Deathwatch Veterans: Post Chapter Approved & Beta Bolters
Today we give the Deathwatch Veteran squad a second look. Chapter Approved 2018 and the Beta Bolter rules have made some solid changes to this squad.
The Deathwatch Veteran squad is one of the two Troops choices available to the Deathwatch army. The squad benefits from the access to some of the best wargear available to the Space Marines, as well as access to Special Issue Ammunition, which allows even the basic Veteran to take on a wide range of opponents. While they may be competing with the Deathwatch Intercessor squad, they do have access to a much wider range of weapons options and transport options than the Primaris Marines of the Deathwatch.
The basic squad consists of 5 Veterans, with each Veteran costing 15 pts when armed with a Bolter, down from 17 pts per model before Chapter Approved 2018. The squad also has the option to include up to 5 additional models from Veterans, Vanguard Veterans, Deathwatch Terminators and Deathwatch Bikers, as well as the option to include a Watch Sergeant and Black Shield. Each addition provides new benefits and access to new abilities. With such a wealth of options and squad builds available, the uses of the Kill Team are equally varied. In the first part of this review, I will simply look at the basic Veteran squad and their benefits and disadvantages. Subsequent reviews will expand upon the roles and special rules of the mixed Kill Teams, looking at some popular builds in the army and how they function.
I would give the Deathwatch Veteran squad a rating somewhere between Efficient and Competitive. They can be equipped to tackle a wide range of threats to the Deathwatch army, and work well when they specialise in one particular aspect on the battlefield. However, the squad can get very expensive, very quickly and their durability on the battlefield can be a bit limited, though this can be offset by some wargear additions. I think the Intercessor squad is a very strong option for the Deathwatch, but there is still a place for the Deathwatch Veteran squad in the army.
- Frag and Krak Grenades
- Any Veteran, Watch Sergeant or Black Shield may replace their Boltgun with two items from the Deathwatch Equipment list.
- Up to 4 Veterans may replace their Boltgun with an item from the Heavy Weapons List (Frag Cannon, Heavy Bolter, Heavy Flamer, Infernus Heavy Bolter, Missile Launcher).
- Any Veteran may replace their Boltgun with a Heavy Thunder Hammer.
- A Watch Sergeant may take a combat shield.
- And They Shall Know No Fear
- Combat Squads
- Special Issue Ammunition
- Atonement Through Honour- A unit that contains a Black Shield can make a Heroic Intervention as if it were a Character, and must do so if able to.
- Mission Tactics- At the start of the first battle round, choose a selected Battlefield role (Troops, HQ, Elites, etc). All Deathwatch Infantry, Biker and Dreadnought models may re-roll failed to wound rolls of 1.
The Deathwatch Veteran has a decent profile on the battlefield, with +1A and +1Ld over a standard Space Marine. This gives them a bit more punch in combat and makes them less likely to suffer from the effects of morale, especially in a 5-man squad. One of the problems with the Deathwatch Veteran is that he has the same durability as a normal Space Marine, with only T4, one wound and a 3+ armour save. For only 2 pts more than a standard Space Marine Tactical Marine, you get many benefits over the Tactical Squad, making them a bargain compared to their regular Astartes brothers. However, they are still an expensive basic troops choice for any army.
With no cheap troops choices to act as screens, the loss of each Deathwatch Veteran is going to hurt the army. In competitive play, you are most likely going to be relying on the forces of the Astra Militarum to acts as cheap screens and a way to provide command points to your army.
Now that the Primaris Marines in the Deathwatch have access to Special Issue Ammuniton, they are a very strong Troops choice for the army. A Deathwatch Intercessor only costs 18 pts per model. For an extra 3 points per model, you get an extra wound, extra 6″ on their gun and an extra -1AP. In isolation, the Intercessor is the better choice in every possible way. However, all is not lost for the noble Deathwatch Veteran. He has access to superior wargear and a wider variety of transport options to get him into the fray quickly.
Where the Deathwatch Veteran does make his points back is in the special rules and wargear options he has available.
Special Issue Ammunition
This is one of the key special rules that makes the Deathwatch Veteran squad work in the game. When firing a number of Bolt weapons, the Deathwatch Veterans can fire a range of different ammunition options to suit their targets. These options are:
- Dragonfire – The unit gains +1 to hit when firing at a unit in cover.
- Hellfire – The shot wounds on a 2+ (except against vehicles and Titanic units).
- Kraken – Add 6″ to the range of the weapon (3″ for Pistols) and improve the AP by 1 up to AP-2.
- Vengeance – Decrease the range of the weapon by 6″ (3″ for Pistols) and improve the AP by 2 up to AP-3.
