Tuesday 23 August 2016

Deathwatch Codex Review: Part 1- Special Rules, Warlord Traits, Wargear and Relics

Welcome to the first part of my review of the new Deathwatch codex. We are truly in a golden age of 40k, where armies such as Harlequins, Cult Mechanicus and Imperial Knights are getting their own codices. The latest addition to the wish-list of new factions is the Deathwatch. This review will look at the special rules, warlord traits and Relics available to the Imperium's foremost Xenos hunters. 

Special Rules
The Deathwatch have access to a few special rules that add some flavour to the army. These include Atonement Through Honour, Combat Squads and Mission Tactics. 

Atonement Through Honour- A model with this rule gets to double its attacks when locked in combat with a number of selected model types or if their squad is outnumbered by the enemy unit(s). When I first saw this rule, I'd hoped that it applied to an entire unit. Imagine a unit of Veterans that got 4 attacks base when outnumbered by the enemy! Unfortunately, that is not the case. This rule applies only to Black Shields, a special upgrade for a single model in a Veteran squad (which will be covered in more detail in the Troops review). This is still a nice bonus for a single model. I would be inclined to give the Black Shield a melee weapon of some type to benefit from the increased number of attacks he is likely to get. 

Mission Tactics- These are a sort of Chapter Tactic for the Deathwatch to represent the different missions they have to deal with. At the start of your first turn you select one of the mission tactics for the game. They all give you re-rolls of 1's to Hit (shooting or combat) against one type of unit on the force organisation chart (troops, fast attack, etc). This applies to all units of that type in the enemy army. If the unit is mixed, you get to apply the bonuses for both units. For example, if you have an HQ unit in a troops choice and select the Mission Tactic that targets HQ's, you get re-rolls against the HQ and his unit. 
These are a nice bonus, providing you with re-rolls to almost half your misses in the army. The fact that you pick on your first turn means you can choose the tactics that will be optimal for your opponent's army. There are a number of ways to chance your Mission Tactics within the codex, so you could potentially target many enemy unit types over the course of the game. 

Special Issue Ammunition- Not really an army special rule, but almost all non-vehicle units in the Deathwatch codex come armed with special issue ammunition. Anyone who has ever used Sternguard will know how useful this can be, essentially giving the army various different weapons to deal with their opponent. Even without taking any heavy weapons or special weapons in your army, this will provide some potent firepower to most of your units. 
For those that are unaware, special issue ammunition essentially gives you either ignores cover fire, poisoned 2+ fire, AP4 bolter shots with an increased range and AP3 shots at decreased range (though with Get's Hot). The AP3 and poisoned 2+ shells are likely to see the most use (based on my own experiences with Sternguard), the Mission Tactics will be particularly useful for minimising the damage caused to your own units by the Gets Hot rolls. 

Overall, some nice special rules for the Deathwatch. I can see the essentially army-wide special issue ammunition to be incredibly powerful. 

Warlord Traits
The Deathwatch army also gets its own Warlord traits which it can use. 

Bane of Monstrosities- Gives your warlord re-rolls to wound and armour penetration against vehicles and monstrous creatures. Useful for taking on Imperial Knights or Riptides in combat. 

Lord of Hidden Knowledge- Provides your warlord and his unit with D6 selected re-rolls during the game. Very useful for ensuring that you can kill something when you really need to in combat or with shooting. Unfortunately, cannot be used for saves. 

Castellan of the Black Vault- Makes all your warlord's weapons master-crafted (excluding Relics). A nice bonus for your warlord, depending on how he is armed. 

Vigilance Incarnate- Allows you to change mission tactics. I can see the mission tactics being quite powerful in a game, so any chance to change this during the course of the game will be a good advantage to have and allow you to respond to how the battle is going. 

Bringer of the Red Dawn- Gets your warlord Night Vision and allows you to choose Night Fighting to be in effect without rolling. A decent bonus, but I rarely remember to roll for night fighting as it generally has little influence on my games. This would be worth taking as much of your army will likely be able to ignore cover with their bolters if they wish. 

Master of the Voidhunt- Allows your warlord to fire a special shot at an enemy unit each turn within bolt pistol range. On a 3+ they take D3 S6 AP4 hits. On a 6, it goes up to S10 AP2. A really nice bonus if you are good at rolling 6's! The short range means closing in with the enemy, but at least there is no chance of the shot scattering back on your unit. 

Some nice warlord traits there, nothing that seems particularly amazing, but some decent bonuses all the same. For me, the best ones would seem to be Vigilance incarnate or Lord of Hidden Knowledge for the re-rolls. 

The Deathwatch have access to a number of unique weapons and wargear, as befits an army of elite warriors.

Blackstar Cluster Launcher- A set of bombs for the new Corvus Blackstar flyer that are not one use only. The frag bomb is a S4 AP6 large blast, while the Infernus Cluster is a S5 AP4 small blast that ignores cover.
A decent set of bombs for the new flyer. Being able to use it multiple times is also a nice bonus.

