Welcome to the first part of my review of the new Deathwatch codex. I picked my copy up this weekend and was eager to get started on reviewing what is new for the Deathwatch in 8th edition. This first part will look at the special rules, warlord traits and Relics available for the Deathwatch. The next part will take a look at the great new stratagems for the army.

I’ve also done a video codex review if you want to check that out in addition to the written review.

I’m not going to look at Combat Squads in this part of the review. This is a big deal for the Deathwatch and has a lot more utility than the equivalent rule in other Space Marine Chapters. I will cover the implications of Combat Squads in more detail in my review of the Kill Teams, where I can talk about specific set ups in more detail.

Special Rules

And They Shall Know No Fear

The standard Marine rule allowing a unit to re-roll failed morale tests. Great for keeping smaller units relatively safe from the effects of morale, and giving larger units a bit of an edge against losing too many members to a failed morale test. With Ld 8 on Veterans and Ld 9 on the Sergeant, your units will be pretty free from the effects of morale in most cases.


Special Issue Ammunition 

These are pretty much unchanged from the Index. You get four types of ammunition:

  • Dragonfire Bolt- +1 to hit against units in cover.
  • Hellfire Round- Always wounds on a 2+, unless target is a Vehicle or Titanic
  • Kraken Bolt- Add 6″ to range (3″ for Bolt Pistol) and increase AP by 1.
  • Vengeance Round- Subtract 6″ from range (3″ for Bolt Pistol) and increase AP by 2.

These are mostly solid options. I’m still not sold on the Dragonfire Bolt. It could be useful against armies that get -1 to hit from their Chapter Tactics or special rules if they are in cover. However, the bonus to the save kind of balances out the bonus to hit.

One of the big boost of the codex is that Special Issue Ammunition now applies to many of the weapons carried by Primaris Marines, as well as Storm Bolters on infantry. This is a huge bonus for Terminators and Primaris Marines. I’ll go into more detail in the unit reviews, but the additional range and AP of Intercessors makes them a very strong option in the Deathwatch army now, thanks to access to special issue ammunition.

Mission Tactics

These are essentially the Chapter Tactics of the Deathwatch army. You select a different battle field type at the start of the game (Troops, HQ, Elites, etc) and get to re-roll to wound rolls of 1 against enemy units with this battlefield type.

This is a nice generic chapter tactics to have with the army and will apply to all Infantry, Dreadnoughts and Bikers, so much of the army.

I’m not sure it is as powerful as some of the standard Space Marine ones in the codex. It has some nice general useability, but getting -1 to hit from shooting attacks, free re-rolls or the ability to fall back and still shoot would be very powerful for the Deathwatch. It should prove useful in practice though.


Warlord Traits

Deathwatch have a number of useful warlord traits that they can take.


Bane of Monstrosities– Your warlord get to re-roll failed to Wound rolls against Vehicles and Monsters.

Could be useful in the right circumstances, but not one of the best options on the table. The Deathwatch characters can be pretty powerful in combat, so the bonus re-rolls could help them take out enemy tanks or other vehicles.


Lord of Hidden Knowledge– You can re-roll a single hit roll, wound roll, damage roll or saving throw once per game with your warlord. In addition, if your army is battle-forged and your warlord is on the table, each time you use a stratagem, you get a command point back on a 5+.

As with previously released Codexes, this will probably be the go-to warlord trait most of the time. Command points and stratagems are key in 8th edition, so any way to recover command points is a big bonus to most armies. I think I will be using this trait most often.


Castellan of the Black Vault– Add 1 to damage characteristic of one weapon carried by the warlord (not a Relic).

Again, a pretty powerful ability. On a Watch Master, his Guardian Spear will do 3 damage with each wound from shooting and D3+1 wounds in combat. On a Watch Captain, a Thunder Hammer will do 4 damage with each successful wound, enough to trouble most enemy units in combat.


The Watch Eternal– A 6+ feel no pain roll for your warlord for his last wound only. In addition, gives all Deathwatch models within 6″ a 6+ feel no pain roll as well on their last wound.

This is pretty powerful too. It’s only a 6+ save, so won’t come up that often, but the feel no pain bubble will really boost the durability of your units near your warlord. Works on all Deathwatch models too, so you can potentially save a vehicle from dying. If this worked on all wounds it would be really strong, but it only works on the last wound, so has less utility.


