The Watch Has Just Begun: Deathwatch Codex Review

Greetings all,

Well, it’s been a while. You can thank life for that. I still have that short story to share with you all, however I have done almost nought in the way of hobbying since my last post, so no story until it has some pictures to go with it (for those that have no interest in amateur fiction).

Enough! On to the review…

Overview

Codex Deathwatch is the latest in cut down army books that give you access to fewer options but just enough that it could be used as a force in its own right, unlike say Militarum Tempestus, which is fine as the Imperium of Mankind functions at its best when disparate elements work together (at least, if you’re willing to carry several Codex’s around to field all of the detachments you could use in a single force).

codex-deathwatch-cover

As always the high standards of GW’s printing press means you have a solid book on your hands, filled with some pretty cool pictures of post humans slaughtering vile aliens in their droves. The artwork does vary in style but overall its top notch, however the section beginning’ Knights of the Long Vigil’ I could happily do without. The basic 2D style of the marines and bland colours seems out of place in an otherwise excellent book. I feel like this section could have been done using the ‘Eavy Metal shots that appear a few pages later. Filler is what I would call the Vigil section. However, let’s not be unkind, some of us may well like this style, as it does present the Astartes in a clean uncluttered way for those that wish to look at the iconography on the Marines in detail.

The Narrative

In brief, the Deathwatch are made up of Space Marines from hundreds of Chapters to specifically fight the threat of aliens (or Xenos as they’re known), within and without the domain of mankind.  These marines are seconded to the Deathwatch for a variable length of time, until they return to their Chapter or more likely die in battle. They are not led by the Inquisition of the Ordo Xenos, though they do have such close goals that they fight/work together and bear the seal of the Inquisition where normally their Chapter symbol would be.

The book covers the lore well and from reading it you gain a good handle on who this force is and why they fight the way they do against the specific threat presented by Xenos races. There is a timeline (esque) section of battles fought, a map showing some of the main Deathwatch fortresses located within the various Segmentums, a breakdown of some of the different Chapters that make up the Deathwatch along with the narrative about the various positions within this faction (like Librarian).

One of my favourite pieces was about the Black Shields, Space Marines who have forsaken any past allegiance to permanently join the Death Watch. This is not a new thing, there are Black Shields in the Heresy that are similar, but this is a specific twist that could definitely be greeted with mixed reactions, here goes:

“Some may be the last of a Chapter all but destroyed in the line of duty. Others may be the last loyal warriors of a Chapter who have turned renegade, or even those legendary few lost in time – those who would be instantly executed were their former allegiance known.”

Now, I believe this is more in direct reference to the Fallen, the traitorous element of the Dark Angels. However, I prefer to think that some cacophonous Emperor’s Children could roll up to a Deathwatch fortress and the Watch Master would be like ‘well… you’re a loose cannon but you get results, switch out that armour with the writhing faces for this sleek black number and you’re in.’

deathwatch-logo

The Rules

Brass tacks now, units wise you have the following:

HQ

Watch Master

Watch Captain (no Captain Artemis, he’s in the Death Masque specific rules)

Chaplain

Librarian

Troops

Veterans

Elites

Terminators

Dreadnought (regular and venerable)

Vanguard Veterans (not a mistake, they are elites)

Fast Attack

Bikers

Rhino

Razorback

Drop Pod

Corvus Blackstar (the new flyer)

Heavy Support

Land Raider (regular, Redeemer and Crusader variants)

One of the main oddities of this force is that as the Deathwatch do not follow the Codex Astartes, the unit size of Vanguard Vets, Terminators and Bikers is one to five. That and the upgrades in the squad state ‘any model may choose one of the following’ for some of their options. So you could have a squad of Terminators consisting of just one Terminator and he could have an Assault Cannon, or feel free to have five Terminators in a squad, all with Cyclone Missile Launchers! Likewise with the Vanguard Veterans any of the squad can switch their weapons out for special weapons as well, including the devastating new Heavy Thunder Hammer.

Of quick note; Captain Artemis can be used in place of a Watch Captain however his rules are not in the Codex, they are in the Death Masque rules for what’s in the box. Shame but it’s done now. He is a fairly standard Watch Captain, however one of his best rules is that he carries a one use Stasis Bomb, if you hit it’s strength D. Bonus points if you have a stasis fight with Lukas the Trickster from the feral marines.

artemis

Now in heroic 28mm scale for your 40K Xenos killing pleasure!

The Deathwatch also have a unique way of forming the army, this is by the way of Kill Teams (be the formations or part of the detachment to gain further army wide rules), interestingly you can have mixed squads working as one unit and you are pretty much covered however you want that unit to be made up. A perfect for instance:

Aquila Kill Team

  • 1 unit of Veterans
  • One or more choices in any combination from the following list:
  • Librarian
  • Terminators
  • Vanguard Veterans
  • Bikers

The above would form one unit (of no more than ten models excluding transports), they must stay as one unit (Librarian cannot leave, cannot combat squad) but they also benefit from the Aquilla doctrine ‘Non-vehicle models from this formation can re-roll any to wound rolls and armour penetration rolls of 1’. This is your base Kill Team that you can really customise to form specific battlefield functions.

You could…

Take one unit of vets with four Deathwatch Frag Canons, two terminators with Cyclone Missile Launchers and one Librarian with Divination (so that you get Prescience, re-roll to hit in combat and shooting). Then load said squad up in a Drop Pod, watch as first turn you can land next to a target and potentially dish out 8 strength 9 armour piercing 2 shots (if within 12”) from the Frag Canons and four strength 8 AP 3 missiles from the Cyclones; probably with a bucket load of re-rolls thanks to the Librarian and Aquilla Kill Team tactics. Keep the Terminators and Librarian in the middle of the squad so that the marines are the first to fall and you might even make combat with a couple of Power Fists and a Force Weapon. Sure it’s a few points but the damage output and flexibility of this squad is obscene, if used correctly with a bit of luck, and that’s just one squad!