Blackstar Rocket Launcher- This fires two types of rockets. The first is a Corvid warhead, which is essentially a Heavy D6 assault cannon with skyfire (but no Rending). The second is the Dracos warhead, which is a Heavy 1, large blast, ignores cover with a bolter profile.
A decent enough rocket launcher. If the Corvid warhead was not skyfire, it would be even better. I guess this would be more useful if you are using Death From the Skies, as the skyfire weapon will be useful in the Dogfight phase.

Deathwatch Frag Cannon- The frag round is a S6 flamer with assault 2 and Rending. The Solid Shell is S7 AP3 assault 2, that increases to S9 AP2 at half range!
The Frag cannon is amazing and will be seen a lot in Deathwatch armies, I think. Up to 4 Veterans can take heavy weapons in a Deathwatch squad, so four of this in a squad will deal a lot of damage when they fire. As they are assault weapons, they get to fire when disembarking from a transport such as a Rhino or Drop Pod.

Infernus Heavy Bolter- An assault 3 heavy bolter with a Heavy Flamer attached. The Flamer is not one use only.
I really like the Infernus Heavy Bolter, the fact that you can move and shoot with it (without snap firing) is great and a real theme in the Deathwatch army. The only issue is that it is only 5 pts less than the Deathwatch Frag Cannon, which it is definitely not as good as.

Stalker Pattern Boltgun- A 30" range, heavy 2, Sniper boltgun.
Decent enough, but I never find that sniper weapons really do much for me in a game. I don't really see too much need for it, as with special issue ammunition means you will be wounding on a 2+ if you wish. The extra range is nice, but I don't think this will be worth it.

Guardian Spear- A two-handed melee weapon that is +1S and AP2, striking at initiative. It also provides you the chance to block a single enemy attack each assault phase. It comes with a built-in boltgun with Special Issue Ammunition.
This is only available on the Watch Master, but will be great in combat as there are very few AP2 weapons available to Space Marines that strike at initiative.

Xenophase Blade- A power sword that forces successful invulnerable saves to be re-rolled.
This is great for taking on enemy characters in combat and should help them cause more wounds.

Heavy Thunder Hammer- A thunder hammer that is S10, with Instant Death on a to wound roll of a 6 and two-handed.
This will be great for taking on enemy vehicles or walkers. The Instant Death on a 6 is nice, using for monstrous creatures or enemies that are T6 or above.

Clavis- A piece of wargear that makes vehicles within 6" have -1 WS, BS and I.
This would be quite useful for taking on enemy walkers in combat or hindering the firepower of enemy vehicles. You will need to get really close to use it though.

Overall, the Deathwatch have access to some really nice wargear. For me, the clear winner is the Frag Cannon. This is incredibly powerful and I can see a lot of Deathwatch armies including this potent weapon.

The Deathwatch also have access to a number of unique Relics for the army.

Banebolts of Eryxia- An additional special issue ammunition that provides Instant Death on a to wound roll of a 6.
A nice upgrade for the cost of a combi-weapon, however, you are dependent on whether you can roll that 6 on your shot. I probably wouldn't bother with it.

The Beacon Angelis- A Homing Beacon that allows you to once per game, remove one of your units on the table and re-deploy them within 6" of the bearer (they count as Deep Striking).
A really nice Relic for the Deathwatch. This may help get around the limited mobility of a drop pod unit once they have deployed, which can be a real problem for these types of infantry unit.

Dominus Aegis- Gives a unit a 4+ invulnerable if the model carrying it did not move in the Movement phase.
This is actually quite a nice bonus for a unit in your army and would especially suit a static shooting unit.

The Osseus Key- A Clavis that can attack a vehicle or building in the assault phase with a 33% chance of causing a glancing hit and 50% chance of causing a penetrating hit.
Decent enough, but for the cost of a power weapon, I probably wouldn't bother with it. Would be useful for taking on enemy Knights though.

The Thief of Secrets- A power sword with the Biophage rule. This rule means that when you caused an unsaved wound against an enemy model, all models of that type are wounded on a 2+ from then on. For example, wounding a tactical marine means that all other tactical marines are wounded on a 2+ from then on.
This is a really powerful weapon to take. It will be great for taking on massed infantry, as you are very likely to wound them quickly and really boost your damage output from then on.

The Tome of Ectoclades- Allows the bearer and his unit to enact an additional Mission Tactics for one turn only.
This is a nice bonus, you can enact a Mission Tactic for one turn before you fire on or charge an enemy unit, helping with your damage output.

Some really nice Relics for the Deathwatch. For me, the Beacon Angelis. Thief of Secrets and Dominus Aegis are really good, and would add a lot to any Deathwatch army.

The Deathwatch have access to some nice special rules and some really great wargear options. I would be interested in trying out quite a few of the combinations in the army to see what works well.


