Deathwatch Index Review- First Impressions in 8th Edition

Hi everyone, Michael here to give you my first impression on what has changed for the Deatwatch in 8th edition 40k. For more reviews, analyses and battle reports, check out the Tactics Corner.

Deathwatch have been one of my favourite army releases in recent years for 40k. I loved the look of the models when they first came out and the background for the force made for some great reading. Even amongst the elite Space Marines, the Deathwatch were the elite of the elite, tasked to hunt down and destroy the Xenos menace threatening the Imperium of Man.

On the tabletop, they were a force to be reckoned with. Access to essentially army-wide special ammunition made them a potent force for taking on just about any unit the enemy could through at you, and the awesome Frag Cannon inspired fear in many opponents due to the sheer damage output it could provide each turn. However, despite their awesome damage output, they were still just regular Marines and an enemy army with a lot of firepower or a lot of AP2 or AP3 weapons could absolutely devastate your Deathwatch force in a single turn. They were a very challenging army to use, and I really enjoyed using them in 7th edition, as they quickly became one of my favourite armies on the tabletop (some amazing models helped this considerably!).

A New Era

Like many of you, I picked up my copy of the 8th edition rules and my various army Indices at the weekend. I was excited to see the new rules and what lay in store for the Deathwatch. I had managed to avoid most of the spoilers and leaks online, so got to look at the Deathwatch for the first time at the weekend and start to plan how I would conquer the tabletop in 8th edition with my elite squad of warriors. Here are some of my impressions on what has changed for the army and what this may mean for my force in the new edition of Warhammer 40,000. These are my views on simply having read through the core rules and the Deathwatch rules, without having played any games at this point, so take them as you will.

Special Rules

The Deathwatch still gain access to essentially army-wide Special Issue Ammunition. These different types have obviously changed from 7th edition, so to summarise their effects:

  • Dragonfire- +1 to hit when shooting at a unit in cover.
  • Hellfire- Wounds on a 2+, except against vehicles
  • Kraken- Additional 6″ range on a Bolter and improve AP by 1.
  • Vengeance- Lose 6″ on a Bolter and improve AP by 2.

Each time you fire a Bolt Pistol, Boltgun, twin Boltgun, Stalker Boltgun or Guardian Spear, you can select which ammunition to use.

Dragonfire has gone from ignoring cover effects to giving you a bonus to hit against units in cover. I can see this being very useful when targeting weaker units such as Orks or Astra Militarum in cover, where the bonus to hit may be better than reducing their armour save with other ammunition. Against more heavily armoured foes, it will likely be less useful, as getting more hits is great, but if the target unit has a 2+ armour save, not many of those hits are going to get through.

Hellfire remain as awesome as ever. Wounding on a 2+ is great against a number of enemy units. It has no effect on vehicles, making them still tough to take down. However, it now works on creatures that were once Gargantuan Creatures and still wounds them on a 2+! Wraithknights and Stormsurges will now have something to worry about if most of your army can wound them on a 2+ with Bolters.

Kraken shells provide some nice long range firepower for the army, while giving a nice bonus to the AP to either negate the effects of cover or reduce the armour save of the enemy.

Vengeance Bolts remain a nice tool for taking on enemy armour. They now longer remove the armour save of a Marine (who will be getting a 5+ save now), but you no longer risk killing off members of your squad with some poor rolls thanks to Gets Hot. I can see these bolts being very useful in short-ranged firefights.

The new rules for Special Issue Ammunition continue to give the Deathwatch the tools to deal with a range of enemy units. I am particularly looking forward to trying them out with my Deathwatch Bikers- 4 shots each at 12″ range and packing some serious ammunition, they should make a mess of many enemy units.

As Space Marines, Deathwatch also gain the benefit of And They Shall Know No Fear, allowing them to re-roll failed morale tests. This seems like a useful ability for stopping a bad morale test from decimating a unit. However, the Deathwatch have other ways to mitigate the effects of Morale in their Kill Teams.

Kill Teams

The sole Troops choice for the Deathwatch is their Kill Teams. Previously, only Veterans units were Troops choices and Kill Teams were a formation choice, but this has all changed in 8th edition.

