The third edition of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar is upon us, and one of the most important new features is the addition of Core Battalions. But how does the Age of Sigmar Core Battalions work in AoS 3.0? And what should you keep in mind when picking one?
This short guide helps you use this new feature to make better armies in the new edition of the game.
A note on rules in Age of Sigmar 3.0: In this and other articles, we take an in-depth look at how Age of Sigmar 3.0 is played. In doing this, we often refer to the Core Rules of the game. Those rules are available as a free download from the Age of Sigmar website here.
What is a Core Battalion?
A Core Battalion is a way of picking specific unit types for your army in order to receive one or more bonuses. They’re described under entry 26 in the Age of Sigmar 3.0 Core Rules.
Each Core Battalion has a name, a series of icons representing the unit types you have to bring as part of that battalion (in black), a series of icons representing unit types that are optional in the battalion (in grey), and one or more ability icons that show how you benefit from fielding that battalion.
What are Unit Icons, and what do they mean?
To understand which units you can take in a battalion, you need to understand the unit icons. These icons represent different types of units, and their descriptions all refer to specific Roles. These roles are found in a unit’s Pitched Battle Profile, which is the list of units and their points values at the end of every battletome or in the Pitched Battle Profiles booklet that comes with the annual General’s Handbook.
So you can’t tell directly from a unit’s warscroll (the free rules that comes with the unit box or available as a Download at the Games Workshop Webstore) how it fits into a core battalion – you have to use the new army builder app, Warscroll Builder or your battletome/Pitched Battle Profiles booklet to figure it out.
This chain of different types and keywords interacting with each other can be a bit confusing, so let’s go through the unit icons you can run into in a core battalion:
- a Commander, depicted as a Stormcast hero on a Dracoth mount, is a unit which has the Leader keyword. These units are all Heroes, but not all Heroes are Leaders, so beware of that. A Fyreslayers Grimwrath Berzerker, for example, is a Hero (keyword), but not a Leader (pitched battlefield role), so he doesn’t fit this slot in your core battalion, but a Fyreslayers Battlesmith is a Hero and a Leader, so he does fit in this slot. Leaders are typically Heroes that are able to give buffs to other units in your army.
- a Sub-commander, depicted as a Stormcast hero, has the same requirements as a Leader, but it has to have less than 10 Wounds on its warscroll. A Sub-Commander doesn’t play a different role than a Commander, but it allows you to bring more Leaders in your battalion while restricting you from taking your most powerful options because of the Wounds limit. For example, a Cities of Sigmar army has many options for this role, such as the Freeguild General and the Nomad Prince.
- a Troops unit, depicted as a Stormcast Vindictor model, is any unit that’s not a Leader, Artillery or Behemoth. This means that this role is where you put your battleline units, your strong infantry, your archers, cavalry and so on, but note that it also means your non-Leader heroes, such as the Grimwrath Berzerker, fits this slot in your battalion as well. So, if something doesn’t go into one of the other slots in your core battalion, it simply goes into the Troops slot.
- an Artillery unit, depicted as a Stormcast Celestar Ballista, is the most straight-forward one: it’s any unit that has the Artillery role in their Pitched Battle Profile, so there’s no chaining together of different terms here.
- a Monster, depicted as a dragon, is a unit that has the Behemoth keyword, but not the Leader keyword. It is, confusingly, not necessarily a unit that has the Monster keyword on its warscroll. A Kharadron Overlords Arkanaut Ironclad, for example, fits in this slot, but it’s a giant airship. An Ogor Mawtribes Frostlord on Stonehorn doesn’t fit in this role because, while it is a Behemoth, it is also a Leader.
So what we have are 3 different terms that are sort of untangled here: you have the Battlefield Role (found on the pitched battle profile for the unit, same place as you find the points). You have the keywords on the warscroll of the unit and now we have these icons Commander, Troop and so on that refers to the battlefield role, but also wounds and so on.
On a side note: maybe this could have been done a bit simpler? And also, the icons are not making this easier. At first glance it looks cool, but coming from Warcry I know it is just more convoluted in the long run.
What are Battalion Abilities?
Battalion Abilities are the bonuses you get from organizing the units of your army into battalions. These are represented by Ability Icons in the rules for your Core Battalion. The Core Rules list these icons, but let’s look at the tactical benefits of each of them in a bit more detail:
- Unified, depicted as three fists, lets you deploy all the units included in a Core Battalion all at once. This is very useful because of the way deployment works in Age of Sigmar: The players take turns setting up one of their units on the gaming table, and the player who finishes setting up their units first gets to decide if they want to take the first turn in the game. With Unified, you can set up all the units in a Core Battalion at once as if they were just one unit, which is commonly called setting them up as “one drop”. This gives you a much better shot at controlling the order of play in the game than if you would have just set up all your units one at a time. Since this ability icon is available to the Core Battalion you can fit the most units into, the Battle Regiment, it’s great for armies with many small units who would have otherwise finished setting up their units last.
- Expert, depicted as a sword and a shield, allows 1 unit in the core battalion to use one of the command abilities All-out Attack and All-out Defence without the “order being issued”, and without spending a command point on it. It’s not exactly clear what it means that the order is not “being issued”, but it could mean that you don’t need someone to issue it (a Hero, unit champion, Totem etc) – we’ll have to wait for a rules clarification from Games Workshop on this one, but until then, we recommend just playing it as if you can use the ability once per game for free. Since this ability icon currently belongs to the Linebreaker core battalion, which is full of Monsters as well as containing one Commander, this is an ability that allows you to either keep one of your expensive units alive when it really counts, or to maximize their damage output in a crucial fight.
