A Time To Overkill: A Review of Deathwatch: Overkill
It would seem that everything isn’t right on Ghosar Quintus. The locals have started to talk a bit funny, with sounds of strange aliens entering their speech. Oh, and there’s the Deathwatch Kill Team that’s gone missing. That’s probably a bad sign as well. We should probably send in another to check out what’s going on. That’s the story behind Deathwatch: Overkill, the new board game from Games Workshop.
As you saw in my unboxing article, they’ve sent me a copy to check out. Now it’s time to give you a review of the game, itself.
So check your bolter and say a prayer to the Emperor, it’s time for another TGN Review. This time it’s Deathwatch: Overkill by Games Workshop.
Deathwatch: Overkill pits the marines of the Deathwatch versus a genestealer cult that has formed on the world of Ghosar Quintus. The Deathwatch player must attempt to perform certain tasks, depending on the different mission that has been chosen, while the genestealer player has to keep them from accomplishing that mission (mostly by killing them off. It’s not so complicated for the genestealer player).
While my unboxing gave a general overview of the parts, I’ll go back over them briefly.
The models: These are what you’d expect from a Games Workshop game. Great detail. Good character to the figures. Easy-to-work-with plastic. They’re nicely done. They’re also highly keyed, so there’s only one way to put them together. But in the case of the marines, where each one represents a different special character, it makes sense. One thing I did notice, though, is that almost all the genestealer figures are looking to their left. I’m not entirely sure what just happened over there, but it’s got them all facing that direction.
Note: I was shorted two 25mm bases in my box. Thankfully, 25mm bases aren’t in short supply. But it does mean two of my cultists have slotta-bases as opposed to completely filled-in ones.
Datacards and Datasheet: The game comes with oversize cards for the different marines as well as the leaders of the genestealer cult. The back of the rulebook has the stats for the “generic” genestealer cult members. Looking over the cards, we see the different stats and abilities a character has.
Speed: This is the number of sections a model can move in the move phase.
Armor: Whenever a model is hit, they must roll this number or higher in order to avoid taking a wound. If there is no value, the model doesn’t get an armor save.
Special Abilities: The marines of the Deathwatch as well as the genestealer cult leaders all have special abilities that might come into play during a turn. Each one is a little different, but they’re very good at specifically saying exactly what they do.
Weapon Groups: When making attacks, characters have different weapon groups they can attack with. On the left, we have the names of the weapons being used. The block then has 3 different ranges listed: Assault, Combat, and Max. The number of dice under each of those indicates how many dice that attack group gets at that range. The number on the dice shows what number (or higher) needs to be rolled in order for the attack to hit. The final column is Special, which indicates any special rules the weapon group might have.
Broodmind Cards: This deck of cards fulfills two roles in the game. First, it’s how the genestealer player deploys his troops. The top part of the card indicates what type of troop, and what they’re armed with, are placed on the board. Second, they work as gambits, which are “nasty tricks” that the genestealer player can play on their opponent. This could be springing traps or creating hazardous terrain or some other form of havoc.
Range Ruler: This is used when determining attack ranges (so you know how many dice and what number you need, as mentioned above in the Weapon Groups portion of the show). It is also used when models are trying to jump from one board section across a gap.
Each game of Deathwatch: Overkill starts with one very important decision: what mission will you play? The rulebook has 9 that form a narrative campaign, with the Kill Team steadily making their way further and further into the cult’s dark lair. You can choose to start at the beginning and play all the way through, or you can just pick whichever one you want and give it a go. The missions do increase in complexity as you continue along, though. So be aware. For a first game, I’d suggest the first one or two missions to learn the ropes and then work your way in further.
Each mission has a specific tile layout for the game boards. A map in the book shows how they should go, where the Deathwatch player places their troops at the start, and where the cultist player will spring their ambushes from. The rulebook also tells the cultist player how the broodmind deck is put together, as certain missions use only certain cards. If there are any special rules for the mission, that’s also given. So all you have to do is follow the instructions and you’re ready to play.
Order of Operations
So you’ve got your board all laid out. You’ve got your broodmind deck created. The Kill Team is set on the board. Everything’s ready to go.
… But how do you play a turn? Well, that’s what we’ll talk about next.
Turns are broken up into 6 phases: Broodmind, Deathwatch Movement, Genestealer Movement, Deathwatch Attack, Genestealer Attack, and Deathwatch Attack. Yes, the Deathwatch gets two attack phases. They’re marines. What do you want? Each phase is pretty quick, so turns actually go by rather fast. Let’s get to them.
