Deathwatch vs Drukhari: a postmortem

Hey everybody!
Had a very disappointing game against Deathwatch yesterday, so thought I’d come along here and ramble about it for a bit. Because, y’know, why not?

I was playing at my local store against a guy I’ve played before, albeit with different lists. While in our previous match I’d been Necrons, he’d also included a different line-up and it was a smaller-scale game (1250 points, I think). We’d upped things to 1750, and I thought it was about time I brought out the Drukhari, given that I’ve not been playing them nearly as much since the Codex came out, and it’s really time to get my head around all the stuff they can do!

Firstly, then, my list:

It’s a list that I’ve used in similar configuration before, when I had a game back in December against Orks. I’d initially considered using Wych Cult models alongside the Kabal portion, similar to what I was talking about last month, but in the event I wasn’t going to get all of the models that needed painting finished in time. We both went over a bit, mainly because he was bringing Knights to the party, so I felt no shame in squeezing in a second haemonculus to make it two battalions for 13 command points. I made one of the haemonculi the warlord, putting both in their own Venom, then used the Kabal as the main thrust of my army.  The plan was to use the Kabal as a main threat and keep everything at range, while the Coven portion went up the sides and attempted to create a melee charnel house.

Deathwatch vs Drukhari, round one

This plan did not last nearly as well as I thought it might, given that I went second, losing a lot of my firepower and mobility thanks to both Ravagers being blown off the table, as well as two of the Raiders being brought down to extreme low health. Urgh! We were playing Supplies from Above, one of the new missions from Chapter Approved 2018, and one that I’ve played previously in a smaller-scale Necrons vs Tempestus Scions game, and can be a lot of fun in the smaller setting. With a lot of table to cover, though, it proved to be a different experience.

I’d initially placed my objectives near the centre thinking I’d create a bit of a killzone for my Raiders to just deliver massive broadsides each turn. Unfortunately, that didn’t really come to pass! My first shooting phase, I managed to kill one guy – just one guy! Really poor rolls made it quite difficult to get much further. I did use the Fire and Fade stratagem to then move one of the Raiders out of the way of the Knight that was breathing down my neck (which is how it came to be neatly wedged between the scenery pieces in the centre of the picture, above).

With my Ravagers gone so quickly, though, I decided to just not even bother with the Knights, and tried instead to focus on keeping to cover as much as I could, and go for the troops. The mission requires you to control objective markers at the start of your turn, but they move at the start of each battle round, so I shifted my focus to that in the hope that I’d be able to weather the storm coming my way!

My opponent had switched up his list from last time as well, and rather than having everybody carry storm bolters, instead went for a mostly-Primaris build. Which was, as I’m sure you can imagine, a sheer delight. Everything having two wounds suddenly made what heavy artillery I had left become more viable against troops, as shameful as that may be to fire a dark lance at an infantry blob! As an aside, I’d built the majority of this army during the changeover from 7th to 8th edition, when the dark lance was king. However, I’m really thinking that the remaining Raiders I have to build and paint will all be disintegrator cannons, instead – 5 points cheaper, and two more shots. Sure, the strength and AP aren’t as good, but the chances of hitting with the cannons are so much better than with the lances. Somehow, whiffing with three shots at 15 points feels better than whiffing with one shot for 20 points. But anyway!

The one bright spot for me was having taken the risk and walked up the Wrack squad carrying the Hexrifle along the flank to shoot directly into the face of the Watch Master – I wasn’t sure I’d be any good suffering the penalty for moving and firing a heavy weapon, but there’s something wonderful to be said for actually making the Hexrifle shot work: 6 to wound and an unsaved wound at that meant two wounds came off the Watch Master. Delightful.

Deathwatch vs Drukhari, round two

Turn two was utterly appalling for me. I lost everything except the Coven Raider and Venom, and just kept rolling poorly for all of my Kabalites. The fact that two squads of ten veterans deep-struck in, one of which came down into my deployment zone for a two-pronged attack, really saw the pain. I’d deployed an Archon on foot, which you can see just to the centre-right of the above photo, and intended him to be quite the distraction. As it happened, he managed to pull most of the fire from that back-field deep strike, and his shadowfield broke on the third roll. Nobody can really withstand 12 shots to the face, can they? But it meant my Warlord had that much less coming for him, while somehow I managed to shave another two wounds off the Watch Master by again rolling perfectly for the Hexrifle!

Nobody expects a melee-orientated unit like Wracks to have a sniper rifle hidden in their midst, and so pretty much every game I’ve used it, this squad has been woefully misunderstood. Splendid!

