Hi everyone, Michael here with a review of one of the best new units in the Deathwatch codex and one you are likely to see a lot in competitive play, the Veteran Squad armed with Storm Bolters. A very strong unit in the Deathwatch army, that got even better with some points reductions in CA2018. For more reviews and analyses, check out the Tactics Corner.
The Deathwatch Veteran Squad has a huge amount of variety in the Deathwatch codex, able to take a range of Wargear options and mixed build units thanks to the Kill Team rules. In the first part of my review, I took a look at a general overview of the Deathwatch Veteran squad and how they perform on the tabletop. With these Kill Team reviews, I am going to break down what I think will be popular builds for the Kill Teams and what tactics might be effective for them. The format of these reviews will be a little different, without a list of wargear options and abilities at the start. To get an idea of these, check out the Deathwatch Veterans Review. This review will assume you are familiar with many of these rules.
If there are any specific Kill Team builds you would like to see reviewed or analysed, please comment below.
The first Kill Team up for review is the one I think most players will be fielding, the Deathwatch Veteran squad armed with Storm Bolters. One of the most basic builds for the Kill Team would be 10 Deathwatch Veterans (including Sergeant) armed with Storm Bolters and Chainswords/Bolt Pistols. This Kill Team costs 180 pts.
I would rate this Kill Team as Competitive. They can put out a lot of potent firepower, have great deployment options and access to some great Stratagems to further boost their firepower output.
The only downside is that the Deathwatch Kill Team box doesn’t come with a Storm Bolter. Luckily, there are a number of Space Marine kits where you can scavenge for Storm Bolters to equip the squad (were you really using those Terminators anyway?).
A squad of 10 Veterans with Storm Bolters is probably the minimum you will want to field this squad in. This maximises the firepower output for the unit, as well as maximising the bonuses of stratagems, re-rolls, etc. With a 10-man squad, the Deathwatch Veterans can be susceptible to the effects of morale, but there are ways to mitigate this, as we will see below.
One of the best ways to deploy this unit is with the Teleportarium stratagem. For one command point, you can place the unit in reserve and deploy them at the end of one of your turns using the normal rules (more than 9″ from the enemy, no turn 1 deployment, etc). This allows the squad to deploy in rapid fire range of the enemy for most of the special issue ammunition options, with only Vengeance Bolts being out of range on the turn they arrive.
Let’s take a look at the average damage output for a unit of Veterans armed with Storm Bolters. In the table below are the average number of unsaved wounds from a unit of 10 Veterans deploying just over 9″ away from the enemy unit (the Hellfire profile only applies to Monsters, as they have no effect on Vehicles).
(T3, 5+ save)
|Chaos Space Marine
(T4, 3+ save)
|T’au Fire Warrior
(T3, 4+ save)
(T4, 6+ save)
(T7, 3+ save)
(18.0 rapid fire)
(9.0 rapid fire)
(14.8 rapid fire)
(13.6 rapid fire)
(6.0 rapid fire)
In most cases, Hellfire shells seem to be the superior choice when deploying from the Teleportarium stratagem. It is only when facing units with a save comparable to T’au Fire Warriors or Vehicles that you will want to be using the Kraken Bolts to do extra damage.
If you can get into Rapid Fire range with the Vengeance Bolts, then these are your big damage dealers against anything that is not a Monster or very lightly armoured infantry (such as Ork Boyz).
As can be seen from the table, even with average rolls, you will be wiping out most enemy infantry units in the turn that they arrive. With each Veteran armed with a Chainsword, a unit of 10 will be putting out 31 attacks in close combat, so you can even use the Storm Bolters to fire at one unit and charge in to another enemy unit to potentially do some damage in the Fight phase or to grab an objective from your opponent.
