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A quick digression on the background behind Detachments:
When Detachments were first introduced, they were essentially a more flexible version of the old Force Organization Chart and Allies rules. The FOC was an army-building structure that emphasised Troops and imposed other mandatory minimums and maximums, to encourage "balanced" armies. Unfortunately, it had more holes than a beehive, and literally every army introduced some kind of exception or modification to allow for the specialist army lists it wanted.
The idea behind Detachments was to take the FOC from a set of hard limits to a reward system, where you'd gain more CP for using "balanced" Detachments, and gain less or no CP for playing with "unbalanced" armies. That obviously didn't work out, primarily because some armies had a much easier time gaming the system than others. 9e keeps the principles and goals basically the same, but it's now a much more "flat" system, where Detachments costCP, and you want the most "balanced" Detachment because it comes with the biggest discount from your Warlord.
This change made multiple Detachments less attractive, and came about in the same edition that "allied" factions started getting edged out of the game, via army-wide special abilities that required you to avoid souping with other factions - something of a one-two-punch for any mixed IMPERIUM or AELDARI force. In a sense, that's fair; the Imperium has many more codexes to draw from than, say, Necrons.
So what are Detachments even for, now?
Detachments are a way of dividing an army into separate chunks. This is a concept that has all manner of potential uses, only a few of which are seeing use in the game:
Supplementary Factions: Detachments allow you to include smaller factions into the game, ones that aren't intended to (or at least, shouldn't have to) work on their own, but instead "attach" to other, bigger factions. This includes INQUISITION and ASSASSINORUM for the Imperium, YNNARI or (potentially) HARLEQUINS for Aeldari armies, DAEMONS or GELLERPOX for Chaos armies, and even mercenaries for other, smaller factions. This application is underutilised, at the moment; Agents of the Imperium and Daemonic Ritual allow you to simply ignore Detachments and slap these allied units in wherever you like, while Harlequins and Gellerpox are being shoved out of soup via army-wide special rules.
Allied Inter-Codex Factions: Detachments allow you to create an army consisting of two entirely separate, fully valid armies, allied together. At the moment, that's just IMPERIUM, CHAOS, AELDARI, and TYRANIDS; ORKS, NECRONS, and even T'AU are left out in the cold. It's also being edged out of the game via army-wide special rules, and how much it even makes sense to begin with is very variable. Mechanicus and Knights? Absolutely. Mechanicus and Iron Hands? Sure! Mechanicus and Deathwatch? It wouldn't be too uncommon. Mechanicus and Space Wolves, or Sororitas, or Custodes, or even Militarum? ...eh, that's quite a bit weaker. Craftworlders and Drukhari never made really compelling sense for a regular army, even though Harlequins fit everywhere. Meanwhile, every CHAOS codex directly fits with Daemons and/or Renegades and Heretics, and both TYRANID codexes make decent sense together. At this point, I'd honestly expect 9e to edge this out entirely, replace it with "exceptions" for specific units/factions (a la Knights of the Cog), and then come 10e just abolish it except for the specific exceptions.
Allied Intra-Codex Factions: This one's a bit more interesting, and even less common. Some codexes have separate factions within that codex, attached to specific units; KABAL/COVEN/CULT for Drukhari, or SKITARII/CULT MECHANICUS for AdMech, or MINISTORUM/SORORITAS for Sisters of Battle, or RAVENWING/DEATHWING (and no-wing) for Dark Angels, REGIMENT/TEMPESTUS for Militarum, and CULT/BROOD BROTHER for Genestealer Cults. There's also ASPECT/WARHOST/SPIRIT HOST for Asuryani, DAEMON and non-Daemon (or Astartes/Cultist) for Heretic Astartes, and SEPT or alien auxiliaries for T'au. Of these, only Dark Angels, Drukhari, and GSC make the split relevant to Detachments; you've got no reason to include a Skitarii Detachment and a Cult Mechanicus Detachment, or have your Ecclesiarchy Battle Conclave as a separate Detachment from your Battle Sisters.
