It’s another game day here at spalanz.com, and for today’s blog I’m doing something a little different, looking at a game that I’ve never actually played, and don’t think I ever will! But expect a lot of waxing lyrical over the next few paragraphs, as I take a look at the Deathwatch RPG!
One of Fantasy Flight’s four RPGs set in the Warhammer 40k universe, Deathwatch allows you to take on the role of a space marine as part of a Deathwatch kill team, in a variety of adventures, foremost of which are purging the xenos from the galaxy.
The game is played in a d100 system, where you roll 2 d10s and add a modifier, hoping to roll under the target number. For example, your base stats are generated from rolling two d10s and adding 30. The check you attempt will then be against one of these stats, with a modifier to show how easy/hard it is (+30 for easy to -30 for very hard). So if you try to trick somebody who isn’t paying attention, you may have to roll against your fellowship characteristic with a modifier of +30, your target number could therefore be as high as 80. This core mechanic is somewhat confusing to someone like myself, who grew up on the d20 system, but it’s always good to try out new stuff!
There are a few things that work alongside this, and one that is worth mentioning here is the Demeanour mechanic. It’s basically a nice way to get people to do some real roleplaying of their characters at the table – each character has two demeanours, a personal one and a Chapter-based one, but you can only use one of these once in any one game. While some people can be uncomfortable with this sort of thing, I suppose it’s important to point out here that it is a role-playing game, so you should expect to role-play at least a little… To me, at least, it sounds really cool!
Each space marine character has a set of nine characteristics, which manage to evoke both the tabletop wargame as well as classic roleplaying archetypes: weapons skill, ballistics skill, strength, toughness, agility, intelligence, perception, willpower and fellowship. The interesting thing, for me, about the system is its use of solo mode and squad mode, as mentioned in the video trailer above.
As a starting point, FFG published a web scenario, Final Sanction, which acts as an introduction to the game, and is highly recommended for getting into the game. It pits several pre-generated characters against a genestealer horde in a run-down manufactorum complex, that staple of Warhammer 40k lore!
The game is set in the Jericho Reach, and a wealth of supplementary material has been published that explores that setting, including Necron Tomb Worlds and Tyranid invasions. The core book comes with rules for creating marines from one of six Chapters (Black Templars, Blood Angels, Dark Angels, Space Wolves, Storm Wardens and Ultramarines), though these supplements feature many, many more – my personal favourite was finding out that Novamarines are presented in Honour the Chapter!
One of the draws of this game is always going to be the wide variety of space marine chapters you can choose to base your character upon. Having them all come together as a Deathwatch kill-team is going to cause some problems for unit cohesion, but this is where the solo mode shines, as you can retain that sense of your own chapter tactics, while in squad mode you can work together with your battle brothers to achieve the mission objective. It sounds really awesome, I have to say!
I came to this game late in 2014, when I was first getting into the 40k universe with my Necrons, and was hungering for knowledge about the faction while waiting for the new Codex to drop. The Outer Reach really fired my imagination, not least because of that amazing cover art, and over the months since I’ve bought a few of the books available (as shown above!) While, as I said at the beginning of this blog, I don’t think I’ll ever get the chance to play this game, and it looks like FFG might actually have abandoned it now, it remains an idea that really interests me, and the books remain a constant delight to read through for background, etc.