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Warhammer 40,000 NEW Codex Supplement Deathwatch Review – 40k 9th Edition

Hot on the heels of the Codex Space Marine the Deathwatch are back with a brand new codex, or to be more precise, a Codex Supplement. You can preorder the book right here.

The Deathwatch sadly didn’t get all that much love from the Psychic Awakening series that marked the final months of 8th Edition, so it was to be expected that we would see them get some attention early on in 9th.

Before we delve into this review it is worth remembering that one of the biggest updates to the Deathwatch isn’t actually in this book. Codex Space Marines opened the door to a vast array of new units for Deathwatch fans old and new to include in there forces. Bar a handful of units (such as firstborn Biker units, as Deathwatch have Veteran Bikers) everything is available, whether it be Primaris units, such as the Phobos armored models or firstborn, such as Centurions.

Another rule that is in Codex Space Marines that doesn’t make it into this book but is mentioned throughout is the Xenos Hunters rule. This allows all Deathwatch units to reroll 1s in melee against Xenos enemies, and allows you to choose one battlefield role before the game begins which grants all Deathwatch units reroll 1s to wound against that particular battefield role.

With the pre-review out of the way its time to dig into this tome and see if the Deathwatch can be a force to be reckoned with once again!

If you would like to support the site then why not pre order via our affiliate Element Games and save yourself 20% too!

You can check out our read through in the video below:

Introduction

Weighing in at 64 pages, this is a Codex Supplement rather than a fully fledged Codex. This means to use this Codex you must own Codex Space Marines. The only datasheets in this book are those that are exclusive to the Deathwatch (more on these later). All of the other datasheets are in Codex Space Marine.

This book incorporates the previously released FAQ that dropped a few weeks ago.

Lore

As with all the publications Games Workshop put out you are greeted to multiple pages of lore, detailing the founding and organisation of the Deathwatch, as well as bringing you up to speed with what they are doing in the current timeline.

Their is some gorgeous artwork in here, many of which I haven’t previously seen. The Ordo Xenos get a mention, as they work closely with the Deathwatch, as well as detailed background on Watch Captain Artemis and Kill Team Cassius.

A new Warzone is detailed, called the Chalnath Expanse. These two pages tell a story of the three planets within the Expanse and are all set in the current timeline (post Cicatrix Maledictum). We may one day see another supplement go deeper into this part of the universe.

I don’t want to spoil any of the lore in here, but I’ll go as far as saying they are an enjoyable read.

Miniatures Showcase

I much prefer the new layout for what is in essence the miniatures showcase. Showing off painted Deathwatch units; the following 8 pages reveal some well displayed shots of Deathwatch models on the tabletop.

You’ll also find these pages helpful when it comes to painting, showing you for example where squad markings are added, as well as explaining what the Deathwatch display on there shoulder pads.

Especially helpful to new players is the showcase of models displaying the different armour types, so that anyone new to Marines will know what Phobos armour looks like, for example. It’s easy to forget when you’ve been in the hobby for so long that new players will also be picking these books up, with little knowledge of the faction.

Rules

Now onto the real meat and potatoes of the book, the rules.

Following the new Codex layout first seen in Codex Space Marines and Necrons the first two pages of the rules clearly details where you’ll find particular sets of rules. The edges of the following pages also clearly indicate the section you are in, making it much easier to find what your looking for, like Stratagems for example.

Detachment Abilities

If your army includes only models with the Deathwatch keyword, excluding Agents of the Imperium or Unaligned models, then you have yourself a Deathwatch detachment.

Interestingly, for the main Mission Tactic, the book states that your army must be a Deathwatch detachment, but specifically states that it only excludes Unaligned models, not Agents of the Imperium. This unfortunately means if you include an Inquisitor in your army, at least how it is written in the book, you wouldn’t gain the following ability.

This was how the original Space Marine Mission Tactic worked, before it was changed to the set layout of Devastator Doctrine turn one, then Tactical, then Assault. I really like the fact the Deathwatch can choose which Doctrine to activate at the start of the turn, as this reflects the elite nature of the army and how they mobilize for missions.