Allied Subfactions: These days, every faction has a subfaction it can choose, to specialise itself. These bonuses are split by Detachment, meaning you can include multiple Detachments of the same faction from different subfactions, keep your army-wide special rules, and specialise that Detachment accordingly. Have your cake and eat it! For some factions, this makes perfect sense; Astra Militarum pair off regiments all the time, Drukhari are designed around the idea of multiple allied subfactions, Ork Warbosses draw different Clans under their banner, Thousand Sons Cults would definitely work together. For others, it makes less sense. Space Marine Chapters rarely team up like that, Forge Worlds are whole separate worlds, competing Genestealer Cults don't usually overlap, two Hive Fleets in the same region would be apocalyptic, and so on.
Specialist Detachments: These kind of fell off toward the end of 8e, but they're still interesting; increase a Detachment's CP cost to get certain, specialised benefits that only affect specific units within it (and may come with additional restrictions on how it's built).
So who's actually doing interesting things with Detachments? For my money, it's basically just DRUKHARI (who encourage a very specific kind of army-building via Raiding Forces and Realspace Raiders, and the keywords and other abilities that tie into those), DARK ANGELS (who encourage a specific kind of army-building via the 1st Company/2nd Company rules, and the keywords and other abilities that tie into those), and arguably ADEPTUS MECHANICUS (via Knights of the Cog, though that's a pretty straightforward soup-exemption).
I'd like to see more interesting ways to employ Detachments. It'd be really neat if, for example, Drukhari had Stratagems or traits that affected an entire Detachment, to encourage you to build for Realspace Raiders (bigger Detachment) or specialise your Patrols even more strongly. Space Marines could lean into using Detachments to represent different companies/specialties, perhaps with a different Doctrine dynamic for Vanguard/Outrider/Spearhead Detachments. T'au could have Mont'ka and Kauyon bonuses that affected an entire Detachment, to have you using them in concert, and give you a Warlord for each Detachment, to represent their decentralised leadership style. Chaos Marines could use Detachments to represent separate, competing warbands who'll happily fire on each other or screw each other out of glory and objectives, or to separate the actual Heretic Astartes from the cultists, mutants, and renegades they're exploiting. Tyranids could use Detachments to split up an initial scouting Vanguard of Lictors and Genestealers (or an Outrider bombardment of Spores and Rippers and Tyrannocytes) from the oncoming wave of swarming critters and synapse beasts.
You could have styles of gameplay that rely on Detachments; perhaps each player must split their army into a minimum number of Detachments, and takes a turn with each of them, alternating, as though they were separate armies. Or the Detachments arrive at different times or places during a mission, like Warcry's Dagger/Shield/Hammer system, or only certain kinds of Detachments are capable of certain kinds of actions.
Any other ideas for how Detachments could be made interesting to play with?
This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 2021/06/16 12:04:52
If you go back far enough into the mists of distant 40k past you'll find narrative scenarios written for specific army lists, or for armies falling under some set of restrictions; I think if detachments have the potential for anything they could be a more free-form way to run those kinds of narrative scenarios. I don't like Warcry's dagger/shield/hammer deployment structure that much because as far as I can tell the three groups are assigned randomly to deployment places/times during missions, so it's just a slightly more complicated way to make you deploy randomly. If you tell the player when they're doing list-building they're dividing their army into the deployment zone chunk, the first-turn reserves chunk, and the later-on reserves chunk, and then potentially give some restrictions to those three, you're making more interesting decisions.
This is more of a change to chapter tactics than detachments, but I feel like reframing chapter tactics as belonging to a given force rather than a subfaction could do some of what you're describing. For example, instead of having "White Scars" chapter tactics, you have "Biker Company" tactics (someone more versed in marine lore can probably tell us which company that is exactly). And then instead of imperial fist tactics, you have "Devestator Company" tactics. The idea being that you can have a force of devastator company being assisted by a force from the bike company. Each have their own special rules (just like they currently would if you took an allied detachment), but it's easier to frame things as both detachments belonging to the same chapter.
