Friday, 5 April 2019

North East Open Tournament- Army Review and Tournament Review

Welcome to my review of my Deathwatch army from the recent North East Open tournament. This will look at how the army performed and what changes I could make to the force in order to try and improve my performance. I will also be reviewing the tournament itself, taking a look at what was great about the event and which areas could use improvement. 

Deathwatch Army Review
My Deathwatch army consisted of:

Battalion Detachment
Deathwatch Watch Master- Guardian Spear
Watch Captain- Jump Pack, Thunder Hammer, Bolt Pistol, Storm Shield
9 Deathwatch Veterans- 9 Storm Bolters, 2 Storm Shields, Chainswords, Vanguard Veteran- Bolt Pistol, Storm Shield
10 Intercessors- Bolt Rifles, Bolt Pistols
5 Veterans- 2 Missile Launchers, 3 Stalker Bolters, Chainswords, Terminator- Power Fist, Storm Bolter, Cyclone Missile Launcher 
5 Veterans- 2 Frag Cannons, 3 Shotguns, Storm Shield 
5 Veterans- Missile Launcher, 2 Heavy Bolters, Bolters, Terminator, Power Fist, Assault Cannon
10 Veterans- 6 Bolters, Meltagun, 3 Combi-Meltas, chainswords 
Rhino- Two Storm Bolters 
Rhino- Two Storm Bolters 
Razorback- Twin Lascannon, Storm Bolter

Outrider Detachment
Watch Captain- Jump Pack, Relic Blade, Bolt Pistol, Lord of Hidden Knowledge (warlord trait), The Tome of Ectoclades (Relic)
4 Bikers- Twin Bolters, Sergeant with Storm Bolter and Storm Shield, Chainswords 
4 Bikers- Twin Bolters, Sergeant with Storm Bolter and Storm Shield, Chainswords 
4 Bikers- Twin Bolters, Sergeant with Storm Bolter and Storm Shield, Chainswords

The tournament did not allow double detachments, otherwise I would have started with a couple of Battalions to give me access to more command points. As it was, I started with 9 command points, but only 6 really after using the three command points on the Teleportarium stratagem that I need to use to get my reserves set up.

HQ Units
The army featured a Watch Master and two Watch Captains with Jump Packs.

The Watch Captain is still a solid addition to the army. He provides some great re-roll buffs to the force and tends to shadow the Storm Bolter Veterans, and the Meltagun Veterans in this list.

The Smash Watch Captain is also a nice addition to the list. He provides some strong melee support for the army, able to do a lot of damage to an enemy unit in combat and has some decent durability thanks to the Storm Shield.

The final Watch Captain tended to hang back with my firebase. With the Tome of Ectoclades, I could pick the key Mission Tactics re-rolls for my anti-tank firepower each turn, as well as getting re-rolls of 1's to hit in the shooting phase. As my warlord, he was able to stay relatively safe at the back of my deployment zone, but has the mobility with his Jump Pack to move out and threaten the enemy army if necessary.

I would consider making the Smash Captain the warlord and give him the trait that makes his Thunder Hammer 4 damage. Coupled with the +1 to wound stratagem, this may give him some strong combat ability to go after Knights or other enemy vehicles.

Kill Teams
The Storm Bolter Kill Team is a key part of the army. The firepower that this unit can put out is incredible, able to decimate most enemy units with ease. With re-rolls to wound and the +1 to wound stratagem, they can do a lot of damage to an enemy Knight warlord if you can position them right.

I would probably look to add more Storm Shields to the unit. They are cheap enough to equip everyone in the squad and give me some very strong defensive abilities against units such as the Castellan.

In a change from my normal gameplay, I chose to keep the Intercessors on the board in all three of my games. I normally put these in the Teleportarium at the start of the game. However, I decided to have the Meltagun kill team take the second spot in this tournament. The change to the Bolter rules meant that the Intercessors could still put out a lot of strong firepower at ranges up to 36", so there was good use for them in my games. I would consider adding another squad to help me grab objectives and give some strong firepower in the future.

In this list, I added a Kill Team with 4 Meltaguns in order to give me some anti-tank firepower. I thought they would help me to take on Knights and finally do some damage to them. However, this proved to be much less effective than I had hoped for. The ability to easily access a 3+ invulnerable save on a key Knight means that single shot anti-tank weapons are much less effective than they should be. In order to have a decent shot, I would probably need to go for a whole squad of combi-Meltas, which would get ridiculously expensive. Plus, they would only get one turn of shooting before being targeted and eliminated with ease in most cases.

The Missile Launcher Kill Team was also a new variation. With the reduction in points for the Cyclone Missile Launcher Terminator, he is now a good addition to the army, giving the squad four Missile Launcher shots, as well as a 2+ save against small arms fire. The squad performed pretty reasonably, able to take on a number of vehicle threats. However, any invulnerable saves still prove difficult for them to take on.