It can be difficult to know what round to use against what enemy unit. I’ve crunched some numbers and put together the average number of unsaved wounds that each round should cause against selected enemy units. In each of the examples below, I am assuming that you have 10 Deathwatch Veterans armed with Boltguns. The unit has deployed from deep strike reserve, so is just over 9″ away. This makes Vengeance rounds out of Rapid Fire range, though the average number of unsaved wounds at rapid fire range has been included out of completeness. Obviously, for the Vehicle/Monster column, the Hellfire round only applies to the Monster (as the shell does not work on Vehicles).
(T3, 5+ save)
|Chaos Space Marine
(T4, 3+ save)
|T’au Fire Warrior
(T3, 4+ save)
(T4, 6+ save)
(T7, 3+ save)
(9.0 rapid fire)
(4.5 rapid fire)
(7.5 rapid fire)
(6.7 rapid fire)
(3.0 rapid fire)
In general terms, at ranges between 9-12″, the Hellfire rounds are the best option for most enemy types. The only instance where the Kraken is a better shot is for units with a toughness less than 4 and a decent armour save. As can also be seen, if you can get the Vengeance rounds in rapid fire range, they should cause more wounds on average against most standard infantry, with only those with T5 or greater, or a 6+ armour save being better suited to the Hellfire rounds once more.
There are almost no situations where the Dragonfire Bolts are the best option. The +1 to hit against units in cover is mitigated by the +1 cover save that your opponent is getting in most cases. However, the rounds can be useful against those armies capable of incurring negative to hit modifiers against shooting attacks. This allows the Veterans to maintain some level of accuracy when shooting at enemy units in cover (looking at you Aeldari Rangers!), while also having access to some stratagems that can increase your chances of damaging the enemy unit.
If we take the Mission Tactics into account, the table looks like this now:
(T3, 5+ save)
|Chaos Space Marine
(T4, 3+ save)
|T’au Fire Warrior
(T3, 4+ save)
(T4, 6+ save)
(T7, 3+ save)
(10.5 rapid fire)
(5.2 rapid fire)
(8.7 rapid fire)
(7.8 rapid fire)
(3.5 rapid fire)
As you can see, the great odds of wounding with the Hellfire rounds (as you are re-rolling all your failed wounds) provide a boost for taking on weakly armoured infantry units and monsters. There are a number of other stratagem options to boost your damage output with the special issue ammunition (more on this below).
One of the benefits of the Kraken round is the boost to its rapid fire range. You can now fire two shots with your Bolters at up to 15″ away. This has the benefit of allowing you to deploy from reserve more than 12″ from an enemy unit and still fire two shots with each Bolter. This allows you to avoid many of the interceptor-type stratagems, such as Auspex Scan, stopping your unit from taking casualties before they get a chance to fire. Deploying further away is not so bad, as you generally don’t want the Veterans in combat where their firepower is neutralised.
Beta Bolter Rules
These are also a big boost to the forces of the Deathwatch, thanks to the combination with Special Issue Ammunition. These new rules give you more ways to maximise your firepower output in the Veteran Squad. If the squad remains stationary in the movement phase, you can fire twice as many shots at the full Bolter range. This is a great boost for any backfield, objective-holding squads that you may have in the army. With the Kraken rounds, this allows each Veteran to fire two Bolter shots up to 30″ at AP-1. This is a good level of firepower for a unit sitting on an objective in your deployment zone, and means that they will be able to make an impact on the game in all but a few of the deployment map types.
Getting to fire two shots when stationary is a big boost with special issue ammunition, allowing you to threaten a large number of enemy units. It is also a nice bonus for using the Auspex Scan stratagem against enemy reserves. Under the new beta rules, if the unit remained stationary, you can fire two shots at the 12″ range with the Vengeance rounds, as opposed to only one shot per model under the old rules. This gives you better odds of taking out more heavily armoured opponents that have arrived from reserve near your Veterans.
The Deathwatch Veteran has a huge array of weapon options available to them, so you can arm the squad for whatever role you wish to use. Because of this diversity, you could really build a Deathwatch army almost entirely composed of Veteran squads and be able to deal with most threats to the enemy army.
Before Chapter Approved 2018, I would always arm my Veterans with Chainswords over a Bolt Pistol. For me, the extra cost of the Bolt Pistol was simply not worth it for each Veteran. However, Bolt Pistols are now free for units in the army, making either choice a valid option.
You have the option to swap your Bolter for a Bolter and a Chainsword. This costs exactly the same, but gives each Veteran three attacks in combat. While the Veterans are not amazing in combat, a basic squad with Chainswords will put out 16 attacks, which could be enough to finish off weakened squads or do some damage to an enemy unit at a push.
Taking a Bolt Pistol on each Veteran allows you to make use of their potent firepower while the unit is locked in combat. Bolt Pistols also make use of Special Issue Ammunition, allowing you to do a lot of damage to enemy units when using the poisoned 2+ shells or AP-2 shells at point blank range. If the Veterans do find themselves locked in combat with an enemy unit, they can fire their Bolt Pistols in their shooting phase and still get two attacks each in the Fight phase, giving them some good punch against an enemy unit in your turn.
