Review – The Jericho Reach (Deathwatch RPG)

The Jericho Reach is a larger-than-usual-sized supplement for Fantasy Flight Games’ Deathwatch RPG, clocking in at 237 pages for $50. Like all of FFG’s Warhammer 40K books, it is a full-color hardcover.

The really fast judgment? A good read for 80% of the book, for actual gameplay The Jericho Reach would be a handy pickup for a GM running a campaign in the Reach or one focused on fighting Chaos, the Tau, or the Tyranids – but not one of much use for players.

The Basics

Jericho Reach (the default campaign location for Deathwatch) covers the three fronts of the Achilus Crusade, with an emphasis on the primary foe in each of those three fronts – Chaos, Tau, and the Tyranids. Each chapter gives an overview of the front, details a handful of worlds, gives a write-up of select NPCs, provides mechanics specific to that front, and gives some ideas for running a campaign on that front, including sample missions.

The mechanics in each section includes demeanours, solo modes, squad modes, oaths, and assets to requisition. As to the demeanours, they seem relatively pointless – I don’t need a pseudo-mechanical identifier to tell me that my character might be bitter after years of fighting against the forces of Chaos (or whatever). As for the modes/oaths, all of them require a character to have served at least a couple of missions on the front (RAW, anyway), and most are useful only against the specific foe that predominates on that front. The imperial assets are also (as written) only available to characters operating on that front. As you can probably tell, there isn’t any particular reason to stick to these restrictions, especially for the assets (the modes and oaths probably won’t be of much interest to players anyway, unless they’re going to be in an environment like one of the fronts where they face the same kind of enemy over and over again).

This is the second Deathwatch supplement to cover the Achilus Crusade (The Achilus Assault was the first). I haven’t read that supplement, so I can’t say how much overlap there is or isn’t between the two, but I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything in reading The Jericho Reach, so I don’t think that owning The Achilus Assault is necessary for getting full value out of The Jericho Reach. There is some material, however, that references back to Mark of the Xenos – you don’t need it, but you might be missing out on a couple of corner things.

As usual for the WH40K RPG lines, Jericho Reach has good art, good layout, decent-to-good editing, and the construction of the book seems top-notch.

Contents

The Nightmare Salient (~50 pages) – The first chapter of Jericho Reach tackles the “middle” of the three fronts, the Acheros Salient, where Imperial forces are bogged down the forces of Chaos in the Cellebos Warzone, trading the same planets back and forth, with perpetual combat across and around the world of Khazant. The themes for Acheros Salient campaigns focus on this grind, including Chaos’s supernatural ability to replenish its forces and to corrupt the forces of the Imperium.

Other worlds described include a heavily protected naval logistics point, a pair of twin worlds (one of which is in a bad way with regards to Chaos infestation), and a Watch Station used to observe the sinister Hadex Anomaly. NPCs include the young commander of the salient, a Dark Angels librarian, and a difficult to please Watch Captain with Rogue Trader connections.

The oaths and modes gives bonuses against demons, Chaos Space Marines, and the mental lure of Chaos (in oneself or others). The handful that are not anti-Chaos specific focus on blasting through armor (to get Chaos Space Marines) or human hordes (to go against Chaos cultists). The Imperial assets available include Grey Knights, Sisters of Battle, and some anti-Chaos/Warp folks.

This chapter also includes aspects of the mass battle rules presented in the Mark of the Xenos supplement, expanding on them with large scale Turning Points to represent a Deathwatch Kill-Team being deployed to maximum leverage to affect the planet-wide battle featured in the Acheros Salient. Given the subject matter, these turning points focus on places of importance to the Ruinous Powers. Finally, there’s some mechanics on how the Hadex Anomaly might affect warp travel.

The Greater Good (~55 pages) – The third chapter looks at the Canis Salient, where the Crusade faces the forces of the technologically advanced Tau, who tend to do awful things like convincing human planets to switch sides by the devious technique of talking to them and offering a more attractive alliance than being perpetual grist for the Imperial war machine. While the other two fronts depict the Crusade run aground on the might of its enemies, the Canis Salient involves a lot of the Imperium shooting itself in the foot, with a supreme commander’s paranoia wreaking havoc behind the lines. Campaigns in the Canis Salient focus on dealing with this paranoia, and the challenges of any enemy who isn’t just trying to eat your face all of the time.

