40K: Are We Meant To Play One Army At A Time?

Is soup the new grimdark normal?

Back in the days of yore when I started playing 40k during the change from 2nd to 3rd edition, being a player was easy. When you got into 40K you picked an army and built that army up. Once it was battle-worthy you took it out and played with it. Slowly over time you might start additional armies and play them. Still no matter how many armies you might own it was easy to say what you were playing in a game. “Today, I am playing, Space Wolves, or Chaos Space Marines, or Squats.” Simple. But that’s no longer really the case. Now players mix and match armies freely. So lets take a minute and talk about what we are supposed to play.

In The Before Time

As I said, once in the misty past players tended to play one army in any single game. Aside from the rare special event, you had one army and you stuck with it. It was overall pretty simple. This persisted for quite some time until allies started to creep into the game. To a lot of players this is still the way the “game is meant to be.”

The Age Of Fist Bump Buddies

Then came allies. Allies spent several editions being a pretty big part of the game. There were a number of ways the game dealt with them. From charts and matrices to just “take what ever you feel like.” As the ability to take allies freely grew “armies” began to become fuzzy. If your force is composed of ten units from 5 different books – then what army are you playing? Everything became a blur.

The Age of 8th

When arrived 8th dialed back the allies portion of the game a lot. While you can still take “allies” they have to come from you own faction now. The forces of the Imperium still fight together, but no more Chaos/T’au alliances. Overall 8th’s system is a huge improvement over 7th’s. Still some people are unhappy with the prominence of mixed, or soup lists.

Are Books Even Meant To Be Stand Alone

Part of this seems to be a bit of “this is how things were done in the past” to me. The old idea was that Codex’s were stand-alone books, and all you would need was one to field a force. For some armies this is still true. Armies like T’au and Necrons don’t have any other factions or groups to combo with. Nids are also a lonely race, but still get Genestealer Cult and Astra Militarum. Imperial, Chaos and Eldar forces however all have lots of options to combo up with. There is nothing random or unintentional about this. Several whole armies, such as Talon’s of the Emperor or Ynnari only work in soup lists. Building lists from multiple books is not just something you can do, its something you should and are encouraged to do.

A New Way Of Thinking

The biggest thing players need to start thinking about is that they now play factions. Not a Codex or an Army, but a faction. I firmly believe you are meant to be playing these factions as a whole. Soup lists are a part of the game and the game is designed to reward them. Moreover, as I’ve talked about in the past, they are fluffy. True, soup detachments aren’t rewarded, but lists featuring 2-3 detachments from different factions are rewarded. Because of this players really need to stop thinking within the confines of a single Codex.

So far I’ve seen Eldar and Chaos players do a great job of this. I haven’t seen as much from Imperial Players however. While crazy soup lists were a thing, I’ve not a seen a lot of say, one Space Marine detachment and one AM (Either type!) detachment lists. At the end of the day, I don’t really think a lot of these lists are meant to stand all on their own. Yes they can, but they come together and form a greater whole. It’s up to us players to figure out how to make that work.

What do you think, are armies meant to come out of one Codex now, or from a whole faction? Let us know, down in the comments! 

  • defensive

    From what I’ve seen, the more powerful lists are made from just taking the same powerful unit a ton of times, rather than mixing and matching.

    High level Eldar armies are just 20 wraithguard in wave serpents with spirit seers.
    Guard armies are infantry squads and leman russes.
    DG armies are poxwalkers and morty.

    Rarely are soup armies taken for reasons beyond fluff or convenience.

    • Bakvrad

      Also I wonder, why people insist on playing deathwatch as an stand alone army. They always were an allied faction and just because you have a Codex now, doesn’t mean you ought to be fighting alone ^^
      I would also love to see the return of the single grey knight unit like back in the days

      • Haxor

        Where is that codex?

        • ILikeToColourRed

          Deathwatch recieved a codex last edition – they’re in index imperium 1 ATM

          • Haxor

            Ah, Ok. So they had one but currently have none. Legion of the damned is also in the index imperium 1 but not playable as a standalone army.

