts of the hobby.

Imagine new players, especially young players with no experience in collecting wargame armies, might simply select which models they are interested in. They might receive gifts from family members that don't understand Force Org limits. Heck, they might have models from several different armies as they try out new units. Now they can play with these models as they start to build their collection.

The second, "gaming" reason for unbound armies is that it can be a lot of fun. There are a lot of gamers out there that prefer narrative games or collecting armies with a strong theme. What's wrong with collecting a space marine assault company? It's not even particularly competitive. Using Orks as an example, what about a mad-max styled Buggy Army? Imagine a horde of AV10 buggies roaring around the field, backed up with Dakka Jets and Bikers. Cool. Fluffy. Unbound.

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What Are Battle-Forged Armies?

Okay, that was a long rant. I don't think unbound armies will change the game much because I don't think that many people will really use it in a competitive environment. For competitive players, we have some semblance of structure called "battle-forged" armies.

For a battle-forged army, you must organize all of your models into Detachments. You may have as many Detachments as you have models and points for. Each detachment offers restrictions on what you can bring and gives you bonuses to balance those restrictions (and to balance against unbound armies). There are two types of Detachments in the 7th edition rulebook, with promises that new ones will be released in army codexes or other publications. Remember, you can mix and match these Detachments and they need not be from the same Faction.

Combined Arms Detachment


  • 1 HQ
  • 2 Troops


  • 1 HQ
  • 4 Troops
  • 3 Elites
  • 3 Fast Attack
  • 3 Heavy Support
  • 1 Fortification
  • Lord of War


  • All units must belong to the same Faction (or have no Faction i.e. Fortifications).

Command Benefits:

  • Ideal Commander: If this Detachment contains your Warlord, you may reroll its Warlord Trait.
  • Objective Secured: Troops within this Detachment always control objectives, even if enemy units are within range of the objective, unless the enemy unit ALSO has this special rule (so enemy Troops in a Combined Arms Detachment).

Allied Detachment


  • 1 HQ
  • 1 Troop


  • 1 Troop
  • 1 Elite
  • 1 Fast Attack
  • 1 Heavy Support


  • Cannot be your Primary Detachment
  • Cannot contain your Warlord
  • All units must have the same Faction
  • All units must be from a Faction different from your Primary Detachment

Command Benefits:

  • Objective Secured - Exactly as listed in Combined Arms (above).

How Are These Detachments Different From the 6th Edition?

So the above Detachments look awfully similar to what we are used to in the 6th edition. There are two major differences, though. First, did you see the Lord of War mentioned in the Combined Arms detachment? Yep, that's right! Lords of War are now Core 40k. However, remember that bolded line of text I mentioned earlier? You and your opponent need to have a discussion before the game begins to set any limits you think are fair.

The second major change is that you may have as many Detachments as you have models and points for. They do not even have to be of the same Faction. You could have a Combined Arms Detachment of space marines, another Combined Arms Detachment of Space Marines, an Allied Detachment of Tau, and an Allied Detachment of Astra Militarum. That's a lot of HQ units on the table, but it's also a lot of Compulsory Troops, and all before any of the good stuff has been bought.

It can be min-maxed. A friend pointed out earlier that you could bring a Space Marine Librarian as an HQ, and two minimum scout squads in a Detachment. And then bring another. And then another. You could probably bring ten Librarians to a battle.

To which I replied, "Yeah, but then you'd have nothing but a bunch of 2 wound Librarians and a bunch of scouts." However, as a Chaos Daemons player, I can think of using:

What to Use as the Chaos Daemons Player

  • Greater Daemon
  • 2 Heralds
  • 2 Troops of Daemons

With a couple of upgrades, that's about 500 points for that Detachment, meaning in a 2,000 point game, I could about fit in 4 Greater Daemons, 8 Heralds, and 8 Troop units. Would it be over the top? I don't think so . . . unless I used some of those Daemons to summon MORE Daemons.

So even the battle-forged method of making an army is open for abuse. However, I think its ability to open up more options for armies and allies is worth the risk. Once again, encourage your friends not to make cheesy lists, or go all in and challenge each other to make the cheesiest lists possible.

Another important note about army composition. All units are scoring units unless it is a Zooming Flyer, Swooping FMC, (as there is a rule saying it doesn't count as scoring) Falling Back, or an Unclaimed Building or Fortification.

In fact, even Dedicated Transports of Troops units gain the Objective Secured rule in Combined Arms and Allies Detachments because A) vehicles are scoring now, and B) Dedicated Transports count as the Battlefield Role of the unit they were bought for.

