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The Deathwatch
DW Shoulder Pad final.jpg
Battle Cry "Suffer not the Alien to live!" / Various battle cries from the Marine's parent chapter.
Founding Around M32
Chapter Master None - Lead by Watch Commanders
Primarch Varies
Homeworld Various Watch Fortresses around the galaxy, but officially Talasa Prime
Strength Exact number varies, but was fixed at "Chapter Strength" as part of the power transfer to the Inquisition.
Specialty Killing Xenos, Kill-team strikes, being every Chapter at once.
Allegiance Imperium
Colours Black, with a silver left arm and right pauldron bearing the colors and iconography of the Marine's parent Chapter
"Ooh ooh ooh! DEATH-WATCH! Ooh ooh ooh! DEATH-WATCH!"
- An unorthodox battle cry, which has gained popularity among the more musically inclined in the Deathwatch.
The old but still-used front for the Deathwatch (RPG) core rules... Well, at least it's kinda goofy.

This article is about the organization. If you were looking for a different Deathwatch, see below.


The Deathwatch is an independent Space Marine Chapter and is composed of the most badass Space Marines from every chapter who are deployed according to their skills and which specific kind of xeno they are the most experienced at facing. If they have a devastator squad composed of ten heavy bolter-equipped Space Marines who are sent to fight the Tyranids, then you can bet that those heavy bolter-equipped marines will be the best shots with a heavy bolter the Imperium could get their hands on and know everything there is to know about fighting the space bug lizards, loaded with all the best toys for Tyranid killing.

Their armor is painted black save for one pauldron which remains painted in the chapter colors to avoid pissing off the machine spirit. The other pauldron gets replaced entirely with a superfancy silver one bearing the Inquisitorial Seal (despite them no longer having anything to do with the Inquisition). Surprisingly this paint job actually manages to look really badass even if it ends up being totally pointless with the Black Consuls, Black Templars, Raven Guard, and anyone else wearing black. They get their shit done and get it done quickly and now finally have their own codex. There are also a few fan-made codices for them as well as an RPG where they star as player characters though.

Sister Carmella appreciates Battle Brother Bellephoron's screening for Genestealer contamination a bit too much. The outrage and jealousy offer Brother Seraphicus a perfect distraction to slip away from the team, seeking objectives unknown.

In short, Space Marine Special Forces.

Breaking news!
Apocalypse: War Zone Damnos gives Deathwatch official rules as a Space Marine formation: 1 Captain and 2 Sternguard/Vanguard Veteran squads gain Preferred Enemy (one Xenos codex of your choice) and Antiphase Bolter Rounds (24" range, S4 AP4, forces Necrons to reroll successful Reanimation Protocols).
Deathwatch: Overkill, a board game featuring a Kill Team of the Deathwatch led by none other than Cassius against some really old fellas is incoming un March 2016.
UPDATE - Here's the rules.
Codex:Adeptus Astartes Deathwatch, a new codex, has been announced, watch this space.

Tactics for Overkill's Deathwatch have been assembled here: Tactics/Space Marines and here: Tactics/Inquisition, since it's not entirely clear which the Overkill dataslate is a supplement for. Tactics for the codex can be found here.


The story goes way back in time, still. During the days of the WAAAGH! Beast, the Orks were an almost unstoppable force and many marine chapters were slaughtered. The Imperial Fists Chapter Master and Lord Commander of the Imperium at the time: Slaughter Koorland determined that taking the Orks on head-to-head no longer worked since the Imperium's technological advantage was being eroded. So he colluded with Grand Master Assassin Vangorich (yes, the dude that killed all the High-Lords, and he was a rather cool dude back then) to create much smaller kill-teams with mission specific profiles which would be better suited to cripple or behead a threat rather than slug it out on a battlefield. Thus many chapter mixed units were formed and have their armor painted black, they forgoed their allegiance to the chapter and most importantly, its dogma. With this concept the Space Marines would have an extremely flexible force: from the melee prowess of the Blood Angels, to the stalwart defense of the Imperial Fists. It was a specialist force, but all the specialists were mixed in giving each unit an edge on every possible situation.

In modern 40k, the Deathwatch would be the chamber militant of the Ordo Xenos but at the time of its inception the Inquisition didn't even have Ordos and the Deathwatch was the love child of Koorland himself. He only gave it up when called out on the fact that he was already the Chapter Master of the Imperial Fists as well as being the Lord Commander of ALL Imperial armed forces; So having a third title was a bit of a push. The Inquisition happily took over the role as overseers to the Deathwatch because they themselves owe allegiance to no single master other than the Emperor, so in theory were not likely to go AWOL with a powerful force of Space Marines. Koorland agreed, but with three caveats:

  1. That the Deathwatch be limited to Chapter-Strength
  2. That the Lord Commander have authority to disband them.
  3. That all strategic control over the Deathwatch be retained by a Space Marine.

