Cube Jägers and Battlefield Tasks

For this tournament season Corvus Belli has added a new mercenary unit to all the vanilla Infinity factions: Cube Jägers. I’m super interested in Airborne Deployment troops and the Jäger is the most 40k thing in Infinity right now (it’s essentially an Apothecary, running around harvesting geneseed—I mean, cubes—from dead troopers). So when a discussion about it came up in our local group my comments got long and I’m posting them here. Along the way I hope this post introduces useful general ideas for newer players toward evaluating troops (not that I consider myself especially experienced at Infinity). Comments, questions, and corrections are welcome!


One quick real life sidenote is that I’m not excited about models exclusive to winner’s kits. I really liked the Scarface Turner model last season and being able to buy it would have tipped me over into picking up his TAG, which I was seriously considering for a while. At least in the Jäger’s case there are plenty of very similar proxies to choose from (Scarface had a lot of unique personality) and I like the model but aren’t super captivated by it (I think the green Tohaa “hair” on the demo model is putting me off).


More important: Gameplay, starting with availability. Unlike Scarface in the previous season, the Jäger wasn’t added to any of the sectorials (as far as I can see spot checking). So whether it’s a useful troop or not depends in the first place on whether or not you’re playing a vanilla faction. Otherwise it’s not even an option. The Jäger also only has an AVA of 1, so beyond that you’re back to your usual choices.

Assuming it’s available, next up is the troop’s profile and options.

First thing to note is that, fairly unsurprisingly for a mercenary, the Jäger is Irregular. That’s a big tradeoff, but less punitive than on a typical trooper because it only matters for at most 2 turns under Airborne Deployment. If you’re bringing a Jäger you’re also probably doing so to achieve a specific active task, so presumably it has something to do each turn and being Irregular isn’t a big limitation. That’s different from, say, a Crusader or Akalis airborne troop that I might bring mostly to drop in and cover a forward area with Suppressive Fire while their Regular order is used elsewhere.

Second is that the relative utility of Airborne Infiltration versus the higher levels of AD, most commonly Combat Jump, depends a lot on the size and density of the boards you play on. The local tournaments I play in tend to have very very dense boards. Every other month they are also RECON+ events on 2×3 tables. Pickup play naturally goes similarly. In the overwhelming majority of my games therefore there are limited viable options to drop in versus walking on. So for me, having Airborne Infiltration isn’t hardly different in practice from having Combat Jump. In other scenes that won’t be the case.

Third, the Monofilament Close Combat Weapon I see as at best a small bonus for hunting TAGs and Heavy Infantry rather than a primary feature of the Jäger. On this troop it doesn’t seem that scary. The Jäger has no Smoke to shield an advance toward close combat and that could be tough for squadmates to provide given it’s likely arriving forward on the battlefield—if it’s easy to get the smoke up there, you probably have better forward CC options anyway. Further, most of the units for which I find Monofilament terrifying (TAGs, Father Knights, etc.) have the edge against the Jäger in CC even if it manages to Stealth in without getting shot. We do have to allow somewhat that CC without genuinely superior skills is very unpredictable due to the low number (B) of D20 rolls. The Jäger could win these matchups; but you can’t count on it. So the limited value I see for the Jäger’s Monofilament CCW is to quickly kill TAGs and HIs that have been Immobilized with the E/Mitter, the latter being the real threat because at that point they’re mission killed anyway. The Jäger would be more efficient without the Monofilament CCW and presumably thus lower points or SWC.

Battlefield Tasks

Beyond that, given its abilities, equipment, and cost, the Jäger isn’t a general purpose troop to bring without a specific role, in which terms it should then be evaluated. I see five primary battlefield tasks for the Jäger:

  • Doctoring: A paramedic coming in up the battlefield could resuscitate your prime mover without having to spend orders following behind them or getting there.
  • Suppression: Walking on with an SMG to cover a forward area with Suppressive Fire and deny the enemy easy movement in that space could be useful.
  • Trooper Hunting: Appearing on the side edges with a Boarding Shotgun can be a fun way to hit advancing troops from their rear and either stop or divert their forward thrust, or to go after backfield cheerleaders.
  • TAG/HI Hunting: Coming in behind advancing Heavy Infantry or especially TAGs, because they’re more likely to be visible, and tagging them with an E/Mitter can really neuter your opponent’s main weapons.
  • Button Pushing: A Specialist with Airborne Infiltration can be real handy to tap objectives, especially on RECON+ boards or missions with many objectives where they will be easier to reach from the sides.

That might seem like a lot, but there are many other roles in the game. Most obviously, between its abilities, weapons, and BS, the Jäger is not, for example, well suited to provide any kind of relatively static mid-to-long range fire support. The Jäger’s ability to arrive late & either forward or somewhat flexibly where you need it also puts it in a different class of these roles: It’s not just Suppression, it’s Airborne Suppression.

First up is simply thinking about how viable these roles might be for the Jäger in general, setting aside for now whether it’s the best option.


Airborne Doctoring sounds real neat but I think is easily dispensed with in any general discussion so this post won’t talk about it more. For that to make sense you would need to have a specific plan and very expensive key trooper to support. There are very low odds it’ll pan out—that critical trooper needs to not be outright killed, in a position readily reached from the sides, and pass a PH-3 roll. Airborne Engineering would be much more useful, because a TAG is generally much more valuable and it’s much less likely to be outright removed from the game. I would, for example, be very interested in such an Engineer to support my Seraph, because a regular Engineer can’t keep up with it 6-4 Super-Jumping up the board and even a Palbot would require spending orders to follow along with the TAG or run up to it once downed.


Certainly seems that tucking into cover with an SMG in Suppressive Fire with a lot of flexibility to do so around the board as necessary is a useful ability.

Trooper Hunting

Being able to exploit weak points and uncovered angles to rob the enemy of Orders and weapons is also definitely a useful thing to do.