The worlds of the Canis Salient described include the command world for the front (including the high-tech/psyker loaded mega-spy center for the aforementioned paranoid supreme commander), a hive world that is quickly starving as a result of an ill-conceived quarantine of some “rebellious” worlds, an archeotech world lightly contested by the Tau and Imperium, a death world occupied by the Tau, and a Watch Station/intel center. NPCs detailed include the paranoid commander Ebongrave, a Rogue Trader, a diplomat who may actually have to do real diplomacy with some xenos (since a truce with the Tau may be needed to deal with the Tyranids), a Watch Captain who has to “handle” the paranoid Ebongrave, and the mysterious black shield “Brother Vigilant.”

Unlike the other chapters, most of the modes/oaths are usable against non-Tau opponents. They tend to focus on closing the gap (to get into hand-to-hand against the melee-weak Tau), resisting interaction tests (wouldn’t want to be persuaded by a reasonable argument), or otherwise negating the Tau’s technology or primitive allies. Imperial assets to be requisitioned include tech or xenos-specialists.

The Great Devourer (~100 pages) – The third chapter features the onrushing menace of the Tyranid Hive Fleet Dagon that is smashing its way through the previously successful Orpheus Salient. Campaigns on this front will tend to focus the horror of the Great Devourer (duh) and the desperation this entails, both on tactical and strategic levels. Kill-Team missions may focus on targeting unique Tyranids before they can reach the front, or on acquiring information that will lead to the creation of a long-term “silver bullet” that can stop the threat.

Worlds described include the massively fortified fortress world that forms the linchpin of the Orpheus Salient defenses, a hive world with a rare long-term presence of both Tyranids and humanity (thanks to the humans destroying the bio-mass that the Tyranids were counting on to create their second wave), a world with secret sonic technology that may be important for defeating the Tyranids (except that now it’s behind the lines), a shrine planet maintained by the Deathwatch, a random death world, and two different Watch Stations. To me, this had the most interesting worlds of the three, including several that could host repeat visits from a Kill-Team. The NPCs detailed include the feuding triumvirate that manages the war effort (while pretending that the front’s official commander is still alive), a Watch Captain whose a veteran of the Tyranid assault on Ultramar, and an apothecary who hopes to create new bio-weapons against the Tyranids.

The Orpheus Salient modes and oaths are exclusively anti-Tyranid, in a wide variety of ways. The assets are an eclectic mix, including biologists, scouts, and other ground units.

A good chunk of this chapter’s extra length is taken up by a plethora of new Tyranid creatures to throw at the PCs (in addition to those in the core book and Mark of the Xenos). These include a variety of Trygon variants, more flyers (big and small), Biovores, spores, creatures to defend Tyranid harvesting structures, and a number of giant-sized monsters, including the Heirophant Bio-Titan. All told, there are 14 new critters, including the rather unique “What Lies Beneath.”

Fall into Darkness(~25 pages) – The final chapter is the obligatory adventure, which sends the PCs onto a Tyranid-infested world on a long-shot effort. I’ll avoid further description, in case any players are reading this.

Opinions

Most of The Jericho Reach was an enjoyable read. However, the Nightmare Salient chapter (about Chaos) was just dull. I wish I could put some sort of happier face on it, but those 50 pages just draaaaaaaagged. The rest, however, was, as I said, a fun read.

Beyond just reading material, The Jericho Reach is clearly a gamemaster-focused supplement, presenting ideas on how to run a campaign in The Jericho Reach, or a custom-campaign that focuses on one of these similar foes. The most significant mechanical contribution is probably the additional Tyranid opponents.

As you could probably tell from the descriptions above, the mechanics presented are pretty focused on the particular enemies in question – if players aren’t going to be running into the Tau/Chaos/Tyranids repeatedly, they might not have much (if any) interest in the mechanics in The Jericho Reach. And if they do, it would probably suffice to have the GM just pass the book around to check it out – this isn’t one that everyone needs to own.

Like I said at the top, seems to me a good read for 80% of the book, and for actual gameplay The Jericho Reach would be a handy pickup for a GM running a campaign in the Reach or one focused on fighting Chaos, the Tau, or the Tyranids – but not one of much use for players.

Leave a Reply