There are some instances where the Kraken Bolts will be more favourable, even if they do less damage on average. The extra range of the Kraken Bolts allows you to deploy 12-15″ away from the enemy unit and still get to rapid fire with the Storm Bolters. This is important if your opponent has some form of interception-type stratagem (such as Auspex Scan) that allows them to target units arriving from reserve. The extra range allows you to deploy out of range of most of these stratagems, while still getting the full firepower output from the unit.
The new Beta Bolter rules are also a huge boost to the Storm Bolter Veteran Squad. This allows you to fire double the number of shots if you remained stationary in the previous movement phase. This means that if you stay still on the turn after you deploy from the Teleportarium, the unit still has the ability to put out 40 shots at up to 30″, allowing them to still have a significant impact on the game. Before these beta rules, it was possible to find the unit out of position after destroying an initial enemy unit and not utilising their potent firepower to full effect in future turns. However, the unit can now still put out an incredible amount of firepower if they remaining stationary at a very strong threat range.
The changes also allow you to get full effect from the Kill Team if you start with them on the table on turn 1. This allows you to still fire 40 shots on your first turn up to 30″ if you don’t move, giving you a potent firepower unit to have in your own deployment zone. Your opponent probably won’t want several turns of this firepower, so expect them to be a key target from early on in the game.
There are a number of buffs and special rules that can be used to benefit the Kill Team even further, some of which will be discussed below.
Options for the Kill Team
A Kill Team such as this is a prime target for the enemy firepower, especially if you are deep striking close to or in the enemy deployment zone.
One of the easiest ways to help protect the unit is to add a few Storm Shields to the squad. The cost of Storm Shields for non-character models dropped to an amazing 2 pts per model, so you can afford to add a number to the squad. If you wanted to, you could arm the entire unit with Storm Shields for only 20 pts. This is a bit of a bargain to give the entire unit a 3+ invulnerable save. While arming the whole squad with Storm Shields may be a bit of overkill, the addition of 2-5 per unit is a sound investment, in my opinion.
The Storm Shield is there to take on the high strength, high AP weaponry that will be coming the Kill Team’s way, such as Lascannons, Missile Launchers, Reaper Missile Launchers, etc. This boosts the durability of the unit and helps them stay around for longer, especially if you can use command point re-rolls to pass more saves. Against small arms fire with no AP value, you are better off using normal Veterans, as you don’t want to risk not having the Storm Shield when you need to use it.
One of the benefits of the Deathwatch Kill Team is the ability to take mixed units composed of Veterans, Vanguard Veterans, Terminators and Bikers. These new additions add their own special rules and benefits that can boost the Kill Team.
A Terminator is a great addition to the Storm Bolter Kill Team. You can swap out a Veteran for a Terminator with Storm Bolter and still keep up the same rate of firepower. There are several benefits of taking a Terminator in the Kill Team. First off, it makes you immune to the effects of morale. Even with ATSKNF, a 10-man squad can suffer the effects of morale if they take enough casualties, so having the Terminator stops any of your valuable Marines from fleeing the field.
Another benefit is the Terminator’s 2+ armour save. You can use this to block wounds caused by small arms fire on the unit, giving you a better chance of shrugging off Bolter wounds, etc, than with the Veterans’ save. If the unit is in cover, you can also use it against -1AP weaponry to give better odds of saving a wound.
The Terminator also gives the Kill Team the ability to use a Teleport Homer. These are an upgrade for any Bikers in your army. You can deploy your Teleport Homers in your deployment zone and use them at the start of your movement phase to take selected units from the table and re-deploy them within 6″ of the homer (and 9″ from an enemy unit). This can be a useful extraction tactic for the turn after the Kill Team has arrived from the Teleportarium. If the squad finds themselves out of position after eliminating an enemy unit and any have survived the enemy turn, you can use the homer to re-deploy the unit to your own deployment zone.
I find objective markers to be a useful position for the Teleport Homers, allowing you to quickly move to secure an objective to score maelstrom points or to go after end of game objectives.