A quick follow-on then is that if we’re specifically tailoring the Jäger to hunt troopers via Airborne Infiltration to get into close range and confident we can do so, then the Boarding Shotgun is indeed the weapon to take. For example, face-to-face against an Alguacile in cover at ≤ 8″, the Jäger SMG has a 40% chance of killing its opponent, with a 22% chance of the Jäger itself being killed. With the Boarding Shotgun though the odds improve to a 49% chance of killing the Alguacile and a 20% chance of the Jäger itself being killed. Roughly similar matchups in this tactic, such as the Alguacile being out of cover or in Suppressive Fire or fighting a Medium Infantry target instead, continue to favor the Boarding Shotgun. However, if we won’t be able to get into 8″, the SMG becomes dominant via its extra die, though generally by a somewhat slim margin.

TAG/HI Hunting

It’s also worth thinking generally about the TAG/HI Hunting role to make sure it’s viable at all, because that’s not obvious. This is really about the Jäger’s SMG+E/Mitter profile:

  • SMG can do 3 shots at DAM 13 with AP, cutting ARM in half.
  • E/Mitter can do 1 shot at DAM 13 with E/M2, which forces two rolls on half BTS, failing either of which causes the target to become Isolated and TAGs/HIs/REMs to become Immobilized-2 as well.

Some newcomers miss this due to the name, but Immobilized prevents attacks as well as movement. That’s likely a mission kill, most times it’s not going to do anything else that game. So the E/Mitter can possibly one-shot a TAG, but how likely is that?

Let’s assume the TAG has ARM 7 and BTS 6, which most of them do. If you manage to use the Jäger’s Airborne Infiltration and Stealth to get around behind a TAG, you could:

Those are of course best case scenarios, and the likelihood of getting into that position highly subjective. If the cliche that TAGs never leave their deployment zone bears out, it’s going to be difficult. Playing any of the several ITS missions that heavily encourage TAGs to move forward, you should have a better chance. For me, frequently fielding a Seraph whose whole deal is to advance hard forward, I’m pretty scared of this attack.

The odds are also not impossible even in worse situations. Most TAGs have BS 14 and an HMG. Say your only chance is to go at one head-on. Within 16″ and the TAG not in Suppressive Fire, there’s a 34% chance the Jäger takes it down with the E/Mitter, 34% chance the Jäger goes down, and 32% of nothing happening. Of course it goes downhill from there, but that’s a better matchup than I would have guessed.

All told, whether or not it’s the best approach or if it’ll even work are huge questions. But it’s at least not ridiculous on its face to send the 18pt Jäger TAG/HI Hunting.

Pretty scared right now, actually.

Button Pushing

Finally, it seems completely reasonable to assume that a ~20pt AD Specialist might be pretty useful and efficient to send after objectives.

Given that the Jäger might be applicable to at least the latter four of these battlefield tasks, we can start comparing to other unit options available, evaluating from the perspectives of each because effectiveness and relative cost varies per role.


One of the most immediate comparisons for the Jäger is to Nomads Tomcats, which are also Airborne Infiltration with Specialist options and similar cost.

I don’t play Nomads, but I don’t think you’d take the Jäger over a Tomcat unless you really really didn’t have the points. Across the profiles, a few extra army points and equal or less SWC buys you:

  • Regular instead of Irregular—it’ll only matter on 2 turns, but this is still significant
  • Climbing Plus—super useful for arriving in total cover & getting where you need to
  • Combi-Rifle for long range & Suppressive Fire
  • Light Flamethrower for short range & Intuitive Attacks
  • Extra point of BS
  • Extra point of PH
  • Doctor over Paramedic—WIP 13 vs. target PH-3, opportunity to reroll on Cubes
  • Alternately, Engineer+D-Charges—an auto-win for the Sabotage Classified
  • A Cube

In contrast the Jäger has:

  • Monofilament CC Weapon
  • +3 BTS
  • +1 CC
  • Shock Immunity
  • Stealth

I think the Tomcat’s abilities are well worth that short list plus a few points. A Combi-Rifle alone is valued at a point over a Boarding Shotgun (see, e.g., Crusader Brethren and Akalis Commandos options for fairly direct AD troop comparisons), covering the difference between that Jäger profile and a Specialist Tomcat. Regular and Climbing Plus are probably each worth a couple points, and +1 BS another.

Evaluating in terms of the Jäger’s primary battlefield tasks we then get:

  • Suppression: Generating a Regular order combined with +1 BS, other abilities, and greater utility of the Combi-Rifle for +1pt tips this role toward the Tomcat.
  • Trooper Hunting: At close range the Tomcat with a Combi-Rifle would do 3 shots on 15s while the Boarding Shotgun Jäger does 2 shots on 17s. Against a BS11 Alguacile with a Combi-Rifle in cover, the Jäger Boarding Shotgun would hit & win 49% of the time while the Tomcat Combi-Rifle would only win 43% of the time. However, if the Alguacile is not in cover, the Tomcat would hit & win 62% of the time while the Jäger would hit & win 60% of the time. Further, at ≤ 16″, even with the Alguacile in cover, the Tomcat Combi-Rifle leaps out ahead: 43% win versus just 27% win for the Jäger, and that pattern continues for not in cover and other situations. The Tomcat Combi-Rifle would also of course dominate the Jäger SMG due to the range bands and higher BS, except against less common targets where the AP or Shock ammo on the latter really matter. So, this role could be swung by a small set of specific expected situations, but considering the Combi-Rifle’s wider applicability and that it alone usually costs 1pt more, combined with the Tomcat’s other advantages, for +1pt I’d say this role goes to the Tomcat.
  • TAG/HI Hunting: Tomcat also has an E/Mitter option at just 2pts more, as well as a D.E.P. option at just +1pt (AP+Explosive though Disposable 1), so with its better stats and other abilities this role as well seems to tip toward the Tomcat.
  • Button Pushing: Climbing Plus is very very helpful toward getting to objectives after walking on hidden, so I think that plus better stats for just +4pts tip this role as well toward the Tomcat.

