I was in Toronto over the weekend and was lucky enough to play a preview game of Deathwatch: Overkill at the Yonge and Lawrence Games Workshop store. I played the first mission as the Genestealer Cult, watched a few other games, and got an up close look at the new minis. Please enjoy this first impressions review.
This game, to me, plays very much like Zombicide: instead of Survivors, you have a Deathwatch Kill-team; instead of Zombies, you have a Genestealer Cult. A major difference in Overkill is that one player controls the antagonists.
Each piece has specific stats based on its weapons, armour, and other attributes. The White Scar on a bike can move quickly and slice up guys with his power sword; the Blood Angel can roast whole areas with his hand flamer; and the cultist with an autogun will watch his rounds plink off power armour.
The Space Marines feel aptly heroic and powerful. They’re tough, they have amazing gear, and they’re well trained, getting two combat phases each round where they can shoot or heal. The Cultists on the other hand are suitably squishy, relying on numbers or dirty tricks.
Each turn, the Cult player places a number of cards face down at the entrances to the map and then, after the Marine player has moved, turns them face up and spawns a number and type of Cultists as specified on the card. The Cult player has a hand of cards and can save cards for an opportune moment or alternatively play them as a “Gambit”—essentially a dirty trick to surprise the Marine player.
Make no mistake, the Space Marines are very powerful: I watched one game where the Kill-team easily mowed down entire turns’ worth of spawned cultists in a single round. The trick for the Genestealer player is to isolate the Marines and use the right Gambits at the right time.
The first mission is balanced in this way. The Marine player needs to kill 25 Genestealer models (which is not difficult), while the Cultist player needs to take down a mere two Marines. For two players picking the game up for the first time, I think it favours the Marines, but once the players get the hang of it—and the Cultist player actually takes the time to read his Gambits (which I ignored for half the game)—it’s a very balanced game (or, at least, the first mission is).
Quality and Value
Clocking in at $200 CAD, Deathwatch: Overkill is not a cheap game. For a 40k player, that could start a new army. For a board game player, that could be at least two other board games (Zombicide comes in at $100-$130 depending on where you buy it). So let’s look at what you get.
The game comes with 50 miniatures, scaled to 40k: that’s $4 a model. Not too shabby by GW prices (I won’t bother pricing out the Kill-team and Genestealer characters as if they were individual clampacks, but it’s a lot). These are also fantastic miniatures, up to GW’s high standards. In addition, you get the game pieces (cards for all the characters and reversible game tiles), all of which are also very high quality. To continue the Zombicide comparison, the tiles and miniatures in Overkill are definitely a cut above—though you do pay for that premium.
Overkill comes with a series of linked missions that can form a campaign. With the reversible tiles, you can make a wide variety of maps. For $200, it’s hard to say you’re getting your money’s worth straight out of the box in terms of game time.
However, if you have a standing 40k collection, there’s a lot of adaptability. Have a Carnifex? Do a special mission where the Kill-team takes it down. Lictor hunt? Behind Tau lines? The possibilities are pretty much endless. (Also, I should mention, Zombicide tiles would work nicely with these rules).
That being said, any expansions to this game will have to be home-brewed, based on the lack of support GW has had for their other one-off board games. I don’t think it’s likely we’ll see an Ork or any other expansion for Overkill.
Compatibility with 40k
As mentioned, all the miniatures in the box are scaled to 40k and come on appropriate bases (though the bike base is a little weird: I wonder if we’ll be seeing those as standard in the future?). In addition, GW is releasing rules in White Dwarf for the models in regular 40k. I haven’t looked at the Genestealer Cult rules, but I picked up the magazine with the Deathwatch rules. Let’s take a look.
Every mini is represented in the little “Codex: Deathwatch.” The Chaplain and Librarian are HQ, the Vanguard Vets and Terminator are Elites, the bike is Fast Attack, and the rest are a single Troop squad. They have their own Faction and follow the “Armies of the Imperium” for allying purposes. For Battle-Forged there’re two ways to field them: as an Allied Detachment, or the special “Kill Team Cassius” formation. The latter is garbage at over 500 points: the whole team has to operate as a single unit (limiting the mobility of your jump and bike models) and the special rule is nothing to write home about.
Squad Donatus, the five Sternguard Vets as a troop choice, isn’t bad. At 175 points, it’s expensive, but it’s a swiss army knife. With special ammunition, they can deal damage to a variety of units, they have enough special weaponry to threaten light vehicles, and they have enough attacks to hold their own in close combat. The Chappy and Libby also aren’t bad, being your standard independent characters with special ammo for their pistols. The rest of the models, however, operate as single model units, making them pretty worthless in my eyes. If they had Independent Character or where able to substitute for a sergeant, then they’d be pretty cool, but no such luck.
Overall, the Deathwatch rules feel poorly thought out and tacked on, which is an unfortunate trend in many GW products. I might run Squad Donatus and an HQ has a fun allied detachment, but I can’t see myself running any of the other options, even in a friendly game. This is definitely not something that will be shaking up the tournament meta. All that being said, if I get Overkill I’ll paint the Marines in my own chapter’s colours and sprinkle them into units as returned Deathwatch Vets. I’ll also be running the genestealer patriarch as a Broodlord and the first and second gen cultists as genestealers.