The Terminator can be armed with a Power Fist to give you some high strength punch in combat, or you can swap it out for a cheaper Power Weapon and still do a bit more damage in combat. You could also give the Terminator a Cyclone Missile Launcher or other Heavy Weapon, but this starts to get pretty expensive quickly.
You can also add a Vanguard Veteran to the squad. This has the benefit of allowing the Kill Team to fall back and still shoot in their turn. This is obviously a huge boost for the Kill Team, as combat is one way to negate their potent firepower.
This is great for stopping the unit from being tied up in combat and negating their firepower if they are forced to fall back. I’ve recently been running a unit of 9 Storm Bolter Veterans and a Vanguard Veteran with Storm Shield and Bolt Pistol. You get a slight reduction in firepower for the unit, but benefit from an extra invulnerable save and ability to fall back and fire.
I probably wouldn’t bother with a Bike in the Kill Team. The rules are a bit fuzzy on whether a Kill Team with a Biker can use the Teleportarium Stratagem. I’m leaning towards the ruling that they cannot use it, but I can see the argument from both sides. I don’t think the Bike adds to the Kill Team. You would need to add 5 Bikes to benefit from T5 in the unit, and this starts to get really expensive. Also, the ability to fall back and still charge is less useful for this Kill Team, as you don’t really want them in combat.
As well as the unit build options, there are a few weapons options to consider. You probably want to maximise the number of Storm Bolters in the unit, but adding a combi-weapon or two will allow you to keep up a solid rate of fire while also giving you the tools to deal with other threats to the army. Adding a couple of Combi-Meltas will allow you to take on enemy vehicles, while the Storm Bolter shots are used elsewhere. A couple of Combi-Flamers will also add to your anti-infantry firepower, while serving as a nice deterrent to charging enemy units.
If you have the points to spare, you could also take a couple of Power Weapons on the squad or the Sergeant. If you do get charged, this could help you deal a bit more damage to the enemy unit. I probably would avoid taking a Black Shield in this Kill Team. While it gives you an extra attack, it does force you to perform Heroic Interventions with the unit. This could get the Kill Team locked in combat where you don’t want them.
A Watch Master is a great accompanying unit for the Storm Bolter Kill Team. He gives you full re-rolls to hit if deployed within 6″ of the unit. This really boosts the damage output of the unit, allowing you to hit with around 90% of your shots on average. He also provides some nice combat support, being a solid character in melee. Putting him in the centre of the unit that is deep striking in allows him to perform heroic interventions if the unit gets charged. You will need to spend a command point to put the Watch Master in the Teleportarium to deploy with the unit if they are also in the Teleportarium though.
Giving him the Tome of Ectoclades Relic is also a great option. This allows you to pick an additional Mission Tactic and apply it to Deathwatch units within 6″. This allows the Storm Bolter Kill Team to choose the optimal re-rolls of 1’s to wound against their target on the turn they arrive.
A unit of 10 Veterans with Storm Bolters accompanied by a Chapter Master and with Mission Tactics re-rolls will hit and wound with 35 of their 40 Bolter shots when using Hellfire shells, on average. This will seriously harm a number of units that they would want to target on the turn that they arrive. I’ve had this unit wipe out Marine Squad in cover thanks to the sheer number of wounds, as well as T’au Crisis Suits. They will also worry any big Tyranid beasts they can get into rapid fire range of with their Storm Bolters.
A Watch Captain with a Jump Pack is also a great accompanying unit for the Kill Team. While you only get re-rolls of 1’s to hit, the Jump Pack allows you to deploy from reserve without using another command point, as well as giving you greater mobility when on the board. Your shooting accuracy will drop from about 90% with the Watch Master to around 80% with the Watch Captain, but you are still looking at about 30 wounds using Hellfire Shells and Mission Tactics.