So unless I’m mistaken or misjudging, there’s no reason for Nomads players to take a Jäger unless they’re desperate for a couple points. The very similar Tomcat is better at each of the Jäger’s battlefield tasks and costs only slightly more.


Haqqislam and Ariadna also have very similar units among their Parachutists, and I wouldn’t consider them dominant (better in all roles) as I would the Nomads’ Tomcat.


For Haqqislam, Bashi Bazouks are very similar to the Jäger but cheaper.

Notably, Bashi Bazouks are also Irregular. The two have similar stat lines, with the Jäger at +1 WIP and +3 BTS in trade for the Bashi Bazouk’s +1 CC and +1 ARM. However, the latter’s Holoprojector L2 is a very useful piece of equipment, even in using their AD ability (which would normally make L1 much less useful), as the Holoechoes provide substantial protection for the unit. The Bashi Bazouks are also a little to much cheaper across the board. Evaluating by the four battlefield tasks though:

  • Suppression: Bashi Bazouk is better as it’s cheaper (in some cases much cheaper), has Holoechoes and better ARM, and selecting a deployment location in advance doesn’t hinder this role as much.
  • Trooper Hunting: Many will debate this hotly in favor of the Haqq troop, but I think there’s some competition between these units for this role. The Boarding Shotgun Bashi Bazouk is a big 6pts and 0.5 SWC cheaper, and has Holoechoes. But for this role it’s just so useful to not have to commit to a deployment segment in advance that I would consider, but not necessarily choose, the Jäger.
  • TAG/HI Hunting: Somewhat surprisingly, this is a close call, I think leaning toward the Jäger. The two unit’s SMGs of course have the same effectiveness, so with the Bashi Bazouk’s considerably lower cost that’s a question of how effective that weapon might be in this role. Comparing the Jäger E/Mitter to the Bashi Bazouk’s AP Rifle though, at their shared best situation, from the back at ≤ 16″ so good range and no ARO, the E/Mitter has a 54% chance to disable a typical TAG, while the AP Rifle has a 72% chance of doing at least one wound, 27% of doing 2+, and 4% chance of 3+ wounds. To a large extent these are doing different things, going for a lower probability (but likely) quick kill versus a more reliable whittling down. So comparisons from there get complex: Airborne Infiltration versus cheaper Parachutist with Holoechoes? How long will you actually live to whittle down a TAG? The Jäger of course also has both SMG and E/Mitter. At minimum I would say there are reasons to at least consider the Jäger for this role. I personally am probably slightly more inclined to try for the one-shot kills.
  • Button Pushing: This task of course goes to the Jäger as the Bashi Bazouks have no Specialist options.

It doesn’t seem to be the case that Bashi Bazouks are a strictly better choice than the Jäger across all roles. Indeed, at the very least there are reasons to consider the Jäger for Trooper Hunting, and very much so for TAG/HI Hunting. The Jäger in turn also isn’t obviously better or as efficient, but it’s at least competitive enough to be a plausible alternative selection. And of course there’s relative utility in the Jäger as a flexibly forward deploying Specialist, which Bashi Bazouks simply can’t do.


Ariadna also has very similar troops in its Para-Commandos and Airborne Rangers.

The relative utility of these to the Jäger are close calls, in large part because of their inferior AD level requiring you to choose their arrival segment during deployment. A big counterpoint to that though is the Jäger being Irregular while these are Regular. Which is better among these units I think varies by battlefield task:

  • Suppression: This is tight, but I would give it to the Para-Commando at 20pts and no SWC. In this role you can often plan in advance where to AD the unit, so parachuting isn’t a huge disadvantage. The other two units have a better gun for Suppressive Fire, which equalizes the range bands between the Rifle and SMG but keeps the latter’s AP or Shock modes. However, the Para-Commando’s Mimetism will help it win firefights. It will also provide a Regular order while it sits there.
  • Trooper Hunting: This goes to the Jäger. The extra point of BS on the other two is maybe worth the couple extra points, and the Para-Commando’s Mimetism is a big plus. But being able to choose where to walk on based on the current game situation is such a huge advantage in assassinating something. Being Irregular also isn’t a huge disadvantage for this role because it’s frequently sacrificial.
  • TAG/HI Hunting: The Jäger is a cheaper SMG than the Ranger, but otherwise these units go at this role in totally different ways. At minimum there’s space to consider the cheap E/Mitter approach of the Jäger versus the Ranger’s Molotok or Para-Commando’s HMG, especially given its higher AD level.
  • Button Pushing: This is a toss-up which I would maybe give to the Para-Commando. Flexibility to arrive on the battlefield wherever is best is important, but if you’re running at an objective you can also do a lot of advance planning. So the Para-Commando’s Mimetism and higher WIP probably edge out its inferior AD.

Spetsnazs also have Parachutist profiles, but at considerably more cost (starting at 31pts) and no Specialists. Ariadna also has a variety of units with Infiltration at similar cost that provide strong competition for the Jäger in these roles. I would guess though that at minimum it might still have a place in the two Hunting roles, because it’s just so useful in those to be able to deploy precisely where needed to best hit a juicy target.

Akal Commandos

For PanOceania, my primary faction (albeit in MO and SA sectorials), the Jäger is also interesting. The most similar unit is the Akalis Sikh Commando, of which I am a big fan.

The Akal Command starts just a few points more than a Jäger and has +2 BS, +1 ARM, +1 PH, and +1 CC, with the downsides of being slower (2″ secondary move) and -3 BTS. The value of Religious is somewhat subjective as it depends on what you usually want to do with the troop. I think it’s mostly a strong benefit that occasionally gets your unyielding dudes killed. Combat Jump versus Airborne Infiltration is strictly better but, again, may not actually be more useful depending on play area size and terrain density.

