Over the last few weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of “stock taking” of my various miniatures that are in all manner of shapes, and one of those armies that I keep coming back to is the Deathwatch. It was something I was incredibly excited for when the models first came out; I invested heavily in boxes of the new marines, then a battleforce at Christmas, but I ended up in the usual position of being swamped, and so they went into a box for a very long time. I think part of my disillusionment with the project was how I found myself being swayed by the meta, and building marines “because they’ll be powerful in the game” and not “because they’ll look awesome”.
Let’s delve back into the mists of time…
In 2016, we were in the heady days of 7th edition 40k. Out of the blue, Deathwatch: Overkill came out in February, and gave us two completely new armies for the game, the Deathwatch and the Genestealer Cults. It was very much a board game, almost in the similar vein to Space Hulk, and pitted a specific Deathwatch kill team against an unstoppable horde of Genestealer Cultists. Kill Team Cassius was a varied mix of marines, including a biker and a terminator among their number, as well as a librarian and the chaplain himself, Ortan Cassius. While they were monopose models, they were rather magnificent, and paved the way for more in the summer.
Death Masque was a battle box that launched the main line of Deathwatch miniatures, pitching them against the Harlequins. In this box, we had a Venerable Dreadnought, a squad of Vanguard Veterans, a squad of the new Deathwatch marines, and the Watch Captain Artemis model. Artemis was originally a model produced for the Inquisitor game, so was reimagined for 28mm scale in a pretty stunning mini. In addition, we had Deathwatch upgrades for a variety of Space Marine kits, like Terminators and Bikes, along with a couple of new kits, like the Watch Master and Corvus Blackstar flyer. In terms of actual Deathwatch kits, then, we have a grand total of just five – the two HQs, the flyer, the marines and the Kill Team Cassius set. But that didn’t stop there being a full-blown codex for them in both 7th and 8th editions! For 9th edition, however, they have gone down the route of a Codex Supplement, meaning that you also need to buy the Space Marines book to get the full set of rules for the army. It’s a move that I have not been impressed by, and I think it’s one of the reasons why I’ve not been that into them for a long time.
Another reason for this apathy, I suppose, is that I rarely play games against xenos armies. The whole Deathwatch schtick is that they are xenos killers, and their “chapter tactic” allows them to re-roll hit rolls of 1 in melee against xenos (and re-roll wound rolls of 1 against a specific battlefield role). A lot of the army rules have moved away somewhat from this kind of specificity, much like Grey Knights have lost a lot of their daemon-specific rules, in an effort to make them more rounded as an army that can fight anything.
Deathwatch Veterans can take a bewildering array of weaponry, reflecting the fact they are basically Sternguard Veterans drawn from across the many chapters of Space Marines in the Imperium. The basic troops, Veterans can swap out their wargear for close combat or heavy weapons across the entire five-man team, meaning you could have a squad of five basic troops, four of whom are carrying heavy bolters, or the Deathwatch Infernus heavy bolter (a heavy bolter strapped to a heavy flamer). The fact that the basic load-out of boltgun and power sword also comes with four different kinds of special issue ammunition that you can choose to load into it before shooting begins really adds an extra layer to the whole, as well!
In my ruminations on my army, I’ve discovered that I have just over 1500 points of Deathwatch built, although with four HQ options I can’t field them all in a single force. That said, they aren’t really equipped as I would like them to be, so I have had to start looking at ways to better-organise the force. While mixed kill teams is very thematic for the army, in terms of practical gameplay, it isn’t exactly the best for keeping track of everything that’s going on! So I have been trying to find ways of altering the load-outs, swapping marines around, so that they are a bit more coherent across the force.
I’m not looking for a big game to start with, because I would like to keep things as straightforward as possible. That said, there is often the problem of having a small-scale battle that is also interesting to fight, so I’ve gone for a list that is closer to the 800 points mark. My regular opponent JP has roughly 800 points of Necrons as well, so at some point we’ll look into getting a game with these armies!
In this sense, then, I have come up with the following build.
As you can see, it’s literally a basic battalion with two leaders and three troop squads. Each squad has got some special weapons, but primarily the focus is having some fancy guys with a baseline of basic guys. The two kill team squads have a base of the boltgun/power sword guys, on top of which I have layered some assault weapons in one, and the other kinda has the remnants of what I have built to date!
The Proteus Kill Team includes the fancy terminator that I added into the army after seeing one of the Deathwing conversions in the codex. It looks beautiful, but it becomes a bit of a problem when trying to squeeze things around! Proteus kill teams can include terminators, vanguard veterans and bikers, so they are quite exciting, though they need to have a minimum of five Veterans in there anyway. It all just gets a bit of a faff, somehow, making sure I have the right ratio of models. They all have heavy weapons, although the sergeant has the combi-plasma in there as well.
The army is going to be led by Watch Captain Artemis. He has some good defensive rules, as well as providing a number of buffs to nearby units thanks to his warlord trait. I’m thinking that he will be moving around the field of battle, with one or two of the kill teams in his wake, shooting things up and generally doing what needs to be done.
Chaplain Cassius is not only a beautiful model, but he also looks like he might be quite useful, and comes in under 100 points which is always nice! He has a fairly decent statline, but I think I’m primarily going to be using him to support other squads nearby. His litany gives +1 to hit for shooting units within 6”, so I think I might use him near to the Proteus kill team, as they all have heavy weapons so it would be nice to get some of that meaty damage through; I always feel it’s better to have a to-hit bonus to give the maximum dice for potential wounds, rather than only getting a couple of hits through and being able to buff those after the fact, if that makes sense?
All in all, it seems like it might be a bit of a boring force to play, given that there’s not a lot of variety of units. However, there is a lot going on with their myriad rules that I think this is well more than it perhaps seems on paper. There seems to be a lot of buffs going around, and a couple of useful stratagems are available both from the Deathwatch side as well as the Space Marines book. It should be interesting, I think, anyway!