The Heavy Bolter Kill Team was a new addition. I took these to allow me to use the Hellfire Shells stratagem, giving me the chance to do more mortal wounds to tough enemy targets. This squad was ok, but didn't really do much in my games. The lack of command points in the force meant I couldn't use the mortal wounds stratagems too often, limiting their use in my games.

My army also included two Rhinos and a twin Lascannon Razorback. In the current Castellan meta, there is little point in taking vehicles at the moment. They tend to die quite easily and give up kill points too easily.

The vehicles didn't really do much in the army and I would probably drop them from my list in the future. Unfortunately, the Razorback is one of the few ways to access a Lascannon in the army.

With the change to the Bolter rules, I decided to add some Bikers to the force. I figured these would be a nice mobile force with decent firepower to take on a number of threats in the enemy army.

They did reasonable well in the army, but didn't really get a chance to shine. They fell pretty quickly to the Knights in both of my games.

They did pretty well in the first game, going after enemy threats and grabbing objectives. I would probably take them in the army again, but I would probably only go for a couple of units. I took the three units in order to get the Vanguard army for an additional command point.

The army performed pretty well at the tournament. The downside was going up against Knights. They are the big flaw in my list, as I am not really able to take them on effectively.

I'm not sure how I would take them on with my Deathwatch. I don't like to run Forgeworld in my lists and like to build mono-faction armies.

I think Plasma Intercessors or Veterans might be a good option for taking them on. Overcharging with the +1 to wound stratagem would allow me to wound on a 3+ and re-roll 1's with the right Mission Tactics. With re-rolls to hit from the Watch Master, I could potentially do a fair bit of damage.

A Librarian with Null Zone would be great for removing the invulnerable save of the Knights. However, I have had great difficulty in getting a Librarian into position in order to use the power, and there are some difficulties in casting it with the high casting value.

Any advice on taking on Knights with Deathwatch (codex only), please let me know.

Tournament Review
Overall, I had a great time at the tournament, despite a couple of poor games against Imperial Knights.

The venue was great and very spacious. The organisers had made a real effort to give players plenty of room between tables. As you can see from the photos below, there was tons of room with no bumping into other players on nearby tables. It might have been nice to have a few empty tables around for putting on books and armies while you were organising your games, but that is a small nitpick.

The boards were all set up to the same layout and general standard. There was some great line of sight blocking terrain throughout most of the boards, especially with the ITC terrain rules in effect. One issue was that much of the terrain lacked the height to hide units or vehicles from Knights. Most Knights had free reign for shooting unless you were hugging the walls on the bottom level of the ruins.

They were also selling snacks and drinks throughout to keep you going, as well as having a lot of bathroom facilities throughout the day. Lunch was three tacos from a food truck outside. These were really tasty, but there was a bit of a queue to get served at lunch, as most players were heading out at the same time.

There was no clock on display to show the amount of time remaining in each round. I think they had intended to have one, but projector issues had put paid to that. This was a bit of an issue as we had to ask several times how long was left in each round, and I heard many other players have to do the same.

One other issue was that the big windows caught a lot of sun later in the day. This could be an issue if the deployment zone forced you to face them. We actually swapped tables in my third game for this very reason, as my opponent would have had the sun in his eyes for the whole game.

The event had a great atmosphere, with many players having a lot of fun. I got to see some great armies at the event and chat to a bunch of great players during my time there. Also, a big shout out to the organiser, Ricci, for inviting me along and putting me up for the weekend so that I could attend. It was very much appreciated and he provided me with a great gift pack!

My one big gripe was how the final game on the top table was handled. Both players were on 20-0 wins going into the final game, so it was all to play for. As my third game finished very early, I was able to observe some of the game, going in and out.

By all accounts it was a very close game, with only a few points in it as the time was running out. As the game was coming to a close, one of the players decided to concede so that his opponent would get the full 20 tournament points and win the event. He still had two Imperial Knights on the table and the there were only a few points in it. As it was, one player would have gotten a narrow win and one would receive a narrow loss. This would have put both down the rankings and neither would have placed.

However, in conceding the game, as per the rules pack, the winning player got the full tournament points and went on to win the event overall. I did not agree with this decision. It essentially gifted one player the tournament win, as his opponent decided that he "deserved" to win the event after they had had such a good final game. This pushed other players who got three legitimate 20-0 wins down the rankings to 2nd and 3rd place.

For me, this was poor sportsmanship. It robbed someone who actually managed to score three big wins from winning the event. If your opponent on the top table can simply choose to let you win a tournament, what is the point in playing the game?

I'm not sure what the solution would be. Having the organisers step in to prevent this may have worked, but it is in the rulespack that conceding gives you the full tournament points.