With its range of options, the Akal Commando can tackle all the same battlefield tasks:

  • Suppression: Combi-Rifle at +2 BS, +1 ARM, Religious, and Combat Jump for +3pt tips toward the Akal Commando for being more likely to win shootouts and hold its ground. E.g., in Suppressive Fire against an Alguacile at close range, the Akal kills 45% of the time and dies 28% of the time, while the Jäger kills just 35% of the time and also dies 35% of the time.
  • Trooper Hunting: Boarding Shotgun at the same cost and less SWC with better ARM and Combat Jump means the Akal is strictly better than the Jäger for this role.
  • TAG/HI Hunting: With an E/Mitter at +6pts, and a Hacker or Spitfire at +10pts, there’s space here to consider the Jäger. Comparing the E/Mitter options straight-up, it’s close: Again in the best situation, the Akal has a 61% chance to one-shot a typical TAG, while the Jäger has a 54% chance. For +6pts I’m not sure that’s worth it, especially with the Jäger having Climbing Plus and the Akal only +1 ARM and -3 BTS. Either way, it’s enough of a points difference that the Jäger might fit in a good number of lists that the E/Mitter Akal doesn’t, especially in RECON+ games.
  • Button Pushing: At +10pts for a Specialist, there’s almost certainly space here to consider the Jäger, particularly if you generally won’t see the benefits of Combat Jump versus Airborne Infiltration.

Crusader Brethren, the other PanO AD trooper (setting aside Kirpal Singh, a 35pt Akal character), cost more than the Akal but has +1 ARM and +3BTS.

So, off the cuff it’s a tough call between the Crusader and the Akal Commando for the Suppression and Trooper Hunting roles, but the Jäger doesn’t win either way. For TAG/HI Hunting the Crusader has HMG and Spitfire options, so it’s debatable between that and the Akal Spitfire. But all of those are a different and more expensive approach from the E/Mitter, leaving the Jäger viable versus the Akal’s E/Mitter as discussed above. There’s no Specialist option at all for the Crusader, so it also leaves space there to consider the Jäger since the Akal isn’t an auto-select for that role.

Among the other PanOceania units, I don’t think there are options that dominate the Jäger for the latter two roles at its cost and in the fashion it approaches them. The Specialists with Infiltration all cost quite a bit more (starting at 27pts for a TO Camo Spec Sergeant Forward Observer), which might be worth it for their various abilities and equipment but leaves a place for the Jäger in low-cost flexible Button Pushing.

Button Pushing

I’m not as familiar with the other factions and there aren’t as direct comparisons as the Tomcats and Parachutists—unless I’ve missed some there aren’t other low-to-moderate cost Airborne Infiltration or Parachutist units in the vanilla factions, excluding a few somewhat pricier characters here and there.

But I would guess the other factions largely shake out like PanO:

  • There are better options for Suppression and Trooper Hunting;
  • Some place for the Jäger in TAG/HI Hunting if you think the low-cost Airborne Infiltration E/Mitter approach is viable;
  • But almost certainly space to at least consider the Jäger for Button Pushing.

To the latter, surveying the vanilla factions for Specialists with Combat Jump to use as very flexible objective grabbers, we get:

  • Tohaa Gao-Tarsos Paramedic is +12/+9 pts; effectively an extra wound, +3 CC, +1 BS, +2 PH, +2 ARM, Combi-Rifle, D-Charges; but -2″ second move and -3 BTS
  • Aleph Ekdromoi Hacker is +8/+6 pts; has Martial Arts and Super-Jump, +8 CC, +1 BS, +3 PH, +1 WIP, +1 ARM; but only -3 BTS and whatever your take is on the merits of Chain Rifle and Nanopulser versus the Jäger’s SMG or Boarding Shotgun
  • Combined Army Fraacta w/ Hacking Device is +17/+14 pts; effectively an extra wound, +3 CC, +1 BS, +2 PH, Combi-Rifle and Nanopulser; but -1 WIP
  • Nomads Meteor Zond Forward Observer is +3/0 pts; has Sensor, Sat-Lock, Repeater, +1 PH, Combi-Rifle, +2 primary movement; but is -6 CC, -1 ARM, and an S3 Remote so harder to move & hide and an inferior Dodge
  • Nomads Hellcats Paramedic is +6/+3 pts; has Superior Combat Jump and Courage, +1 BS, +2 PH, +1 ARM, Combi-Rifle; but -2″ secondary movement
  • Haqqislam Hassassin Ragiks Hacker is +14/+11 pts; has Dogged and Religious, +1 BS, +2 PH, +2 WIP, +1 ARM, Rifle and Light Shotgun; but -3 BTS
  • Yu Jing Tiger Soldier Paramedic is +11/+8 pts; has Mimetism, +1 CC, +2 BS, +2 PH, +1 WIP, +1 ARM, Combi-Rifle and Light Flamethrower; but -2″ secondary movement and -3 BTS
  • PanOceania Akal Commando Hacker is +10/+7 pts; has Religious, +1 CC, +2 BS, +1 PH, +1 ARM, Combi-Rifle and E/Mitter; but -2″ second move and -3 BTS

Here again I think the Nomads have better options in their faction already unless you really can’t squeeze out the points (and the Tomcat dominates anyway).

Among all the others though the point savings are significant enough that it’s worth considering the Jäger. For example, in RECON+ games I see the boundary of what I can usually scrounge up without changing the basic character of a list as being about 4pts, which all these options are well over. The counterpoint to that is if you significantly value Combat Jump over Airborne Infiltration; think the Irregular Order is a real limitation; or will make use of the faction unit’s other abilities, such as hacking.


