News for July 2010
Many Against One 10
A look at Hordes in Deathwatch
Deathwatch | Published 09 July 2010

Greetings, Deathwatch fans!

During the development of Deathwatch, it quickly became clear that Space Marines would not find a single Tau Fire Warrior or even a small group of Heretics or Mutants to be any threat. Space Marines, after all, are the galaxy’s supreme warriors, and to bring that across in the Deathwatch RPG, we needed to present worthy adversaries!

Naturally, the Deathwatch RPG presents some major threats that, on their own, are definitely a challenge for an entire Kill-team of Space Marines—such as the fearsome Tyranid Hive Tyrant. In addition, Deathwatch presents a new set of mechanics to make a group of lesser enemies into a dangerous force known as a Horde.

A Serried Tide of Foes

In addition to presenting a new way for Space Marines to fight their enemies, the Hordes mechanic was created to make the GM’s job easier. Using a Horde, the GM has a simple and easy-to-use toolbox to present a large number of similar enemies without having to keep track of every single one’s own Initiative or Wounds. I definitely plan to expand on the Hordes mechanics in future Deathwatch products, so read on for more information on what Hordes are all about!

Defining a Horde

Whenever a group of lesser enemies comes together into a coherent group, the Game Master may designate them as a Horde. The main idea is that a Horde consists of 10 or more lesser enemies who have banded together and are combining their efforts against the Kill-team. A Horde has several advantages. First, when a Horde attacks, there are so many individual blows, wild swings, and shots fired that it is impossible to avoid them all. Thus, a Horde’s attacks cannot be dodged or parried under normal circumstances. Secondly, because a Horde is composed of mutliple enemies, their basic attacks gain a bonus to damage.

For instance, a heretic’s autopistol would be a negligible weapon against a Space Marine; however, if there are thirty heretics all firing at the same target, it is possible for their autopistol rounds to find a chink in the Space Marine’s armour or strike a vital location. The exact definition of how this extra damage is caused can be as simple as the volume of fire, or the GM may choose to describe it in any way he likes; the GM may decide that some of the heretics have slightly better-quality weapons or ammunition just as one example.

Breaking a Horde

Hordes also suffer damage differently than a single opponent... Hordes possess Magnitude, not Wounds, representing the general size of the enemy group. When a Space Marine attacks a Horde, he may be cutting down several opponents with each swing of his chainsword, or raking his bolter fire across the entire front rank of his foes. For a Horde, you do not calculate damage normally; it is assumed that each hit from a Space Marine’s weapon slays one enemy within the Horde, and thus reduces its magnitude.

Of course, weapons that are good at inflicting damage to multiple foes do especially well against Hordes, Blast and Flame weapons among them. In addition, there are certain special abilities, Talents, and additional weapon Qualities that all have additional effects on a Horde.

Once a Horde has been reduced to a fraction of its original Magnitude, there is a chance the Horde will Break. When a Horde Breaks, it is no longer considered a Horde, but instead a confused mass of individuals who no longer gain any of the benefits of being a Horde...easy prey for the Space Marines!

Hordes can also be improved; they have qualities of their own that can be applied. Here is one example of a Horde quality:

Blood Soaked Tide (Horde)
The horde with this trait is teetering on the brink of madness. These bloodthirsty madmen thrive on the slaughter of battle. When the horde fails a Willpower test to avoid being broken, or would have broken automatically (see Breaking a Horde on page 360 in this chapter), it is not broken, but instead gains the Fearless and Frenzy Talents.

The Devastator Marine

This week’s designer diary includes a special preview of the Deathwatch RPG! I am pleased to present a glimpse at the Devastator Marine Speciality, one of the many roles your Space Marine can take in his Deathwatch Kill-team.

Devastator Marine Speciality Preview (PDF, 385k)

Deathwatch is a roleplaying game in which players take on the roles of the bio-engineered super-soldiers known as Space Marines. United with their battle-brothers, players will complete extraordinary missions involving some of the greatest heroes and deadliest opponents the Warhammer 40,000 universe has to offer.

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Comments (10)

Varnias Tybalt
Published: 7/12/2010 7:16:19 AM


I think you'll find it easier if you keep the horde members exact position to an abstract level rather than working out exactly where every horde member is positioned in relation to the player characters. Just set the range to whatever you feel like, and the players can then generally assume that this is roughly the range they have to traverse in order to reach a significant amount of horde members if they want to engage them in close combat.

If you do that, then it shouldn't matter if the horde surrounds the PC's or if the horde and the PC's are on opposite sides of a bridge or a meadow. The range will still be the same.

Though if you'd like to amp up the difficulty then you could say that a horde that have managed to catch the PC's in a crossfire will impose a -10 or -20 penalty to any dodge tests that the PC's might attempt to avoid being shot at (due to the fact that it doesn't matter where they try to reach cover since they are getting shot at from all sides, meaning that all their flanks are exposed).

Published: 7/12/2010 4:10:17 AM

Did the first adventure and I must say the Horde mechanic works well and has a good feel of being a hero as a space marine. You also need not to work with the question who is where. The horde is either all around you or not.

Published: 7/10/2010 7:01:50 PM

The more I read about Deathwatch the more I cannot wait to get this game in my hands and get a campaign started. I have waited YEARS for such a game and FINALLY we are getting it! FFG you ROCK!!!

Published: 7/10/2010 2:11:59 AM

 I have written negative comments in the past concerning designer diaries, much better this time around FFG.  Just felt it was fair to give credit when it is due, especially in regards to the Devastator.

Varnias Tybalt
Published: 7/9/2010 7:16:16 PM

 The Horde Mechanic is very useful. I tried it out last sunday during our session of Rogue Trader and it certainly helped to speed things up, and it also made individual NPC enemies dangerous in terms of damage they could deal.

I certainly hope that FFG extrapolates on these rules and make sure that they work smoothly with certain pieces of wargear and talents (for instance, how attacks from a horde would work against a refractor field or rosarius according to the rules presented in Ascension, as well as how talents like combat master would work against an entire horde etc.)


But still, a very welcomed step in the right direction. :)

Published: 7/9/2010 1:50:59 PM

Looking good.. Intresting that stat advances cost more than in RT and DH, but it is justifiable with the better starting stats.

And I love that lampshade hanging of the fandoms "is 1000 SM chapters enought?" question.

Published: 7/9/2010 12:43:12 PM

I think it may mean that not all the advances are on 1 list.  Skills, for example, may be listed by chapter, rather then carear.  I actualy would love it if this is the way it's set up, as it would mean not every Tactical or Devistator marine would advance the same way.

Published: 7/9/2010 12:29:38 PM

Looking better and better with each look.  I love the Horde mechanic and plan on using it a lot, even for Rogue Trader and Dark Heresy (although with much less powerful creatures!).

Published: 7/9/2010 11:49:23 AM

The Unrelenting Devastation ability looks pretty good.



Published: 7/9/2010 11:44:53 AM

Very nice.  Another tidbit on Hordes that even those of us who've read the quickstart adventures can appreciate, a glimpse at how character advancement works in Deathwatch*, and some pretty awesome art.  Can we get that first picture as a wallpaper, FFG?  Please? :-)


* Less than a half-dozen purchases per Career Rank, all Talents?  I wonder if this means that Deathwatch as a whole places less emphasis on individual warriors' Skills, or if it simply means that the Devastators are meant to be straightforward beatsticks.

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