Review – The Achilus Assault (Deathwatch RPG)

The Achilus Assault is primarily a setting book for Deathwatch, one of Warhammer 40K Roleplay lines from Fantasy Flight. The Achilus Assault provides background information on the history of the Achilus Assault, as well as a selection of planets and NPCs. There are also a few new mechanical bits thrown in.

The Achilus Assault is a 144-page, full-color hardcover, and retails for about $40 (although since the Deathwatch line is on hiatus, which I presume has something to do with FFG announcing Second Edition 4H40K RPG books, you are pretty likely to be able to get it for substantially less than that). It is also available as a PDF download.

Art/Writing/Graphic Design/Editing

These were all good, as is the standard for the Deathwatch line.

Contents/Fluff

            I combine these two together because, with a small number of mechanical bits listed below, this is a book of setting material. The Achilus Assault is primarily divided into four sections – one for the history of the Crusade, and then one for each of the three Salients. In my RPG reviews I often go into a relatively detailed level on the contents, but I have a hard time here identifying something that’s more detailed than the book’s own Table of Contents, but provides some meaningful information without just summarizing what the flavor bits are.

Overall, the fluff is The Achilus Assault most commonly consists of relatively lengthy sections on the history and politics of the Crusade, including some detailed discussions of important NPCs, or shorter sections (half a page to a page each) concerning particular worlds or events in one of the Salients.

New Mechanics

There are a few new bits of crunch to be found scattered through The Achilus Assault. These includes a couple of new deeds, a new relic, a new combat drone, optional rules for the effect of the Shadow in the Warp cast by the Tyranid hive fleet, stat blocks for five different kinds of Stigmartus ground troops, for two kinds of Tau, for simuloptera (a kind of nano-robot found on the fallen Forge World of Samech), and for four unique enemy NPCs.

Opinions

To my mind, there are three potential audiences for RPG books – GMs, players, and readers (do not be dismissive of the mere reader, for in my experience we gamers buy a lot more RPG books from a lot more RPGs than we could ever really make use of).

Functionally, The Achilus Assault is a GM book, not something that you’d be picking up as a player. In that regard, its value is maximized for the GM who wants to make his or her Deathwatch game as ‘authentic’ as possible, and is also running a campaign that does not heavily hone in on a particular Salient (if you’re running a campaign focused on just one kind of foe, be it Tau or Tyranid or Chaos, then you’re necessarily leaving half of the book behind). In that regard, The Achilus Assault will provide the GM with some handy bits of historic and current politics of the Crusade that could affect how the Crusade proceeds in the campaign and how the PCs interact with other non-Deathwatch Imperial forces running around in the Reach. There are also a few set pieces (one per Salient) that there is some more in-depth information on (and that could possibly be exported elsewhere) – the Mortis Thule ( a space hulk), Kokabiel’s Drop (home of a particular Navigator cult), and the Black Reef (a gravitational anomaly with a secret at its heart). The information on how the Imperium interacts with the Tau, especially on topics such as the possibility of temporary truces while the two sides focus on a seemingly greater threat such as the Tyranids, is probably the most useful background information for a campaign that doesn’t really care about the ‘canon’ Reach or Crusade.

But there are a lot more readers than GMs, so I think that ultimately the question of the value of this book for most gamers will be more a question of its value to the reader. In that regards, I think that the book succeeds for what it is –revelations are provided about the canon meta-plot and goings-on in this part of the WH40K universe, and the writing is solid and keeps things interesting. For the reader, I think there was a good balance struck on the level of detail, avoiding the extremes of providing such detail as to become a chore to read or providing so little detail as to be uninteresting.

Ultimately, while it is not (and was not designed to be) an “every player must own this” sort of offering, I would recommend The Achilus Assault for the two audiences of GMs who want to run a more authentic campaign in the Jericho Reach, or readers who are interested in 40K and enjoy meta-plot information.

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