I started looking into the Jäger because I enjoy using Airborne Deployment troops extensively and wanted to see if it’s worth considering. Many people on various forums have of course immediately decried the Jäger as trash completely useless to everyone. I disagree with those takes. If you break down the analysis by battlefield roles, there’s most likely a place for the Jäger in every faction except Nomads. Even against Haqqislam Bashi Bazouks, for example, cited by some as totally superior, the Jäger seems at least competitive in several roles, and can fill one they cannot.

More generally, I hope newer Infinity players take away the idea that there’s often limited use in just comparing units generically. You have to evaluate units and their profile options in context of how you’re planning to use them. Of course the ability for a unit to adapt and cover multiple roles as the situation changes is very important. But in choosing a list you should be thinking of your strategy and evaluating efficiency and effectiveness of units and options in light of the specific tasks that plan entails. Most of us do that intuitively, but it’s worth explicitly framing the process.

40k Matched Play Armies Walkthrough

Questions about army list building in Warhammer 40,000 8th edition continue to come up as newcomers join the hobby and old heads return. So I’m going to write my explanation about detachments, Battle Forged, and so on here just one more time and then link to it in future conversations. Corrections and questions are welcome.


For Matched Play, the most common 40k 8e format, armies must be organized into detachments and all units across the entire army must have at least one faction keyword in common (e.g., Imperium). Additional buffs are available for detachments (not armies) drawn from single codexes or factions (e.g., Space Marine chapters).


My impression is that most players are generally using the Matched Play format, as opposed to Open Play, Narrative, or something else ad hoc. I could be wrong about that in general, but it’s certainly true of pickup play around my local scene (Redcap’s Corner) and all the tournaments I have seen (and run). So the default is that you’re selecting armies by points, not power levels, and adhering to Matched Play format.

Hampering newcomers in hunting down rules is that Matched Play is actually more restrictive than Battle Forged. Many people implicitly assume Battle Forged is more fluffy and limited. That’s not the case. Matched Play is a subset of Battle Forged, not the other way around. Competition-oriented Matched Play and some newer rules additions from the codexes and upcoming Chapter Approved supplement actually do more to encourage armies more similar to traditional Force Org Chart, no allies, old-school 40k. Battle Forged by itself is more open.

Battle Forged

Matched Play requires that your armies be Battle Forged (main rulebook page 214, top left). Battle Forged requires your entire army to be organized into one or more detachments (main rulebook page 240, top left).

Beginning of the Battle Forged rules.

Detachments in theory are wide open, you can put any mix of units in there. However, in practice all of the units within a detachment must share at least one keyword. All of the detachments in the main rulebook such as Patrol, Battalion, Outrider, and so on either explicitly impose that restriction or are limited to a single unit. The only exception is the Fortification Network, which permits multiple fortifications with no faction restriction. There are some faction specific fortifications out right now, such as the Tau Tidewall, but most published so far are Unaligned (the commonly seen ones are all in Index Imperium 2), and this is mostly a small side point anyway.

Unless I’ve missed something, no other detachments have been published or rumored. So, in the future some supplement or such could perhaps have a detachment that permitted you to include Orks and Imperial Guard within a single detachment. However, you cannot do that within any of the detachments that currently exist because those units do not share any faction keywords. What you can do though is, for example, make up a detachment of Imperial Guard and Ultramarines units, because those all share at least one faction keyword (Imperium).

The Patrol detachment.

In addition, under Battle Forged rules alone, your army could straddle factions across multiple detachments. You could, for example, make up a Battle Forged army that had two detachments of Imperial Guard and one of Orks. There are no rules for Battle Forged armies linking the detachments.

Matched Play

However, Matched Play prohibits that by imposing such a linkage. Matched Play requires that armies be Battle Forged and that all units have at least one faction keyword in common (main rulebook page 214, under “Army Faction”).

So, in a tournament or pickup play using Matched Play rules, you could not field an army with detachments of Imperial Guard and Orks even though it was Battle Forged. You can however still mix Imperial Guard and Ultramarines units within and across detachments, because those all share at least one keyword.

Beginning of Matched Play rules.

Faction Buffs

New rules from the codexes released to date as well as the upcoming Chapter Approved supplement however encourage—but do not require—detachments drawn from a single faction by offering at least four types of buffs for doing so.

Objective Secured

The codexes seen so far all have rules, such as the Space Marines’ Defenders of Humanity, that give a scoped but important buff to models in a detachment comprised solely of units from that codex: They trump other models for control of objectives. The Chapter Approved supplement will provide a similar rule, Objective Secured, for all the factions that still only have Indexes. Most events seem to be adopting this and the other updates to Matched Play from this supplement that have been officially previewed. There’s a reason GW rushed out these rules previews just in time for the first really large 40k event under 8th edition (NOVA): They address a number of balance issues, particularly as the codexes roll out.

Preview of Objective Secured rule from the upcoming Chapter Approved.


Similarly, codex stratagems are unlocked by fielding at least one detachment comprised solely of units from that codex. So a detachment made up of Imperial Guard and Space Marines would be Battle Forged, share a keyword, and be legal in Matched Play, but by itself it would not have access to either of those codexes’ stratagems. That’s a severe penalty for mixing the factions given the utility of some of those, so it’s another strong incentive to field uniform detachments.

Chapter Tactics

All of the codexes released or previewed to date have also granted additional unique benefits to detachments comprised solely of particular factions: Space Marine detachments made up of a single chapter receive an associated Chapter Tactic, Grey Knights have a Chapter Tactic in Brotherhood of Psykers, and Chaos Space Marine legions all have their own benefits. Future codexes will grant similar unique benefits to detachments made up of specific regiments, dynasties, forge worlds, clans, etc..

Some of the Space Marines’ Chapter Tactics.


Finally, most unit special abilities affecting other units are also compatible only with the most specific factions. Transports in the mainline indexes and codexes can only embark units drawn from the same chapter or that codex’s equivalent. Captains, honor guards, ancients, and similar generate aura buffs only applicable to units and models from their specific chapter or equivalent. There are some notable exceptions, such as Guilliman, who provides an aura at the Imperium level. But in general while detachments made of various factions under an umbrella faction are valid in Matched Play, their units will be limited in how they interoperate and support each other.