Also or alternatively, I'd kind of like doctrine-level abilities to go away and for chapter tactics to have a bigger impact on an army's playstyle. So if you're playing the "sneaky" subfaction of your codex (Raven Guard, Alaitoc, Veiled Path, Alpha Legion, Catachans, etc.), you don't just get a little cover bonus or whatever; you get a mechanic similar to Cult Ambush, unlock some stratagems with the "Sneaky" keyword, maybe get an alternative fire mode on some of your weapons (i.e. the old Raptors chapter tactic that let you turn bolters into pseudo-sniper rifles), and so on.
Rather than having half a dozen different chapter tactics that boil down to, "stab things better," or, "shoot more gooderer," you have a smaller number of army styles that play very differently. So your tactical marines in a "Siege Specialists" detachment might be especially hard to shoot to death while that same unit in a "Sneaky" detachment might get bonuses when arriving from reserves or some limited ability to snipe out characters. Make your chapter tactic equivalent feel like a change in playstyle rather than a raw power boost, you know? In theory, this also keeps some units from feeling suboptimal when not taken with their preferred chapter tactics and potentially reduces lethality by reframing chapter tactics as something other than a raw power boost.
So I've decided that my sisters predate the formation of the first Triumph. I am magnetizing all six matrons, so that they can be used as cannonesses for their respective orders.
I'm building a 25 PL Crusade for each of the six Orders, and they will have to quest to find their Matron's relic. Once they do this, they have to fight their way across the galaxy to unite and form the first Triumph of Saint Katherine.
Morven, as a supreme commander, is perfect for leading a united force of multiple orders- it is in fact what she was literally made to do. Sisters have built-in relationships, as three orders form the Convent Prioris and three form the Convent Sanctorum; it would be relatively common for orders from the same convent to fight together, but less common to fight across convent lines.
My Bloody Rose Crusade are the survivors of a small mission that was utterly destroyed by Chaos. every single sister in the detachment has taken a Penitent Oath; the warlord is a repentia superior; I'm using the Pious Vorne model as a preacher; each of these characters leads 10 repentia, and three mortifiers round out the Crusade. It's terrifying, because in a 25 PL game, you only get 3 CP, and I'm burning ALL of them to bring a Vanguard. This is also technically against the rules- Crusade in the BRB states that you MUST take a patrol in a Combat Patrol sized game. We all think that rule is stupid and unnecessary, as the CP handicap is enough of a deterrent.
It should be noted that I find the zero CP totally in-game appropriate to a force whose base of operations and senior command structure has been utterly destroyed.
We're taking the Agenda that awards redemption points, so eventually those repentia will earn their status back. Their goal is to bring vengeance to the heretics who murdered their sisters.
My Argent Shroud will probably be Outriders sent out for rapid deployment to assist a doomed Imperial force- probably guardsmen making a last stand, expecting to die and hoping to sell their lives as dearly as possible. And when they hear the choir singing over the engines of their Rhinos and Immolators, the battalion will rally while the Outriders hammer into the enemy flank. I may try to convert a young Morvenn to be a part of this force so that I can tell the story of her rise to power.
I haven't yet placed all six Crusades in the galaxy- in fact, the only one I have placed is the Order of Our Martyred Lady; they're in a far flung system at the outer limits of Pacificus, where they've been isolated from the Imperium for 4,000 years... Until the mysterious beacon of the Blackstone Fortress draws the Crusade Fleet of Taddeus the Purifier. They will stopover for a few battles in the Desdaemona System before continuing on their quest for the BSF, but this discover will bring back a Preceptory thought lost to the Imperium since Cardinal Bucharis led the Plague of Unbelief across the Galactic Western Fringe.
This is where the six Crusades will eventually rally.
It'll take YEARS to play it all out, and I've committed to not using named characters until the army reaches a size that would justify their presence. I'll be buying Morvenn next week- my store is holding the model for me- but she probably won't see the table until late 2022 or early 23. I may use the Argent Shroud young Morvenn... She'd start as a battle sister, and eventually be promoted to the Celestians, and finally to her position of Celestian Superior.
But Abbess Vahl will have to wait until the Indomitus Crusade breaks, and the Desdaemona System is reconnected with the larger Imperium.