Don’t forget, as mentioned earlier in the article, your army will also be rerolling 1s to wound against your chosen battefield role and rerolling 1s to hit in combat against alien races.

Stratagems

9th Edition has opened the door for every faction to have plenty of command points at there disposal, so I was really keen to see what Stratagems were on offer. Don’t forget, you can use the strats from Codex Space Marine too.

A number of these were in the 8th Edition codex, however there are some very cool additions. I decided to pick a couple out for examples.

  • Shroud Field: For 2CP you can prevent your Corvus Blackstar from being shot at in turn one unless it is the closest eligible target. Note, this stratagem is used before the first battle round, so even if your going second you can protect your flyer (and its contents) from being shot at. If you take the first turn, combined with other quick units, for example a unit of Outriders, you could potentially screen your Corvus on turn one moving up the board, giving you a better chance to offload your cargo or to get some shots in without worrying about return fire. If your going second then your flyer should be positioned where it cannot be touched.
  • Brotherhood Of Veterans: Again 2CP, but for me a very fun and useful stratagem. You can choose a Deathwatch unit (note not just Infantry, so you could choose a Vehicle) and it gains a Chapter Tactic or Successor Tactic of your choosing. Want a big unit of Intercessors to have unmodified 6s being 2 hits akin to Imperial Fists? Done. Want to fall back and shoot with a unit (albeit with a -1 to Hit modifier) like an Ultramarine? Done.
  • Special Issue Loadout: Another 2CP stratagem, but something that makes up for Special Issue Ammunition becoming very sparse (more on SIA later). You can pick a Infantry unit from your army and then choose a Special Ammunition for the unit to use for that phase. It does turn your units weapons to Heavy 1 however, but on a unit of say, Primaris Intercessors armed with Stalker Bolt Rifles, that is a very tantalizing prospect.
  • Death to The Alien!: A really straightforward, and cheap stratagem at 1CP. Pick a Deathwatch unit that is in Engagement range of a Xenos unit, give it +1 attack in melee. Boom. More choppy choppy. Ideal for Assault Intercessors or Terminators.

There are plenty more in here, including the return of the Teleportarium (of which I know a few of the Facebook Deathwatch pages were worried would go MIA) and stratagems to change a unit’s combat doctrine for a turn, as well as the one previewed on Warhammer Community:

Kill Team Specialisms

Now for something brand new, and exclusive for your Kill Teams.

For a cost in either Power (which varies between +1 or +2) or Points (25pts or 35pts depending on your choice of specialism) you can give a Kill Team an upgrade. It basically gives your Kill Team a specialism against a particular battlefield role. Each specialism offers two benefits

  • Reroll a wound roll of 1 against your chosen battlefield roll, both in combat and shooting
  • If the selected targets battlefield role is the same as the one selected as part of the Xenos Hunter rule, you can reroll all failed wounds.

So, for example, you can give a Kill Team the Purgatus specialism. This means your getting rerolls of 1 to wound HQ battlefield roles. If you have chosen at the start of the game for HQ battlefield role as part of your Xenos Hunters rule, then your rerolling all wound rolls.

This allows you to really kit out a Kill Team to take on a particular role, which makes perfect sense lore wise. I’m very tempted to take a Spectrus Kill Team (Phobos armoured Kill Team, again more on this later), add 5 Eliminators with Sniper Rifles, add the Purgatus Specialism, combat squad the Kill Team at the start of the game and have them rerolling at least wound rolls of 1 when shooting against HQ units. Ace!

Warlord Traits

We have a good selection of 6 Warlord traits to choose from in this book. Unlike some traits from other Codexes, their isn’t really a bad choice, although a couple jump out at me:

  • Paragon of the Chapter: This basically allows you to select a Warlord trait from any of the other chapters, as long as they are in Codex Space Marine, so no selecting one from another supplement. An example would be to select the Ultramarines Chapter warlord trait Adept of the Codex, giving you a command point back when you spend one on a roll of a 5+.
  • Castellan of the Black Vault: This allows you to equip a second relic, albeit from a selected list. The list includes Artificer Armour which gives your model a 2+ save and a 5+ invulnerable save or a Master Crafted Weapon, which adds 1 to the damage characteristic of a weapon the model has.
  • Optimised Priority: This is a aura ability, which allows units within 6″ of the bearer to perform actions without losing the ability to shoot.

