Chapter Approved 2018 was released this weekend and has provided some big shake ups for 40k as a game, many of which I am looking forward to trying out in the coming year. It has also seen some changes to points values for the Deathwatch, many of which are great news to friends of the Xeonos hunters. In this article, I’ll be taking a look at some of the changes and what I think they will mean for the army going forward.
Personally, I like to run pure Deathwatch armies in my games of 40k. Now, I will be the first to admit, this is not the most competitive of armies and I don’t see the new points values changing this to a huge extent. The Deathwatch can struggle as a mono-faction for many reasons. They are generally a smaller, elite force made up of expensive infantry, and can lack a lot of the tools that regular Space Marines have access to (Scouts being the biggest loss to the army by far, in my opinion). However, I think some of the points changes have helped to give them back a bit of an edge and I look forward to testing them out in the future. I also think they serve as a valuable detachment force to supplement an existing army, giving you some very strong firepower and board control (through the Teleportarium stratagem) when used in conjunction with a strong balancing force to shore up their weaknesses.
Let’s take a look at what some of the points adjustments will mean for the army. Note, this will only cover units from the Codex, not any units from Forgeworld. I know that the Deathwatch can benefit hugely from certain Forgeworld units, but they are not something I use, so can’t comment on them with any authority. If you have any recommendations on the best units to use and how/if they have improved, comment below and share your thoughts!
One of the core Troops choices in the army, the Deathwatch Veteran squad, has dropped from 16 pts per model to 14 pts (15 pts with the Bolter). Any drop to the core unit cost is a bonus for the army, so the cost of your basic infantry squads has gone down.
Deathwatch Veterans have a lot going for them. Special Issue Ammunition is a great special rule, allowing you to deal with a wide variety of threats in the enemy army. A basic Deathwatch Veteran with a Bolter is a scary opponent to many units in the game, able to wound on a 2+ or go up to AP-2. You also no longer pay 1 pt for a Bolt Pistol, meaning that you can arm all your Veterans with Bolt Pistols for free, as opposed to swapping them out for Chainswords for an extra attack that most players did before.
The Bolt Pistol with Special Issue Ammunition is also a bargain, and I am probably going to equip my Veterans with this from now on. If they find themselves in combat, being able to shoot in your turn at an enemy unit your are engaged against with Special Issue Ammunition is a big boost. With 2 attacks base, the Deathwatch are reasonable in combat against weak infantry, so the Chainsword is not essential. I would rather trade an extra attack each round of combat for the ability to fire at the enemy unit in my shooting phase with the Special Issue Ammunition.
Some of the changes to the equipment costs have also been of great benefit to the Deathwatch Veterans.
Probably the biggest change and source of joy is that Storm Shields now cost only 2 pts for non-character models, down from 5 pts. This is a huge change that will really boost the durability of the Deathwatch Veterans. There is no other Adeptus Astartes army that has such access to the Storm Shield on their basic Troops as the Deathwatch. If you want, you can arm every Deathwatch Veteran with a Storm Shield. You can essentially give every Veteran a 3+ invulnerable save and they still cost the same as they did pre-Chapter Approved 2018. If you would have told me before that I could give every Veteran a 3+ invulnerable save without increasing their points cost, I would have laughed at how ridiculous that sounded.
You do lose out on the Bolt Pistol or Chainsword, but that is a trade well worth it in my opinion.
One of the best units in the army is the Storm Bolter Deathwatch Veterans. For 200 pts, you can take 10 Veterans with Storm Bolters and Storm Shields. Now, not only does this unit put out 40 Bolter shots at rapid fire range with Special Issue Ammunition, you have also greatly increased their durability against enemy attacks. Previously, I used to run two Storm Shields in the squad. They were great at tanking powerful shots, but sometimes would fall without making a save. Now, I can take 5 Shields for the same cost as two before Chapter Approved, giving the squad a big boost.
Taking mixed squads is one of the hallmarks of the Deathwatch, and the support models to add to the Veterans have also seen a points reduction. Bikes have dropped from 29 pts to 25 pts (with wargear), Vanguard Veterans have dropped from 19 pts to 17 pts and Terminators have dropped from 47 pts to 35 pts (or 30 pts if they take a Power Weapon instead of a Power Fist).
With each model added to the unit, the benefits to the Veterans increase, allowing them to fall back and still shoot or charge, and giving them immunity to morale. This should help add to the tactical options available for the Kill Team and at a cheaper cost overall.
One of the areas that I find Deathwatch struggle is with anti-vehicle firepower. The Special Issue Ammunition covers most threats (including Monsters), but they didn’t have many options for high strength, high damage firepower.
Some useful options were a Twin Lascannon Razorback and Twin Lascannon Venerable Dreadnought for providing some long-range firepower. Both have now gotten cheaper, 10 pts for the Razorback and 20 pts for the Venerable Dreadnought.
Missile Launchers, Meltaguns and Combi-Meltas have also gotten cheaper in the army. Giving you more tools for dealing with enemy armour.
Another potentially useful unit for dealing with enemy armour is a unit of Veterans with Plasma Guns. Each Veteran costs 25 pts with a Plasma Gun, a full 8 pts cheaper than a Hellblaster with Plasma Incinerator. With the Teleportarium stratagem to get them into rapid fire range, and re-rolls from a nearby Watch Master, a unit of 10 can potentially put out 40 damage when overcharging their shots.
