Sunday, 13 May 2018

Deathwatch Codex Review: Part 2- Stratagems

Welcome to part 2 of my Deathwatch Codex review. This part will take a look at the Stratagems now available for the Deathwatch army. 

The Deathwatch gain access to a number of the useful common stratagems available to the Space Marines, as well as some great new ones of their own. 

Armour of Contempt (1CP)- Use when a Deathwatch vehicle suffers a mortal wound. On a 5+, it ignores that mortal wound and any further mortal wounds suffered for the rest of the phase. 

One that probably won't be used all that often, but could come in useful every once in a while. I can see it being of use to the Corvus Blackstar. This vehicle is more likely to range ahead of the army, so will be the target of Smite attacks more often than other vehicles. If your opponent has a lot of smite or other mortal-wound dealing psychic powers, I can see this being a nice way to help the Corvus survive for a bit longer in a game. 

Auxpex Scan (2CP)- Use when an enemy unit arrives from reserve within 12" of a Deathwatch Infantry unit. The unit may shoot as if it was the shooting phase, but at -1 to hit. 

This is a powerful stratagem that gets even better when you factor in Special Issue Ammunition. Has the ability to seriously harm an enemy unit that arrives from reserve, damaging a potent threat before it has the chance to shoot or charge you. 

Armoury of the Watch Fortress (1CP/3CP)- Allows you to take one additional Relic (1CP) or two additional Relics (3CP). 

The standard stratagem allowing you to take extra Relics. I think this one could be quite useful to taking one extra Relic. As I said in the first part of the review, there are a couple of good relics worth taking, so I think it might be worth the command point. 

Hellfire Shells (1CP)- When firing a Heavy Bolter or Infernus Heavy Bolter, make a single to hit roll. If it hits, the target suffers D3 mortal wounds. 

A strong stratagem that I use a lot in my Space Marine and Dark Angels army. This is great for going after tough enemy units or putting mortal wounds on a big vehicle or monster. I just need to get a Deathwatch Veteran with a Heavy Bolter painted up now! 

Orbital Bombardment (3CP)- Once per game, if your warlord didn't move in the preceding movement phase, you can use this shooting attack. Pick a point on the battlefield. All units within D6" suffer D3 mortal wounds on a roll of a 4+ (5+ if they are a character). 

A completely useless stratagem for me. Way too expensive at 3 command points, and there are so many failure points in this. First, you could roll low for the D6 roll and only affect a single unit, or none at all. Then, you need to roll a 4+ for the unit, then you hope to roll well on the D3 mortal wounds. This stratagem could easily eat up more command points just so that it is not wasted. Avoid it. 

Empyric Channeling (1CP)- Use on one Deathwatch Psyker who is within 6" of at least 2 other Deathwatch Psykers. The can manifest one additional psychic power and add 2 to the psychic test. 

Pretty useful in the right circumstances, but you are unlikely to field three Librarians at once. I just don't think the Librarius Discipline is good enough to justify fielding more than one Librarian. 

Teleportarium (1-3CP)- Use during deployment. Up to 3 Deathwatch Infantry or Dreadnought units (1CP per unit) can be place in the Teleportarium. This allows them to be set up at the end of any movement phase and can be placed anywhere on the board at least 9" from an enemy unit. 

This is a very strong stratagem for the Deathwatch and gives them back the ability to deep strike that they had in 7th edition. With the new Beta reserves rules, it does limit what units can go in reserve and where they can deploy on turn 1, but it is still a very strong stratagem for your kill teams. It removes the need for a drop pod to deploy kill teams and is great for your Primaris Kill Teams, making up for their limited mobility on the board thanks to their limited transport options. I can see this being used every game. 

Death to the Alien! (1CP)- In the fight phase, each roll of a 6+ to hit gives an additional attack with that weapon. Has no effect on units with Imperium, Chaos or Unaligned keywords. 

I wasn't that impressed with this in Chapter Approved and my opinion hasn't really changed. If this was in the shooting phase, it would be great, but you don't really want your Deathwatch units in combat. Could be handy every once in a while, maybe for Vanguard Veterans in combat. 

Only in Death Does Duty End (2CP)- Allows a slain character to shoot as if it were the shooting phase or fight as if it were the Fight phase. 

Another strong Space Marine stratagem that should be just as useful for the Deathwatch. Would allow your Watch Master or Watch Captain to strike back and possible harm or kill an enemy unit. 

Honour Your Brothers (3CP)- Allows a Deathwatch Infantry or Biker unit to attack again at the end of the Fight phase. 

Another strong stratagem, but expensive at 3CP. Very useful on a unit tooled up for combat that didn't quite finish off an enemy unit, or the chance to take out an enemy vehicle or monster in combat with your attacks. 

Wisdom of the Ancients (1CP)- Use on a Dreadnought. All Deathwatch units within 6" can re-rolls 1's to hit. 

A nice stratagem if you have a Dreadnought. Useful for backfield units to improve their accuracy without needing a Watch Master or Watch Captain with them. 

Flakk Missile (1CP)- Used when a Missile Launcher targets an enemy unit with the Fly keyword. Make one to hit roll at +1 to hit. If hit, the shot does D3 mortal wounds. 

A nice stratagem for taking on enemy flyers or doing damage to units with the Fly keyword that are not at -1 to hit. One I use often in my Space Marine army. Fortunately, I already have Deathwatch Veterans with Missile Launchers. 

Adaptive Tactics (2CP)- Allows you to change your current Mission Tactics to another one. Only costs 1CP if you have a Watch Master as your warlord. 

A solid stratagem giving you some great tactical flexibility in the army. I'll probably always be fielding a Watch Master, so only one command point for this is a nice bonus. 