  1. My thing to note is that the Beacon Angelis works for all friendly models, not just Deathwatch, and that it doesn't have to be on the Board at the start of the turn to work. Put it in a drop pod and bring down a Skyhammer or a Shadowstrike Kill team with incredible precision for an awesome alpha.

    The Dominus Aegis is my personal stand or choice, as it doesn't prevent you moving in the Psychic Phase, so an army can gain the buff while still having the mobility of Electrodisplacement or Gate.

    1. I can just hear the glee in your voice for the filth you will be able to make with the Deathwatch Innes.

    2. It's my only joy in life :D

    3. Doesn't it say that you have to remove a unit and then deep strike it? Also, it's only 1 unit, and Skyhammer are 4+.

      Offtopic, but, Innes, do you have any experience with competitive Necrons? I'm thinking about starting them as my 3rd and final faction and have dug out some nasty combos for them, too.

    4. The Beacon Angelis is a homing beacon that has the special rule to remove a unit and re-deploy it. You can still use it as a homing beacon for other units as Innes has suggested.

  2. Excellent review, as always (appreciate the consistent quality of articles from your blog here). About the only thing I might disagree with is your assessment of the Stalker Pattern Boltgun; with the ability to take Special Issue Ammunition, you get some amazing options, I think ---

    -Dragonfire Rounds - 30" SX AP5 Heavy 2, Ignore Cover, Sniper
    -Hellfire Rounds - 30" SX AP5 Heavy 2, Sniper, Poison (2+)
    -Kraken Rounds - 36" SX AP4 Heavy 2, Sniper
    -Vengeance Rounds - 24" SX AP3 Heavy 2, Sniper, Gets Hot

    Imagine being able to put out 20 x Ignore Cover AP5 Sniper shots at 30" against a squad of Guardsman or Cultists camping in cover near an objective?

    Or imagine shooting 20 x Hellfire rounds at 30" that wound on a 2+, with re-rolls of 1s to Hit using the Purgatus Mission Tactics, at Tyranid Hive Tyrants (don't forget, 6+s to Wound still become AP2 wounds because of Sniper)?

    Or imagine shooting up to 36" with 20 x SX AP4 Sniper shots against a Necron Warrior Phalanx (good old AP4 to ignore their armor saves)?

    Or imagine engaging a large Tau Crises Suit Team at 24" with 20 x SX AP3 Sniper, Get's Hot (with re-rolls of 1s to Hit using Dominatus Mission Tactics)?

    Bottom line, I think the Stalker Pattern Boltgun (with Special Ammo) turns a DW Veteran team into a very efficient, versatile "firebase" unit that can threaten multiple, especially if they can enhance their survivability by positioning themselves in cover/behind an Aegis Line, on a Skyshield Landing Pad, or inside a building with Firing Points.

    1. Cheers, glad you enjoy the articles on the blog.

      I didn't actually think of the Stalker pattern in combination with the special issue ammunition. I think you are right, once you factor in the different rounds it actually becomes pretty potent!

    2. For some reason, I did not think the Special issue ammunition would apply to the Stalker boltgun when I was writing this.

    3. I forgot one other thing... Tome of Ectoclades appears to be useable EVERY turn, not just "one turn only," so that makes it significantly more useful and versatile.

    4. Yeah, it can be used every turn, the effects are just for one turn (not too clear above though).

  3. The main advantage I see to the Infernus Heavy Bolter over the Frag Cannon is that you only get one of each in the box, but it's really quite easy to convert extra Infernus HBs from the Heavy Bolters and Flamers that pretty much any Marine Player has lying around anyhow. In an ideal world, yeah, Frag Cannon all the way, but with metagame concerns like that, the Infernus starts looking better.

    Also, you left out their Shotgun. Not a huge deal, it's not great. It would be a fine switch for a regular Bolter, but when you're also trading in SIA, it's starting to feel a bit like a downgrade.

    Also, it's kind of weird that the Banebolts have a profile for a Stalker Boltgun, but there's no one who can get both a Stalker and Relics.

    Finally, a tip Greysplinter showed me: DW Models swap their Bolter for Special/Heavy Weapons, but they also have access to the Ranged Weapons list, which lets them swap their CCW for another Bolter for free, so you can get the best of both worlds.

  4. Thanks for the review! Just out of curiosity, do you have um, ALL codices?

    Personally Deathwatch doesn't interest me at all to be honest (although it's nice to see the core abilities of this new army at a glance), and I would've thought that there are plenty of other armies that need an update. I hadn't estimated a large demand for Deathwatch among players either to be honest.

    1. Unfortunately, I do not own all codices. I only tend to buy the ones for my armies. The Deathwatch one was an anomaly, as I was interested in their rules. I may even be tempted to start an army of them.

  5. Nice review! Enjoyable read, this is going to be my next army and it's good to get a take from a more experienced player. Thanks for the games at HFAD too!

    1. Will definately be using my fair share of frag cannons!

    2. Great meeting you at HFAD Tom! I'm being seriously tempted by the Deathwatch after reading through the codex. It seems like a very fun and different way to play.