40K: The Death of “Allies”

Warhammer 40,000 8th Edition killed the old “Allies Matrix” in the best way possible – Long Live the Keywords!

We’ve been playing a lot of 40k 8th in the last two weeks and one thing we here at BoLS HQ do not is the old Allies Matrix. For the most part, we’ve been building our lists using the Match Play Army Construction and it’s been working quite well. One of the coolest things I’ve noticed is an army list design-philosophy change. No longer are you required to go outside of your army to find “the best” synergy units – you just need to build a fluffy list!

We ain’t missin’ you at all…

“Did He just say build a fluffy list? What?!” Yes. And it will work like it should. The big design-philosophy change is this: Don’t separate the synergy from the lore, make the “fluff” the gateway to synergy. Let me explain what I’m saying by backing up a bit.

Back In The Day

With the old Allies Matrix if you wanted to really make a competitive list, you had to do some pretty terrible things during the army construction part of your list designs. You’d have the top units from 4 different Space Marine Chapters rolling together in “perfect” harmony. You’d have The mighty warriors of khorne subject themselves to pathetic magic users. You would have a Tau commander or Imperial Inquisitor in every list they could fit in. And you’d have all the crazy list combos Goatboy comes up with (editors note: Shots Fired).

Is it cool when 4 Chapters work together to take on a greater threat? Absolutely! Would Khorne and the other Chaos gods work together in a mighty campaign? It’s happened before! But those things aren’t common occurrences – they only formed Voltron at the END of the show, not the entire episode. And maybe that’s a bad example, but my point is if you were a fan of the lore of the game then all of those things should hurt your soul to see on table-top. It’s not that the game’s lore didn’t support those in rare occasions, it was that those type of lists were the NORM and not the rare, narrative forging concurrence they should have been.

…And I’ll form the head!

The Allies Matrix (while good in theory) was a part of the rules that was ripe with “abuses” and unforeseen consequences. It’s what happens when the ruleset just gets too unwieldy and overlaps start happening that you just couldn’t have planned for. Combine that with the limited play-tester pool and things are going to slip through the cracks. The game didn’t support building “fluffy” lists and rewarded players for going outside the lore to create these list synergies in order to be competitive. That was the state of the game – and 8th Edition just hit the reset button.

Say Hello To The New Guy

The Faction Keyword system solves this problem. How? Because it limits what I used to call “cross-pollination” of unit/army rules. When building a list (again: this is in regards to Matched Play) you have to construct a Battle Forged army and that requires that all units must have at least ONE Faction Keyword in common. “Okay, but that doesn’t prevent you from taking 4 Space Marine Chapters in a single list!” You’re absolutely correct. However, you don’t get rewarded for doing so. Let’s take a look at Dark Angels Chapter Master Azrael as an example:

I’ve cropped this down so you can see the Abilities which is what I want to focus on. Notice his Chapter Master and Lion Helm abilities – they only apply to units with the Faction Keyword “Dark Angels” and nothing else. So, while you could in fact take him in a Battle Forged Army with Faction Keywords “Imperium, Adeptus Astartes, Dark Angels, or Deathwing” to get the benefit of using him, you need to bring more Faction Keyword “Dark Angels” in your army.

And that is just ONE example of how the Keywords work. Another example is in the Tyranid army. It’s very evident that Games Workshop designed them to have these auras and buffs to stack with the units they were implied to work with. Tervigons give Termagant units within 6″ a re-roll to 1’s when shooting. The Tyranid Prime gives Warriors and Shrikes a +1 to hit rolls. Broodlords make Genestealers even better. But it’s not just the leaders – it’s also evident within the units. Termagants get a re-roll of 1’s when wounding in the shooting phase if they have 20 or more models in the unit. Genestealers get an extra attack if there are 10 or more models in the unit. Again, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The unit synergies are behind “fluffy” lists construction instead of being separated from them – and it’s glorious! If you are the type of player that wants to build crazy combo armies you can still do that. If you are the type of player that wants to build an army based on “how it should work in the fluff” you can do that. The best part is that when you’re both done, your lists might end up looking REALLY similar! Competitive armies can be fluffy and “Lore-based” Armies will be competitive. Isn’t that what we’ve all been wanting for a very long time?

Is the battle between “WAAC players” and “Fluff Bunnies” over? I don’t think that can ever truly happen – but that’s a whole different article. However, I think with the death of “allies” that battle is at least one step closer to being resolved – or at least fought on the table top with comparable armies now.


What do you think of the Keyword System and the death of the Allies Matrix? Let us know in the comments below!

  • Walter Vining

    one mans fluffy is another mans WAAC

    • Will Frank

      You should know… ^_~

  • Deacon Ix

    Allies are dead, long live allies!

    I can still have my WB with Daemon support and a bullet screen of renegades (I assume).

    And I would also guess that I could have cult detachments there too.

  • elShoggotho

    So they made fluffy armies beardy and cheesy. No more crazy combos for some extra fromage. Good.

  • Krzysztof Jasinski

    I think, we will see back those “bark bark” stars but in other form. Instead of putting combos, the imperials players will put all OP units of imperium.