Another useful tactic for the Kill Team involves the use of a Watch Captain with a Jump Pack and the Beacon Angelis. You can use the Captain to move up on the enemy army, advancing if necessary. Then, at the end of the turn, you can use the power of the Beacon Angelis to teleport a Storm Bolter Kill Team to the Captain’s position (as long as they are deployed at least 9″ from the enemy). This allows you to bypass the turn 1 reserves rules limitations to move a unit already on the board. For added protection, you can deploy the Kill Team in a Rhino or out of line of sight to keep them safe if you don’t get the first turn.
Transport vehicles are also a useful option for this unit. A Rhino or the Corvus Blackstar are great choices for keeping the unit safe from enemy firepower until they get into rapid fire range. While your first choice may be to use the Teleportarium, if you are running multiple units of Storm Bolter Kill Teams, a Rhino is a good alternative for units that are not in the Teleportarium.
There are a number of stratagems that can be used to boost the effectiveness of the Storm Bolter Kill Team.
As mentioned above, the Teleportarium stratagem is one of the key stratagems for the army and one that you will most likely use often. This is a great way of getting the Kill Team into rapid fire range on the turn that they deploy.
The various Doctrine stratagems are some that you may find useful with the Kill Team. These give you +1 to wound against selected enemy units for a single phase. While the Hellfire Bolts may take care of most enemy units that are tough to wound, there may be situations where you need the additional AP of the special issue ammunition, or the +1 to hit. In these cases, the Doctrines can be useful for getting additional wounds on a tough enemy unit.
It can also be useful for taking on enemy vehicles. A unit of 10 Storm Bolter Veterans firing at a standard vehicle (T7, 3+ save) with Kraken Bolts and a Doctrine will be doing around 7 unsaved wounds on average. While it’s not going to destroy an enemy vehicle in one volley, you can take it down a tier or two and reduce its effectiveness on the tabletop. If you add in re-rolls to hit from a Watch Master and Mission Tactics re-rolls, that goes up to around 10 unsaved wounds on a vehicle in a single round of shooting. Not bad for Bolter fire.
You might also get some use out of the Tactical Flexibility stratagem. If the Kill Team survives the enemy turn intact, you can use this to split them into two separate units of 5 models. While it is rare that you will not suffer any casualties, in some situations it could be useful to force your opponent to have two different targets to shoot at. If your game does not use kill points, this could be a useful tactic, but as stated above, it will be on rare occasions that you can use it.
Those are just some of the tactics and uses for the Storm Bolter Kill Team. I think this is a solid unit for the Deathwatch army, with a lot of variety even within itself. Its uses are fairly simple. Point them at the biggest enemy threat and hopefully eliminate it.
The squad can be backed up by a number of powerful support characters and stratagems that will increase their effectiveness greatly. I would say that the support of a Watch Master of Watch Captain is essential for getting the most out of the Kill Team.
The Squad will generally be deploying from turn 2 onwards thanks to the reserves Beta rules. This means you need a solid presence on the board to be able to take the enemy firepower on turn 1. This also gives you the opportunity to try and clear out any screeing units on your first turn to allow the Kill Team to deploy in the optimal position on turn 2.
The other thing to watch out for is if your Watch Master is your warlord and is with the Kill Team in the Teleportarium. The Warlord needs to the be on the table to use the Lord of Hidden Knowledge warlord trait. This means you will not be regaining command points with this warlord trait until he is deployed, though this is less of an issue with the new limits on regaining command points.
The Storm Bolter Kill Team is one of the best new options to come out of the Deathwatch Codex, boosted by the access of the Storm Bolter to Special Issue Ammunition. I think you will be seeing this unit in a range of Deathwatch armies, as well as making a powerful allied unit for other Imperial armies.
The new Beta Bolter rules also boost the utility of the Veteran Squad, allowing them to put out a lot of potent firepower at longer ranges if they remain stationary in their movement phase. This makes it much harder for the Kill Team to find themselves out of position and their firepower neutered in the later stages of the game.
Are there any other strong Kill Teams you think will be strong in a competitive environment? Comment below and let me know your builds.
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