So a tac squad in a rhino actually gives you two scoring units on the battlefield. In a battle-forged army, these objectives can only be contested by other battle-forged troops. Do you think we are going to see a shift in the game towards lots of troops with transports? I think so.

Summing Up the Changes

That sums up the changes to creating a 7th edition 40k army! You can either build whatever army you want using unbound or create some restrictions for yourself, get some nice bonuses, and call yourself battle-forged.

But wait, I almost forgot! How do all these crazy combinations of units and factions actually interact on the battlefield? I can have Space Marines, Eldar, and Orks all in the same army, but do they work well together?

Of course not. The 7th Edition has a brand new Allies Matrix that shifts the game back to some normalcy. This simple shift in the allies charts will cut out a lot of the nonsense that we saw in some 6th edition tournaments. No more Tau/dar for instance. I will fully explore these changes in a future article.

In the meantime, why not take the poll below, leave a comment, and check out some of my other 40k articles. Most of my 6th edition articles are still quite valid, though I will be going through them and updating things to 7th edition when warranted. Thanks for reading. Murphy out.

Creating 7th Ed Armies


Timdog on July 08, 2015:

Where to formations fit in here? Unbound or Battleforged?

Sam on April 02, 2015:

I like the new changes. In fact, when my buddy first told me about them, the first thing i said was "Sweet now i can finally use all 6 of my chaos dreadnoughts!"

Sandwich_Scoots on February 20, 2015:

Do you know of any other detachments besides CAD and allied?

Murphy (author) from Florida on October 08, 2014:

I'm glad I could help! I wish I had more 7th edition articles up. They've just been releasing the books so fast, and the changes range from very minor to sweeping, so it's tough get a handle on it! I spent the summer doing a lot more painting and a lot less writing!

timff8 on October 06, 2014:

Hey just want to say thanks for this article. I had heard a lot of 'the sky is falling' talk about 7th and this cleared that up for me.

So thanks very much for your help

Murphy (author) from Florida on June 04, 2014:

I think the cards are too random for tournament players and organizers. They will make for fun games, but few people will want to drive hours to a tournament, play several games in a very short amount of time, and then walk away a loser because a hand of cards screwed them out of points . . . or handed their opponent easy points.

For club games, I think they will be a blast! They will definitely change how people build armies! I"m thinking speed, speed, and more speed. If you can jump on objectives early, even ones that are not right in your deployment zone, then those are easy points to score early. You keep those points, so even if a scoring unit dies, you ALREADY captured the points for that objective.

This is very different than in Eternal War missions, when objectives are only secured at the end of the game. For those missions, you want survivability in your units . . . or so many units, that some will be untouched by the end of the game. For Maelstrom of War missions, it will be entirely possible to rack up points in the first few turns that you can have your army decimated and still win. Very cool, but different.

I'm looking forward to seeing what you drop pod assault can do with these missions :) You might actually have a reason to drop troops someplace besides the rear of my army!

Other Joe on June 04, 2014:

Sounds good! One thing I have noticed about the mission cards is that it will change the way lists are made. It used to be possible to design lists that didn't care about objectives, their only way to win games was to table your opponent. These were typically the cheese lists that everyone hates to play against. While it is still possible to do this, I think the mission cards reward players for brining a more mobile and balanced list. The cards change how you will play during the game also by making you focus on units or objectives you might otherwise ignore. If you are playing a fun game or a narrative campaign this is awesome because it could create some zany results and allow a decimated army to still pull off a victory with bonus points for completed objectives. For a tournament though, where winning is everything, this will cause a lot of problems. I doubt tournament organizers will use the cards which is a shame because I think it adds another dimension to the game.

Murphy (author) from Florida on June 03, 2014:

Arioch, what you said is SO true. It's appealing to have casual games and just bring models that you are interested in collecting and painting. However, it would suck to be ambushed by some random player, at a local club or a tournament, that brings the cheesiest list possible with the intention to just stomp your army. Not fun.

Joe, we will definitely takes some high quality photos and write up an article here. If we can make it narrative, so much the better. The world needs to see your masterpiece of terrain building!