In some sense this incentive is not very strong. You might only be planning on those units interacting with a few other units anyway. But unlike the Objective Secured and Chapter Tactics type buffs it is diffused across the entire army, creating a soft linkage between detachments: Sure would be a bummer if at some point in a game a unit in one detachment really needed to embark a transport or receive some buff from a unit in another detachment but couldn’t because they were of different factions (detachment boundaries alone do not impair such abilities). So the tighter faction scoping of most unit abilities in this edition also gently encourages focusing on one or a limited number of factions, even between detachments.


By and large though the explicit faction-focus benefits so far are primarily encouraging uniform detachments, not armies. You could still mix factions between detachments, provided they all have at least one shared faction keyword, and get these buffs. So, as long as our example Imperial Guard and Ultramarines army was organized into detachments each with uniform faction, they would all have Objective Secured or Defenders of Humanity respectively, access to their stratagems, the Ultramarines would get their Chapter Tactic, and when their codex arrives the Imperial Guard will get some benefit associated with the chosen regiment.

Matched Play rules therefore impose basic requirements prohibiting very unfluffy combinations. You can’t field Orks and Imperial Guard together. But within a larger alliance such as Imperium or Chaos you have a great deal of flexibility, certainly across an army and even within detachments. However, there are multiple strong incentives for focusing detachments at least on particular specific factions. Unit level interactions and combos are also much more constrained. Taking all of these rules together, in 8th edition you won’t see anything nearly as crazy as the allies permitted in the recent prior editions, and many armies will in fact be very traditional.

Limited Detachments

One last general note is that most events are limiting the number of detachments that may be taken. Matched Play provides a table of suggestions (main rulebook bottom of page 214) which have been widely adopted. So at the new standards of 1500 or 2000 points, armies are generally restricted to 3 detachments.

Suggested detachment count limits.


In sum, the rules for allies and army organization in Matched Play are somewhat confusingly presented as they’re located in a variety of places throughout the 40k main rulebook. But in practice they’re pretty simple: Armies must be made up of detachments, every unit across an army must be from the same general faction, and there are buffs for detachments selected from a single specific faction.


It is a detailed rules design topic not especially applicable to actually playing, but this post discusses duplication and ambiguity problems in the rules around Objective Secured and Space Marine Detachment.

X-Wing Pilot Statistics

Recently I got hassled at the local shop for breaking out my B-Wings for yet another Friday of X-Wing, so I started developing some new lists. In one idea I had a point to spend and open slots on a Green Squadron A-Wing. I realized that you could combo Veteran Instincts, A-Wing Test Pilot, and Adaptability to bump it up 3 pilot skill levels for just 1 squad point cost, taking it to PS6. But would that be actually do anything, let alone be the best option? A credible theory I’ve put some stock into is that there’s almost no value to increasing pilot skill in the middle band from ~3 to ~6, because aces will still beat you and swarm ships were already below you.

So, I got to wondering: What is the average skill of all the pilots in the game? The theory is that if the combo puts the A-Wing’s pilot skill above half the ships in the game then it would get to shoot more than half the ships it might encounter before they could shoot it, and that’s maybe worthwhile. But then I had an important follow-on observation: There are a ton of unpopular pilots and ships in the game. So what is the average skill of all the pilots people actually use?

To answer those questions I wrote some simple programs to compile the necessary data from a couple sources. That data is then exported as simple CSV files, so that even non-programmers can play around with them using any spreadsheet tool they wish and conduct their own data-driven investigations toward squadron building. The scripts as well as archived outputs are linked below, along with an example of how to use the data in answering those pilot skill questions. From there I also continue development of my metrics for evaluating beginner squadrons.

A brave Green Squadron pilot homes in on a B-Wing.


The X-Wing community has built a number of great resources and data sets, many of which interoperate. In particular, most of them use identifiers and schemas from the X-Wing Squadron Specification (XWS) so that they can do things like import and export squad lists to and from other tools. Several tools also directly utilize the comprehensive card data and images collected in the X-Wing Data repository. Many tournament lists have been upload over the past ~3 years to List Juggler by event organizers and community members. The latter itself presents a lot of interesting data for analysis (e.g., its time series charts), but I couldn’t seem to clearly answer some of the questions I had with just its web interface. So I wrote a script to download lists from List Juggler, and another to correlate them with the ship and pilot data from X-Wing Data. Those scripts are available in the X-Wing CSV repository on GitHub.

So that non-programmers don’t have to set up the programming environment required to run the scripts, archived data is included in the repository. These are linked from the main README page, which will be updated as new releases come out.

There are currently three files generated by the compilation script:

  • ships.csv: All the nominal ships stats and properties. Technically stats are defined by specific pilot cards, but in reality there is only one pilot with different baseline stats for its ship class: The Outer Rim Smuggler, a lesser version of the YT-1300. So most people quite reasonably tend to think in terms of ship classes and associated stats, which are presented here. The Smuggler is included as a separate entry. Auto-include titles like Alliance Overhaul and similar upgrades that effectively change the baseline stats for a class are not incorporated.
  • pilots.csv: All of the pilots in the game, their ship stats, and counts breaking down all the times that pilot has been used in a list captured in List Juggler. These are reported for all lists as well as lists for events held within the past 4 months.
  • lists.csv: Summaries of all the lists captured in List Juggler. The core of this are summed stats needed to do some simple squadron analysis based on raw attacks, agility, hull points+shields, and the number of ships.

For consistency in its most typical use the compilation only includes standard dogfight tournaments. A small number of events in List Juggler are marked as standard but report lists of over 100 points in ships alone, which are discarded. The script does not currently evaluate upgrade card costs to determine invalidity of other lists.