If only the rest of the battle was going splendidly, of course. As a point of note, I always forget about Power from Pain. I even had the cards right there in front of me to remember, but I still forget to make the FNP save from the first battle round. Thankfully, my opponent was a good enough sport about it and let me roll after the fact, which did net me two Kabalites back from one of the squads – though I suspect he did so fully aware of the fact they weren’t really a threat to him at this point!

Due to the insane amount of firepower coming at me, when my actual second turn came around, I had very little left to do, so just charged a bunch of Covens units into the backfield deep strikers, and successfully managed to eliminate a Jump Captain and the squad of ten he came down with. There is something to be said for the brutal efficiency of a Talos, Cronos, Haemonculus and Wrack squad working together. Can’t wait to complete the family and add some Grotesques to the roster!


Despite it all – Hellfire rounds to the face, Knights with ridiculous anti-vehicle hatred all around me – we ended in a draw. The Court of the Archon came in really handy having disembarked from their downed Venom in the centre of the table, as each is a separate unit so they all scattered to secure three objectives, with only the Sslyth losing his during the third battle round. We agreed to call it a draw after his turn though, as the store was 20 minutes from closing and I knew it would take at least that long to pack all of my stuff away!

I can’t remember the last time I won a game of 40k. Well, actually I think I can, but it was a long time ago. At any rate, losing games is very often more valuable an experience than winning. My opponent for this game is a self-advertised newbie, and I think our game last night was his fourth, having won one, lost two, and now drawn one. The usual advice for new players is to let them win their first game, but that really is a double-edged sword, for it may lead a person to think the game is easy, or that it will always be like that. Losing, however, makes you re-evaluate your choices, both in the list and in the game. Even though we called this a draw on victory points, I definitely felt like I lost this one.

I ended the battle with 8 command points left. If you end a game with any CPs left, you’ve likely done something wrong, and I very definitely don’t yet know the full potential for the stratagems Drukhari can employ. In a game situation, though, I hate to stand there, flicking through my cards or the Codex, trying to come up with a strategy on the fly, though often I end up doing so regardless. Not making full use of my command points was definitely a mis-step from me, and leaving one of my Raiders out in the open was just asking for trouble when there is so much heavy firepower on the opposite side of the table.

A great excuse for this game was that I was playing at right angles to my deployment zone. Hear me out on this one: we were playing Hammer and Anvil deployment, but the tables in GW Chester are set up as one long line down the centre of the room. So my deployment zone abutted another game going on, and I couldn’t properly get behind my minis to see what they could see, etc. Trying to figure out lines of sight as best I could was, well, difficult at best! I really shouldn’t have been the gentleman and accepted the poorer of the two zones.

I usually have poor dice rolls, and so I try to mitigate that by going for an almost horde feel to the armies I play, and try to have lots of weapons in the hope that the weight of numbers will mean I’ll get at least some hits. But even for me, last night’s game was a shambles. However, there were some successful shots in there that were, unfortunately, saved. Another cardinal sin here – I paid for splinter racks on all three of my Kabal Raiders, 10 points each. I promptly forgot about this, and cannot remember if any of the drive-by attacks rolled 6s. Argh! The agony is real.

People talk about Blasters being amazing, but it’s a similar situation to the dark lance, putting a lot of faith (and points!) into just one shot. I’m starting to think that I might well just keep things real simple in my next game, and have three squads of ten with just splinter rifles, or maybe add in a splinter cannon for each but otherwise strip them back completely. 70 points for a 10-man Kabalite squad isn’t exactly a bad situation to be in, after all. Keeping things cheap in this manner will open the door for adding in more stuff as well, naturally – maybe a 5-man Kabalite squad in a Venom, where I can perhaps get a bit fancier?

The other thing that has been running around my mind for a while is to just forget about the whole Obsessions thing, and run a Drukhari army without trying to straightjacket it into Kabal/Cult/Coven. There are enough options outside of the Obsessions to do this comfortably, though who knows if it would actually be viable? At least I could use my Reavers without having to think about a Succubus or maxing out the Outrider detachment…

All of this talk leads me to the main point I have to make, though: I’m just not that experienced with my Drukhari force yet. I said at the top that it was a very disappointing game, and that was really a disappointment with myself and the tactical choices I made throughout. I love Dark Eldar, not necessarily for the fluff but the playstyle is a massive puzzle that I really enjoy solving each time I bring them to the table (except, perhaps, when that puzzle is being destroyed before I even have a chance to pick up the next piece!) However, my hobby-butterfly mentality often sees me flit from one army to another, and never really getting the hang of anything. As it happens, I’m hoping to move house this summer, so in the spirit of anticipating some upheaval in the next few months, I probably won’t have the time to flit from project to project, and will therefore have to commit to something. If I actually manage to find the time to play any games, it might be worthwhile to stick with the Drukhari and see if I can really refine how I want to play them…

One thought on “Deathwatch vs Drukhari: a postmortem”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.