Well we finally got to play Deathwatch! It was the Free RPG Day booklet, but it had more than enough to get you started, and frankly about three, possibly even four, sessions worth of game between the front and back covers. As part of my birthday "party", me and the boys got together early in the day and played through 'til about midnight. We had a few food breaks in between, cold beverages, and all the usual antics around the table. Rumor has it that some podcast even recorded the event for posterity as well, ahem.
The adventure takes place in the sprawling city of Lordsholm, on the Agri-world of Avalos. An unremarkable world, Avalos rests on the edge of the Orpheus Salient between Hethgard and the Well of Night, but has thus far been spared the attentions of the Imperium’s enemies. Recently the world came to the attention of the Ordo Xenos and Inquisitor Kalistradi, who arrived with her retinue to uncover rumours and signs of a Genestealer infestation. What she discovered was far worse that she could have anticipated.
The Deathwatch Space Marine drop pod crashed through the upper levels of one of the main chapels in the Portica District. As luck would have it, this cathedral was also home to a makeshift HQ being used by the last remnants of the Lordsholm Planetary Defense Forces. The marines' primary mission was to find the Inquisitor, but the PDF were in dire need of assistance, and it was obvious that they would not last the night. The Deathwatch went into action, with tactical marines manning positions at crude barricades surrounding the inner courtyard of the chapel. The assault marine, true to form, fired his jump pack beyond the barricades into the heart of the opposition while the apothecary went back inside the cathedral to tend to the wounded PDF soldiers. The remaining marine, the devastator, took their heavy bolter and climbed up to the roof of the cathedral. With a commanding view of the surroundings he had an excellent field of fire. What that Blood Angel devastator saw from the rooftop was about a thousand humans, garbed in renegade and militia gear with a variety of autoguns and heavy stubbers. With the arrival of the marines, the firefight increased exponentially.
[Missions provide a framework for the GM to create adventures for his players and capture the military nature at the heart of being a member of the Deathwatch. Missions are divided up into sections, known as Objectives, each one representing a portion of the overall adventure and contributing to its success.Brother "Mac" Gregor mows down cultists with his Astartes Bolter
There are three kinds of Objectives:
Final Sanction is designed around the concept of a Mission to overcome a planetary uprising and uses Objectives to provide the players with a guide to the tasks they must complete to save Lordsholm and purge the Genestealer infestation. GMs should remember, however, that Objectives are a guide and a tool, and can be altered, replaced, or disregarded depending on the flow of the adventure and the development of the plot. They are a useful benchmark of success and a way in which the players, in the role of a Deathwatch Kill-team, can feel they have succeeded or failed in their duty.]
- Primary Objectives: All of these Objectives must be completed for the Mission to be considered a success.
- Secondary Objectives: These Objectives are not as vital but materially contribute to the Mission’s success and increase the margin of victory.
- Tertiary Objectives (also known as Targets of Opportunity): These Objectives are not vital to the Missions success but offer a chance to earn extra glory or renown.
You really can't use miniatures for a game like this, mainly because even in 15mm scale you still won't have enough figs on hand. On the other hand, figs are cool, and enhance any roleplaying game, so we "wung" it. In the pic above, each cultist figure (ones outside the barricade) would probably represent about a hundred foes. It was this introduction of the "hordes" concept that really sets apart Deathwatch from its brothers; Rogue Trader and Dark Heresy.
[The enemies of Mankind can attack in vast numbers; howling heretics, skittering tides of aliens, or ranked warriors. Alone, such enemies would stand no chance against the might of the Adeptus Astartes. Together in large groups, however, they can pose an overwhelming threat. Hordes have the potential to defeat the Emperor’s finest by sheer weight of fire and numbers. The rules presented here are intended to help Game Masters reflect these massed forces that the Deathwatch may face in battle.]Demon dogs! What do I see before my super-genetically enhanced eyes?
Once the firefight was joined by the Deathwatch it was only a matter of time before the cultists broke and ran in total rout. The marines' firepower was too much for the poorly equipped renegades and the ground around the cathedral's barricades was piled high with enemy bodies. Lordsholm PDF troopers, although weary, still managed a rousing cheer for their saviors. If only those troopers knew the truth. Near the end of the battle a single figure emerged, obviously a leader, and to the trained eye, obviously a mutant or xeno of some kind. The Dark Angel assault marine led his charge in this figure's directions, intent on taking him down immediately. The Ultramarine apothecary heard the exclamation of "XENO!" on the comm, and came to join. Once the mysterious figure was cut down the two marines inspected the body. It was a genestealer hybrid, part man and part insidious alien monster. The Ultramarine took tissue samples while the Dark Angel spat upon the remains. Not out of dishonor or disgust, but the Dark Angel was using his Betchers Gland to spew acidic poison over the corpse to melt it into an unrecognizable form. If Lordsholm PDF troops caught sight of the true face of the enemy, their spirit might break for good, and even the presence of the Emperor's Finest wouldn't bring them back.