I’m not sure what is the better option. I like the additional attacks from the Chainswords, as they can be used each Fight phase when you are in combat, whereas you can only fire the Bolt Pistols in combat in your own turn. However, the Bolt Pistol gives you better tools for dealing with high toughness or heavily armoured foes, giving you the ability to do more damage than with your Veterans’ close combat attacks.
Probably one of the best options for the Deathwatch is the ability to take a Storm Bolter on each Veteran. Now that Storm Bolters have access to Special Issue Ammunition (SIA), this is a great way to have a Veteran unit put out a lot of strong firepower. A Veteran with a Chainsword and Storm Bolter comes in at 18 pts per model, and is able to put out 4 Bolter Shots with SIA at rapid fire range. For an idea of the damage output of a unit of 10 Veterans with Storm Bolters, just double the values in the tables above.
A unit of Veterans with Storm Bolters, back up by a Watch Master and using Hellfire Bolts with Mission Tactics will have about 86% of their shots hit and wound. This means a unit of 10 will put out about 35 wounds on any enemy unit that is not a Vehicle or has the Titanic keyword. This should make a serious dent in most enemy units on the turn that they fire. I have been using a unit of 10 Veterans with Storm Bolters in my Deathwatch army since the codex was released, and they do a lot of work. They normally eliminate an enemy unit on the turn they arrive, but can be brought down quite easily in the following turn, so you need to try and protect them in some fashion, such as with Storm Shields.
The new Beta Bolter rules are also a big boost for the Storm Bolter Veterans. If you remain stationary, the unit can fire 40 shots up to 30″, giving them a huge threat range on the battlefield. This threat range increase even allows you to deploy them on the table from the start, rather than putting them in reserve, allowing you to utilise the potent firepower from your first turn.
Up to four Veterans can carry heavy weapons in the squad. The Frag Cannon is still a very powerful option. The Frag Shells put out 2D6 auto-hits with S6 and AP-1. The range is only 8″, meaning you cannot fire it from deep strike, but if you get close to the enemy unit, they will cause a lot of damage. I find that you need at least 2 Frag Cannons in the unit to put out a solid level of firepower, as it is all too easy to whiff on the 2D6 roll for a single Frag Cannon, so having at least one back up is a good idea. The Frag Cannon got a little cheaper in the codex (25 pts each), so taking the full four in a unit is not overly expensive for the firepower they can put out.
You can also use the solid shells for dealing with tougher enemy units. However, I find the solid shell is not great at taking on enemy vehicles. At close range they are S9, making it easier to wound, but they are still only 2 damage each. This actually makes it really tough to severely damage enemy units with a single round of fire from even four Frag Cannons, that will do an average of 6 damage to a T7, 3+ save vehicle at short range.
The other Heavy Weapons options can also be useful in selected circumstances. The Missile Launcher can provide some useful anti-armour firepower for the army (an area where the Deathwatch still lack). This works well on a backfield objective holding unit. The Heavy Bolter can give you access to the Hellfire Shells stratagem, which is a nice way of dealing mortal wounds to the enemy army. The Infernus Heavy Bolter provides some good short range firepower if you fire the Heavy Bolter and Heavy Flamer shots together, but for only an extra 5 pts, I would rather take the Frag Cannon. For me, the Missile Launcher is the better all-rounder weapon. It went down to 20 pts in CA2018 and gives you the option of the Frag or Krak Missiles for different situations.
Another option that is strong for the Veterans if the Deathwatch Shotgun. A Veteran with a Shotgun comes in at 17 pts each. The shotgun has its own special ammunition, allowing you to fire a S3 flamer, or S4 shots that are re-roll failed wounds or double damage at half range (8″). This is an Assault 2 weapon (D6 for the flame option), so gives you a bit more firepower at long range or allows you to advance and still fire with some degree of accuracy.
There are several other options worth considering for the Veterans as well. You can take combi-weapons on each Veteran if you wish. While this does get very expensive, it can give you some ways to deal with tricky units in the enemy army, and some combi-weapons got some nice points reductions in CA2018. For example, a unit of 4 or 5 Combi-Meltas that can deep strike in and take care of enemy vehicles is a nice option for the Deathwatch. You can also use the stratagems to wound them on a 2+, making them even more potent at punching through enemy armour.
Another useful option that has come up is to arm a squad of Veterans with combi-plasmas. A Veteran with a Combi-Plasma costs 26 pts per model. A unit of 10 armed with combi-plasmas can put out a lot of very strong firepower, especially if they overcharge the Plasma shots. With a nearby Watch Master (for re-rolls) and the +1 to wound stratagem, the combi-plasmas are a potent source of anti-tank firepower in the army, with the potential to put out 40 damage in a single shooting phase.