There are also a small number of lists reported that are obviously either incomplete or for a smaller, non-standard event format, such as Escalation or Ace Wing, but not marked appropriately. It is sometimes difficult to tell even manually if these are valid, and would be somewhat difficult to reliably weed out automatically. For now they are therefore simply included—future code additions processing all the upgrades might tackle excluding these. However, they’re such a miniscule portion of the reported lists, a few dozen out of tens of thousands, that they don’t affect the statistics meaningfully.

As a quick summary, there are currently 40 ships in the game for standard play (plus the Outer Rim Smuggler), and 5 more for Epic play. With Wave X having just hit stores recently, there are 234 dogfighting pilots. The scripts are able to export 21,419 squadron lists from List Juggler, encompassing 66,677 pilot selections fielded over the course of 1,555 tournaments from summer 2014 to now. That’s quite a bit of usage data for a tabletop game, enabling a variety of basic quantitative analyses.

Pilot Skill

Answering the initial question about average pilot skill is trivial with the pilot data. First import pilots.csv into your spreadsheet program; in this demonstration I use Google Spreadsheets. Insert two rows at the top of the table. At the top of the Skill column (H), enter the formula =average(H4:H). Given that baseline pilot skill is on a fixed scale from 1 to 9 there can’t be outliers skewing the average, but just to check we’ll also compute the median. In the second row of the Skill column enter the formula =median(H4:H).

The two values are almost identical, 5.085 for the average and 5 for the median. That the median is 5 means by definition that at least half the pilots in the game have a pilot skill of 5 or lower. We can check this precisely by adding another row and another formula, =countif(H5:H,"<=5"). Finally, to quickly get a count of how many ships there are, add another row and the formula =counta(H6:H). Those reveal that 126 out of 234 distinct pilots in the game, 54%, have pilot skill 5 or less.

That means we can make a simple claim about spending a squad point to boost a Green Squadron pilot to PS6: It’ll then shoot before more than 54% of the pilots it could possibly face off against. But what about the pilots it is likely to encounter?

Computing average and media pilot skill for all pilots in the game.

That can also be answered using pilots.csv, still in Google Docs. First freeze the display so the labels remain in view while scrolling: Select the “Name” label, cell A5. Under the View -> Freeze menu, select “Up to current row” and then “Up to current column.” The column labels and pilot names will now be fixed in the display.

All the way over to the right of the data, use the empty column AM to multiply the Total All Time Uses (Y) and Skill (H) columns by entering the formula =Y6*H6 in the first pilot’s row (Wedge Antilles). Select that cell and all those below it down to the bottom of the data and then hit CTRL+D to copy that formula (“fill down”) into all the selected cells. Back at the top, use the empty cell AM4 to sum all of those values with the formula =sum(AM6:AM). Put similar in column Y, All Time Total Uses: =sum(Y6:Y). In another empty cell divide the former by the latter, =AM4/Y4, to get the average of all pilot skills ever used in List Juggler’s tournament reports. The median would take a bit more effort to compute from this data compilation, but as there are no pilot skill outliers the average shouldn’t be overly skewed so it’s not necessary to do so.

The result of average pilot skill 5.06 is shockingly close to the average and median for what’s available in the game. I expected the average pilot skill in actual use to be closer to 7 given the longstanding popularity of high pilot skill aces like Soontir Fel. A follow-up question then is that perhaps pilot skill has crept higher with more recent releases? However, that turns out not to be the case. The data compilation also includes Total Recent Uses, which can be similarly used to compute the average pilot skill over lists used in the past four months. That average is a tad higher at 5.5, but still very close to the center of the possible range.

Caveat large scale errors in the scripts or data, it now seems plausible to extend the claim about the PS6 Green Squadron Pilot: It will shoot before the majority of the pilots it will actually face in competitive play. We can actually compute this from the compiled data, PS6 is higher than 52% of all pilots used. Maybe there are better things to do with that squadron point, but now we have hard data about what effect the combo would have and quantitative evidence that it might at least be useful. For a counter example, it would probably not be worthwhile to boost the pilot to just PS4 as the large majority of ships would still shoot before it, and in a blocking role it may as well stay at PS3.

Game Development

Another indication from these numbers is that pilot skill is well balanced. That the average over all pilots in the game is at the mid-point of the range indicates that their designs are probably being spread across it evenly. More importantly, a range of pilots from both the low and high sides of the skill spectrum are useful and actually seeing competitive play. We’re not, for example, seeing a decided favoring of high pilot skill.

The former, including pilots with a range of pilot skills, is of course simply a matter of the designers deciding to do so, and you can see this in the blisters nearly all including a mix of pilot skills. But balancing the other stats, points costs, and special abilities to make the low pilot skill generics actually as useful in their way as the high pilot skill aces (and vice versa) cannot be easy. That’s impressive design and balancing for a collectible game grown over several years now, and Fantasy Flight deserves credit for it. Obviously this is just one measure, but it’s indicative of intentional game balancing that has successfully kept a relatively large swath of pilots relevant.

Of course, the average is just part of the story. From this compiled data we can also plot histograms of pilot skill. In design terms, these breakdowns show largely what we expect to see: FFG is purposefully including pilots across the spectrum of pilot skills, so the chart of all pilots has a fairly normal distribution with just a bit of skew.

The breakdowns of actual use though show a different story, but one you might expect from playing the game for a while: A ton of PS2 pilots see use, and then a mix of aces between PS7 to PS9. Recently though this has smoothed out, with PS2 pilots seeing comparatively less use than they have for the past few years, and comparatively more pilots from the middle range of PS4–6 hitting the table.


Indeed, we can see that development by observing the shift to a larger pilot skill spread in looking at the top 5 most used pilots for “all time” (again, this is data starting in July 2014) versus the past four months:

All hail the Syndicate Thug, the unsung but everlasting pilot skill 2 power of the galaxy!