Shortly after, the Inquisitorial Representative(s) decided that the Inquisition itself could be better served by dividing their attentions between Xenos and Daemon, rather than arguing over which was the greater threat. So the Inquisition divided into Ordo Xenos and Ordo Malleus.

Induction and Training[edit]

Calling on ancient oaths and debts of honour from hundreds of Space Marine Chapters, the Deathwatch (forces)asks each Chapter to volunteer a handful of its best marines to be conscripted into the Deathwatch. This usually occurs when the old Deathwatch-conscripted marine dies in battle or returns after he fulfils his term of service to the Deathwatch. Some Chapters view recruitment into the Deathwatch as a great honour, with the warrior both envied and revered by his battle brothers for being chosen. Others, either view the conscription as little more than an inconvenience as it robs them of their best warriors or as a chance to get rid of marines too insubordinate to mix with the battle companies but too well-celebrated to be demoted.

As their recruits are full-fledged space marines and not mere neophytes, they usually believe they have some idea what to expect; most assume that they will be brought to a heavily-fortified space station where they will be trained much in the same way they are already trained, but with more specialized weapons (after all, Space Marine training is already quite intense and comprehensive). This notion is immediately proven wrong as the inductees first gaze upon a Watch Fortress. What greets them is a systemless planet floating in the middle of nowhere, encircled by a colossal artificial ring, supposedly built millions of years ago by an ancient alien civilisation. It is on this ring, bristling with Imperial gun batteries and missile defences, that the Deathwatch and its private fleet of warships make their home.

Deathwatch Marines with Bolt Pistols only? The Deathwatch know how to conserve for the really big things.

The ring station is so large that the Imperium has built entire orbital cities into their ancient superstructure; including individual quarters for thousands of space marines and serfs, vast customizable training fields, including artificially-recreated planetary environments. The recruits are sworn into the Deathwatch and are forced to undergo hypno-indoctrination to put the Watch above all their old loyalties, and then undergo months of intensive retraining in unconventional tactics. They are divided into 6-man Kill Teams, no two members being from the same chapter. The inductees are also introduced to their new arsenal; each of them is given a Combi-weapon built to accept a range of attachments and ammunition, for every Deathwatch space marine must have a secondary and tertiary weapon for any eventuality. Their armor is painted black except for their right pauldron (which was transferred from their left), and the Deathwatch's silver pauldron and arm is attached in its place.

As part of the training, each marine is forced to watch endless hours of vid-recordings of space marines losing battles against Xenos. The lesson there is two-fold, one is to understand Xenos strategies, tactics, and weaponry, including all their strengths and weaknesses. The other is that though the Deathwatch marines come from diverse backgrounds, apparently nothing creates better unit cohesion and hatred against the Xenos than for a Space Marine to watch helplessly as another space marine fights a desperate and ultimately doomed last stand, again and again across thousands of battles. At that point the point is pressed home--it does not matter what chapter you are from, the Space Marines in the recordings were mercilessly slaughtered and you must now avenge them with extreme prejudice. The experience is so realistic that all inductees must be physically restrained to their seats prior to donning the vid gear (which in all likelihood includes a Pain Glove nicked from the Imperial Fists, so that the Deathwatch trainees get to feel the pain the Astartes victims of Xenos likely felt in those recordings, which must be especially unnerving if the recording a trainee is watching came from a helmet cam mounted to an unfortunate Astartes being disemboweled and then beheaded by a Genestealer or certain Dark Eldar).

At the end of their training, every Deathwatch Space Marine has not only been reforged into an unparalleled Xenocide machine, but a Deathwatch Kill Team as a whole will royally fuck up the shit of their target. Though extremely rare as Deathwatch is more of a small unit spec-ops force meant to infiltrate and eliminate specific objectives and targets instead of fighting all-out battles, the arrival of additional Deathwatch Kill Teams typically spells the end of whatever unlucky Xeno son of a bitch is on its receiving end. And if the shit has hit the fan to the extent that one hundred or so deathwatch members have to deploy to just one battle, and organized into an actual company, it probably means that the Imperium is going to be sending a lot more than just the space marines.

So, where's their Codex?[edit]

No danger here, just a bunch of old ruins. Sure to be a lot of loot for the Deathwatch in there, don'tcha think?

They originally had no Codex until 2016 when the game Deathwatch: Overkill was released. While not a full army, it did give a small set of special units using the packaged models, each of which was based on the hero of a story written by Black Library and led by a younger, un-nommed Ortan Cassius. Each model has their own Chapter Tactics (or equivalent thereof), but don't officially have it, so they can fit in any other Marine army without complaint. A good majority of the units also have Sternguard ammo, making them far more useful than their Damnos forebears.