The Stalker Pattern Bolter is also a great option, in my opinion. These get 30″ range, Heavy 2, -1AP in addition to special issue ammunition. This makes them a great backfield unit, able to fire up to 36″ away. Sit them on an objective so they don’t have to move and they still get 2 shots up to maximum range. The extra -1AP on top of the special issue ammunition is also a great boost, allowing you to be at -3AP up to 24″ range and still get 10 shots with a unit of 5. The new Beta Bolter rules do make the Stalker Bolter less of an obvious choice for the Veterans. A unit of Intercessors can perform a similar role, thanks to getting 2 shots each if they remain stationary. You get the same number of shots as the Stalker Bolter Veterans, but double the number of wounds for the Intercessors. I’ll look at this in more detail in my review of the Stalker Bolter Veterans unit.
You can also take a Storm Shield with a ranged weapon on a Veteran. Chapter Approved 2018 saw a huge boost to the Deathwatch army in that Storm Shields are only 2 pts for non-character models. Deathwatch arguably have the most army-wide access to Storm Shields of any Space Marine army.
They are now an almost necessary inclusion in a unit. Giving a entire unit of 10 Veterans a 3+ invulnerable save for only 20 pts is a huge boost to their durability. While a Storm Shield for every Veteran is a bit overkill, in my opinion, two or three in a unit of 10 is not a huge points investment in terms of the durability boosts that you are getting in return. Just remember that Veterans with a Bolter and Storm Shield cannot take a Bolt Pistol or Chainsword, and those with Heavy Weapons cannot take a Storm Shield.
The Veterans also have access to a number of melee options if you are so inclined. I tend not to bother with them. You don’t really want the squad in combat, as this wastes their potent firepower. However, if you want to go for a combat unit of Veterans, you have the option to do so. The Sergeant and Black Shield have 3 attacks each, so a power weapon on one of them might not be a big waste if you do find yourself in combat. However, much of the time, I would rather spend the points on another Storm Shield.
I was really hoping that the Heavy Thunder Hammer would get a big points decrease or a change in profile to make it worth taking in the codex, or post CA2018. A Veteran with a Heavy Thunder Hammer costs 44 points. For that, you get 2 attacks that hit on a 4+ at S8. I think the random damage profile is what hurts it. Half the time if you manage to hit and wound, you will be doing equal or less damage than a regular Thunder Hammer. It is simply not worth the points in my opinion, given you can take a regular Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield for 13 pts less. If the Heavy Thunder Hammer was S10 and/or D6 damage to a minimum of 3 (like other types of similar weapons), I could see the appeal of it, but it is pretty worthless as it is at the moment. It’s a real shame, as I think it is a great looking weapon.
The Veterans have access to a number of very useful stratagems that boost their utility on the battlefield. Check out the Deathwatch Stratagems review for a full rundown of the new codex stratagems.
The Doctrines are a great boost for the Deathwatch Veteran squad, giving you +1 to wound against a selected enemy unit. Hellfire shells are a great way of wounding most enemy units on a 2+ without a Doctrine, but there are some situations where you may want to use the Doctrines. For example, using one with a Frag Cannon allows you to wound most enemy infantry or Biker units on a 2+. They are also useful when targeting enemy vehicles with your Bolters or special weapons. As stated above, a unit of Combi-Meltas will wound most enemy vehicles on a 2+ when combined with a Doctrine. Add in Mission Tactics to re-roll failed wounds of 1, and you can cause a lot of damage in a single round of fire.
Auspex Scan is also great on the Veteran squad, given the power of the special issue ammunition. You can cause a lot of damage to enemy deep strikers on the turn they arrive. The new Beta Bolter rules also mean that if your firing unit remained stationary in their previous movement phase, they can still fire double the number of shots with the Vengeance Shells at over 9″ range, giving you the potential to do more damage against enemy reserves.
The Teleportarium stratagem is also key to getting the most out of the Veteran squad. This not only helps to keep a unit safe from enemy firepower until the turn they arrive, it also allows you to get into rapid fire range with most of you options the turn they deploy. A unit of 10 Veterans with Storm Bolters will put out 40 shots on the turn they arrive with most ammunition types, enough to do a lot of damage to a variety of enemy units.
The Deathwatch Veteran squad is a solid addition to the Deathwatch army. While they lack the durability of the Deathwatch Intercessor squad, they do have several useful weapon options not available to the Primaris Marines. For this, they are still a useful addition to the army if you can arm them appropriately.
The Kill Team with Storm Bolters is a solid option and one I think you will see a lot with the Deathwatch, able to put out a lot of firepower that is boosted even further by special issue ammunition.
+++Suffer Not the Witch to Live!+++
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