Relics

We’ve got two pages of Relics for the Deathwatch, which range in usefulness.

A few of these have survived from the 8th Edition codex, albeit some have gone through a few changes, mainly to reflect the rules of 9th. These include the Beacon of Angelis and the Banebolts of Eryxia.

We can start with the one previewed on Warhammer Community:

Pop this on a Gravis armoured captain and you’ve got a toughness 6 character. Use the Might of Heroes psychic power and you’ve got a toughness 8 character! Potentially not an amazing combination on just one character, however if you don’t want your warlord to die the option is there!

I’ve decided to pick out a couple of the brand new relics available to the Deathwatch:

  • Spear of the First Vigil: Replaces the Watch Master’s spear, and whilst it doesn’t change the shooting profile of the weapon, it does grant an additional +1 to the strength of the spear than normal, making your Watch Master +2 strength and does flat 3 damage, rather than D3. I personally love flat damage other random damage, as it offers much more reliability.
  • Vhorkan-Pattern Auspicator: Equipping this relic gives the bearer an aura ability called Omnikinopticon (nope, haven’t made that word up). This ability gives units within 6″ +1 to hit with ranged weapons against units with the Fly keyword. A very good relic considering the amount of units with the Fly keyword.

Don’t forget as well, you do have the option of selecting a relic from the Space Marine Codex too, and of course there is a stratagem to take more Relics in your army.

Psychic Powers

The Deathwatch now have there own brand new and exclusive psychic powers.

6 in total, your Librarian can select from this list instead of the two listed in the Space Marine Codex. There are a couple of really tasty psychic powers in here, and I think a Librarian (upgraded to be a Chief Librarian of course) may be a staple choice in my army lists. I’ve picked out a couple of my favorites below:

  • Premorphic Resonance: A warp charge of 6, this handy power grants not one, or two…but three buffs to a selected Deathwatch unit. First of all they can Overwatch on a 5+, which is cool. Secondly they fight first in the fight phase, which is nifty if they are already in combat with something. Thirdly, the unit has +1 to hit in combat. Pick that big close combat unit you’ve got, cast this power on them, get them in combat and pop the Death to the Alien stratagem (if you are of course, fighting aliens). Maximum pain ensured. Of note, it’s a buff for a unit, so you could cast this on a Dreadnought!
  • Fortified with Contempt: Select a Infantry or Biker unit within 18″ and on a warp charge of 6 they get a 5+ shrug against lost wounds. Shrugs are always great and can save a unit from destruction.

We also had the psychic power preview on WarCom too:

I really like this list of powers, but then I also think some of the powers listed in the Space Marine Codex are equally as handy. It’s always great to have a choice, and heck, if you can’t decide, bring two psykers!

Chapter Approved Rules

9th Edition introduced Primary and Secondary Objectives, the key to winning a game of Warhammer 40,000.

You can select one of three secondary objectives from this book instead of one from the Core Rule Book or Chapter Approved Matched Play missions.

Suffer Not the Alien is a No Mercy, No Respite Secondary objective, and is very straightforward. At the end of the game you obtain 1 Victory Point for every Xenos unit destroyed. Simple.

Cripple Stronghold is an interesting one, and is a Shadow Operations Secondary objective. Your opponent picks an objective marker (which must be in their deployment zone should they have an objective marker in there). If you can capture that objective, and there are no enemy models in range of the objective, for an action, you can obtain 6 Victory Points should that unit still be performing the action when it swings back to your turn. It isn’t going to be an easy one to achieve, but it’s worth a tasty amount of points. With the amount of units the Deathwatch can drop from the skies, or by bringing units on from strategic reserve, it’s do-able. At least, if you select this objective, your opponent may hold back more than they intended to so not to lose the objective.

