This is an odd one. So, there were a few Warhammer 40,000 RPGs released by FFG over the years of their license with Games Workshop. They were all the same system, really, but each with a different focus. Deathwatch is the game that focuses on the Space Marines, the iconic… icon of the 41st millennium. Thing is, that license has been revoked, so I was surprised to see this offering on Bundle of Holding.
It turns out that the license held by the developers of the new 40K RPG includes the right to sell the older titles as well. There must be some bemused faces in the RPG team at Fantasy Flight, seeing their books being sold with another company’s logo slapped on them. Odd.
Focusing on the bundles, there are two available. There’s a core bundle, appropriately titled as “Deathwatch Essentials” and a second bundle of “Deathwatch Adventures”.
The first tier of the Essentials bundle contains the most crucial material and costs $16.95. It contains three books:
The core Deathwatch rulebook is the most important item in any of these tiers. Kind of obvious, really. The core book has a ton of material on the setting alongside the core rules of the game and lots of equipment. This is a good, weighty tome. Whilst the core book focuses on the Deathwatch Space Marines, the two supplements in this tier provides a wealth of information on, and rules for, the Space Marines of different chapters. First Founding focuses on the directs successors to the original nine loyalist legions, whilst Honour the Chapter focuses on lesser-known chapters from subsequent foundings.
The second tier provides another selection of sourcebooks and is priced on a threshold. At the moment, this is sitting at $31.80. This is pretty pricey for one of these bundles. I mean, the price will get you everything from tier 1 as well, but it’s still higher than we’re used to. Let’s see if it’s worth your hard-earned (or easily inherited) cash:
The GM kit is decent. As usual, I have a bit of hesitation over the value of a digital copy of a GM screen, but the booklet that comes with it is pretty useful. The sourcebooks expand different areas of the game, including creating your own chapter, developing veteran Space Marines and fleshing out the various alien races that the Deathwatch come up against.
All in all, I’m not convinced that the second tier is as much of a must-buy as the first. If you’re intending to really delve into Deathwatch, then it’s not a bad deal.
Whereas the first bundle is focused around the rules of the game, the second is all about the missions that your Space Marines embark on. Hence, you know, it being called the ‘Missions’ bundle…
The first tier will net you four books and costs $14.95:
I particularly like the sound of Ark of Lost Souls, because it’s a mission that is set on a space hulk. I loved the board game, Space Hulk, so I quite like the idea of playing on one. I suppose you could even use some of the tiles and whatnot from the board game to create maps. That might be cool. The Achilus Assault sounds a bit hectic with all sorts of threats, including the Tyranids and Tau, as well as the forces of Chaos. Thankfully, this is more a sourcebook than a mission book, as all of that in one adventure might be a tad unfocused and messy!
Falling Star sounds like a decent, if short, mission, but short missions have their place. Not everything has to be a sprawling campaign. Of course, if you do want a sprawling campaign, they have you covered with Rising Tempest. They have your back, pal!
Tier 2 is, again, priced on a threshold. At the current price of $29.81 it isn’t cheap, but it gets you everything from the first tier and another three books:
The Jericho Reach is another sourcebook, following on from the previous tier’s The Achilus Assault. It also contains an adventure of its own. This whole bundle focuses really heavily on fleshing out the setting of The Jericho Reach and The Achilus Crusade. Get this and the first bundle and you’ve got a really well developed and detailed setting. The Outer Reach continues this development, but with a focus on the Necrons, a fan-favourite among the Xenos races.
The most interesting book in this tier for me is The Emperor Protects, which takes the focus away from sweeping campaigns in a detailed setting and just gives three fun adventures that you can play through with a group. The adventure that appeals most is The Vigilant Sword, as it has the potential for some intrigue and politics, which is what I like in my games. It’s also something you don’t always associate with the Space Marines. It could be interesting.
I suppose the burning question is whether these bundles are worth your cash. For the whole lot, you’re talking a little over $60, which is a huge saving on the retail cost for all of these PDFs. I’d say that the first tier of the Essentials bundle is worth getting for all players. You get the book, which outlines Deathwatch Space Marines, and the supplements which look at other Space Marines. The second tier might be worth it if you reckon you’ll be playing a fair bit or if you intend to be your group’s GM. It’s decent for players, but very good for the GM.
The second bundle is another matter. I wouldn’t touch this as someone who is likely to play Deathwatch but not act as GM. Only the GM needs this bundle and it would actually hurt your experience as a player to read through the missions in this bundle before playing them. It’s better not to know what the GM has planned. That said, it is a damn good deal for GMs looking for either pre-made missions or for starting points for developing their own missions. Use them as-is or mix and match the elements you like. Both approaches work well.