A Look At The Crunch Of Deathwatch
February 13, 2014

A Look At The Fluff Of Deathwatch

Rarely has it ever been the fluff of a game that turns me away from it. Usually, what I do not like about a game can be found in its mechanics, its crunch. Not so in this case. With Deathwatch, what I really did not care for was the fluff of the game, the setting, and the ideals it seemed to force upon the characters. Now, just to be clear, Deathwatch is not a bad game. It can be a lot of fun, and the one campaign I was a part of was a lot of fun, but that was due more to the players I gamed with and the dedication of the Gamemaster, not the game itself. So not a bad game, just one that I did not overly enjoy.

Where to begin?

No, I know exactly where to begin. Found within the Deathwatch core rulebook is a side-bar explaining why you cannot play women in the game. A strange thing to point out, especially for people who are not as knowledgeable about the cannon of Deathwatch, but to me this felt like a slap in the face. It should not have, and was not intended to do that, but telling someone what they cannot play is a good way to make them want to play just that. It was not like someone wanting to play a robot pilot in Bunnies and Burrows or a Jedi Knight in A Song of Ice and Fire. Women exist in the setting of Warhammer 40K, and yet the fluff of the game says that they cannot be members of the Deathwatch. To me, this felt incredibly limiting as I know players who always play female characters – namely women – and as a Gamemaster I had to wonder just how this game would appeal to them

Then there is the aesthetic of the game itself, which is a source of pride for all fans of Warhammer. The game has a certain look to it that many people find “cool,” but I do not. To me, the art/look of Warhammer 40K is dark and gritty for the sake of being dark and gritty. Everything is oversized and epic looking, but so much so that I think it comes off as a tad ridiculous. There are skulls everywhere. I have counted more than eleven skulls – both design and actual – on a single suit of armor on one the Space Marines. Then there are the over-the-top weapons, starting with the most famous “chainsaw-swords.” Everything about them looks like something a 10-year old would think is cool, dark, and epic. A lot of players find that sort of thing appealing, and I can understand that, but I do not. There was so much “epic” that it took me out of the game. Nothing felt real or relatable. I mean, it is really hard to imagine a member of the Deathwatch just sitting down, enjoying a good book or having dinner out with friends. It just feels so testosterone overcharged that I swear every single person in that world should have keeled over from heart failure years ago. Everything is war!

Finally, there is the pseudo-religious notions of the game that just come off as completely unbelievable and even silly. The worship of their Emperor as a god-like figure and the absolute devotion to the cause of whatever it is they are doing – I never really understood what their goals were – came off way too zealous for me to accept. Playing a zealous character is one thing. Being expected to be that zealous as a default is something else. Even their mannerisms and speech, which come off incredibly flowery, especially when coming out of the mouths of these 12-foot walking death-machine people was distracting. It feels like your characters are trying to recite Shakespeare while cosplaying a Jaeger from Pacific Rim during a boffer LARP.

… Actually, that sounds like a lot of fun.

So all-in-all, not really my kind of game.

As always, I want to thank you all for reading and wish you all good gaming.

Image Credit: Fantasy Flight Games

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