The opposite to this is The Long Vigil, of which is a Battlefield Supremacy Secondary objective. At the start of your command phase, should no enemy units be in your deployment zone and you have at least one of your units in there, you gain 5 Victory Points. Against super quick armies this may be really hard to achieve, but slower armies, or armies that like to castle may find this very difficult.

Crusade

We have made no secret on our weekly podcast that we love playing games of Crusade. It is currently our favourite way of playing Warhammer 40k.

Crusade gets a lot of love in this book, with exclusive content for Deathwatch players.

You can choose from a variety of Agendas (Crusade’s equivalent to Secondary Objectives) which when achieved grant your units experience. In total there is 5 different agendas to choose from, of which you can choose only one for your game. One of my favourites, which is suitably Deathwatch-y. It’s called Secure Xenotech, and should you opt for this agenda your opponent places an objective marker anywhere on the board, but outside of deployment zones. This is Xenotech, and you must perform an action in range of it to gain experience and complete the agenda. In addition, should said unit survive the game and be in your deployment zone it can gain requisition in the form of a relic or Battle Honour for 0RP after the game.

Speaking of requisitions, the Deathwatch have 4 unique Requisitions to purchase pre-game or after a battle. For 1RP for example, you can give a Kill Team a specialism (see Kill Team Specialisms earlier in the article). You would then adjust the Power Level of the unit accordingly.

Should a unit in your army gain enough experience to ‘level up’ you can choose from the respective Battle Traits table in the codex supplement. Their is a table exclusive to Watch Masters and Captains, Chaplains, Librarians and Units (excluding Vehicles). Perpetual Repugnance is a favourite for Chaplains, as it auto inspires a litany if the model is within 12″ of a Xenos unit.

Masters of Specialisms is a unique Battle Honour for Watch Masters and Captains, which grants then a new title. Depending on your choice the model gains a specialism from the Kill team Specialism, basically granting them extra rerolls to wound against specific target battlefield roles. Additionally, after a battle, it can grant a Deathwatch unit that killed the characters chosen specialism battlefield role extra experience should it be Marked for Greatness.

Battle Scars for the Deathwatch are also in here, should any of your characters, units or vehicles fall in battle. Xenophobic Furore gives the unit an additional attack for each model, but that unit can not perform actions and are no longer have Objective Secured.

Yet another feature for Deathwatch Crusade armies are Special-Issue Equipment. These can be granted to units as Battle Honours when they level up, giving them additional equipment, for example Melta Bombs or the ability to Teleport Strike. Units with access to special issue ammunition can instead gain new ammunition if they wanted, which includes the one previewed on Warhammer Community today:

Finally for Crusade content we have Relics. There is one per rank of relic, with the Legendary relic, called The Watcher’s Veil, granting the user a 6″ aura for Core and Character units, preventing them from being the target of shooting attacks should the enemy be more than 30″ away, otherwise the enemy unit is -1 to hit them in shooting.

Datasheets

Finally the book grants Deathwatch players with some unique datasheets, including an in-depth look at how you can now create Kill Teams as well as detailing Special Issue Ammunition (SIA).

SIA is now limited to the datasheets seen in the book, so Primaris units cannot gain access to SIA aside from the stratagem Special Issue Loadout. The rules on a couple have changed as well:

  • Hellfire Rounds: These no longer wound on a 2+. They instead add 1 to wound as long as the target does not have the Vehicle or Titanic keyword.
  • Vengeance Rounds: Add 1 to the damage of the attack.

There are 4 types of Kill Teams, and they are formed based on the armour that they wear.

  • Proteus: The original Kill Team. Made up of firstborn Marines, you can include Veterans, Veteran Bikers, Vanguard Veterans or Terminators.
  • Fortis: Your basic Primaris Marines. Starting with 5 Intercessors, you can then add Assault Intercessors, Outriders and Hellblasters
  • Indomitor: Your heavily armoured Primaris. Starting with 5 Heavy Intercessors, you can then add Aggressors, Inceptors and Eradicators
  • Spectrus: The sneaky marines, with a Infiltrators, Incursors, Eliminators and Reivers.