Other than the few issues I have highlighted, it was a great event. I had a fun time chatting to a number of players and had a few drinks with the organisers on the Saturday evening, which makes a change from rushing off to get home.

Again, many thanks to Ricci for inviting me and putting me up for the weekend. It was a blast. 


  1. Another great read, sounds like Castellans just need a points jump, or Lords of War detachments need to be banned from tournaments... not a knee jerk reaction from me at all!

    Regarding the conceding to give the victory to his opponent its a tough one, that could be fixed with a something in the pack about TO's assessing the situation. The problem is that if it's ruled too tightly someone can concede to prevent their opponent winning the event. Its bad sportsmanship and surprising that the TO's didnt make a snap decision on it.

    1. As a second note, reading your blog is convincing me I really need to pull my finger out and start that Deathwatch army I have sort of planned.

    2. Haha! Don't know if I should be saying congratulations or apologising for helping you to start a new army!

      I hope they do something about the Castellan. It is killing the game for so many people. They are simply not fun to play against if your army doesn't have a lot of tools to deal with them.

  2. Sounds like it was a good event for the most part.

    As far as knights go it is tricky. Attrition seems to be the key so maybe a second storm bolter squad would help. I suspect the next CA will heighten points on all knights and only got missed due to timing of the publications (Datk Eldar were in a similar position if memory serves me right).

    Another anti tank may be dreadnoughts or ven dreads with missile launcher and Las cannon? Or a couple combat dreads to teleport and charge knights (I'd say leviathan but I know you're avoiding FW).

    Regardless the Deathwatch did proud, kill the filthy xenos! :D

    Maybe a heavy bolter team for knights for more shots to use attrition and mortal strategem together?

    1. Attrition is a good way to go with the Knights. The downside is that the Deathwatch don't have the bodies to do attrition either. As can be seen in my game, I can take one Knight out in a single shooting phase if I commit most of my army. However, if there are two more running around, my units will pretty much fall with ease the following turn. I can take out a Castellan and then lose the game, or not deal with it and still lose the game! Decisions, decisions.....

  3. Great write-up, Mike and sound analysis. Very cool to see 8th supporting a specialist faction like Deathwatch in the tourney scene at all! Seems like many heavy damage options become easy targets for a solid knight like the Castellan to focus on and take out (so an added dread would get blown off the board before adding much, etc.). Tough problem to solve, for certain. Great looking force though, and it has been fun to see how you play it on the table.

    1. Yeah, that is still the issue. Anything that can potentially hurt a Knight will just die to it on turn 1. Coming after them from reserve is a good option, but you need to make the charge roll.

  4. Mike, not sure what else an Elite SM army can do against Knights, maybe a Jump Assault Squad / Vanguard with Hammers, accompanied with Captain Smash? Or more Lascannons dispersed in squads. I think the Bike Squads are solid enough, just a bum deal against Knights. With that few CPs drop the Heavy Bolter? Drop the Vehicles until the meta moves away from Castellans? I enjoyed your write ups regardless!

    1. My problem is getting the squad into combat. Coming from reserve means a 9" charge, which can be tricky, but not as tricky as getting it across them across the table.

      I would love to take more Lascannons across my squads, but unfortunately, Deathwatch infantry cannot take them. Only the vehicles can come equiped with them.

      I added the Heavy Bolters to use the Hellfire Shells stratagem, but as you say, with too few CP, I didn't really get much use out of them.

    2. How about a "Vanguard Veteran Squad" that's actually a Supreme Command Detachment full of Smash Captains? That way you get five chances to make the Charge, and you're probably OK if any two of them succeed. If you drop them just a hair behind a screening Kill Team with Storm Shields, the ones who don't make it should be reasonably safe from return fire, and able to go smash something else next Turn.

      I'm actually joking less than I thought I was when I started typing this, even tho it's ludicrous that I'm even thinking about it as a viable option.

  5. It's kind of depressing how many army reviews these days basically end with something like "problems I don't know how to fix: Knights (and more specifically the Castellan) exist." I really hope they get some price bumps and/or errata soon.

  6. I suspect they will go up in the next chapter approved at least. If timing had been better it would've been in the last 1 to he honest

  7. The organisers and tournament rules should differentiate between conceding and tanking; that was a pretty poor decision to award the points.

  8. I think a Librarian with a jump pack would be a great way to deal with Knights, especially since it seems like most Knight lists don't bring any psychic support to ruin your plans with DtW.

    Of course, even with a jump pack, six inches isn't huge, but if you're willing to break that mono-Codex requirement, the Fallen Angels detachment in Vigilus Ablaze gives Imperial armies access to Chaos Sorcerers, and their Death Hex power.

    1. Death Hex is the far superior power. Null Zone is simply too short ranged to be relied upon in most cases.