A unit of 10 Plasma Gun Veterans costs 250 pts. Assuming re-rolls from a Watch Master, overcharging at rapid fire range and using the +1 to wound stratagem, the squad will do on average; 24 damage to a standard vehicle (T7, 3+ save), 16 damage to an Imperial Knight (5+ invulnerable) or 12-14 damage on an Imperial Knight with Rotate Ion Shields (4+ invulnerable save).
I have not tried out this unit yet in practice, but am looking forward to giving them a go in future games.
The Deathwatch Intercessors also saw a 2 point reduction from 20 pts to 18 pts (the Intercessors went down 1 point and they don’t pay 1 pt for a Bolt Pistol). For an extra 3 pts on top of a Deathwatch Veteran, you get an extra wound on the Primaris Marine, an extra 6″ on the gun and an extra AP-1. You don’t get the durability of the Storm Shields on the Veterans, but they are still a solid unit. The extra -1AP on the Bolt Rifle is a strong bonus when added to the Special Issue Ammunition, and I have had great success with a unit of 10 deep striking to strike at the heart of the enemy army.
The Corvus Blackstar was dropped 15 pts on its base cost. With the Twin Lascannon getting cheaper, the Corvus with the Twin Lascannon and Stormstrike Missiles comes in at 217 pts, thirty-five points cheaper than it was before. This gives you some more anti-tank options for the army. I still don’t think it is worth the cost, but it is now cheaper to add the flyer to your army.
Bikers have dropped four points to 25 pts including wargear. For me, Bikes are still not great in 8th edition, but for 77 pts, you can take a unit of 3 Bikers with a Storm Shield on the Sergeant. This gives you a fast and mobile unit, with some good firepower and an invulnerable save. This can be useful for getting in the face of the enemy army or for grabbing objectives.
The Redemptor Dreadnought has gone down a massive 35 pts in its base cost, as well as a reduction in the cost of some of its weapons. Given that Deathwatch Dreadnoughts can come in from reserve with the Teleportarium stratagem, this makes the Dreads more valuable in being a good distraction unit to throw into the enemy army.
Drop Pods also got significantly cheaper, going from 85 pts to 65 pts. While they are not going to be as ubiquitous as they were in 7th edition, I still think there are uses for them in a Deathwatch army, allowing you to keep more units in reserve without using additional command points (or if you are maxed out on units in the Teleportarium).
Another big bonus for the Deathwatch is the change to the mission structure, most specifically the Acceptable Casualties special rule.
This means being tabled no longer means that you automatically lose the game. With an elite army such as the Deathwatch, this is a big deal, as you can be at risk of losing much of your army to enemy firepower. The new Eternal War and Maelstrom of War missions have a great focus on actually playing the mission over going for the easy kills. This means you should always be focusing on the maelstrom cards and scoring progressive objectives in your games with Deathwatch (or play the great ITC missions, where you do this anyway!).
Chapter Approved 2018 has been pretty kind to the Deathwatch for the most part. Making both Troops choices cheaper is a nice bonus to the army, hopefully getting you a few more models. Equally, the drop in Storm Shields to 2 pts has been a massive boost for the Deathwatch Veterans, giving you a massive boost in durability for many of your squads.
What does this mean for my Deathwatch army?
First up, I am certainly going to be modelling more Storm Shields for my Veterans. This will give them a much needed boost against enemy firepower and should hopefully help them to stick around for longer. I will also be saving points in most of my units, as well as with my Missile Launcher squads.
Adding a few more Twin Lascannon Razorbacks and Dreadnoughts will also be a focus, to give me a bit more anti-tank firepower in my force. I will also be trying out some Plasma Gun Veterans to see if they are an effective tool to help me deal with enemy vehicles.
I also might start taking a look at Bike squads once more. A few minimum sized squads with a Storm Shield on the Sergeant could really help boost the mobility of my army and give me units to threaten the enemy deployment zone before my reserves arrive on turn 2.
I might also revisit Terminators in the army. A unit of 5 Terminators with Storm Bolters and Power Swords comes in at only 150 pts. While not the most points efficient or competitive, they might provide a useful distraction when deep striking in to the enemy army. They are probably not a unit that can be ignored, as a 2+ armour save is still pretty strong in combat against a variety of weaker enemy units.
As good as Chapter Approved 2018 has been, there are still some areas that I think need improvement.
Heavy Thunder Hammers are still a complete waste of points for the army. They either needed a big points reduction, or a rule making them D6 damage to a minimum of 3 (much like other similar weapons).
The Corvus Blackstar is still not great for me, a shame as I really like the model. It needs Power of the Machine Spirit or Strafing Run to be an effective firepower vehicle for the army. The transport capacity is great, but it is too big of a target and easily destroyed by most opponents.
Overall, the Deathwatch got some nice boosts with Chapter Approved. I still don’t think it is enough to make them a top tier army, but it should help them to hold their own against a variety of opponents. I am definitely looking forward to seeing what they can do in my future games and to see if the new points and missions are going to make a big impact on how the army plays.
And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!