Codex Supplement: Deathwatch Review- Special Issue Ammunition

The Deathwatch Special Issue Ammunition rule has seen big changes in the new codex, drastically reducing the number of units that can benefit from the ammo. Let’s take a look at the numbers for special issue ammunition. For more reviews and analyses, check out the Tactics Corner.

The Deathwatch supplement has seen a dramatic reduction in the number of units that can access special issue ammunition, limiting it to essentially Deathwatch Veterans in most cases. This article will break down the numbers to see which ammo type is best for a number of situations.

As a reminder of the rules of the special issue ammunition:

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

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

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

Vengeance Bolts– Add 1 to the damage characteristic.

For the tables below, we are going to look at the average number of unsaved wounds caused for a unit of 5 Deathwatch Veterans firing in rapid fire range with each ammunition type against a variety of common enemy units. The number in parentheses for the Vengeance rounds is the unsaved damage caused (not relevant for Orks and Guardsmen). The number with the asterisk (*) is for monsters with Hellfire rounds.

In this first table, we are assuming that each enemy unit is in the open, with no other bonuses or modifiers:

Marine
(T4, 3+)
Ork
(T4, 6+)
Guardsman
(T3, 5+)
Terminator
(T4, 2+)
Vehicle
(T7, 3+)
Dragonfire1.12.83.00.60.7
Hellfire1.53.73.70.80.7/ 1.1*
Kraken1.73.43.71.11.1
Vengeance1.1 (2.2)2.83.00.6 (1.2)0.7 (1.4)

Against Marines, you are better using Kraken or Vengeance rounds. The extra damage of the Vengeance rounds means you are more likely to kill a Marine if a wound gets through. Hellfire is no longer the auto-take, as you are better with Kraken in a number of situations, except against Orks, where the +1 to wound gives a better bonus in most situations.

In this next table, we’ll take a look at the effects of Light Cover (+1 to save) on the ammo types.

LIGHT
COVER
Marine
(T4, 3+)
Ork
(T4, 6+)
Guardsman
(T3, 5+)
Terminator
(T4, 2+)
Vehicle
(T7, 3+)
Dragonfire1.12.83.00.60.7
Hellfire0.83.02.80.80.4/ 0.6*
Kraken1.12.83.00.60.7
Vengeance0.6 (1.2)2.22.20.6 (1.2)0.4 (0.8)

The addition of light cover means that the Dragonfire Bolts can now have an effect. However, the +1 to cover is negated either by the Dragonfire bolts or the effects of Kraken rounds, so it is really a toss up for most cases, maybe the extra range of the Kraken is superior in some instances.

The next table takes the effects of Dense Cover (-1 to hit) into effect.

DENSE
COVER
Marine
(T4, 3+)
Ork
(T4, 6+)
Guardsman
(T3, 5+)
Terminator
(T4, 2+)
Vehicle
(T7, 3+)
Dragonfire1.12.83.00.60.7
Hellfire1.12.82.80.60.6/ 0.8*
Kraken1.32.52.80.80.8
Vengeance0.8 (1.6)2.12.20.4 (0.8)0.6 (1.2)

As you can see, the +1 to wound of Hellfire offsets the -1 to hit that Dragonfire ignores. In this case, against certain unit types, the higher AP of Kraken rounds is still superior, even with the -1 to hit from dense cover.

In the case of Light and Dense Cover simultaneously, the Dragonfire rounds come out on top, effectively giving you +1 to hit and +1 AP to your shots, making them the superior round in most cases.

Doctrines

The Deathwatch have more utility in their Doctrines, being able to choose which is in effect on each turn. This allows you to have the Tactical Doctrine boosting your AP from turn 1. Below, we’ll take the effects of the Tactical Doctrine into effect on the special issue ammunition.

First, we will look at the standard situation with no cover effects on the enemy unit.

Marine
(T4, 3+)
Ork
(T4, 6+)
Guardsman
(T3, 5+)
Terminator
(T4, 2+)
Vehicle
(T7, 3+)
Dragonfire1.73.43.71.11.1
Hellfire2.24.54.61.51.1/ 1.8*
Kraken2.23.44.51.71.5
Vengeance1.7 (3.4)3.43.71.1 (2.2)1.1 (2.2)

In this case, the higher AP of the vengeance rounds makes them a more appealing prospect against Marines, as you might get lucky and slay two of them, instead of an average of one Marine dead with the other ammo types. Hellfire gets boosted by the extra AP against weaker units such as Orks and Guardsmen, and a nice boost against Monsters.

