Warhammer army points explained

Each army in Warhammer 40k is built with points. This resource is given to players before the game and allows them to recruit units that will be presented on the table.

As a newbie, it can be tough to figure out how many points you should use or how to spend them. It’s an issue we all face when first entering the hobby, but learning the ropes is easier than expected.

How many points should a Warhammer army be

The usual recommendation for a Warhammer army is at least 1,500 and up to 2,000, which are values that have quite a few reasons for being standardized.

1,500-2,000 points armies are most common for tournaments and organized play, making them the best choice for army size.

What are the rules and regulations of army point values in organized play and tournaments?

The rules and regulations for any official organized play or tournament are simple. The first requirement is to keep within the point limit. Breaching that will make your army illegible to be used.

The second rule is that all your units, no matter the tournament’s size, must be made out of official models. Players cannot use third-party models that aren’t officially acknowledged by the tournament rules. 

A WYSIWYG rule is also at play with tournaments. WYSIWYG is an acronym for “what you see is what you get.” which means every model has to have corresponding equipment.

For example, if your guardsmen are wielding a grenade launcher, the model has to have it too.

Not having an appropriate model for a certain troop will make us unable to use it in the tournament.

Speaking of, it pays to check if the organizers generally lay out any special rules. These could include limits to point values within a single detachment, the maximum value of a single model, or anything similar.

Rules vary due to the decentralized nature of the hobby, so doing a double-check helps.

What is the Optimal Point Value for Building a Competitive Warhammer Army?

The most common point value for a competitive Warhammer army is between 1,500 and 2,000 points. There are occasionally games played with 1,000-point armies but those are rarer. 

The reason this is done is due to the general versatility of the game. Cramming all the troop types into anything less than 1,500 points can seem either impossible or middling in effectiveness. Always lacking those extra points to truly bring out the big guns of your faction.

Because it’s the usual upper cap, 2,000 point value is optimal for making a competitive Warhammer army.

Points are not too difficult to stay within bounds with, but that’s not the only thing to consider when working on an army.

How Does Army Point Value Affect Game Strategy and Tactics in Warhammer?

The first thing that point value affects is the size of an army. Even if you are conservative with points, a viable army for most factions doesn’t come cheap. The higher your point cap, the larger the overall size. 

A 500 points game can bring in a piece or two of heavy artillery, but a full-fledged 2,000 points game will have them firing mortars all over the battlefield.

The firepower of our existing units also goes up. With all the available heavy weaponry, upgrades, and extra rules that we can afford, it’s easy to spend points without adding too many new units. Your troops may have been trouble before, but with those extra grenade launchers, they turn into a versatile threat.

Of course, we will have far more tools at our disposal in general. Meaning more solutions and more problems at the same time.

While smaller point armies usually have to rely on stratagems and occasional heavy weapons to deal with large targets, a bigger army will have special heavy teams to dispatch those. 

Losing a unit becomes less hurtful for most armies, aside from low model count armies such as Custodes, allowing for some brazen tactics.

Exploring the Relationship Between Army Point Value and Balance in Warhammer

Points are valuable, which is why every unit is gauged by the effectiveness it provides for the cost. Of course, this directly affects the balance as those pricier units have to be worth the price tag to entice players. 

Competitive players will usually rate the entire unit based on its per-model effectiveness. Sometimes, this effectiveness can be invisible at first glance. However, looking at related rules makes for a better understanding of a model’s worth.

The balance and army point value once again come in contact when looking at very expensive units.

For example, we’ll look at C’tan Shard of the Nightbringer. This single model unit brings with itself a stat block befitting a star god. 

Not only does it get some great stats, but its scythe weapon packs two impressive profiles, one of which ignores invulnerable saving throws. That’s without even mentioning the Necrodermis ability that makes the shard impossible to kill in a single phase. 

To top it all off, you get some extra Necron goodness from their rules and a few Psyker-like abilities to boot.

While it’s true that this model will cost a whopping 320 points, the overloaded stat block will likely make it worth our while. 

However, you’ll never see most of these abilities, even individually, present on lower-cost units due to the point cost exponentially affecting power. Establishing a balance for such abilities through point cost.

Maximizing Efficiency: How to Build a Strong Warhammer Army Within Point Limits

To build a strong army, you will need to cover three ranges of the game. These are long, medium, and short ranges. 

