The Dark Fortress

Deathwing: Infantry force

4th Edition

Note: This tactica is now old and needs an update. Many facts will not be correct for current game. However the general gist is pitched right.

A great insight into running with an all infantry Deathwing. Written by: Bloodwraith, a Deathwing commander

So you want to play Deathwing?

Welcomes to the hallowed halls of the Inner Circle my brothers. I shall be your guide Grand Master Daniel in this, your first stage of initiation. This army is not for the faint of heart. Most of the time (unless playing another Deathwing army) you will be outnumbered and possibly outgunned. The Deathwing are a scalpel army, by that I mean they have to be used with precision, you can't afford to make mistakes. If this still sounds like the army for you then please read on and learn the secrets of using the all Infantry Deathwing army effectively.

Playing an infantry Deathwing army

First of all I'd just like to clarify that I always use infantry so none of this will have anything to do with vehicles. Now you're probably wondering why I love the Deathwing infantry army. I find the all infantry DW army is a very scary prospect for any opponent, in the hands of a good player the DW can be indestructible. There is nothing funnier then the look on my opponents face when I deploy 26 Terminators at 1500pts split into four squads of five and one of six due to my HQ joining them. Since the new assault cannon rules came out I now run my list six assault cannons and four cyclones. Having so many Terminators on the board is a psychological advantage, because any opponent who has never faced Deathwing won't have a clue how to beat them.

The basics

In this section I am going to cover the basics of the Deathwing infantry List. So lets jump right in shall we? There are two areas you need to concentrate on. The first is your all-impotant HQ.


Now these days a lot of players are going for the high-powered librarians. Personally I think the point expenditure is ridiculous in an already expensive army. Personally I always take a Grand Master (or GM for short) with a lightning claw and storm bolter, firstly because I love how he looks and secondly because it's a powerful combination. A GM has BS of 5 so you don't want to waste it. One of the secrets to playing Deathwing of any type is flexibility. I'll get to that later. I find a storm bolter to be the best option for the Grandmaster as it augments the squad's fire, the squad that he joins. It also give him two shots whilst moving and is a very effective weapon. The reason I give my GM a single lightning claw as opposed to the Sword of Secrets or twin lightning claws is this. The Sword of Secrets is a powerful weapon, no question a Str6 power sword, who wouldn't love that? The problem is I find it expensive and ineffective for the points expenditure (that's just my opinion.) The reason I don't give the GM twin lightning claws is simple also, I have learned the hard way that if you waste your options with Deathwing it generally leads to you dying. So whilst twin lightning claws are excellent, it wastes the option of the GM being able to shoot (however if I were to take a Landraider Crusader and a squad of assault termis I'd definitely give him twin lightning claws.)

The other HQ option, one that I am considering but have not yet tried (I love my GM too much) is the Interrogator-Chaplain. I like him because he is slightly cheaper then the GM, he comes equipped with a power weapon (the crozius arcanum, his badge of office) and he is still as good as the GM. In some ways better due to him having a 4+ invulnerable save and a 2+ save (from his Terminator armour.) The simple reason I would choose him over a GM is because of the invulnerable save and the fact that the model rocks. All you have to do is equip him with a storm bolter and he is good to go. Which brings me onto the backbone of the Infantry Deathwing army.


Ah, the humble terminator, the most elevated and decorated marines in the DA army and indeed any army. Terminators rock! Deathwing terminators are even cooler, but then I am biased. Ok there are two types of terminators. First of all I'll cover the only type terminators I've ever used.

The Tactical Terminator

Tactical Terminators are the ones with the guns. Their standard kit is a storm bolter and power fist.

I'm so very impressed with my Deathwing now, people complain about them taking a hit but I couldn't see it as further from the truth. I see other armies as the ones taking the hit. New rapid-fire rules, ok the enemy can move and shoot twice up to 12" but now the Deathwing have a range advantage over those enemies with rapid-fire weapons, due to the humble storm bolter. The storm bolter is 24" range has the stats of a bolter but is Assault 2. Tactical Terminators can move and still fire further then most units in the game equipped with standard weapons.

Then we come to the humble power fist. These things are both a blessing and a curse, striking at Str8 and ignoring saves is awesome no question. However they also strike last, which can be really frustrating, which is why I prefer to shoot then combat, but we'll get to that later.

Ok so by now I'm hoping you're a little bit excited. Well prepare to get a lot excited. Tactical Terminators have access to two very nice heavy weapons. The assault cannon and the cyclone missile launcher. At the start of this little tactica I outlined my list and I told you I take 6 assault cannons and 4 cyclones. The reason for this is the assault cannon is extremely good at mowing down just about anything at Str6 and firing as far as a storm bolter but being heavy 4 it's far superior. Then add to this the new rending rules you have one deadly weapon, best of all Tactical Terminators have access to two of these puppies. I take six of these so that I have a lot of powerful medium range firepower to augment my storm bolters, so I can mow down lots of infantry (when you play against tyranids a lot, you definitely need it.)