The Kill Team entry allows you to build pretty much any unit of Veterans or Kill Team that you could use under 7th edition, so there won’t be too much change to your army. However, the rules and interactions have changed how you are likely to use these units. In 7th edition, I didn’t really run Kill Teams, preferring to stick to unit of Veterans instead. The Kill Teams gave some nice bonus re-rolls, but nothing I couldn’t live without, and the loss of Objective Secured was too much of a disadvantage for me. Also, it seems like adding a Vanguard Veteran of Bike to a unit of Veterans would kill the mobility of those those two models without providing too much of a bonus.

However, that has all changed in 8th edition, and building an effective Kill Team is an awesome prospect. First off, a Kill Team is comprised of 5 Veterans. You have the option to add up to 5 additional models to the unit, either more Veterans, Deathwatch Termintors, Deathwatch Bikers or Vanguard Veterans. Adding either of the last three gives you some additional special rules that are a huge benefit.

Adding a Terminator to the Kill Team makes them automatically pass any morale test. Adding a Vanguard Veteran allows them to fall back and still shoot. Adding a Deathwatch Biker allows them to fall back and still assault. As you can imagine, these are some huge bonuses to have in a unit. Any Deathwatch unit with a Frag Cannon is going to need an Vanguard Veteran as standard; you can fire overwatch with them when you are assaulted, then fall back and fire again if you survive the combat. Very few other unit in the game can have this much utility in one squad.

Additionally, you can add a Black Shield to the unit (for an extra attack) or a Watch Sergeant (for +1 Ld) for free. Black Shields were nice in 7th edition, but were far too expensive for what they added to the unit. Now you can get a model with an extra attack for free, great for that cheap power weapon upgrade.

You don’t get it all your own way though. A popular tactic for a Deathwatch army was to load up a Veteran squad with Frag Cannons and put them in a Drop Pod. The Pod would arrive and the Veteran squad would essentially delete an enemy unit with the Frag Cannon shots. I used this tactic many times myself with good success. While the Frag Cannon is still awesome in 8th edition (2D6 shots that hit automatically), the changes to the reserves rules have hindered them slightly. As you now need to deploy more than 9″ from the enemy, you are unable to fire the Frag Round on the turn you arrive via Drop Pod. This makes the Frag Cannon a slightly less potent alpha-strike unit than it used to be. This could force many Deathwatch players to have to change up their army, based on its 7th edition configuration. Another downside is that a Kill Team can no longer go in a Drop Pod if it contains a Terminator or Vanguard models. On the upside, you can now advance and still fire the Frag Cannon if you wish.

Finally, the new rules for Teleport Homers seem to be an awesome addition. You place each homer in your deployment zone at the start of the game. Each is one use only, but if your Kill Team includes a Deathwatch Terminator, you can immediately remove the unit instead of moving and deploy them within 6″ of the Homer. This immediately leaps out at me for being great in maelstrom missions. You can set up the Homers next to the objectives in your deployment zone and use a Kill Team with a Terminator to jump between the objectives and score points.

I can see a lot of utility for Kill Teams and look forward to trying out the best combinations of loadouts.

Other Deathwatch Units

Deathwatch Terminators, Vanguard Veterans and Bikers have all gained a wound in 8th edition, making them tougher to kill.

The one issue I have with these units is the discrepancy between the datasheet and points values. For example, the Deathwatch Terminator datasheet says “This unit contains 1 Deathwatch Terminator Sergeant and 4 Deathwatch Terminators. It can include up to 5 additional Deathwatch Terminators”. However, the unit entry in the points values table says the unit consists of 1-5 Terminators. A similar discrepancy occurs with the Vanguard Veterans and Bikers.

One of the cool aspects of the Deathwatch army in 7th edition was the ability to take these squads with only a few models in each unit, even single model units were possible. I would like to see this mechanic retained, so hopefully an FAQ would clear up this issue.

If you could take single units of these units, it would open up a lot of options for army building. For example, you could easily build a Brigade Detachment if you only had to take a single Biker or Terminator to fill up the slots. This would be one of the cheapest ways to build this detachment for a Marine force, giving you access to those sweet 9 Command Points very easily. Perhaps this is one argument for forcing them to have a “standard” unit size.