- Magnificent, depicted as a glowing flask, lets you pick one extra enhancement (see our article on building armies for more info) for your army. This is especially great if you have many Heroes in your army you want to take enhancements for, so it’s only fitting that it’s available to the two Hero-heavy core battalions Warlord and Command Entourage.
- Slayers, depicted as two clashing swords, works just like Expert, but instead of All-out Defence, you can pick the “get a free shooting attack for one unit at a nearby charging enemy unit” command ability Unleash Hell once per battle without spending a command point, which is great because it is available to the Artillery-heavy Grand Battery core battalion that will definitely want to use Unleash Hell whenever it can.
- Strategists, depicted as a lightning-crested helmet, lets you receive an extra command point once per battle at the start of your hero phase. In the third edition of Age of Sigmar, where using command abilities is key to almost every phase of a battle round, this is an essential bonus. You can get this ability by bringing a Warlord or Command Entourage core battalion, but be aware that you get both this and Magnificent in a Warlord core battalion, while Command Entourage forces you to choose between the two abilities.
- Swift, depicted as a radiant arrow, works like Expert and Slayers, but with different abilities: It allows you to use one of the two abilities At the Double and Forward to Victory once per battle without spending a command point on it. This ability is only available to the Vanguard core battalion, which only requires you to bring a Sub-Commander and 1-3 Troops, so it’s an ideal battalion for a strike force of flying or mounted units.
The Pitched Battles 2021 Battlepack, which is used for playing Matched Play games (see our dedicated article on Matched Play army building here), adds two core battalions that use specific abilities rather than ability icons:
- Alpha-Beast Pack, which consists of 2-3 units with the Monster role, has the ability Scent Tracking, which lets each unit in the battalion make a small Move action before the game begins. This is great for getting into position after the enemy has set up their forces, but before they can react to the new location of your battalion.
- Hunters of the Heartlands requires 2-3 Troops and has the ability Expert Underdogs, which prevents monsters from using their Monstrous Rampage abilities against the units in the battalion. This is a good counter-tactic to have in a battlepack that empowers monsters in any way it can.
Why should I use Core Battalions when I build my army?
Core Battalions aren’t strictly required when you build an army in Age of Sigmar. Not even in Matched Play, which has its own system of points and unit role limits to help you structure your army list. So why should you use them? Here are a few reasons why:
- They’re free! If you’ve played Age of Sigmar in the previous edition, you are used to battalions costing points when you build your army, but Core Battalions don’t cost any points, so you might as well see which ones your army is eligible for, even if you’re not building your army around them.
- They give you valuable bonuses. As you can see in the section above this one, each battalion gives you valuable new tactical advantages and options, and your opponent has probably picked some as well, so make sure you choose the ones that complement your army and units.
- They help you think about what you want your army to do. This one is actually really important. The other big Warhammer game, Warhammer 40,000, has had a similar system for years (called Detachments), and my experience from building armies in that game is that thinking about your army as a collection of different regiments (core battalions/detachments) with specific purposes quite simply makes you understand your army better. You might, for example, base your army list around a big Battle Regiment to drop as one drop, and then add either a swift Vanguard, a long range Grand Battery or a devastating Linebreaker core battalion to suit whichever playstyle you want. For this reason, I don’t think even the greenest beginners should avoid core battalions as someFthing they’ll learn later: You need to think about your army through the lens of core battalions right away.
What should I keep in mind when building armies with Core Battalions?
When building your army in Age of Sigmar 3.0 with Core Battalions, there are a few things you could keep in mind (for a more detailed strategic walkthrough of army building, see our dedicated army building article here):
- Not all your units have to fit in a Core Battalion – for better or worse. This means you can always include that one extra unit or Hero you want, even if it doesn’t fit your battalion. It just doesn’t get any of the abilities from being in a battalion.
- Think about what Battalions fit your faction. A Cities of Sigmar army that relies on synergies between big and small Heroes will probably always want to field a Warlord or Command Entourage Core Battalion, while a Kharadron Overlords army that’s heavy on Skyvessels (airships which are mostly Behemoths) will probably have to rethink it’s army composition if it wants to fit in a Battle Regiment to finish setting up their army first.
- You can use more than one of a Core Battalion – if it otherwise fits the limitations of the game you’re playing. So there’s nothing stopping you from taking several Grand Regiments to make a very “low-drop” army that can help you get the first turn whenever you want, as long as you can make it work with points and Battlepack restrictions.
Will there be released more Core Battalions in the future?
So far we know that Sons of Behemat are getting some faction-specific Core Battalions in White Dwarf 467. The Sons of Behemat have a hard time using the other Core Battalions, so maybe that is why they are getting some love. Is it a sign of future faction-specific core battalions to come? Time will tell.
What about Warscroll Battalions in 3rd edition? Where did they go?
If you played Age of Sigmar in its previous edition, you might miss your old warscroll battalions. They’re still in the game, and are described under entry 26 in the core rules – they’re just not allowed in Matched Play games anymore. This means you can still use them and their abilities, which are described on their appropriate warscroll, in Open and Narrative games.
This might sound like us saying that they’re basically useless now, but that’s actually far from the case, because you can use them in games of Path to Glory, the new narrative play campaign system that you can read more about in our dedicated article (coming soon).