We will go over each of them individually and explain how to think about building them. It’s also important to note that this doesn’t only extend to shooting. Long, medium, and short ranges also correlate to the ability of a unit to threaten enemy units from a certain distance. So let’s elaborate on it.

Long range

A long-range unit can threaten a unit farther away from your edge of the deployment zone to the opponent’s edge. That means anything capable of threatening at a distance higher than 24″.

The most basic examples of long-range threats would be snipers and mortars, which easily go above 30″, with the latter causing damage without even needing a line of sight. 

However, the long-range also includes any units that are fast enough to get within the opponent’s engagement range or even the melee range. Bikes fit this description nicely, often making their way into heated combat from a far distance.

This is the range that most games will start off on. Lacking long range means having an ineffective opening which will lead to your army taking losses without being able to fight back. 

Bad capabilities at long range mean bad first turns.

The number of points spent on long range units will vary depending on the army. Some armies play that gun line focus, while others merely use it to soften the foes or disrupt formation. 

No matter the overall composition, it’s healthy to have a couple of units with long range capabilities to start with.

Middle range

From 24″ and below, we enter the middle range. This is where most mayhem happens as units come into range of psyker’s smites and rapid fire units. 

Hence why it’s usually the one everybody aims to kit themselves out for the most.

The middle range will often be packed with the run-of-the-mill infantry. Whether your army uses GEQs or MEQs, you’ll need that line to hold or move in closer.

This range is also where a couple of control points will be located, so it’s an important range for earning some extra victory points.

This range also keeps your long range units in a safer position. As middle range poses a danger to the opponent, they won’t be able to pursue farther targets without risking losing control of the board.

Having a healthy presence at the middle of the board is paramount, even if most of your middle line will close into close quarters during the charge phase. Pepper the opponent and keep the objectives contested, or you’ll find yourself overwhelmed. 

Again, it’s best to get a few durable units here, Dreadnoughts and their equivalents being a safe bet.

Close range

Now for the last one of our ranges, close range. While every unit can fight in melee, not all are good at it. So it’s healthy to look over the options even if you aren’t a melee army because being charged isn’t fun for any unit that doesn’t have strong weapon skill or decent equipment.

Those armies that do not focus on melee combat will never have a fun time in close range but can always find a way to soften the charge. 

Using stratagems to shoot after falling back, using weaker units as meat shields, or just going for a counter-offensive outright can all work. It’s also something you should consider when building an army. 

Ask yourself, “what will I do when a big squad of Ork Boyz smashes into my firing line?” then look for solutions the army you pilot can provide.

If you are piloting a melee army, this is your bread and butter. Make sure to make the first round of close-range engagement really count. You worked hard to get here, so now’s the time to strike hard.

When building an army, make sure to pump those extra points into wargear that supports your melee capabilities.

Now that you have a decent look at the three ranges and some understanding of how to approach filling them out let’s look at numbers.

An army of 1,500 through 2,000 points should have most of those going toward their strongest range

This can easily be around 1,000 points and above. However, you should dedicate around 400 points for each of the other ranges, with 800 points total being spent on it. That also leaves roughly 200 points for players to patch up any remaining holes or spend those points to make the current units even stronger.

Once again, the point cost you are pouring to reinforce those ranges needn’t be exclusively units, they can be wargear or upgrades. It can be as simple as adding better melee to your gun line or strapping a storm bolter to a melee vehicle. 

Balancing Power and Variety: How Many Points Should be Allocated for Special Units in a Warhammer Army?

Expanding on the above idea of spending 400 points to cover a range, let’s explore how this reflects in special unit allocation. These units will commonly be associated with countering a certain weak spot in our army.

Sticking to the aforementioned 400 points, it’s usually good to dump a decent bit of that value into a unit or two that cover a specific range you aren’t too good at. 

Going with two is usually the best, giving us better coverage and usually, if using cheaper units, leaving some of those points for wargear.

The Role of Army Point Value in Creating a Favorable Matchup in Warhammer

Each army has its strengths and weaknesses. However, certain factions require some extra setup to truly manifest their potential. 

By upping the army point value, we get access to units that would otherwise take up the entire army or not fit within the current strategy, weakening our main force.

This extra point value does make the game generally easier to get a decent counterplay going without ruining your own tactics. 

For example, a range-heavy Tau army can use Kroots as a screen to avoid taking casualties. These melee units are decently fast and come in large stacks which can absorb shots. 