Other Joe on June 02, 2014:

It is definitely a double edged sword! For fun games at the club it is pretty awesome because now you can bring whatever is in your collection. I usually tell my opponent before we meet to play what I'm bringing generally just so there are no nasty suprises. For example, I will tell them I am bringing flyers or land raiders just because you could have a very one sided game if you get a rock vs scissors combination. However, tournaments will have to impose regulations because otherwise there will always be " that guy" that brings broken combos. I am a big fan of the narrative campaign and hope to get one going at the local store this summer. I want to start small with kill team sized battles then slowly increase to 250, 500, 750, ect points as we go on. I even thought of tying in some BFG and have some of our deathwatch RPG events effect the campaign story arcs. I am working on some large terrain pieces and the planetary empire tiles to really pull it all together. When was the last time you played 40k? I think the rules are pretty solid for friendly play right now. We will have to do a battle report with pictures soon!

Gordon D Easingwood from Wakefield, United Kingdom on June 02, 2014:

Sounds like 40k has changed totally since I last really played.

The idea of unbound armies both appeals to me and appals me at the same time.

Murphy (author) from Florida on May 29, 2014:

Great rundown of Daemon's, Joe. I think maxing out the Troops allocations (and then summoning in more Troops) will be the way to go. I don't intend to spam pink horrors to generate hundreds of free points every round, but having a new unit or two pop up late game will be great.

I'm not sure about how the Achilles works now. The forge world 6th edition FAQ gives it 4 hull points and lists the power of the machine spirit under its universal special rules. It looks like people across the internet still play it with the ferromantic armor special rule; so you're good! It can still be glanced to death, but at AV 14, that's a tough job. Taking it also means that you can bring 3 thunderfire cannons and STILL have a landraider :P Looking forward to Deathwatch and eventually a game of 7th!

Dat Spikey Git. The only thing about taking DA and vanilla space marines is that they have to be in different detachments. So you will need 1 HQ and 2 Troops for a Combined Arms detachment, and 1 HQ and 1 Troops for an Allied detachment. You could bring two Combined Arms detachments, or a Combined Arms and an Allied. Your choice!

Other Joe on May 29, 2014:

Yeah, plus the nephelim jet fighter is the coolest looking flyer IMHO!

Dat Spikey Git on May 29, 2014:

So I could run a battle forged with Dark Angels and Vanilla Marines and get Stormtalons to work with my Nephelim Jetfighter? Yes! Now I can strafe people with Hurricane Bolters and Assault Cannons while firing Hunter Missiles and Flak Missiles! No more getting dominated by Flyrants!

Other Joe on May 29, 2014:

I agree flying circus took a big hit. Not being able to charge directly from flight gives people a chance to gun em down. Although now wounds carry over from challenges so no more sacrificing sargents to stall the inevitable slaughter of the squad. Which makes more sense from a cinematic perspective, a bloodthirster should tear through a squad in one round, not pause to overkill the leader! I think demons are still top tier if not #1 from a competitive standpoint, just got to change the list a little. More troops with a few big guys would be a tough nut to crack. Demons should own the new psychic phase, having such a huge dice pool to get powers off and shut down opponents powers. A marine force with 2 upgraded librarians still only has 4 dice in its psychic pool before the roll! Land raiders are looking better and better, and since I have 3 painted and ready they might be making an appearance at a table near you in the future! I don't think they are good for a tournament though because there is still too many units that can one shot them even with the new rules (I'm looking at you Tau). I have to find the most current rules for the land raider Achilles. It used to subtrct 1 from any roll on the vehicle damage chart, if that is still true then it will be a real beast on the table. Only melta could kill it, all other weapons would have to glance it to death....and that's why there are 2 tech marines with servo harnesses in it....muhahaha! AND, it has my favorite weapon, the dreaded thunder fire cannon! 325 points is still pretty steep though. Really looking forward to this weekends deathwatch kill team! We have got to get a game in with the new rules! Ed said my box set came in so I will pick it up on Saturday.

Murphy (author) from Florida on May 28, 2014:

Great points, Joe! It sounds kind of like our games... if we make it past Turn 4, we're doing good. Of course, most of my army is usually gone by then, so it's just a formality that we call the game for time :) Though, my daemons have done pretty good against you. I feel they've gotten a bit of a nerf now, with not being able to charge the turn they change flight modes, and only getting a single Smash attack now. We shall see how my orks will fare soon.

Other Joe on May 28, 2014:

Wow grim fang, that's a lot of orcs! That will always be a very competitive list for 2 reasons. First, that's a lot of dice to roll and you can easily control the board and claim objectives. Second, most tournaments are time limited, so your movement phase alone will eat up clock. You probably won't have a game go past 3 turns before running out of time. That means your opponent just can't kill enough models quick enough. Now make me happy and tell my the army is completely painted! ;-)

Murphy (author) from Florida on May 27, 2014:

I think tournaments will simply just not allow unbound lists. They are too crazy to allow in competitive play. Also, I think many might limit players to a single Combined Arms detachment and a single Allied detachment.

