The Deathwatch Codex is here and what a gem it is! Let’s dive in and begin our review of this awesome codex.
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The Deathwatch Codex is absolutely awesome in my opinion as it is fun, characterful and powerful. The thing I really like about the Deathwatch is that they feel more like what Space Marines should be than really any other book.
Here’s our rating system:
- Competitive: This is a codex entry (unit, stratagem, item, etc.) that has a place in essentially any competitive list built with this faction regardless of unit choices or is the source of a significant force multiplication effect for other units.
- Efficient: This is a codex entry that can stand on its own merit in a matched play list but works best when combined up with other units or in specific situations to become very powerful but may not always be seen.
- Situational: This is a codex entry that may not pass as competitive on its own merits but can be made effective in a creative list, as a meta-buster, or in a specific combo or scenario where it ratchets up in power to potentially very high strength but otherwise will not be seen very often.
Deathwatch Special Rules
The Deathwatch boast some really fantastic special rules that give them quite a boost. These rules can really define a faction and help to catapult them into popularity when done correctly and Deathwatch certainly are done well. Let’s take a look at them.
So, first and foremost, they have the basics common to all Space Marines:
- And They Shall Know No Fear: Re-roll failed Morale tests. You know it, you love it. It’s a fantastic morale mitigation tool and a staple for Marines. Competitive.
- Combat Squads: Units with this rule can split into two units of 5 if they maxed at 10, or two units of 3 if they maxed at 6. Not a bad rule but the way list building works in 8th it rarely comes up. The incentive is to take more units to fill up detachments to get more Command Points. However, after discussing this further in the comments section I wanted to add that Deathwatch make best use of this rule compared to other Marine armies as due to the fact they can mix and match unit types you can get some really solid benefits such as giving units that don’t normally get Defenders of Humanity the rule such as Bikers or Terminators. Or, allowing Vanguard Vets to peel off into sub units to allow them to leave combat and still charge, etc. Efficient
- Defenders of Humanity: Your standard “objective secured” style rule for units in aBattle-forged Deathwatch detachment. This rule is quite good for controlling objectives–obviously–and as controlling objectives is typically the way you win the game, it is very strong. Deathwatch also have very good troops units so this is a double benefit for them. Competitive.
Those are the basic special rules, so to speak, but the real magic comes in the form of their unique army wide special rules.
- Special Issue Ammunition: Units with this rule gain the ability to shoot one of several different types of special issue ammo from a surprisingly long list of specific weapons, typically all “Bolter weapons” of various types. These ammo types are as follows:
- Dragonfire Bolt: +1 to hit when shooting at a unit in cover.
- Hellfire round: Always wound on a 2+ against units that are not Vehicles.
- Kraken bolt: +3″ to pistols, +6″ to other weapons, and improve AP by -1 to a maximum of -2.
- Vengeance round: -3″ to pistols, -6″ to other weapons, improve the AP by -2 to a maximum of -3.
This in my mind is what makes Deathwatch competitive more than any other rule. This is so powerful! In an edition where any weapon can hurt anything, throwing lots of dice around is going to be a massive benefit (and to be honest, that is a winning strategy in any edition of the game as you tend to smooth out the probability curve the more dice you toss). As Bolters, Storm Bolters, etc. are common and plentiful, the ability to dramatically impact the power of these weapons is huge. For example, if shooting at MEQs (Marine Equivalent) targets with decent armor saves, whereas a normal Bolter will deal a 1 damage/casualty per 3 wounds on a 3+ target, if you use Vengeance Rounds you will deal 2 damage/casualties per 3 wounds dealt. You literally double the effectiveness of your weapon in that context! The same goes for Hellfire Rounds. Normally shooting at say, Plague Bearers which are quite popular at the moment, a normal Bolter would deal 1 wound for every 2 hits or 50% conversion. A Hellfire Round would deal 5 wounds for every 6 hits or an 83% conversion. And if you account for Mission Tactics letting you re-roll 1’s to wound, it actually jumps up to a whopping 97% hits to wounds conversion! Again, nearly twice as effective in the right context. That is so impactful on the game and turns your basic guys into absolute killers.
We will expand on this as we go through this series but the real secret sauce is utilizing this rule to maximum advantage. The flexibility is massive as you can take on high toughness units or units that rely on an invulnerable save like Harliequins and Daemons pile wounds on to them, or take on heavily armored units and cut their defenses down, fire at longer range, etc. It’s just a tremendously good rule. Competitive.
- Mission Tactics: Units with this special rule pick one of the Mission Tactics above to apply for the game. You can switch these mid-game with a variety of stratagems, relics, warlord traits, etc. This is another great rule and the second half of their “Chapter Tactics.” The two together are very, very good. What it means is that your units self-buff with very little support. Whereas normal Marine really want to have a number of characters nearby to give them re-rolls to hit and wound, Deathwatch only really need a Watch Captain or Watch Master nearby. This helps offset their high price point significantly and means they don’t have to stay near character models, giving them more freedom to move around the table. The downside is that you do have to be mindful of knowing when and if to switch Mission Tactics, but given the number of ways to do that it isn’t too challenging to stay on top of. Competitive.
Lots more to talk about with Deathwatch, but that coves the first part. Next up we will discuss Deathwatch Stratagems!
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