BoLS logo Tabletop, RPGs & Pop Culture

Warhammer 40K: Specialist Detachments – A Bridge Too Far For 9th Edition

5 Minute Read
Jul 21 2020

Games Workshop pulled the plug on Specialist Detachments in 9th Edition for the Grand Tournament Rules. But why? Let’s chat.

In case you missed the leak, we got a closer look at the Grand Tournament Rules coming with Chapter Approved 2020 (which hits shelves this weekend). Within those pages we got a look at some the restrictions that will be included.



“You cannot include any Understrength units in your army, and your army cannot include any Specialist Detachments.

It’s right there in black and white. Now there are a few things we want to mention before we continue. These are from the ruleset for the Grand Tournament section. That means these aren’t quite the same as Matched Play rules. But there is a trickle down effect from these rules to Matched Play. Basically, if you’re playing a friendly Pick-up Game you may or may not encounter Specialist Detachments. If you’re playing a “Tournament Prep” game, you might want to ensure both players are following the same rules.

Before you begin: Check with your Opponent. If you’re confused about a Tournament check with the Tournament Organizer. Got it?

Now, assuming we’re all on the same page, let’s continue. If these GT rules are going to filter down to Matched Play games then we still have a big question: Why? To understand that we need to cover what Specialist Detachments are…or were in this case.


What Is A Specialist Detachment?



Specialist Detachments were introduced in the Vigilus books. These were basically Stratagem based options that you could spend CP on during the list construction to unlock various things ranging from more stratagems, to wargear and relics, to even more Warlords and/or Warlord Traits. You started by spending CP on the Specialist Detachment:

These Stratagems were typically a Command Point. They added their respective keywords to the Detachment you indicated. That opened up all the further options we mentioned above.

They also allowed for Field Commanders and other options to be unlocked.


Now, we’re not going to go over every combo or option – there were a LOT as just about everyone got something. There were a few busted Relics out there, too. These Specialists Detachments were a neat concept but ultimately GW decided to shelve them for the Grand Tournaments.

So Why Did They Get Shelved?

While we can’t say for sure, we can make some guesses. Firstly, GW started to roll many of these Specialist Detachments into the post-Vigilus Codexes. Space Marines are a prime example of this. Things like the Veteran Primaris unit upgrade are directly taken from Vigilus. That made the Vigilus books outdated and redundant. Secondly, they had many busted combos/problematic wargear options. We touched on that a little bit, but some of these rules were just a bit too much.

Thirdly, the changes to Command Points in 9th may have contributed to their demise as well. When GW essentially fixed the number of Command Points per army based on game size that could have led to an imbalance for the value of these Specialist 40K Detachments. Instead of FAQing all the CP values for these Detachments, it was probably easier just to “turn them off” for the GT setting.

And finally, they caused confusion to track. Think about it – when the models and units from your army started getting mixed up in combat it could be pretty easy to forget which unit what part of which detachment. Unless you painted them different or had tokens or something. But even if YOU could keep track, do you really think your opponent could follow all that, too? In a Grand Tournament setting, that seems like a slippery slope between “honest mistake” and “willful ignorance” aka cheating. It’s just better to cut out that option and move on.

The End of Specialist Detachments

Is this the end for Specialist Detachments? In all honesty, yeah – probably. Unless GW reintroduces them, you’re probably not going to see them in Matched Play as it seems like in many areas the Tournament Play dictates the “default” way to play. If you’re in a gaming group that just plays for fun, you’re going to do what you want anyhow – so this doesn’t matter to you. But if you’re going to play in a local event or even one of the big GTs or Open events (once those start up again, c’mon 2021) you can bet that this rule will get adopted as the default, too.

Goodbye Specialist Detachments. We’ll await your reinvention at a later date…



What do you think of Specialist Detachments? Are you going to miss them? Will you still use them in friendly games? Did you loathe them? Let us know in the comments!

Author: Adam Harrison
  • Tabletop Gallery: Heretical Machine