Codex: Deathwatch Preview – Focused. Adaptable. Deadly.

Codexes have been going from strength to strength in this edition of Warhammer 40,000 – from early entries that brought the tactics and diversity of factions like the Space Marines and Chaos Space Marines to life, to more radical books like the recently released Codex: Drukhari, which allows you to fully represent the fractious raiding parties of Commorragh for the first time. Codex: Deathwatch takes a different approach, creating an army that’s focused around making the most of a small, elite pool of units, giving nearly every entry in the army the ability to tackle anything the 41st Millennium might throw at you.

From an increased list of units that can take advantage of the ever useful Special Issue Ammunition and Mission Tactics – a powerful ability for Infantry, Bikers and Dreadnoughts that turns your opponent’s over-specialisation against them – to mixed units of Primaris Space Marines and a dizzying array of Stratagems, you’ll find the Deathwatch codex rewarding whether you’re an existing collector or you’re looking to field one of Warhammer 40,000’s most elite armies for the first time.

Codex: Deathwatch brings Primaris Space Marines fully into the fold, allowing them, for the first time, access to Special Issue Ammunition. For those of you who don’t collect Deathwatch, this special rule allows bolt weapons to adjust their firing profile to suit their target – against tougher models, for instance, you’ll be able to use poisonous hellfire rounds, while units in cover can be dispatched with dragonfire bolts.

Auto bolt rifles, bolt carbines, stalker bolt rifles, standard bolt rifles and the absolvor bolt pistol can now be outfitted with this ammunition, making Intercessors a very powerful choice. Kraken bolts, for example, help compensate for the lower AP of the auto bolt rifle, while a Reiver’s heavy bolt pistol firing vengeance rounds would have an AP of -3!

There’s also a new kind of Special Issue Ammunition to play with – the tempest shell. Available in the form of a nifty Stratagem, appropriately named “Tempest Shells”, they’re ideal for chipping the last few wounds off a vehicle or making a dent in a tougher combatant – at the very least, they make your bolter-wielding units even more versatile.

The Mission Tactics ability allows the Deathwatch to adjust their fighting style dependent on your opponent. At the start of the game, you’ll get to pick a Mission Tactic which corresponds to a Battlefield Role – Troops, Fast Attack, Elites, etc. – and your entire army will gain re-rolls of 1s to wound against that unit. Like Chapter Tactics, Mission Tactics applies to all your infantry, Bikers and Dreadnoughts, so you’ll be able to take advantage of a wide range of units.

In practice, this allows you to really put the hurt on enemy armies focused around one kind of unit selection – but what if they’re using a more balanced list? There are no fewer than four ways to change your Mission Tactics mid-game, allowing you to shift your focus on the fly. The first of these is Adaptive Tactics:

For only 2 Command Points (down to 1 if you use a Watch Master), you’ll be able to provide powerful bonuses across your whole army – you could even use this Stratagem to change your Mission Tactics every turn. If you’d rather not spend Command Points, the Vigilance Incarnate Warlord Trait and The Tome of Ectoclades allow you to change or broaden your Mission Tactics for free.

Combining Special Issue Ammunition and Mission Tactics gives the Deathwatch the ability to tackle any foe effectively. Seeing lots of high Toughness monsters? Use the Heavy Support Mission Tactic and wound them with hellfire rounds. Fighting a mass of heavy infantry, like Plague Marines? Choose Troops, then shred their armour with vengeance rounds.

We’ve not even got into the huge range of Stratagems you’ll have to choose from, or a powerful new Troops choice that lets you form a mixed Kill Team of Primaris Space Marines. Tune in later in the week when we take a closer look at the latter – or get started early and order yourself some Deathwatch Veterans.

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