Followers on Twitter will know that I’ve started collecting Deathwatch.
It wasn’t entirely planned. When I picked up a copy of Deathwatch: Overkill it was to have a natty boxed game that could be whipped out of a games night and to collect Genestealer Cultists.
The plan was to collect a small Deathwatch army afterwards to compliment my unnecessarily big Ultramarines army. Made more unnecessary by my Forge World purchases last year… #sorrynotsorry
Then I read the codex.
For the novice or the oblivious, the Deathwatch are a dedicated chapter of alien hunters made up from all the other Space Marine chapters. Yes, all.
They deviate from standard Space Marines in a number of ways – how they’re recruited being the most notable. But more than that, they have specialist equipment that flies in the face of Adeptus Mechanicus doctrine which would be enough to brand them heretics in the eyes of many.
The amazing Corvus Blackstar and the highly effective Frag Cannon being just two examples of this particular brand of non-conformity.
They don’t follow the Codex Astartes in any meaningful way in so much as they don’t use Battle company formations and they’re squads not only have diverse armaments but they also attach members from other unit types to their standard Killteams to bolster their strength.
This lends them extra punch either at range or up close (or both) allowing you to make some very focussed, very powerful units. The other very that should go with that is expensive.
It does, however, make them interesting.
Anyone who has read the multitude of Black Library novels about Space Marines (which is a lot of them) will no doubt have experienced a degree of disappointment over the comparative blandness of the models and rules to how they are portrayed in the books.
Depending on the chapter the novel is about, there’s all sorts of subtle armour variations, minor modifications and other distinguishing features that make the armies feel markedly different from their brothers that can’t always be reflected in the army.
Especially when the practicalities of model making dictate that the more generic a model the broader the commercial appeal. Obviously there are always exceptions to this – Blood Angels and Space Wolves most notably – but those ranges are justified through a significant divergence in game play and a large enough customer base to justify it.
But more than that, in the books the Space Marines are absolutely devastating.
Whilst Space Marine armies are hardly limp wristed in the fisticuffs department, they are also hugely watered down to allow for (a) Marine players to take more than a squad and (b) to give other players a chance.
A few years ago White Dwarf published, for bants presumably, the movie marine rules. Essentially a fairly tongue in cheek set of rules to demonstrate how tough a Space Marine should be in a game of 40k.
They started at 100 points a model, had multiple wounds, a 3+ invulnerable save with a re-roll and their profile had lots of 5s and 6s in it.
A bit of fun for some, an eye-rolling annoyance for those who feel Space Marines get too much of the attention already, it’s a reminder that Space Marines are absurdly tough. They were, after all, originally intended as a single squad ally for Imperial Guard armies. But Space Marines are cool and only an idiot wouldn’t want capitalise on that opportunity.
The Deathwatch provides the faithful marine nerd with the variety and customisation options we’ve all craved. The fact that the entire army is made up of Veterans gives the army that super elite, against all odds, feel. A base level model is an eye watering 22 points, plus upgrades.
Moreover the mixed squads of Killteams, terminators, vanguard veterans and characters fits really nicely with some of the more dramatic moments in the books. Especially where the fighting is at its most desperate and the heroes of the Imperium are moving through the lines to support where they’re needed most.
I had the opportunity to play a 1500 point game with a standard Codex Space Marines army. Whereas I took a fully kitted out army which, excluding the Corvus Blackstar and the Dreadnought, was made up of 25 models.
My opponent, on the other hand took a captain, 30 Tactical Marines, 10 scouts, 10 assault marines, 5 devastators, 5 terminators, a predator, a rhino and two dreadnoughts.
Whilst there were very few (almost no) upgrades in the army, that was still 61 infantry models and 4 models with armour values. Considering the average cost of my models were weighing in at 37 points a model, being out numbered over 2:1 was about right.
However, despite my early apprehension that I was going to get absolutely slaughtered, I actually went on to win the game by a very narrow margin. The butcher’s bill was high but considering how I thought it was going to go I was content that the tithes would replenish the losses in good order.
The formations, because who takes an army without formations these days, actively encourage you to take the Space Marine army of your boyhood dreams, complete with re-rolls to wound differing units types depending on the formation.
Throw in Killteam Cassius and an absurdly good Watch Master (who is mental for the points) and you have the hardened, individualistic, monsters of war I’ve certainly always imagined space marines to be.
Seeing that translated onto the board is really quite something. The Deathwatch look and feel like the super elite army many (if not all) of us have always imagined taking. The models are imposing and the load-outs diverse. The heavy thunder hammer is hilarious.
The rules make them a small but highly effective team when used correctly (and sparingly). But more than that, the additions of things like the Corvus and the Infernus Heavy Bolter also make them elite because no one gets to play with their toys. Much like Grey Knights.
The background is also rich, interesting and tells of a force relentlessly committed to the cause unto death. They are the hero’s hero. They are the bending, but unbreakable line that pushes back against the alien.
They are the Deathwatch.