Kill Teams have the Objective Secured rule, and you can do some tricks with these that other Marine armies can’t do.

For example, you could take a Fortis Kill team comprising of the required 5 Intercessors and then add 5 Outriders. You then Combat Squad the unit and hey presto, you have a unit of 5 Outriders with Objective Secured!

You could do similar with a Spectrus Kill Team, and have a Combat Squad-ed unit of Eliminators.

We then move onto the actual physical datasheets for Deathwatch units. These are as follows:

  • Watch Master: Deathwatch players cannot upgrade their Captains to Chapter Masters like other Marine armies, and this guy is the reason why. He’s the main man in a Deathwatch army and has undergone a little change. His reroll aura, which previously allowed for all units within 6″ to reroll all hits is now limited to one unit he has picked in the Command Phase. This change is in keeping with the nerf Chapter Masters got. He’s still a powerful combatant, and even just one unit getting to reroll all hits is still a super good ability.
  • Watch Captain Artemis: He’s still here. No real changes here, aside from losing the ability to potentially killing himself with his own Stasis Bomb.
  • Chaplain Cassius: He now has his own datasheet! A slightly buffed firstborn Chaplain, he does get a +1 to inspire litanies.
  • Codicer Natorian: Another new datasheet for an old character. He is a Librarian who can manifest 2 psychic powers a turn. He also has an ability which gives him +1 to psychic tests when manifesting Smite or a Witchfire psychic power.

Deathwatch Veterans, Veteran Bikers and Terminator Squads get revised datasheets, mainly to represent the additional wounds they have now, and to update the weaponry they can be equipped with. Kill Team Cassius gets a datasheet too, setting out the wargear and rules for the pre-made Kill Team.

Finally the Corvus Blackstar has an updated datasheet. The main difference I noted here was the change to the Auspex Array, which no longer grants a +1 to hit against units that don’t have the Fly keyword. It now stops your target from gaining any benefit from cover. It still however, sadly does not transport Primaris, which is something I didn’t expect to change anyway.

Summary

When I was handed the Deathwatch Codex Supplement I was instantly shocked by how thin the book was, but then this shouldn’t have been a surprise, as the bulk of the datasheets you need are now in the Space Marine Codex.

Whilst having to have an additional supplement means more books to carry around, this does allow for an whole heap of additional content unique to the Deathwatch, and let us not forget it now opens the door to (almost) the entire range of Space Marine miniatures, which is a massive bonus.

And whilst this book may not be a chunky tome, it is crammed with content. The amount of customization available to Deathwatch players now is fantastic. You can tool your Kill Teams up for specific roles, perhaps even converting models to represent this. The staple reroll wound rolls of 1 against a specific battlefield role is still here, but you have even more choice in being able to switch this around, or even improve on it with the aforementioned Kill Team specialisms.

The included Stratagems in this book offer new and interesting tactics which don’t just help you fight those Xenos armies. It is disappointing that SIA is now very limited to just a handful of units, but overall it helps to balance the army.

Games Workshop promised lots of unique Crusade content with each passing Codex and they haven’t let the Deathwatch down, with multiple ways to further specialise your units.

I for one, cannot wait to finish enough Deathwatch models to start out in a Crusade campaign against fellow Brewers Matt and Jay.

Deathwatch have finally got the love they needed. Forget about the hurt from a lack of Psychic Awakening content, the supplement you want is here. Now go buy those Centurions, Vindicators and Infiltrators!

We’ll be discussing the Deathwatch, as well as the Space Wolves on our next podcast which will be released on Tuesday. You can check out past episodes here.

You can preorder a copy of the Deathwatch Codex Supplement from Element Games and save some cash!

Thanks to Games Workshop for providing us with a copy of the Codex Supplement Deathwatch for reviewing.

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