Using the data we can additionally develop some simple ideas on how to think about lists overall. Most of my “more serious” lists are built around a simple four-bullet rubric, previously discussed at length:

  • Durability: Lots of hull points and shields without totally trading away agility;
  • Firepower: Lots of baseline attacks, plenty of red dice to throw;
  • Ships: Just enough ships to be robust and capable while remaining manageable;
  • One Trick: A single special fancy play or combo.

Those guidelines are in contrast to, say, fancy 2-ship builds with a ton of upgrades, true swarms with overwhelming cheap ships, and other list archetypes.

The question then is what defines “lots” of hull points, firepower, etc.. In order to do some objective evaluation of my own lists by that rubric, I previously came up with a couple simple quantitative metrics based on intuition and roughly confirmed with a manual sampling of popular list designs:

  • Durability: Survivability is based on two sub-metrics; I tend to focus on the first and make secondary decisions by the other—
    • Hull Points+Shields: Sum combined hull points and shields of 22 constitutes a durable squadron that can outlast a beating.
    • Agility: Average 3 agility per ship is good, 2 is average, and 1 is inferior.
  • Firepower: Baseline sum total of 10 attacks or more constitutes high firepower.
  • Ships: Lists with 3 or 4 ships are the easiest to play effectively.

Using the data in lists.csv, the reasonableness of these concrete metrics can be further evaluated against the many many competitive lists registered in List Juggler (again: about 22,000 since 2014). Calculations for those measures across all reported lists are:

The minimums here are mostly not informative because of the incomplete lists as discussed above. The others are valid and interesting though.

The max hull + shields of a whopping 46 points are from a handful of lists with a Scimitar Squadron Pilot (TIE Bomber) and 4x Omicron Group Pilots (Lamda-class Shuttles). The average of 21 and median of 20 though indicate that my threshold of at least 22 for a “durable” list was a reasonable estimate, capturing 39% of the lists. In the future I’ll probably move that threshold in my own thinking to either at least 23HP+S, for the top 1/3 of the lists, or at least 21HP+S, for roughly the top half.

One minimum in this table that is meaningful despite the incomplete lists is agility 0, which occurs in a large number of lists that have been common in competition. Double Ghosts are just one example. As expected just based on the very short scale of the agility stat, average agility 2 is a good target to hit, with about half the lists falling at or below that. Beyond that simple metric, the tradeoff in agility versus hull points and shields is more complex to evaluate. I have some thoughts on a computed metric combining hull points, shields, and agility, and hope to develop that in the future in order to better capture and evaluate ship and squadron robustness quantitatively.

In a sense just somewhat counter-intuitively but to be expected, max attacks comes from true swarms like 8x Academy Pilots or Z-95s, and some hybrids with an Interceptor or such thrown in there. My threshold of at least 10 attacks is well higher though, capturing only 20% of the lists. In the future I might consider high firepower to be 9 attacks, for the top 1/3 of the lists, or 8 attacks, for roughly the top half.

I was expecting the average number of ships to be a bit closer to 4, driven upward by previously seemingly popular swarms. However, true swarms turn out to be a miniscule portion of the lists fielded in competition, and even 5 ships is very rare. This data supports my belief that most people struggle to fly even that many ships effectively. No doubt part of the perception of swarms’ popularity was in fact their rarity combined with their necessarily homogenous nature, whereas all the many many more 2- and 3-ship lists don’t get grouped together mentally.

As expected, most people fly 3-ship squadrons, with the next big group fielding just 2. Squadron points being what they are, this necessarily means the latter are flying higher cost pilots loaded with upgrades, which lines up with looking around at game nights and seeing people working out complicated webs of pilot and upgrade combos. I still recommend beginners stick to 3 or 4 ships until they have a solid grip on basic flying.

As a sidenote related to squadron sizes albeit in complex fashion, most people are spending about 72–78 squadron points on ships/pilots rather than upgrades. As noted in the table above, about half the lists have an average pilot cost of 27 or 28 points. Some computation of ship points versus upgrade points is a promising measure to develop in the future for evaluating the characteristics of given squadrons.

Looking at the table of list metrics above for all lists recorded since 2014 versus recent lists used in the past four months, there does seem to have been a small trend toward:

  • Smaller squadrons;
  • Slightly lesser baseline stats across the board;
  • More points spent on ships per average;
  • Fewer points spent on ships in total.

Together this all implies a trend toward more utilization of unique pilots and upgrades, slightly more favoring of special abilities over bigger squadrons and basic dogfighting. That makes sense intuitively thinking about some of the ships and cards that have come out recently versus the earlier, simpler collection. However, more analysis would have to be done to determine if this is a statistically significant trend or not.


In the end, I got an answer to my question about whether or not a +3PS upgrade on a Green Squadron Pilot would achieve anything meaningful or not, though that’s not the same as proving it’s a good idea—effectiveness is not necessarily efficiency, and vice versa, and of course there’s more to a good squadron than any single decision. In the end after trying a list with that a couple times I think I’m going to try harder to free up two more points to put Push the Limit on that pilot instead…

That analysis also lead to some additional confirmation of my rough metrics for evaluating squadrons by my four-bullet rubric of durability, firepower, ships, and one trick, and generated data to refine the concrete quantitative thresholds a bit.

Along the way I wrote some tools to pull data from a couple of the great resources the X-Wing fan community has created, namely XWS Spec, X-Wing Data, and ListJuggler. Many thanks to the developers and contributors to those tools and resources! In return, I hope others are able to make use of the compiled data I’ve made available for easy analysis. If there’s interest I’ll update the archives and post announcements as new ships are released, so please let me know if you actually use the data. I also plan to update these scripts in the future to incorporate additional data, namely upgrades in addition to pilots, as well as perform other aggregation and calculations.

Thanks for reading!

A classic albeit underpowered matchup!