One thing I did notice when building a few army lists is that a Deathwatch Terminator with a Power Fist, Storm Bolter and Cyclone Missile Launcher goes up to over 100 points. That is pretty expensive and only playing a few games will see if he justifies the points cost.

Book Layout

One annoyance that I have found is the layout of the Index with regards to building a Deathwatch army. Having to switch between the points costs and unit profiles for not only the Deathwatch, but the Space Marine section as well is a little annoying. I’m sure I will get used to it in time, but I will probably be making use of some of the great army building software that is out there.


As you can see, that was a very brief overview on some of my thoughts on the Deathwatch in 8th edition. I hope to get a good many games in with the army in the coming months (I actually have an 8th edition tournament in a couple of weeks that I was planning on bringing them to). Once I get used to the army, I hope to bring you some unit reviews based on my learning experiences on the tabletop.


And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



About Michael Corr

An avid 40k player and blogger from Scotland. I started in 3rd edition and have been playing ever since. I detail my adventures in my own blog "St Andrews Wargaming", highlighting my mediocre painting skills, regular battle reports and my occasional random ramblings.

22 Responses to “Deathwatch Index Review- First Impressions in 8th Edition”

  1. abusepuppy June 22, 2017 4:19 am #

    >Wraithknights and Stormsurges will now have something to worry about if most of your army can wound them on a 2+ with Bolters.

    Just as a note, the Stormsurge is a vehicle now (as is the Dreadknight in GK faction), so Hellfire rounds won’t work on them.

    • Michael Corr June 22, 2017 8:53 am #

      They’re just trying to be awkward now, aren’t they!

      Thanks for the clarification, I wasn’t aware they had changed.

      • Anvil June 22, 2017 12:11 pm #

        Riptides are still, oddly enough, Monsters.

        • abusepuppy June 22, 2017 6:17 pm #

          Yeah, it’s a bit baffling why they shifted some of the suits but not others.

  2. Cephalobeard June 22, 2017 5:35 am #

    My DW will be shelved for another edition, unless changes happen. Disappointing, really.

    • Michael Corr June 22, 2017 8:53 am #

      What is it you find so disappointing?

      I still think the army looks decent, they have access to some great weapons and the Kill Teams look solid.

  3. Blight June 22, 2017 7:15 am #

    Believe if you are using points then ignore the unit composition on the datasheet that talks about power and adding models. Look only at the points section for minimum and maximum unit size.

    • Luke June 22, 2017 7:48 am #

      Yeah there are a lot of similar discrepancies for unit sizes in other armies. I think that if you’re doing points, you just go by the unit sizes in the points section. I think the power level numbers for squad sizes are different intentionally, but certainly a FAQ would be nice.

  4. The Drunken War Bee June 22, 2017 8:23 am #

    Deathwatch Vanguard Veterans didn’t gain a wound.

    And Cyclone Missile Launchers are the same cost as Typhoon Missile Launchers, but they have less range and fewer shots with frag missiles, so I doubt they are worth the points. If I where to take them, I would consider taking some variety of power weapon in place of the power fist to bring the cost down.

    Another relevant thing that you missed, but you have to go outside of the deathwatch section for, is that the Special Issue Boltgun that Sternguard Veterans get (instead of Special Issue Ammunition) are mathematical as good or better in all situations except when targeting T5 or higher non-vehicle units.

    Will I be playing Deathwatch? Yes I will.

    • The Drunken War Bee June 22, 2017 8:30 am #

      Special Issue Ammunition is also better vs opponents who get the same save no matter your AP.

      And it looks like Deathwatch have to pay 15 pts per storm shield on everyone, but a generic marine only has to pay 5 pts, unless he is a character.

      • Cephalobeard June 22, 2017 8:36 am #

        Yeah. It’s… not a good time for Deathwatch, still.

        • Michael Corr June 22, 2017 8:55 am #

          I still think they look like a decent force, but will obviously need to get a few games in and play around with the army before I can draw any real conclusions.

