Monday, 5 September 2016

Deathwatch: Talking points

I've had the Deathwatch book a few days now and it seems to me that there's a few things worth talking through, especially in light of the new White Dwarf. I'm not going to do a full blow-by-blow review of the book, just highlight a few points of interest.

Kill Teams
Right off the bat, lets tackle le grande fromage of the Deathwatch book, the Kill Team special rule. When the rules for the team from Overkill were released many players were left scratching their heads at the rule which required the whole team, including a biker and a couple of Jump Packs, to operate as one unit. Well, the Codex proper doubles down on it and its... odd.

The first point is that you can just about avoid using it. You can simply run Deathwatch using a CAD and it'll work fine, barring that your Bikers, Terminators etc won't have any Sergeants, since you only get those in the base Veteran squad. But in order to use the new Black Spear detach-formation (a word I just made up and will never use again) you're going to have to tangle with it. In this month's White Dwarf, the designers state that adding other models to your Veterans grants benefits to make up for the loss of mobility, so lets take a look at that claim.

Firstly, adding Terminators to your Veterans is pretty decent. Since all (up to) five of these bad boys can pack a Terminator heavy weapon and/or the melta-fist you can certainly add a lot of firepower to a Veteran squad with them. Your ten man team could contain four of those new Frag Cannons  (assuming the Blood Angels don't nick them to fit on their Furiosos, who are probably a bit cross about all this) as well as five Assault Cannons, Heavy Flamers or Cyclones and still have six melta-guns in it as well. It's going to cost a lot of points, but anything it gets close to is going to go away. Alternatively, you can just add a couple of Thunderhammer/ Storm Shield guys to tank for the rest of the team, or all sorts of other combinations. You lose the ability to Sweeping Advance and don't fit in a Rhino, but other than that, it's all good.

Adding a Vanguard is also pretty good. Even taking one allows the Kill Team to re-roll charge distances (one or both dice) and ignore Disordered Charges, so if your team is geared up to give the Alien a taste of the Emperor's Holy Boot Leather, it's pretty much a no-brainer. Each Vanguard can also take a melta-bomb, which is potentially very useful. Again, you can't ride in a rhino, big whoop. The only decision then is whether you want more than one Vanguard as insurance to keep those handy abilities.

Bikers are where things go a bit squiffy. The Deathwatch Biker is a solid choice- he has Skilled Rider, access to a teleport homer and melta-bombs, and still gets to use special ammo with his bike Bolters. He can also take a power weapon to replace his close combat weapon, though like most Loyalist bikers he still needs to hold on to his bike with one hand so there's no pistol on offer for that extra attack. The special sauce he brings to a Kill Team is the Split Fire rule, which is... well, there. It certainly could be handy, allowing that one melta-gun to pop a tank whilst the rest of the team does something else, but I'm not convinced it's worth losing the bike's mobility for. It 'feels' odd, too- we can just about understand why the Vanguard makes his squad better at charging, but why does a guy on a bike improve fire discipline?

Working With It
So, the Kill Team rule is something you're going to be dealing with if you want to use the new Codex to full effect. There are some things, straight away, that you can't really do. Appealing as it would be, you can't bulk out Bikes with Vanguards, getting some T5 Wounds and more Attacks on the cheap, because at minimum you're going to have five foot-slogging Veterans complaining about their bunions. Getting over 100 points of Marines killed just to let your assault troops move properly isn't really a good option. If you want that mobility, you're going to need to take those units outside of the Black Spear in a CAD, which means no Kill Team combined squads for you. Fortunately, this can actually work. A basic Black Spear will simply need a Commander, some kind of Kill Team (which could be a single Veteran Squad) and an Auxilary (Dreadnought, Land Raider or wing of Blackstars) and that gives you all your lovely extra Mission Tactics which apply to everyone with the rule, which will work fine for the guys in the CAD. So that frees you up to take a couple of Veteran teams and a leader for boots on the ground, and them some Bikers or Vanguard in your Fast Attack slots. Since the Bikes can have the Teleport Homers, which work with the Sudden Onslaught deep strike that the Black Spear confers, things start to fall into place a bit.

Let's just take a moment to notice that a single Kill Team can have five (or even six) Librarians in it. It's not a Conclave, but still..

In The Air Tonight
The Deathwatch have a bit of an issue with things that fly, especially if you happen to be one of the three people using Death From The Skies. The Blackstar is their only Flyer, and it's an Attack Flyer, meaning it doesn't get Skyfire. The Blackstar Rocket Launcher it can carry does have it, but at S6 AP4 with D6 shots it's not exactly terrifying to the heavier flyers in the game, though it is Twin Linked. As with a lot of alleged anti-aircraft weapons it lacks the AP value to make Hive Tyrants Jink and will need to score a lot of hits to down anything bigger than a Stormtalon. Other than that, you can try snap-shooting Lascannons to make them nervous or go with the Flakk missiles that your Veterans won't be loading into the missile launchers they probably won't be bringing. Of course, the age of Formations means you can always bring in a bunch of other Imperial or even Eldar flyers for top-cover, depending on the size and trim of your beard.

The Gun That Would Not Be
There's always the suspicion with Artefacts that some of them are there solely because the designers like to have about the same number in each book, and a few of them are usually total lemons (though less useful in preventing scurvy). The prize-winner in the Deathwatch goes firmly to the Banebolts of  Eryxia, which are maddening. These are basically AP4 Special Ammo that gains Instant Death if the Wound roll is a 6. Unfortunately, they don't do anything else, so unless your target happens to be dumb enough to be wearing 4+ armour not much is likely to happen. The kicker- the real clue that someone stuck these things in and forgot they existed- is that they have a profile to be used in a Stalker bolter, which since it's a Sniper weapon seems a good choice. Hey, 6, to hit, 6 to Wound, dead enemy Warlord- not bad for the points. (Let's pretend Look Out Sir isn't a thing). The point is, though, that not one single model in the book can take a Stalker and also has access to Artefacts, meaning that profile will never, ever, ever be used. At least, not until the Errata, perhaps.

Just bring a Vindicare for that job, guys.

Rules Lawyer Incoming
Finally, let's look at the piece of kit that's going to be causing an argument at a gaming club or forum near you soon, if it hasn't already, the Beacon Angelis. Now, the headline news with this one is meant to be that once per game, you can teleport a friendly unit of Deathwatch to within 6" of the bearer, even out of combat, and since the Beacon is a super teleport homer, they won't scatter. However, the wording of its homing ability just says 'friendly units do not scatter when they Deep Strike, as long as the first model is placed within 6" of the model with the Beacon'. There's no mention of the guy with the Beacon having to be on the board at the start of the turn, as there is for most such items, so this seems to allow the bearer to come in first and act as a homer for all the other Deep Strikes that turn. Now the obvious argument is whether this was intended or not and that one will go around until the FAQ, which will hopefully be quick in this brave new world of GW, but lets spare a thought for the guy who has to deal with the joker that points out that most abilities that affect everyone around the bearer affect the bearer himself, and since he's always within 6" of himself, he never scatters when he Deep Strikes...

You're welcome for that one. My advice is to point out a rules infraction on another table and then take him out with a single blow from a GURPS sourcebook.

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