Murphy (author) from Florida on May 27, 2014:

In 6th edition, armies with LOTS of troops really benefited. It was just too hard to kill all the models, and since only units of troops could claim objectives, it meant that many armies could simply flood the field and win. I think that will continue in this addition, except that all models are scoring. You just have to make sure you have enough punch to knock out tough enemy units (like landraiders!).

Murphy (author) from Florida on May 27, 2014:

I didn't know Blood Angels had landraiders as troop transports. Wow!

Day Spikey Git on May 27, 2014:

My question is, how will tournaments respond to the unbound lists? Will they disallow you from going unbound? Will they set it up so inbounds play unbounds?

Grimfang_Skarteef on May 27, 2014:

Well, I built Ork Horde (250+ models @ 1850 pts), so I'm not sure if it will be competitive in the new 7th Ed. But I learned a long time ago to collect & paint what I like, the rules are always going to change. My plan is too many targets to kill before they wipe you out. Orkz can't shoot, but when they have about 230 shots / turn, they WILL kill something.

Other Joe on May 26, 2014:

Blood Angels, that's why is said they would be going back to mech infantry.

Murphy (author) from Florida on May 26, 2014:

Yes, a 4 hull point AV 14 vehicle sitting on an objective will be tough! Especially when it is a Troop transport, and thus has the Objective Secured rule! What armies can bring dedicated landraiders as troop transports? Black Templar?

Hao7000 on May 26, 2014:

This could be interesting in armies where troops can take Land Raiders as Dedicated Transports. For once their durability will actually be useful.

Murphy (author) from Florida on May 25, 2014:

Hermen, you are so right! If you bring 2 HQ and 4 Troops, you could divide them into separate Combined Arms Detachments, thus opening up 6 Heavy slots for riptides. This could be rife for abuse, too, even more so than Unbound because armies will have the appearance of bring "standard". There will be nothing legally wrong with these armies, but they will be min-maxed to be very aggressive. I'm wondering if tournament organizers will put a limit on Detachments? They could simply limit events to a single Combined Arms and a single Allied detachment. Done.

Murphy (author) from Florida on May 25, 2014:

I love the idea of tac squads with more independent characters. Characters are really what make an army come to life and having more would be a lot of fun. Rarely are they so effective that they dominate the game, except the BEST characters. On the chaos side, I think its an opportunity to team up some of the chaos super-stars. It happens in the stories, so why not on the battlefield?

You mentioned scoring land raiders, but did you realize that drop pods are scoring now? In a Battle-forged army with the Objective Secured rule, dedicated transports of Troops count as Troops, and thus also have the Objective Secured rule. Drop some pods on objectives and your opponent has to waste firepower destroying, not just any squads that disembark, but the drop pod as well.

Other Joe on May 25, 2014:

Hmm, drop pods score now, could be useful for objective grabbing. AV 12 is just annoying enough to stick around in the game and could be nasty with objective secured. I will have to try an all dropped list out.

Hermen on May 25, 2014:

you can bring easily 6 riptides and still have 4 troops in a battle forged army and still have some points over, so no the new rules have just worsened the meta for competitive play A LOT!!!!!!! Just disappointed that they've let us down on that point. Although I'm still happy with the changes to steamline games. My local gaming group is quite large and most of us do it for fun, so it'll just be good for us. Especially the new missions, already tried one and its frenetically fun!!!!

Other Joe on May 25, 2014:

Pretty happy about the way they restructured the army lists. I think most tournament organizers will restrict lists for their event just to stop the occasional power-Timmy from bringing 9 rip tides, but hey you know someone will try it. For narrative games it will be very cool as long as you have a discussion with your opponent first. You could recreate some of the battles you read about in the fluff but were unable to field, that is until now. I always liked the idea of having a librarian, tech marine, apothecary, chaplain, and some special characters in a "super HQ" , just because it would look really cool. Battle forged is very impressive, IMHO, there are several new options out there for list builds. I really like the idea of mass tactical marines in rhinos/razorbacks roaring around the field and now you can take more than 6 and support them with more cheap HQ choices. Independent characters in each squad? Hmmm, not very competitive but man it would be cool! Now that vehicles are more durable AND can score, expect to see more dedicated transports on a table near you in the future. Scoring land raiders......blood angels just went back to mech infantry.

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