Now onto the cyclone, you're probably wondering why if an assault cannon is so cool, why would take cyclones? Well first of all let me explain what the cyclone is. The cyclone is basically your standard missile launcher but looks cooler. The reason I take 4? Simply because with all that short range firepower we need some ranged firepower to kill tanks and devastator squads so we don't get nuked crossing the board. I'm thinking of going with an even mix of cyclones to assault cannons. The cyclone is good because it not only kraks armour, but it can frag infantry too. With the benefits of the new skills the cyclone can become even more deadly with the tank hunter ability.

Oh and I almost forgot the coolest thing of all, you're Terminators can move and shoot their heavy weapons, effectively giving you 6" more range on your weapons.

The second type of Terminator is:

The Assault Terminator

I've never bothered with these guys. The reason I haven't is because they really don't work well in a force that is designed to blow the enemy apart with mid-ranged firepower. They also don't work well without that all important Land Raider Crusader to transport them. My opponents are so scared of them, if I did use them it would not only weaken the overall effectiveness of my army. However, they would get blown off the board before they could achieve anything, so my advice is don't bother with them if you're playing an all infantry army. Although just for you I will cover them anyway.

There is nothing as scary as an assault termi (well maybe I exaggerate, but it's my tactica so I can.) An assault terminator comes equipped standard with a pair of lightning claws, the deadliest melee weapon in the Deathwing army or any marine army. Twin lightning claws confer +1 attacks and allow you to re-roll wounds! Pretty crazy huh? The other option is a thunderhammer and stormshield, which is also a fantastic option. Thunderhammer is much like a power fist however if it hits and wounds a multi-wound character or creature and doesn't kill them, then they strike at I1 for their next combat phase. Also in anything less then 2000pts assault terminators are a luxury at best and an ineffective point sink at worst.

One last thing to add to this section before I move on is never bother giving your squad sergeants anything other then what they come with standard as you don't want to put too much expensive gear on a one wound model.

Another unit which I don't use very often, although I might have to start using more is:


Ok honestly, put your hand up if you don't like the idea of an armoured, walking behemoth, bristling with weaponry and able to kick the tar out of just about anything. That's what I thought, honestly guys and gals Dreadnoughts rock. Don't just take my word for it lets have a closer look at just why a Dreadnought is so cool.

Until the recent addition of being able to take the skill tankhunter, Dreads were the anti-armour of the Deathwing. The weapons loadout on the dreadnought is awesome, having trouble with armour or big critters? Not a problem, you can take a twin-linked lascannon to really put a crimp in their day. Twin-linked lascannons are the most powerful weapon in the Deathwing arsenal. Want a weapon that will tear through infantry and armour alike then the weapon for you is the new and improved assault cannon, this puppy will carve through just about anything. If you want to get up close and personal then the multimelta is an excellent option, however it is short ranged and only fires once, although that one shot can reduce a tank to a smouldering wreck. If you want a dedicated transport killer then look no further then twin-linked autocannon which will tear light vehicles apart from range. The twin-linked heavy bolters have become redundant now that the assault cannon rocks so hard, fires more often, stronger and rending, I know which I'll be taking. The plasma cannon is excellent but I'm not sure how much longer dreads will have them so I won't cover it at this point in time.

The weaponry loadout doesn't stop there. You can choose to replace the dccw with a missile launcher, I personally wouldn't do it because winning with Deathwing is all about force multipliers and flexibility. My Dreads are designed to do something in every phase. You can also have a storm bolter or heavy flamer. The standard loadout on my Dread is generally twin-linked lascannon, Dreadnought close combat weapon and a heavy flamer. This way it can kill armour at range, make a mess at close range and slaughter enemies in combat.

Now before you all rush out and buy Dreadnoughts I feel I have to caution you. Whilst these armoured behemoths are deadly they are fragile. One lucky shot can leave your dreadnought as a smoking wreck. Every man and his dog uses power fists in combat these days and they tear through Dreadnoughts like a hot knife through butter. They are excellent if used properly.

The last thing about Dreadnoughts and why they rock is sweeping advance. They are the only unit in the Deathwing army that can. The best way to support the Terminators is this:

You use your Dreads to support your Terminators. You combine charges between the Dreads and Terminators, if you wipe them out in the first turn of combat the dreads can sweeping advance. This allows them to block firing lanes and reprisal to your vunerable Terminators, this also leaves your Terminators free to cause havoc whilst the dreads hold upthe enemy in combat. Note: this is a theory and has not yet been tested.


My general tactics with my Deathwing are simple. First of all:


The most important part of the game really, sometimes I have been able to tell who was going to win by their deployment alone. Deployment will always vary but my general way of deploying is to either spread my squads or as much as possible across my deployment zone with a cyclone squad on each flank. Then I spread the other units out between the two flanking units, creating an effective net of support as I advance. The other way I deploy is what I call the weighted flank. I deploy three squads on one flank and 2 on the other to effectively split my opponents army to come after me. By splitting the opponents army and making them go after two flanks instead of one line, I don't face anywhere near as much firepower. It also wrong foots the opponents you face, because most people (new players) deploy in a standard line formation (i.e. units strung across the board) and sit and wait. It comes as a shock when agressively played Terminators are advancing, firing and making tactical withdrawals just to do the same thing next turn. Truth be told, most people have no idea how to handle a well played DW force.