The formation rules rack up pretty quickly, every type of Kill Team has their own variation and focus for what they are better at. The Malleus team has to have a couple of Thunder Hammers but you flat out get to re-roll to wound or armour penetration against your enemies’ heavy support (note that is still in combat or with your shooting as well).

Every Kill Team, barring the HQ and vehicle choices, must have a unit of Veterans as its minimum compulsory element. So if you are planning on playing the force using the detachment tree you would not be able to take a separate unit of Terminators on its own. However, you could take a regular army and still take most of the Kill Teams as their rules are included as standalone formations. It’s a minor point but it’s worth keeping in mind as effectively the detachment way of assembling a force means you will be taking a lot more Veteran Marines than you otherwise might.

I highly recommend having clear ways of telling your squads apart as it could be pretty easy to forget which team is which and this is an army where all your special rules can make a massive difference.

The army wide rule is Mission Tactics, which is basically more re-rolls in combat and shooting for your army. You pick it at the start of your first turn and can change it once in the battle (this can be increased), so really you should always be getting some kind of re-rolls for your units, making them damned accurate and devastating  at times.

Better get this out there quick though, no smash monster HQ for you, unless you get Endurance from Biomancy. There are no items of wargear or relics that give you Eternal Warrior, which I think is a good thing, for all this army has to offer it is not over powered. You pay the points and you get a highly flexible army were composition really matters. Every unit needs to over achieve and to do so you need to hit hard early on. Drop Pods and transports should be your go too.

Speaking of, the new flyer, the Corvus Blackstar:

Standard marine BS.

Armour value Front and Side 12, with 11 on the back (small arms mean squat to this bad boy), plus it has armoured ceramite. On top of that there’s an upgrade that lets you re-roll jink cover saves!

I don’t use Death from the skies but it has Pursuit 3, Agility 2 and is an Attack Flyer.

Armed with a Twin-Linked Assault Canon, Blackstar Cluster Launcher (Bomb 1 with either S4 AP6 Large Blast or Bomb 1 S5 AP 4 Blast, Ignores Cover) which you can switch for a Black star Rocket Launcher for 15 points (S6 AP4 Heavy D6 with Skyfire or S4 AP5 Heavy 1, Large Blast, Ignores Cover) and four Storm Strike Missiles.

Lastly, the Corvus has a transport capacity of twelve, can carry bikes and jump infantry is an assault vehicle and has multiple access points.

This flyer is obscene, base cost is 180 but it’s a solid all-rounder that should not go down quickly and it could be a really great way of getting your Vanguard Veterans in to combat if you play an assault heavy list. Alternatively the Corvus Blackstar is 70 points cheaper than a Land Raider Crusader, a Terminator squad with attached character/s could fit in it; or perhaps a Kill Team consisting of a Veteran squad, a couple Terminators and a character or two.

As I mentioned if army composition is an element of the game you enjoy, then this Codex really caters for you. It’s at its best when allied with regular Inquisiton (cheap versatile acolytes and access to the Chimera for medium strength ranged weapons) or the Imperial Guard, again for cheap infantry and more varied tanks. Of course you could use the Deathwatch on their own and there is plenty of scope for some mean lists.

A few last bits, as mentioned Vets can have several special or heavy weapons in one squad, this includes the new combi Heavy Bolter/Heavy Flamer (not one shot) and the awesome new Shotgun with three firing modes, crowd control at its finest! The Shotgun can be S4 AP- Assault 2 Shred, S4 AP 4 Assault 2, both ranged 16” or it can be S3 AP6 Assault 1… Template!

The Stalker Pattern Boltgun is a Heavy 2 AP5 SX Sniper weapon and you have special ammunition for almost all Bolt weaponry (excluding the Infernus Heavy Bolter) used by infantry.  I shan’t write them all down but you have your regular with some ignores cover, your poisoned 2+, an AP4 variant and even an AP3 variant that can get hot.

Ace new Xenophase Power Sword that’s AP3 and successful invulnerable saves against it must be re-rolled. Heavy Thunder Hammer that is strength 10! And to wound rolls of 6 have Instant Death!! They’re two handed and only Veterans and Vanguard Veterans can use them.

There are some cool relics, one stand out being the Beacon Angelis, basically at the start of the movement phase you may remove one friendly Deathwatch unit, then deep strike them next to the bearer once per game (bearing in mind you won’t scatter as you place the unit within 6” of the bearer).  This is an ace way of bringing a slow moving unit close to the enemy or providing fire support in overwhelming force. Probably best used on a character that has a decent bodyguard, Biomancy Librarian in a Terminator or Vanguard unit with Storm Shields, I am most definitely looking at you.

Right, that should do it for now. As you can tell I think this Codex is great, could there have been more in it, well yes but what it does it does nicely. We have ace new models (though bizarrely they are scaled up ever so slightly but noticeably when compared to regular Marines or Heresy Marines). The story of the Deathwatch is pretty cool and it is great to be able to field them as a viable force or ally on the table top. I know I will definitely have a force and this might spur me on to finish a few more of my true-scale Deathwatch as well; what with the Codex and ally system being so versatile I could easily have one of the Kill Teams in an Inquisition themed army. Decisions, decisions…

Have an ace one all.

Ed

P.S.

Genestealer Cult! Complete with multi-part Neophyte Cultists bedecked in Imperial mining gear, oh ho yes, I have plans for you my friends.

codex-genestealer-cult

I’ll more than likely be picking a copy up, so expect a review soon.

genestealer-neophytes

I have some -erherm- radical plans for these chaps. It’ll be great to see the community have at ’em.