          • orionburn III

            And really that’s the way it should be. Although I have a soft spot for LotD it would never seem right to field a stand alone army. I understand why people would want to simply because of the cool factor, but only being available as an ally/detachment fits the narrative of the game so much better.

      • Deacon Ix

        I agree and disagree 😀 – I am currently am building and painting the DW from the two box sets, to play in the first instance as a stand alone army in a set of 500pt fun games our group is playing, the models from the combined boxes come to about 1200pts, so not far off an army in itself, the final use for them will be as a fluff army, hopefully completely deployed from DS and Covuses (Covui?), to be used against the Alien scourge possibly with an inquisitor in the mix, as a standalone force they are legit in the fluff from a couple of the books I have read, possibly as more of a strike force than a mass army – where they should ally with some basic Imperial forces to bulk themselves out.

    • ZeeLobby

      Poor internal balance. That’s the issue.

  • Koonitz

    Honestly, GW’s not gonna change a thing about it. They absolutely want you to play “a faction”. Because those who would have bought maybe a unit or two of Space Marines to expand their collection every so often, or maybe-might’ve started a new army to casually collect may now be encouraged to go whole-hog into a new army to ally into their Space Marines.

    It’s another excuse to buy more models.

    As a narrative player, I don’t really have a problem with it, because not being able to ally in would have never stopped me before.

    Though I have no desire to buy a second army to ally with my Space Marines. I already have my Horus Heresy Thousand Sons and Age of Sigmar Tzeentch Arcanites. I don’t need an excuse to buy more models!

    If that means I’ll be weaker on the table for not having an Imperial soup list, well, I guess I’ll stick to my narrative gameplay.

  • Jason Fry

    I disagree that you can look at the game now as playing factions and not armies or codexes, because if you do that you are left with 2 “factions” and then all the xenos codexes stand a lone because there is very little sense story wise why 2 or more xenos races would fight together, I know this isn’t currently done but what you are saying is play either imperium or chaos or you’re stuck with one book. IMO the problem isn’t that you can make allied or “soup” lists, it’s that you can make them so easily with no penalties, the variety of detachments available makes it so easy to fit in all of the most powerful units from whichever army you so choose. If nothing else I would advocate that the supreme command detachment goes in the bin.

    The command point system also needs looking at as it’s just another way that cheap horde armies have an advantage over elite armies. And this also encourages having a “command point battery” of a different army to the one you actually want to play. Why should you be at a disadvantage because you want to play a pure army.

    • cm023

      Reminds me of how the early teaser articles about 8th said that fluffy and thematic forces would have advantage over “single keyword” soups. Didn’t really go as planned huh?

      • Drpx

        Expecting corporate marketing departments to understand nerd gaming crunching always leads to disappointment.

  • Crablezworth

    8th ed is hot garbage

    • AntonisLak

      well i kinda like it

    • Davis Centis

      I’m sorry to ask, and I don’t mean to be terribly rude, but why do you keep posting then? I mean, it seems like every single article you’re reading it, and then saying how you don’t like 8th edition. Is it because you really wish 40k was good and you think these comments help? Or are you trying to convince people to leave? Are you trying to illicit some kind of response from people that enjoy the game? Or, what? Because I have a hard time understanding why it’s important to bring up this viewpoint time and time again.

      • Drpx

        I’m on my break and I came here to say 8th is garbage. Back to work now.

      • Crablezworth

        20 years of playing a game they’ve turned to garbage, I’ma speak on it

        • LankTank

          Another perfect example of a vocal minority.
          Just being obnoxious doesn’t make you right.

    • Nyyppä

      Best edition yet though….even if they made it impossible for my sub faction to function with a fluffy list.

  • Karru

    To go back to the “teasers” that GW gave us before 8th was released, as cm023 said, I also remember when they said “You will be rewarded if you play a thematic army”. This is however not the case, you actually get punished if you play a thematic army over a min-maxed one even harder than you did before.