    I suppose all units of LSM got 2 keywords in common so they will be still here.

    But , they lose many command points and this is ok.

    The players will get the choice, take op imperium units (or other faction alliance ) or get extra command points (who will allow some special powers able change the course of battle) .

    Same choice like in infinity and it must work ^^

    • How are they losing command points?

      • Krzysztof Jasinski

        In fact, i took time to read the rulebook and it seems, you can always put all deathstars in same detachment (so it seems bad for balance), son no point loss …
        Sorry CrimisonOracle, Instead, it’s the key words who manage the thing, there is many abilities who need to belong to one specific chapter at LSM.

        One side, many synergies between chapters ends, but in the second hand it always put specific “groups”.

        You can put the imperial fists with Centourions, primaris lieutenant and captain to make tthe heavy fire platform (reroll of all 1 result ) , with Dark Angels motos and with wolves star.

        Just it will not share common benfits at all but who need it when, you are able to put everything from same index in the same detachment.

        Probably and i suspect what’s going to happen, the GW will put all primaris LSM army who will be op but who had to work with same keywords.

        Result GW will cut with the legant style all old marines and put new ones

  • Karru

    All in all, the keyword system is superior to the way allies worked. I know that there are people who complain that their “fluffy allied armies” are now gone, but they should realise that they aren’t. Fluffy armies didn’t go anywhere, they were just made fluffy. For example, Space Wolves can still totally fight alongside Dark Angels, but now they don’t strengthen each other with special rules, as it should be. Space Wolves don’t fight like Dark Angels and vice versa so it makes no sense why they would somehow teach each other how to fight better in unison, that is not how these things work.

    • Agreed, and since the restriction for your army sharing at least one keywoed is for matched play, you can still do a narrative game where necrons team up with blood angels to fight nids. This makes sense, the common combos are allowed because they share a faction, the exotic ones are reserved for narrative play

  • Horus84cmd

    Sorry if I am missing something here. But, is not the “Faction” key word system fundamentally still the “allied” system? It still restricts what armies can fight alongside another. Not exactly a death….

    • Frostasche

      But now, it is unit based. Azrael has 4 faction keywords, every buff aimed at one of this factions is good for him. Just by removing or adding a keyword GW can control the synergies.

      • Horus84cmd

        Oh I get that, but its still presents the gamer with the ability to ally. Ergo allying is not dead.

        • LeroyJenkinss

          You’re not hearing me… Allies are dead.

          But friends with benefits… Also dead

          But faction keyword friends! Roll tide!

          • Horus84cmd

            So the ability to join forces with another army? I am sure there’s a word for that in the english language….its on the tip of my tongue…alli…

  • Guarantee the only thing this changes is that the championship crew will be pulling the most OP elements from their allegiance exclusively, which will effectively result in the same **** we’ve been dealing with for a couple decades.

    The powergaming is still going to be turned to 11.

    • Chris Hilliard

      Which was something they could do before. This change means that there’s now a trade off to negating the weaknesses of a faction.

    • Chris Hilliard

      Which was something they could do before. This change means that there’s now a trade off to negating the weaknesses of a faction.

    • EvilCheesypoof

      You can’t make a system that can’t be power-gamed, I just don’t understand this complaint. No matter what they do there will always be optimal ways of playing. And if everybody has access to “OP elements” then the game is balanced.

      What they have told us though is that there will be trade-offs for being more general or specific with your faction keyword, as far as available abilities and stratagems.

  • Lefromage

    So, I will be able to play my shiny carnifex along my GSC army ? :J)

  • Emprah

    This seems to stop cross faction armies. So you can take Imperium factions, but can’t make Eldar/Tau combo if I get it right.

    • EvilCheesypoof

      Correct, in matched play at least, your entire army has to share a faction keyword. The one exception is thankfully Genestealer Cult, they can take a detachment of Astra Militarum which is pretty fluffy.

  • ja25s

    I miss the good old days of 3rd and 4th edition where you couldn’t take special characters with out opponents permission or in tournaments at all, as they were supposed to be unique not oh hey look all 10 marine players have Tigurius.

    • CthulhuDawg

      Personally I hated being told I couldn’t use characters during tournaments at my local store during those years and it’s why I quit playing competitively all together. I’m much more interested in having my models do fun fluffy things on the table and characters battling it out alongside their troops is awesome. Each to their own.

      • ja25s

        That’s fine as you said to each their own. To me it was always SC’s were overpowered and your own character was supposed to be in charge of your own army (maybe even representing you). Would papa smurf really be needed in a 1500 pt skirmish? And think how many fewer death stars there would have been w/o SC’s being allowed on the tourney scene.

  • David

    The waac players name there forgeworld chaos they now have the chaos keyword . All hail imperium daemon allies all hail the waac

  • MechBattler

    That’s great and all, but none of that will mean anything if the codex writers continue their trend of writing army rules that abuse the main rules to the breaking point.

    For example if Tau have rules that abuse the multiple overwatch system, like they keep their Supporting Fire rule, or Eldar distortion weapons spam mortal wounds…


  • Evil Otto