In the Broodmind phase, the cultist player replenishes their hand of cards. Each mission tells you how many cards you can have at one time. After drawing and looking over their cards, the genestealer player will place a certain number of these cards (as determined by the mission) face-down at the various Ambush points around the board. Each Ambush point can only have one card at it at a time. Any cards not used for Ambushes are kept in-hand and can be used in later turns for more ambushes or for their gambit half of the card. Gambits will say, exactly, when they can be used during the turn.
Next is the Deathwatch Movement phase. After the Ambushes have been placed, the Deathwatch player moves their figures. Movement is very interesting in the game. You see, movement is simply done section-to-section. However, placement in a section is actually very important as it determines distance for attacks. So while two sets of models could be only one section apart, since some of them are rather big, they could be at a medium or further distance from one-another. So while you can move around freely in a space all you want, you’ll want to be very careful about where your figures end up. Spaces also don’t have a specific number of models they can hold. For example, in Betrayal at Calth, models had a “bulk” value and only so much “bulk” could be in a space at a time. Here, you’re limited by the physical size of the base the model is on and how many models you can physically put into a space on the board.
Once the Deathwatch player has moved their models, the cultist player gets to move theirs. This is also when the Ambushes turn into actual models on the board. Ambushing models are deployed on the first space on the board from where they are spawned. They cannot move the turn they are placed, but any cultist models already on the board can move up to their speed. Once more, you can place your model anywhere in the space, as long as there’s room for them.
One note about movement: you can enter spaces occupied by enemy models. However, you cannot leave a space occupied by enemy models. So once two enemy models are in the same space, one’s gotta be taken off the board before the other can move from that spot. This gives the cultist player a bit of an advantage, as they tend to have models to spare, while the Marines tend to have just 3-6 figures on the board a time.
Once the cultist player has placed their ambushes and moved their models, it’s time for the first of the two Deathwatch attack phases. Attacks are done one model at a time and against one model at a time. While “blast” weapons do attack an entire board space at once, all other attacks are just one-on-one affairs. There is no “line of sight” in the game. If the model is in range, you can attack it. The first step of making an attack is to declare what model will be making the attack and using the range ruler to determine what models are in which ranges from that model. So it’s a sort of pre-measuring. Once you know who is eligible for what types of attacks, you pick one weapon group for that model to use. Then declare the target of the attack. The model’s stat card will tell you how many dice you get to roll at whatever range you’re attacking at. It will also tell you what number you need to hit. Roll your dice and count up hits. If your opponent gets an armor save, they get to check versus every hit rolled. If they make all their armor saves, then they live. If not, they take a wound. Most of the cultist models only have one wound. So once they fail a save (if they get one, which a lot of the time they won’t), they’re removed. But don’t worry, they can come back via another Ambush later. However, the Space Marines and the genestealer leaders have two wounds. When a first wound is taken, flip their stat card over to the Wounded side. If they take another wound, they’re killed. Otherwise, they fight on. One thing about Marines, though, is that they’re tough. A Marine can forego their attack in order to do a “Combat Recovery.” Simply flip them back over to their non-wounded side.
The genestealer player then gets a chance to make attacks with whatever cultists might still be on the table and in range. Don’t worry, though, even though they attack after the Deathwatch player, the number of models they tend to have on the board means they’ll usually get a couple of attacks in per turn.
As I mentioned above, the Deathwatch player actually gets two attack phases. Much of the time, though, I’ve found that this is when the marine player will be doing a “Combat Recovery” action. Much of the time, in order to actually take out a marine, the cultist player has to do both wounds at one time. Granted, that does tend to happen a lot, but the Marine player will get another attack phase with which they can potentially recover before the genestealer player will get another chance to attack.
Play continues in that fashion until either player has achieved their win objective for the mission.
When I first saw Deathwatch: Overkill, my first couple thoughts were about whether or not this game would “step on the toes” of Betrayal at Calth and Space Hulk. It sort of does and it sort of doesn’t. It does in the general themes of “marines and genestealers on a board, where missions are involved.” But it does differ from both in certain ways.
Betrayal at Calth has customized dice and the two sides are marines, so oftentimes they mirror one-another pretty heavily. Plus, you can arm your guys just about any way you like. Space Hulk has only terminators versus “purestrain” genestealers. Deathwatch: Overkill gives you a lot more variety in your “marine types” than either game. Same for the cultists. There’s a good variety of different figures you can potentially throw at your opponent. The “grid for movement but not for actions” bit with the range ruler is also rather unique.
The missions are designed well enough that each one does feel like a slightly different game. So with 9 of those, with how the genestealer turns are effected by the Broodmind deck, and with the different marines pairings that can be played (only 2 missions have you use all 11 of the figures), even playing the same mission several times can feel very different.
The game is quick to play, easy to learn, and easy to teach. If you’d like another miniatures board game for your collection, this certainly isn’t a bad one. You can pick it up now over in the Games Workshop webstore.