    The main design decision of 8th edition is speed, but they also want us to play with large armies to encourage sales. This is why they wanted to make it so that it is much easier to win on the first or second turn via Alpha Striking than it was in earlier editions, especially with horde armies thanks to the price of the said armies.

    I had hopes for 8th editions, I even got exited when they started showing all the new changes they did with things like comboing units as that is something that interests me. That quickly turned to disappointment when I saw what GW really wanted the game to be once the codices started rolling out. It was immediately clear that they want to encourage Alpha Striking and Spamming.

    Overall, the answer to the question in the article is simply yes and no. GW doesn’t particularly care if you take your army out of a single codex or a faction, they want you to make an army that can wipe out the enemy in a single turn, which can be made either with one book or several, up to the players. That is our “freedom” in this edition, find a way to defeat your opponent in one or two turns.

    • cm023

      Agreed. I’m on the verge of leaving my gaming group whatsoever and abandoning the hobby. I’m not having any fun playing and that only takes away from my friends’ good time. But it’s so difficult after investing so many years into building my armies – which is probably the exact thing GW wants – to bring you to the point at which you won’t leave no matter how bad the game gets.

      • Karru

        Oh I gave up on the game after 7th edition came out and that hasn’t really changed. All I do these days is focus on painting and collecting, which has reduced my spending to roughly 20% of what it used to be. If I see something neat, I buy it, assemble it and paint it. If I feel like I want to flesh out my army some more, I look at the rules and add it accordingly.

        I mostly play 5th edition so I can still play, but I also demo the game for new people. I do play 8th edition every now and then, but only with a lot of house rules in place in order to make it much more enjoyable. It also helps if you have a group that doesn’t like min-maxing at all.

        • stinkoman

          i think the last sentence there is the key. basically folks on the interenet read into how bad 8th is because they are skewed by the tournament/WAAC discussion of power level. Try the narrative part of 40k if you are into collecting armies (like i am). I like watching WintersSEO battle reports because he usually has a lot of narrative drive battles that look fun to play . sometimes its a beardy list, but mostly it just a great table and a couple of armies going at it in a scenario.

          • Nyyppä

            Other thant the matched play are just useless. Matched is not perfectly balanced but the other game modes are just bad jokes.

          • Koonitz

            Depends on how you treat them. If you go into Open/Narrative with the matched play/competitive mindset of needing a points-balanced army in what should be an even match mission, then yes. Open/Narrative is going to seem like utter trash.

            That’s why you have Matched play.

            Me? I prefer narrative. I prefer weaving a story with friends that don’t have the matched play mind-set, using these alternate (or custom created) missions to tell a story.

            Yes, sometimes those missions are going to be lop-sided. Sometimes the armies are going to be lop-sided. Sometimes, I even make it that way by design.

            Win or lose, the story goes on, and it’s up to the narrator/GM to ensure that, even if you may have gotten your teeth kicked in, you enjoyed yourself and like where the story goes.

            I’m proud to say that, so far, I’ve been able to do that in the narrative campaign I’m currently running and I have friends that could barely be sussed to bother with the hobby before super-excited to keep playing.

          • Nyyppä

            To each his own and all that, but in all seriousness it’s a game about winning or losing. Too much favor for one side trivializes the effort and time put in to the match.

          • Apocryphus

            Do you mean that in reference to PL vs. points cost? Because every one of my 2000 point list comes out to between 98 and 110 PL, so in some cases I actually play “under points” when using PL.

          • Nyyppä

            For example, yes. A naked devastator squal costs exactly the same in PL as the fully kitted out squad does. PL does not work.