The table below takes the effect of Light Cover into account.

LIGHT
COVER
Marine
(T4, 3+)
Ork
(T4, 6+)
Guardsman
(T3, 5+)
Terminator
(T4, 2+)
Vehicle
(T7, 3+)
Dragonfire1.73.43.71.11.1
Hellfire1.53.73.70.80.7/ 1.1*
Kraken1.73.43.71.11.1
Vengeance1.1 (2.2)2.83.00.6 (1.2)0.7 (1.4)

Again, it’s a toss up against Dragonfire and Kraken, as the AP bonus of the doctrines is negated by the cover for Kraken bolts, but Dragonfire still gets the AP bonus.

Now, let’s take a look at the effects of Dense Cover with the Tactical Doctrine active.

DENSE
COVER
Marine
(T4, 3+)
Ork
(T4, 6+)
Guardsman
(T3, 5+)
Terminator
(T4, 2+)
Vehicle
(T7, 3+)
Dragonfire1.73.43.71.11.1
Hellfire1.73.43.41.10.8/ 1.3*
Kraken1.72.53.41.31.1
Vengeance0.8 (1.6)2.83.00.6 (1.2)0.8 (1.6)

Again, there is little effect in using Dragonfire Bolts with heavy cover, as the other ammo types will give similar results in most situations.

I actually thought that Dragonfire bolts were much improved in the new rules, mitigating the effects of cover on your rolls. However, running the numbers, there are few situations where you will need to use these rounds. If the enemy unit is in dense and light cover, then getting to ignore these bonuses is a strong option for the Deathwatch Veterans. Also, if the enemy unit gets any additional save bonuses for being in cover (camo cloaks, etc), then this is a strong use of the dragonfire bolts for attacks against such a unit.

Overview:

The reduced weapon options for the Deathwatch able to use special issue ammunition actually makes its use a bit easier to predict. In most cases, there isn’t huge variation in which ammo type to use for most enemy units. Hopefully the tables above will give you an edge for choosing which type of ammo will be most effective against your opponents.

Against the Marine meta, you are probably better using Vengeance bolts, as each failed save will result in a dead Marine. With the other ammo types, you are going to need to be lucky to get a killed Marine with your shots. Factoring in re-rolls from Mission Tactics and Captain re-rolls should boost this even further.

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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.

2 Responses to “Codex Supplement: Deathwatch Review- Special Issue Ammunition”

  1. Avatar
    Bryan January 2, 2021 3:32 pm #

    I think it would have been good to include other weapon types to compare. Especially storm bolters so everyone who put them on their models knows if they need to take them off again. Not in cover you can just double the dragonfire, but in cover that doesn’t work.

    The other most important ones to compare them to would be the weapons of the base 5 models of each other kill team. Obviously there’s other factors like model cost and how other models in the kill teams will benefit the team, but if you are using those models as a “tax” it would be nice to know the most effective “tax”.

    Deathwatch shotguns would be an interesting comparison too.

    Maybe a future article?

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr January 3, 2021 3:20 am #

      For a standard Bolter, you can use the value of the Vengeance round (not in parenthesis). For the Storm Bolter, the value of the Vengeance rounds in parenthesis should be used, as you get double the number of shots. The Bolt Rifle would be the same as the Kraken rounds. For auto bolt rifles, you would multiply the vengeance bolt by 1.5 for three shots.

      More shots is going to usually come out on top, so the Storm Bolter is better in almost every case. However, you would need to factor in the extra cost, so its up to you whether that is a better option. I don’t think people should be ripping off Storm Bolters as everyone was bemoaning when the book came out. Double the number of shots is always better than SIA, and I think it is well worth the 2 pts per model for that much extra firepower. A unit of 10 Veterans with Storm Bolters costs an extra 20 pts. The same cost as a single Veteran, but you get 10x the firepower.

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