After playing Overkill, I now want to try GW’s other boxed games. If you have both a Space Marine and Tyranid army, I highly recommend Deathwatch: Overkill. It’s decent value for some amazing miniatures and you get a fun board game to boot. If you only have one of those armies, then it’s still a decent buy. If you have neither army or are only a board game player, then it’s a little harder to recommend the $200 investment without having played more. Definitely give it a try!
If I may add onto the Genestealer Cults, leaked images of the next White Dwarf make them out to be ... rather odd, actually!
Let's start with the more mediocre choices. The cultists and hybrids are unremarkable Guardsmen-equivalents. All the weapon options are fixed, what you get in the box is what you get in the unit. No options for additional upgrades. The Genestealer Princelings are good, but you only get two without any chance of adding more models to the unit, which make them easily the weakest choice you could possibly take in the Cult list.
The good is more of a range of "alright" to "awesome". The Abberations, the big hybrid fellows, are decent assault units. They have high strength, low AP weapons. They fall flat when you consider their options, or rather, their lack of. Like all the other units in the codex, they don't have the option to take anything else, their weapon options are fixed. They also have a rather weak armor save and relatively low toughness. You also have the Cult Magus and Patriarch. These are your psyker characters. Mastery Level 2 with access to Telepathy, which is *HUGE* for Tyranid players. This means the Cult and Tyranids now have access to Invisibility. The Patriarch is a really beefy Broodlord, he could hold his own in an assault.
By far the best thing that came out of the leak is a formation. For 600 points, you field the Genestealer half of the Overkill box. The bonuses are substantial, to say the least. The entire formation can Infiltrate anywhere, so aslong as they are 1" away from any enemy model. They can also attempt a first turn charge. I believe the entire formation gets Shrouded as well, though I'm not certain. I can see this formation making a real nice allied force for any Tyranid player.
Kk, I just popped over to BOLS to check out the rules: definitely way better than the Deathwatch. Though, I believe only the patriarch and purestrain 'stealers can infiltrate super close (but everything can still attempt a turn 1 charge). Also, the formation doesn't form one huge unit, which is nice since there's close combat stuff but also Heavy weapons.
I don't know if Telepathy is that game changing on a level 2 since you still need to roll for it, but this stuff will definitely help the 'Nids.
Also, I'm very interested to see the points cost on all these cult units.
I'm pretty sure these are sort of temporary rules until they come out with a proper mini-dex.
Anyway, I'm looking at the formation now, it looks like the entire formation indeed gets the Infiltrate and Shrouded rules. It looks like you're right about the Princeling/Patriarch infiltrating 1" away, so that's my fault there. Makes the whole formation a whole lot less awesome in my opinion. I'll wait to see what they will do in the future, because the Cult isn't exactly 100% playable as it is, though I suppose that's not the point.
So, before I give my thoughts from a Tyranid player point of view, I should mention that I believe this to be GW's way of "testing the waters" for a possible genestealer cult codex. If that is the case, they have a decent starting place at least.
The very first thing to notice is the odd unit sizes. It seems obvious that it is simply so restrictive due to the models presented in the box and should a GSC codex be released, I'm sure the unit sizes can be bumped up. The aberrants come with neato power weapons and rending claws, as well as FnP. Not bad but the unit is four models strong. The acolyte hybrids and neophyte hybrids are both actually pretty decent cc units. The former comes with rending claws and fearless too while the latter are basically guardsman. Both do happen to also have something I have always wanted for any Tyranid related thing...frag grenades! The patriarch and magos each have access to telepathy and are level 2 psykers. They are unique though so yeah they can get invisibility but it's not exactly reliable and as is, very difficult to work with other Tyranid codex units. As Thade said, you still gotta roll for the power. The patriarch is also not too shabby in cc. Its claws are ap 3 and have both rending and shred which is pretty sweet.
The formation does bring the some real badass rules in the form of shrouded for first turn, infiltrate just over an inch away from the enemy and first turn charges even if you infiltrate! Yes please! Of course, you have to bear in mind the fact that that the units in the formation are at their set unit sizes (which are dumb but again, testing waters) and they also aren't exactly durable cc units. It's a great way to disrupt small units and tie up things early allowing other Nid nasties to get where they need to be.
My overall opinion is this:
I love most of the rules I am seeing and really hope that this does lead to a genestealer cult codex (which is hopefully decent at least). It will be good for Tyranids to actually have an ally to use, especially for events which ban come the apocalypse allies. What problem might I have with this release? I personally don't really give a shit about the cults. Not that I don't like the fluff or models (which are gorgeous by the way!), I just want my Nids to have some of these cool and especially fluffy rules. I want turn one charges, frag grenades, cheap gribblies, and access to good BRB powers. I can only hope that this may be an indication of good things to come and hopefully, an internally balanced and at least half decently competitive Tyranid codex is released before anymore genestealer cult stuff comes out. I would much, much rather have that.
"How ironic it is that, as fast as we spread progress and hope throughout the galaxy, the Tyranids spread death and despair." -AUN'SHI OF VIOR'LA