          • Apocryphus

            So, with that example in mind, if that situation were to be translated into points costs, the naked Squall costs less, and that allows you to take more models. But PL doesn’t account for wargear, so if you add more models, they still cost more PL, turning what is a 2000 point list into a 110+ PL list. At that point, playing at 100 PL, you have to remove extra units, which if you were accounting for points, would give you what you need to equip your Squall with better wargear. PL is not designed for min/maxing, and that’s why it’s so often called “unbalanced”.

          • Nyyppä

            5 naked devastators vs. 5 kitted to the max devastators. In terms of PL what is the difference in points? If the answer is “none” or equivalent the system does not work. The reason is simply even more grossly skewed balance situation that what matched play has.

          • Apocryphus

            PL works and is balanced just fine because people who use it are never going to consider taking a naked Dev squad. The entire purpose of the unit is to equip them with heavy weapons. You wouldn’t even take a naked Dev squad in matched play. If I’m building a list using points, I’m equipping my squads how I want, very rarely am I sitting there crunching numbers to save 10 points here or there. I might trim the fat in some places where I think wargear might be unnecessary, but only to get my list as efficient as possible. If I transfer that list to PL it will usually easily fit within the PL limit agreed upon and I don’t really see any necessity in jamming more stuff onto units just becayse I can. If my opponent chooses to take a ton of naked squads with the PL limit they are given, that’s their choice, but at that point they are actively choosing to bring an under powered list, just as if they were playing matched play, in which case they’d be under points.

        • LankTank

          I still prefer 8th the most with my only main gripe being terrain. 7th was just appalling and the psychic phase became so abysmal. I liked that style in WHFB but not 40k. 6th was very exciting when it rolled out. Can’t remember being unhappy with it. Do miss what was it, 3rd when you could consolidate fromcombat to comabt in one turn? Unkillable genestealer swarms XD

      • Jimmy Rajden

        Your should have a discussion with your gaming group about it.
        Suggest a more varied game play for a casual level where the focus is being to have a good time and not about winning. Simple house rules to be in use *sometimes* where you lower the bar. Use those below avrage units, maybe maximum 1 of each kind and only 2 duplicate units.

        Smaller army sizes, no lords of war and so on. A lot can be done while still keeping the fun. If you’re not happy about the climate in your group then opening up and talking about it like grown ups can make a huge difference. Just keep it a serious discussion and all keep calm. Present your issues and try different approaches. 🙂

    • Drpx

      Well, people wanted a simpler game. They got it.

      • Carey_Mahoney

        I didn’t want the game to simpler. I enjoyed its complexity. I know, I’m not quite speaking for the majority here. 🙂

  • James Regan

    this new system also re-iterates that someone needs to bother to write the rules for Tau auxiliaries, because tau totally have access to human soldiers as part of their actual army, and to renegade mercenaries, or to co-operating with eldar (who, in the case of harlequins, probably made the tau ruling caste, so should be able to ally with their own creations)

  • My biggest problem with these “soup” lists, as you call them, is that not everyone has equal access to them.

    Imperial players can cherry-pick the best units and combos from a dozen different books if they want to. Tau get… one book, despite plenty of precedent existing for incorporating AM forces into their armies and allying with nearly everyone else existing in their fluff.

    • Drpx

      Yeah if you’re Imp you love soups. Go ask an Ork player what he thinks about them.

    • marxlives

      Which is sad because you think Tau as a multi-species empire would be soup city.

  • I_am_Alpharius

    Erm…..you realise that allying has been part of the every edition of 40K since year dot, right? Sometimes, it was included as part of the main rules, and other times, it has been added via a supplement or WD article.

    • Drpx

      Yeah but it was balanced somewhat by requiring things like an HQ and two troops and being considered a separate army for all purposes.

  • This iis all by design. It opens their model range up so that you can basically buy whatever you want for whatever reason and be able to use it.

    • ZeeLobby

      Makes for great range in creativity. Absolutely horrible for writing balanced rules.

  • Nyyppä

    What’s a “chaos player”?

  • Davis Centis

    I find that the main place I see soup lists are in tournament lists. Those are the only times I see Chaos souping it up, and the only time I tend to see Imperials souping it up too. In casual play, I hardly ever see soups.