          • William Brice June 25, 2017 1:53 pm

            We are the only army that pays for our special rules in our points costs. They made our storm shields 15 points, why not just make bolters 2 points and bolt pistols 1 points instead of making our base guys 3 points more.

  5. Darthdiggler June 22, 2017 9:32 am #

    It looks like the big winner for DW is the Corvus Blackstar. It’s firepower has gone way up and it can transport all those models in a kill team into the heart of the enemy. I also like that Black Shields can have More options for weapons loadout now. A pair of lightning claws seems to be very good on Black Shields now.

  6. Horton June 22, 2017 10:20 am #

    I have played against them. They are extremely good.

  7. WestRider June 22, 2017 12:30 pm #

    I mostly liked what I saw when I was flipping through their section, but was a little disappointed that they still don’t get Special Issue Ammo for Storm Bolters, even tho they’re now otherwise exactly the same as Twin Bolters, which do. My DeathWatch are on my list of Armies I need to get around to trying out, but there are still a few others that are above them in priority.

  8. theIrishMane June 22, 2017 2:29 pm #

    I have played a lot of games with them, but still encounter the same failures of 7th edition: expensive marines. There are simply not enough bodies to make up for their killing power. They are repeatedly shot off the table.

    Just a hell of a lot of nonesense.

  9. NjalStormcallet June 23, 2017 11:35 pm #

    So I’ve gotta say 23 pts for a marine with a stalker pattern bolt gun (heavy 2, 30inch) is good this edition. Basic troops firing 2 shots at 36 inch range at -1 ap is insane. Add in a 130 pt watch master and they reroll all failed hits… at 30inch range your basic boys are firing 3+ rerollable 2+ to wound… and we are shelving them? Give me a break. Also have we all seen the heavy thunder hammer? Ya it’s d6 damage. Dw is great.

  10. Dom Tomaso June 24, 2017 7:09 pm #

    So where are the tools to handle things like the new meta thanks to nerfed blasts and templates to oblivion?

    Impossible to melee, impossible to avoid, impossible to tie up, impossible to snipe-cripple, impossible to out-objective, impossible to kill because things like 90p whirlwinds kill a whooping 3 guardsmen per turn and flamers 2 orks per suicide shot and your vehicles will be melee-tied turn one.

    ..oh wait, there are no counters, even soft ones!
    Good job playtesters.

    • Reecius June 25, 2017 8:19 am #

      Thanks for the kind words!

      Lol, your hyperbole aside, “blast and template” weapons work just fine now, they’re just different. You may not like them, which is fine, but I build lists around them that rarely lose, so hey. Probably just a lack of experience in the new rule set on your part I assume, and that is no dig on you.

      If you are getting tagged in melee by enemy vehicles turn 1, then I have to say you are not playing correctly or your list needs adjustment. Again, not an insult to you but those tactics are easily countered.

      Anyway, sounds like you’re a bit flustered in the transitional phase, good uploading your new skillset.

      • Marius Xerxes June 25, 2017 5:58 pm #

        I can *kinda* see where Dom is coming from. This edition encourages full LOS blocking terrain. Add that there are no longer templates, and you have what can already be seen in several of your videos; unit members piled almost on top of one another to hide everyone as best as possible.

        With true templates, that would have been devastating to do to yourself given how many models would be hit. In this edition the amount of damage a *single* Flamer, Mortar or Whirlwind can do compared to before is much lower in that situation. So visually, it is disheartening.

        In editions past, things like Exorcists were considered flawed because they hit D6 times and were therefore not reliable. I’m not sure why making every weapon in the game function that way is an improvement to the system as a whole.

        Can you adjust you personal game play to it? Of course. But I think it was a step backwards in design. And for someone like me, who has played since 2nd edition and always had templates, the visual effect on the table top of mass figure piles is almost as bad as playing with everything in that birthday suit games workshop grey.

  11. Oneyedwilly July 15, 2017 5:14 am #

    Thanks Michael Corr for the positive outlook on DW, i just started building this army at end of 7th. Got real nervous when i heard about 8th happening. Please keep posting tactics !!! Its a very tricky army to build now IMO, list wise, for a all comer type build.

Leave a Reply