Oaths are given in the presence of clergy
Once the firefight dust had settled the marines now had a course of action. They had several options they had to prioritize and still keep on their main mission. It was decided that first and foremost they needed to fight their way across the city to the Officio Adeptus Telepathica and send word that the planet was under invasion, both within and from beyond. The Genestealer presence was only a precursor to a larger, in-bound Tyranid hive fleet. After that their mission priorities dictated they go and support the Lorsholm PDF barracks which were under siege, freeing up more allied troops that could work at clearing the city while the marines moved on to their other mission parameters. Opening the Spaceport back up was also given high priority. With the hive fleet moving into the system, parking ships in orbit to ferry down troops and supplies via shuttle was not a sound tactic. With the Spaceport open, reinforcements could land safely dirtside and have a solid foundation for a staging area. Of course, finding the Inquisitor was not going to wait either. With a confirmed infestation, she could already be in a desperate situation as well. They would seek out her coordinates and find her, dead or alive, and strike at thee heart of the cult; the Broodlord.
Beleaguered PDF Troops man the walls of their fortress-barracks
Cultists man heavy siege cannons, trying to breach the fortress walls
After successfully sending off their message with the Officio Telepathica, the marines made their way to the barracks, caught off guard by what they saw. Cultists had four huge planetary defense guns that they were using as breaching artillery pieces. Large haulers held multiple rounds, and they kept feeding the artillery, pounding away at the walls.
The Cultists' "Southpaw" Siege Gun
This would prove to be one of the hardest challenges yet for the Deathwatch. As they advance on the cultists, they took heavy fire, injuring a couple of the members of the team surprisingly. Aquila power armor can only withstand so much punish before something slips through its defenses. Concentrating on the ammo haulers first to deny the siege guns the ability to reload was the primary tactic and after disabling half the guns in fiery explosions, the cultists once again broke and ran. The marines were taking a heavy tole however.
The Spaceport looms in the distance
After liberating the barracks, the Deathwatch commandeered a couple of Chimera troop carriers and requisitioned a couple of platoons of PDF troops. They made their way to the Spaceport, where the cultists were dug in with heavy defensive capabilities. Occupying the Spaceport command tower gave the cultists superior fire support in all directions. The Deathwatch split up, each half of the squad taking a PDF platoon with them. The Storm Warden Gregor, Ultramarine tactical trooper, and the Ultramarine apothecray were going to stealthily work their way way around in a flanking position while the other team made a large frontal assault to provide distraction. Sitting atop the Chimera, the Dark Angel armed with an acquired PDF belt-fed heavy stubber, and the heavy bolter armed Blood Angel opened fire with a withering torrent of projectiles. Surrounding them on foot were the Lordsholm PDF soldiers, adding their own firepower to the attack.
When Genestealers attack!
The flanking team methodically worked their away into position without giving themselves away, until...two large, multi-limbed forms emerged from the shadows. They were purestrain Genestealers, true threats to the Space Marines. Chainsword and bolter round tore the monsters to shreds, but not before they took their own toll on the marines. Razor sharp alien claws ripped through the marine armor plating as if they only had on flak jackets. Jagged rows of sharp teeth were able to rend as well. It was a tough fight, but the marines prevailed, it was good for them however that the apothecary had been with them for healing.
The frontal assault on the tower was a bold move, and it did not pay off. The amount of cultist firepower poured into the troops and the chimera was incredible, eventually blowing up the transport and sending those on it (including the marines) flying.
The Deathwatch sprang up, and without delay hefted the burning wreck into a makeshift barricade at the edge of a crater. They called to the PDF forces to take cover as they waited on word from the other team. Once both teams were in position and ready, they launched their final assault on the Spaceport, and thanks to their tactics, they were able to wrest control away from the cultists. The Dark Angel was near death, and many of the other marines were equally wounded, as well as an entire platoon of PDF troops being dead to a man.
There remained one vital objective left, they had to locate the missing Inquisitor and then find and kill the Genestealer Brood Lord...