Kroots are cheap, even with troop point costs spiking in the 9th edition, but can cut into the point budget of armies that are on the lower end. Even 1,000-point armies would rather try and squeeze another powerful suit in than auxiliary troops. 

The extra points allow for a potent army that can still somewhat cover their weaknesses. 

You can see some factions especially edge out others when playing lower-point games. Certain units could even find it difficult to enter their desired range in patrol-sized games, as they cannot deploy required counters. 

What are the Pros and Cons of a High Point Value Army in Warhammer?

The pros are very direct for a high-point-value army. 

As a result of the point increase, they have stronger weapons and better coverage of the ranges of the game. It’s also a more involved game with every player employing multiple tactics to achieve victory.

The cons are that you’ll have a lot more to worry about. Not only on your side of the field but also on the opponent’s side. Players will have more abilities to use, and a higher amount of command points to spend while planning their next move, making every action matter far more. 

There is also the actual monetary cost of building an army

Models don’t come cheap. Filling up 2,000 points worth of them is bound to put a dent in our budget. This goes double for certain armies, whose models cost a lot even by Warhammer 40k miniature standards.

The Influence of Army Point Value on the Outcome of a Warhammer Game

Army point value can greatly impact the outcome of a fight. Certain armies excel at lower point values due to their general troops being good at covering multiple roles without extra wargear. 

Those factions can often edge our other armies. The outcome is very much in their favor, so changing the army point value can bring others to a more even playing field.

At the regular tournament points, we can expect this disparity to be smaller. 

Of course, the general advantage of certain factions won’t be completely mitigated by the increase in points, but it’s just part of the game. 

No game is perfectly balanced, but scaling army point value high enough for everybody to form their extra tactics will help keep any matchup outcome less predictable.

The Impact of Army Point Value on Matchups and Metagames in Warhammer

Following our previous point, let’s discuss matchups and metagame. 

In any game, there are certain factions that do better against others. Thankfully, changes are frequent and thus bring more interesting changes to the general metagame of the wargame. 

Sadly, you can’t balance the game fully without making all of the playable factions very homogenous, but the creators do try to neuter it.

Matchups and point value

The matchups can get very oppressive without something to balance them out. 

For example, taking care of Space Marines or any of their equivalents while lacking armor penetration or high-strength weapons is bound to leave us relying on luck. 

Hence why most armies will have their dedicated response to bulkier infantry. 

As with covering for weakness, you could find these hard to incorporate with lower point limits. 

Matchups can turn from favorable to neutral or even unfavorable depending on the points we have on offer

Guardsmen get erased fast by a squad of Space Marines, but they won’t have to worry about them after a proper artillery strike.

Metagame and point value

Metagame can suffer a similar fate to matchups. In the 8th edition, Astra Militarum had a massive advantage due to its low point costs. 

The way Command Points were generated in that edition meant cramming as many detachments into your army was the best way to maximize stratagem usage.

Astra Militarum could make two whole Battalion detachments with little issue. This allowed the faction players to start with a whopping 24 Command Points and a whole lot of bodies. 

The meta of the era was also heavily based on the volume of fire which made cheap infantry like one in this faction extremely potent. 

Things have changed somewhat in the 9th edition, with point cost changes aiming to address the last edition’s issues. Armies now have to invest more points into bringing extra troops along, although troops are still very relevant due to the importance of objectives in the game. 

All point changes affect the metagame greatly through change of units position in the army.

The Importance of Army Point Value in Organized Play and Tournaments in Warhammer

Organized play and tournaments benefit from having a similar army point value. Because the hobby is very decentralized and expensive to boot, knowing how many points you’ll need to fill up at most helps. 

Suppose a player has a 2,000-point army and wishes to participate in a 1,750 tournament. They can do so by removing a couple of models. 

Higher point value also helps keep things fresh and counterplay varied. 

While you could run the same army every time, switching out that mortar for some close range bodies to sustain punishment could be a better way to go about it. 


The usual values of a tournament army vary between 1,500 and 2,00. The same goes for organized play too, making this range of points the best for crafting an army. 

It pays to go full 2,000 points as you can alter the list to fit lower point caps. 

Keep in mind the three ranges of the game and be wary of bad matchups. Spend your points wisely, it will lead to far more victories no matter the faction you play.