Stem the Green Tide (2CP)- Use to fire at a charging Ork unit. For each model in the enemy unit slain by overwatch fire, your opponent must subtract 1 from the charge distance. 

A really powerful stratagem for potentially shutting down an Ork charge. This will give real pause when charging a unit with a Frag Cannon or other auto-hit weapons that have the potential to do a lot of damage.  

Targeting Scrambler (1CP)- Use immediately after a Deathwatch unit is hit by one or more Markerlights. Remove all Markerlight counters from the unit. 

Could be a useful stratagem when facing T'au. Must be used immediately, so your opponent could always put more markerlights on the unit, or you could wait to see if they do and risk not being able to use it. 

Intercepting Volley (2CP)- Use when an Aeldari unit with fly moves in your opponent's movement phase. A Deathwatch unit within 12" can immediately shoot as if it was the shooting phase, but at -1 to hit. 

Another form of Auspex scan that can be used against Aeldari units with Fly. Could be useful against weaker units such as Jetbikers, Scourges, etc. Could be useful against the powerful Flyers, but you will probably be hitting on a 5+ in such cases, so may not get many hits. 

Synaptic Severance (2CP)- A Deathwatch unit can fire at a Synaptic Character, even if it is not the closest unit. 

Incredibly powerful against Tyranids. This allows you to target key enemy units such as the Swarmlord, Broodlord or Malenthrope. Given the high toughness of many of these creatures, using the Hellfire rounds will help you do a lot of damage to such units. I think this is one of the strongest of the "enemy-specific" stratagems. 

Overkill (1CP)- Used on a Necron unit within 12" of a Deathwatch unit. The Necron unit must subtract 1 from Reanimation Protocol rolls. 

Reanimation Protocols is a very strong ability for the Necrons, so any chance to reduce is effectiveness is great. Requires you to be close to the enemy army, but that is something you are probably going to be doing with Deathwatch anyway. 

Doctrines (2CP)- There are various doctrines, but each has roughly the same effect. You pick a unit type (Troops, HQ, etc). A selected Deathwatch unit gets to add one to their wound rolls against an enemy unit with the battlefield role you selected. 

This is a strong stratagem, really boosting the damage output for your unit against an enemy unit type. It's expensive at 2CP each, so you could easily burn through your command points quite quickly using these Doctrines. 
I can see it being very useful against enemy vehicles. You can go up to wounding on a 4+ against most enemy tanks with your Bolters, while also using your special issue ammunition to get -2AP on Veterans. Also useful for Hellblasters, who could wound most enemy vehicles or Monsters on a 2+ when overcharging. 

Optimised Salvo (1CP)- Allows a single Deathwatch unit to use different kinds of Special Issue Ammunition in the shooting phase. 

This may be occasionally useful if you need to target different unit types with one squad, but I don't see it being used all that often. Could be handy in selected situations though. 

Clavis (1CP)- Allows a Watch Master to attack an enemy vehicle within 1". On a 2+, the vehicle suffers D3 mortal wounds. 

A nice bonus for the Watch Master. Doesn't replace or negate his attacks, just does bonus damage to the enemy vehicle on a 2+. Would be useful in combination with The Osseus Key Relic, allowing you to do up to 2D3 mortal wounds on an enemy vehicle in the Fight phase. 

Decapitation Doctrine (2CP)- In a shooting phase or fight phase, a selected Deathwatch unit gets to re-roll all failed to wound rolls made against the enemy warlord.

Useful for when you find the enemy warlord as the closest enemy target or are facing them in an assault. Gives you a chance of killing them off in a single phase if you have enough attacks. 

Tactical Flexbility (1CP)- Used at the start of the movement phase, a Deathwatch unit with Combat Squads can split a 10-man unit into two units of 5, or selected units of 6 models can split into two units of 3. 

Not one I think I would use all that much. The problem with this is that it occurs at the start of the movement phase. If it was at the end, you could use it after bringing a unit in from the Teleportarium to split a 10-man unit into two 5-man units, saving you a command point. 

Tempest Shells (1CP)- Used when a model with Special Issue Ammunition fires at an enemy vehicle. Make a single to hit roll, if it hits, the target suffers D3 mortal wounds. 

My Deathwatch typically suffer at taking on vehicles, so this is a nice bonus, allowing your Bolters to cause mortal wounds to an enemy vehicle. Nice and flexible and a nice boost to the army as well. 

I think the Deathwatch have access to a number of very strong stratagems. There are only one or two that strike me as completely pointless, such as Orbital Bombardment or Tactical Flexibility. 

Other than those two, I can see uses for many of these in my games. I will probably use the Teleportarium, Adaptive Tactics and Doctrines in most of my games. I look forward to trying these out on the battlefield in my coming games. 

With the special rules and stratagems out of the way, I'll be looking at the unit choices in the codex in the next parts of my reviews.

Deathwatch Codex Review
Deathwatch Codex Video Review
Part 1- Special Rules, Relics and Warlord Traits
Part 2- Stratagems
Part 3- HQ Units
Part 4- Troops
Part 5- Fast Attack
Part 6- Elites
Part 7- Heavy Support
Part 8- Flyers and Dedicated Transports


  1. About as expected. Glad to see that they remembered to include Infernus Heavy Bolters in the Hellfire Shells Stratagem.

    Some of them will definitely be rarely used, but I think even Tactical Flexibility and Orbital Bombardment have their place. As I've said often, Stratagems are a great place to put in super niche abilities, since you don't have to pay anything for them until you actually need them.

    1. Yeah, it's a really great system. Almost hard to remember a time before command points and stratagems.

  2. We should have used flakk missiles on Monday - ignore those -1s and 5++!

    1. Haha! Yeah, might have finally shot down that flyer!