I see each of my units as an independent, what I mean by that is they can work very effectively on their own. They have a phenomenal capacity for firepower what with assault cannons, cyclones and storm bolters. They have the best range in the game with the storm bolter, the assault cannon is plain nasty and devastating if you pick your targets properly. The cyclone is great, better with Tankhunter so you don't require a 6 to crack Land Raiders though. All of this means squat however if you don't deploy well.

The next tactic I'm going to look at and explore is:

Tactical Withdrawal

My opponents have started calling me a coward because I refuse to engage. I will move my Terminators forward to get juicy shots but when they gets into range to assault me in the next turn i fall back and shoot the hell out of him. I recently had a game against a pure world eaters army, my opponent was so frustrated with me refusing to engage that he made mistakes, lots of them. When I finally did engage he started swearing at me. I took it all calmly and said, I have 26 models on the table you have 50+ with chainaxes and you expect me to charge you? See my point? that would have been suicide. I think this style of shoot and disengage will be very popular soon when people see how effective it can be. It's also extremely affective against hordes (which when playing DW is every army.) Now don't get me wrong, you don't always have to use the tactical withdrawal, but if you don't utilise this technique you will lose more guys then you would have using it. You also won't do as much damage. Cause lets face it, tactical Terminators were not designed for combat.

The one game I played by his rules and engaged I still managed to flatten him, although I did lose a hell of a lot of my terminators to those chain axes.

Ok now for some little tips and tidbits of tactical advice.

Tactical Advice (or all those little things you need to know)

Soften up the enemy before charging

I don't care if they are Guardians or if they are Genestealers (although if you charge 'Stealers you're stuffed no matter how soft they are.) However if you are planning to charge with your Terminators, then don't soften your enemy up too much or you might wipe them out in the first round of combat, which is very bad. A good friend of mine even suggests holding back some weapon fire if you know that you will do too much damage

Remember also that whilst shooting and disengaging is effective you still need to enter combat every now and then. Whether its to hold a unit in place, block a LOS or just stop them from being targeted by shooting, you will need to engage. Against something like a dreadnought or a carnifex or something like that i would engage it as power fists would make short work of them.

Remember Terminators are not indestructible

You have no room for error due to the fact that the army is so small and losing one terminator weakens your whole army not just the unit. That 2+ save is all well and good until someone points an AP2 weapon at you and then you can kiss your Terminator goodbye. That 5+ inv sv is not really that effective either and I wouldn't rely on it unless you've got the dice gods blessing.

Use cover

Terminators need to use cover even more so then other armies. On an open field or in the open you will get shot to pieces, especially with small arms fire like bolters and whatever (although I'd question you tactically if you were in range to be hit by bolters.) Use cover as much as possible, wherever possible.

Another thing, hordes should no longer be a problem what with assault cannons and frag cyclones. Hordes are full of light armoured infantry with a few big guys to back them up. The little guys will die in droves verse your storm bolters and assault cannons and if you keep falling back and shooting you can easily eat hordes for breakfast.

Use the right weapons for the job

This one is one that I see alot of new players not doing. I see them using krak cyclones verse Gaunts whilst a Carnifex lumbers along unscathed. Always use the right weapon for the right job. Even if you think that weapon is overkill. However overkill is never really that necessary.

Targetting Priority

Before the game starts but after deployment decide your targeting priority and stick to it. Heavy weapons are my first priority against Marine armies and such. Anything with a heavy weapon, specifically Devestators and armoured vehicles. Then I go after any fast units, because they are the ones who are going to threaten me the most (after playing against Angels of Death with five Assault squads I fear them.) Then you can clean up anything left.

Against hordes like Tyranids you need to take out the Hormagaunts first as they are the fastest thing in the army (assuming non mutable) then you need to kill the Genestealers(never let these things in combat EVER!) then Termagants and the big guys.

Against Orks I take out the vehicles first especially the fast vehicles like Trukks, Trakks and Bikes. Then I hit the heavy hitters like Kans and Dreads. Then I deal with the guys on foot.

Don't ask me how to beat Tau, they are my biggest conundrum at the moment, with high strength weapons, great flexibility and mobility and long range it makes the hard to beat.

Don't forget that all this is all well and good but sometimes the targetting priority has to change. For example I'm not going to shoot the hormagaunts if there are genestealers able to charge me next turn etc.

Deep strike is not always your friend

Deep strike is always an interesting topic I've seen DW players suggest to other players when you're facing Tau drop pods and deep striking in their faces is the way to go. I have to refute that, after losing four units in one turn from deepnstriking and getting shot to bits it's just not worth it. Deep striking against nids whether in front of the army or behind it is suicide.

I'd really strongly advise against Drop Pods or deep strike but thats just me. Last point of all is never underestimate your Terminators. Use them well and you can defeat any army from hordes to heavy armour.


Well I hope my long rambling diatribe has given you some idea of what it's like to use an all-infantry Deathwing force and I hope some of you who read this will join the hallowed ranks of the DW.

Until the sword is reforged and the Great Lion returns!



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