Well I just came back from a fun filled weekend at Gen Con. In addition to playing board games, costume contests, and hobby seminars I was able to pick up a copy of Deathwatch and the GM Essentials both of which are written by Fantasy Flight Games.
It is important to know that I am not a big role player and I only play the occasional game. But this book makes me want to become a full time role-player. The book is fantastic. They have a great mechanic for combat and I especially like the way they deal with space marine’s ability to fight off hordes of enemy troopers. The fluff is well written and they do an especially good job giving us the fluff we need to know about the Deathwatch and still leaving some mystery. They write about the chapter, specialties , organs, armor, alliances, battle tactics, etc. The classes, also known as specialties in this game, are pretty standard; if you have played a RPG you will recognize these classes right off the bat. One of the areas that could be fleshed out are the available space marine chapters. Fantasy Flight in their wisdom has already addressed this: the designer of the game mentioned that an expansion is in the works with extra chapters as well as full rules to design your own chapter.
The horde mechanic is great. If you are familiar with D&D or any other role playing game you know that as your character levels the game system gradually increase the number of attacks per round to allow you to deal with big monsters as well as groups of little monsters. The Deathwatch system merges all of the little monsters into one group and gives that group a number of wounds equal to the number of people in the group. Then degree of success with which you hit determines how many individual hits you get on the group. If you kill three guys you remove three wounds from the horde. This allows a space marine with a chain sword to make one attack in close combat and still take down multiple guys.
The fluff is pretty great. There is a ton of stuff written about each of the chapters. Including their strengths, weaknesses, tactics, and history. Some of this is already known if you have read the fluff from the codex, but there are tons of small nibblets around that book. For example there is a small section on chapter trappings, which are unique items belonging to a particular chapter, and it was full of great information such as the Dark Angel ceremonial sword. I finally understand why the old Dark Angel terminator models have a sword on them. I also enjoy all of the fluff about each particular item of war gear such as the different types of techmarine’s mechadendrites (servo arms).
The specialties (classes) are pretty traditional, there is the classic fighter (tactical marine & assault marine), the healer (apothecary), magic user (librarian), and the jack of all trades (techmarine), they also have the heavy weapon guy (devastator). The mechanics for leveling up are very customizable. You can spend your experience points on whatever you want. You can spend them on characteristic upgrades, skill increases, or talents. This allows you to create any sort of character you want. If you want an assault marine that has lots of personal interaction skills great, you can do that, you are not forced to be a one dimensional character.
Onto some more specifics of the book, the book is 400 pages long and covers many topics. The chapters are:
- Character Creation
- Talents & Traits
- Psychic Powers
- Playing the Game
- The Game Master
- The Imperium of Man
- The Deathwatch
- The Jericho Reach
To wrap everything up. Deathwatch looks like a very promising game. I can’t wait to get a campaign under way. And even if you are not a role player this is still worth looking into. If you like space marines at all, you will probably like this game.
Here are some pictures of the collectors edition of the book which was on display at Gen Con.