Then, in August 2016 a full Codex went up for pre-order alongside a new game called "Death Masque" which featured new models for the Eldar (Xenos filth!), Harlequins, and official Deathwatch sprues with Deathwatch Veterans, Deathwatch Vanguard veterans, and an upgrade sprue to make your own Deathwatch units. There are also "new" (essentially the same thing but with a few "I"s to glue on) vehicles for them such as the Deathwatch land raider and Deathwatch transport/razorback. However, they do get one genuinely unique vehicle in the form of the Corvus Blackstar, an airborne transport that carries a decent amount of firepower, as befitting the Deathwatch.

One of the great things about the Deathwatch is that the kill team kits provide a lot of goodies for kit-bashing some of your other Space Marine armies. Some of the items available are listed below:

Lots of chapter specific pauldrons. You only get one per chapter for every five-man kit, but they can be useful if you want a nicer-looking pauldron for a single character (especially if GW doesn't sell transfer sheets or upgrade sprues for said chapter):

Unique weapons:

  • Shotguns for full-size Astartes, not just scouts
  • Infernus Heavy Bolter
  • Storm Shields similar to the one used by Hector Rex
  • Melta Powerfists
  • Heavy Thunderhammer
  • Infantry-portable Frag Cannons
  • Xenophase Blades
  • Guardian Spears (The only source for the weapon outside of Burning of Prospero Custodes)

Daily Rituals of the Deathwatch[edit]

03:00 - Morning Prayer. The Deathwatch are roused from their chambers to pray. Prayer lasts two hours, one for the Emperor and the other for ways to kill the xeno.

05:00 - Morning Firing Rites. The Deathwatch begin honing their shooting skills upon captured alien civilians. Bonus points if it is a Elffag or Weeb.

07:00 - Battle Practice. The Deathwatch descends upon the prisons holding captured xenos and proceed to find the best way to maximize pain and suffering upon them before giving them the Emperor's Peace.

10:00 - Morning Meal. A light meal is prepared by the serfs in the Deathwatch. Permission to eat the xenos they've killed is prohibited.

10:15 - Movie Time. The Deathwatch are forced to watch videos on fellow battle brothers getting shat upon and humiliated by the filthy alien. Each Deathwatch are strapped and bounded by ceramite braces to contain their rage.

11:15 - Tactical Indoctrination. The Deathwatch plans the next campaign to wipe out the filthy xenos and study the weaknesses and best possible way to enact as much pain on the alien.

13:00 - Midday Meal. A meal is prepared by the Deathwatch serfs. Eating the alien is still prohibited.

14:00 - Evening Firing Rites.

16:00 - Battle Practice.

19:00 - Evening Meal. A feast is prepared by the Deathwatch serfs. Eating the dead aliens is allowed if they are deemed safe to eat.

20:00 - Evening Prayer.

22:00 - Interrogation Time. The Deathwatch interrogates and torture captured xenos on information and intelligence.

24:00 - The Deathwatch ends their interrogation and proceed to go back to rest in their chambers.

See Also[edit]

Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes
First Founding: Blood Angels - Dark Angels - Imperial Fists - Iron Hands - Raven Guard
Salamanders - Space Wolves - Ultramarines - White Scars
Second Founding: Angels of Absolution - Angels Encarmine - Angels of Redemption - Angels of Vengeance
Angels Sanguine - Angels Vermillion - Aurora Chapter - Black Guard - Black Templars
Blood Drinkers - Crimson Fists - Doom Eagles - Excoriators - Fists Exemplar - Flesh Tearers
Genesis Chapter - Iron Snakes - Mortifactors - Novamarines - Red Talons - Raptors
Soul Drinkers - Storm Lords - Wolf Brothers
Third Founding: Executioners - Scythes of the Emperor
Fourth to Eighth Founding: Howling Griffons -Marines Malevolent - Sable Swords - Sons of Guilliman
Eighth Founding: Mantis Warriors
Tenth Founding: Astral Claws
Thirteenth Founding: Death Spectres - Exorcists
Twenty-First Founding: Black Dragons - Fire Hawks - Flame Falcons - Lamenters - Minotaurs - Sons of Antaeus
Twenty-Second Founding: Fire Claws/Relictors - Steel Confessors
Twenty-Third Founding: Marines Errant - Star Phantoms
Twenty-Fourth Founding: Celestial Lions - Disciples of Caliban
Twenty-Fifth Founding: Angels of Vigilance - Fire Angels
Twenty-Sixth Founding: Mentors
Unknown Founding: Astral Knights - Blood Ravens - Celebrants - Fire Lords
Guardians of the Covenant - Hammers of Dorn - Invaders - Knights of Blood
Rainbow Warriors - Red Scorpions - Space Sharks - Silver Skulls
Storm Wardens - Valedictors - Vorpal Swords
Unsanctioned Founding: Consecrators - Sons of Medusa
Chambers Millitant: Deathwatch - Grey Knights
Astartes Praeses: Black Consuls - Excoriators - Fire Claws/Relictors
Night Watch - Subjugators - Viper Legion - White Consuls