Index Astartes Deathwatch Review- Special Issue Ammunition

Hi everyone, the updated rules for 9th edition have just dropped for most of the armies. I’m going to take a look at some of the big changes for the Deathwatch. For more reviews and analyses, check out the Tactics Corner.

The Deathwatch have been folded into the Space Marine Codex for 9th edition and will be getting their own supplement in due time. For now, they have an updated index astartes that provides some big changes for the army. I’m going to take a look at the changes to one of the key rules of the Deathwatch; Special Issue Ammunition.

Special Issue Ammunition

The rules for special issue ammunition have had some big changes in 9th edition.

Dragonfire– The target does not receive the benefits of cover against attacks made by this weapon.

This has gone from the worst type of SIA to potentially one of the most useful. This round ignores the benefits of cover, not just the bonus to armour save. With Doctrines giving an AP bonus to many bolt weapons, the ability to ignore the +1 to armour saves for enemy units in cover means the doctrine bonus is even more effective. In addition, the ability to ignore the -1 to hit penalty from some cover types means that you can still maintain highly accurate fire with your Deathwatch bolters.

Hellfire– Weapon gets +1 to wound against units that are not Vehicles or Titanic.

This is probably the biggest nerf to special issue ammunition and one that could be felt a lot by Deathwatch players. The ability to wound almost any unit on a 2+ was incredible for the Deathwatch, but it is now a flat +1 to wound. This means that a lot of bigger threats will be safer from the Deathwatch firepower, and even Marines will only be wounded on a 3+ now with Bolters. Given that Deathwatch have stratagems giving them +1 to wound, you will probably be combining this with other types of SIA over the Hellfire rounds. I think this one will be the biggest issue of contention among Deathwatch players.

Kraken Bolts– Add 6″ to the weapon range and add 1 to the AP value.

The biggest change to this is that it now stacks with Combat Doctrines, with no limit on the AP, giving you AP-2 on Bolters in the Tactical Doctrine. With the smaller board sizes, the increased range on Bolters (and other weapons) means the threat range of your squad is increased further. With no limits to increasing the AP anymore, you can use this with the Doctrines to increase your AP on a variety of weapons. For example, Stalker Pattern Bolters firing Kraken Bolts on turn one are now AP-4. I can still see this being a useful type of SIA to use in the right circumstances.

Vengeance Bolts– Add 1 to the damage characteristic

Given that Marines have gone up to 2W, this is great for taking on other Marines or multi-wound models. Vengeance bolts got a lot better, as the AP bonus was generally nice, but not always necessary before. No reduction to the range of the weapon is also great.

Special Issue Ammunition has had some big changes in the update. Now, there will be actual tactical choices to consider when selecting which ammo type to use, rather than just going for Hellfire all the time, which was generally the best to use in most situations.

Another change is that SIA now appears to stack with Bolter Discipline, allowing you to gain access to more shots at long range if your unit remains stationary.

There were also some big changes in what weapons can use special issue ammunition. Storm Bolters now no longer gain access to SIA. This was probably to be expected, but there will be a lot of converted units that may not see much play any more. Stalker Bolters are also modified slightly, going down to Heavy 1, but 2 damage. This allows you to have damage 3 bolters with SIA, at AP-3 in the Devastator Doctrine. These should provide some great long range firepower to the army in the first turn of the game.

Also, it appears that all Primaris units have lost access to SIA. It was generally only Intercessors that got to use SIA, but the loss on Bolt Rifles, Auto bolt rifles and stalker bolt rifles is a big blow to Primaris Deathwatch units. With Veterans going up to 2 wounds each, it is now a difficult decision over which units to take for the Deathwatch. Given that Veterans now come with power swords as standard, they will be more powerful in melee as well.

The change to Primaris units and SIA means that these may be less popular in Deathwatch armies, as the Veterans now have sole access to SIA, better wargear options and just as many wounds.

Bikers also appear to have lost access to special issue ammunition. This is a shame, but it seems that all storm bolter equivalents are losing this option.

Special issue ammunition was one of the key rules for the Deathwatch in previous editions. I still think it is a great rule to be able to access, but there have been significant changes. The nerf to Hellfire rounds and Primaris units will be a big hit for many Deathwatch armies. However, I think the gains to Vengeance and Dragonfire rounds are a big boost to the army, especially on terrain heavy boards and against the Marine meta. The Deathwatch also have access to a wide range of new units, which I will be covering in other reviews.

What do you think of the new changes? Are they an improvement to the army?


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.

5 Responses to “Index Astartes Deathwatch Review- Special Issue Ammunition”

  1. Rob Butcher October 5, 2020 8:27 pm #

    Previously, always wounding on a 2+ meant only one round was taken … now there’s a choice.

    No surprise that SIA can’t be taken on storm bolters or Primaris. The sxisting “Start Collecting” box gets more interesting – especially having a dreadnought inside for -1 damage.

    Deathwatch have always been strong at Warhammer World (top ten) so these changes was expected.

    • Michael Corr October 6, 2020 2:50 am #

      I disagree. Having played Deathwatch, there were situations where you would utilise the other ammo types. For example, Kraken was great for landing outside of Auspex Scan range and still getting to rapid fire with Storm Bolters. Vengeance was also great against most vehicles, as Hellfire did nothing for them.

      Plus, I don’t think Deathwatch have been particularly strong in 8th edition. I think they were a solid army, but nowhere close to strong for a long time.

      • abusepuppy October 6, 2020 6:48 am #

        Ah, but in Games Workshop tournaments I bet that wasn’t true, and all Warhammer played outside of GW tournaments is invalid therefore AHKCHUALLY you are wrong!

  2. Amof October 6, 2020 8:34 am #

    I wouldnt get married to the idea of DW primaris not getting any SIA.

    • Michael Corr October 6, 2020 9:54 am #

      It would be nice to see it return, but at the moment, they do not have access. The supplement could see it come back.

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