Vigilance Incarnate– Allows you to change your Mission Tactics once per game.

Not the strongest. There is a stratagem that allows you to change your Mission Tactics. I would rather have the stratagem and have the chance of getting the command point back than waste the warlord trait on this one.



Nowhere to Hide– In each of your shooting phase, pick an enemy unit. The unit does not get the benefits of cover against attacks by Deathwatch units within 6″ of your warlord.

Decent enough, but not that good when compared to other warlord traits in the list. Special Issue Ammunition can negate the effects of cover in many cases, so I don’t see the need for this one.


Overall, I think the Lord of Hidden Knowledge is going to see play more often. However, Castellan of the Black Vault is also pretty strong. Added to a Watch Master or Watch Captain, it can create a pretty powerful damage-dealing character.


The Deathwatch also have access to some great Relics to take into battle.


Banebolts of Eryxia– Only for models with Special Issue Ammunition. Adds 1 to the damage of any special issue ammunition fired by the bearer. In addition, on a 6+ to wound, the target suffers a mortal wound in addition to any damage.

This is a pretty strong relic choice for me. I would put it on a Watch Master. This makes his Guardian Spear -1AP and 3 damage with each shot. You can combine this with Special Issue Ammunition to give him a Bolter that is -3AP and 3 damage per shot, on a 3 damage shot that wounds on a 2+. This is pretty powerful and great for going after multi-wound models or sniping at characters.

Also useful on a Storm Bolter, giving you more shots that do 2 damage each. Can’t be used in combination with Castellan of the Black Vault unfortunately. A four damage per shot Guardian Spear would be insane!


The Beacon Angelis– Once per game, at the end of your movement phase, you can teleport a unit of Infantry or Bikers in the Teleportarium or one the battlefield to within 6″ of the bearer and at least 9″ from the enemy units.

This was the Relic from the index. To me, it’s OK, but not brilliant. If you could use it to deploy closer to the enemy than 9″, it would be amazing. It could be useful to re-position units that find themselves out of range or out of position during the game. I would probably leave it for one of the other Relics.


Dominus Aegis– A storm shield that gives a 3+ invulnerable save. In addition, if the bearer did not move in the movement phase, friendly Deathwatch models within 6″ gain a 5+ invulnerable save till the start of your next movement phase.

Not bad. Could improve the durability of backfield objective holders if they have a character nearby. The only problem is that the Deathwatch don’t have too many cheap characters that can take a Storm Shield, so it can be an expensive unit just to babysit backfield objective holders.


The Osseus Key– Watch Master only. Enemy units within 9″ suffer -1 to hit. Also, in the fight phase, the bearer can make one additional attack against an enemy vehicle within 1″. If it hits, the vehicle suffers D3 mortal wounds.

Deathwatch can struggle with vehicles, so this is a nice boost to help a Watch Master out in combat with them. Not sure I would take it though. If I was that worried about vehicles, I would take the Bane of Monstrosities warlord trait and give the Guardian Spear the Baneblots of Eryxia for a chance of causing more damage.


The Thief of Secrets– A power sword that is 2 damage. In addition, you can pick one of the following keywords at the start of the game; Ork, Tyranid, T’au Empire, Aeldari or Necrons. You can re-roll failed to wound rolls when attacking models with the chosen keyword when attacking with the weapon.

Not a bad relic. Might not be so useful in a tournament setting where you will not face one of those armies. However, it is still a 2 damage power sword, so is not terrible if you do not get the re-rolls.


The Tome of Ectoclades– At the start of each turn, pick a Mission Tactic. Units within 6″ of the warlord can use that Mission Tactic instead of the army-wide Mission Tactic.

I think this is a strong Relic. It allows the unit that is supporting the bearer to choose the best mission tactic to damage the enemy unit that they are targeting. I think this will be the Relic of choice for Deathwatch armies in most cases.


I think the Deathwatch have some strong Relics. I think the Banebolts and Tome would be my choices for the army. If I had enough command points, I would probably choose both for my army.


I think this is a strong entry for the Deathwatch army. They have access to a couple of nice Warlord Traits and Relics that could really boost the effectiveness of the army.

I think mission tactics could prove to be quite strong in the long run for the army, I just need to play more games to see how it works on the tabletop.

I hope you have enjoyed the first part of the Deathwatch Codex review. The next part will take a look at the new Stratagems available to the army.


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