  • Erich Schoenholtz

    Stop calling it soup. It’s a stupid term.

    • ZeeLobby


      • Mr Tish


        • ZeeLobby

          Hmm. Needs some chunks.

          • Mr Tish

            Bisque, he owns shares in bisque I reckon

          • ZeeLobby

            lol. He must!

        • Sergei Lamkov


    • Spade McTrowel


      It tastes good.

      And it’s also what your opponent does when you pull out several different armies under one banner. 🙂

    • Drpx

      I made the same argument with Death Stars because the DS had a ridiculous weak point, but the dingbats still used it all through 7th.

  • piglette

    I only dislike soup armies if they are overtly unfluffy, overtly power gamey in a friendly game, or if the player can’t keep track of all the rules involved. Most times in my experience they are fairly reasonable and fluffy.

  • ZeeLobby

    Psh. GW wants us to play ALL the armies ALL the time.

  • Deacon Ix

    I have played ‘Chaos’ since 2nd and still continue to play ‘Chaos’ even if it is now multiple books ranter than the one.

  • mhtsaropinigitakis

    guys i have a question off topic.. in battle reports in youtube i see ppl playing as space marines rolling a 5+ to regain their command points when they use 1…why? i thought only astra militarum could…??

    • kryczek

      Ultramarine Warlord trait does that for them.

  • Drpx

    Everybody’s playing with the same army now anyway: loads of shooting behind a screen of fodder with a crap ton of mortal wounds to toss out.

  • CannonBall

    I’ve seen some soup-fluff armies which can be interesting to see. To be honest I see them more in Imperial Soup (Non-Robby) armies than in anything else.

  • Gamecock13

    This line of thought scares the hell out of me. I play Dark Eldar. I have no interest in Harlequins and definitely none in CWE. I don’t care about those factions, I don’t enjoy their lore.

    Now you begin to play into my fear that I’ll be expected to attach another ARMY (not clumping myself in with their factions) to mine simply to give my army the versatility necessary to be competitive. That’s not what I signed up for.

    • Crablezworth

      well said

      • Gamecock13

        But hey, the author of this article seems to believe it is “fluffy”.

        …because I know how well Dark Eldar are storied to get along with CWE! ..which propels us into the biggest concern around Eldar as a race: Ynnari: GWs answer for not wanting to create additional Harlequin or Dark Eldar models; just take another faction and we have now made it fluffy for you!

  • bobrunnicles

    I guess I’m a weirdo – I have large Imperial Fists Space Marine and Imperial Guard armies and I have no intention of picking and choosing between them. Never have, never will. Such is life 🙂

  • Red_Five_Standing_By

    When building an army, you have two choices:

    Build an army with access to army-specific stratagems and rules by restricting your unit selection to a specific of an army


    Build an army without access to army specific stratagems and rules but having the freedom to pick and choose between all of the best units your faction offers.

    That is a meaningful and interesting army building choice.

    The problem is that GW screwed this up. They screwed this up by allowing army specific stratagems and rules to be used if a detachment (not an entire army list) are all from a single of an army. So I could run an and a detachment, I would gain access to each army’s specific stratagems and each detachment would benefit from their respective rules.

    Worse, I could run a detachment and then add in a supreme command detachment, filled with the best HQ choices the Imperium has to offer.

    Worse I could run a Brigade detachment (thus gaining all those juicy Command Points) then fill out the rest of my list with Supreme Command and Vanguard detachments, spamming using some of the most under priced units in the game.

    The game actively pushes you to run a soup of detachments since it rewards you with a better mix of rules, CP and unit selection.

  • Carey_Mahoney

    Soup or pure Codex – I see the respective appeal of both.

  • Tushan

    This is why we see well thought of and up to power armies like grey knights and deathwatch..oh wait!

  • I play inquisition, so, nah

  • J Mad

    No… duh, then they cant sell you more models…