"Alone, you are great warriors, exemplars of your Chapter. Together, you are a Kill-team, and you are unstoppable."
A Kill-team is the standard operating unit composed of an elite squad of experienced xenos-fighters consisting of no fewer than 5 Space Marines that have been seconded to the Deathwatch, the Chamber Militant of the Ordo Xenos of the Inquisition.
The Ties that Bind
Each Kill-team is selected with the utmost care. The archives of the Deathwatch detail every member's history, the oaths he has sworn, his areas of expertise, the alien races he has engaged and any quirks or flaws he may have. The team's leader will delve long into these records before each mission, for his choices can be the difference between victory and death.
The Battle-Brothers of the Deathwatch are exceptional individuals taken from Chapters across the galaxy. In this diversity and fund of experience lies great strength. Where one member of a Kill-team may not have encountered a specific breed of alien, another will have met that creature in battle and defeated it, or one roughly analogous to it. Once a Kill-team has fought together long enough to share the full extent of this knowledge, it will often be disbanded, its members assembled into different Kill-teams to learn anew. With a gamut of hard-won wisdom much in evidence, the Battle-Brothers of each Kill-team come to rely upon one another's expertise; they have little option, for they may spend many standard years out of contact with their watch fortress. It is common for a veteran sergeant to seek his men's advice as often as the other way around, and in many cases act more as an arbiter than as a traditional commander.
Deathwatch officers will invariably choose the members of their Kill-team in order to draw on as much relevant experience as possible. With different Chapters having long-standing specialisations, it is easy enough to identify who will have the most relevant insights in a given circumstance. In matters of how best to launch a close assault, a Sternguard Veteran of the Imperial Fists will likely yield to the advice of a Vanguard Veteran from the Blood Angels Chapter, whereas in the defence of a bastion complex, it will almost certainly be the other way around. Long-standing rivalries between Chapters do sometimes sour these relationships, at least initially -- headstrong Space Wolves may clash with dour Dark Angels in an echo of their Primarchs' famous rivalry, and a tactician from the Hammers of Dorn may endlessly debate the finer points of the Codex Astartes with his Ultramarines equivalent. Over time, however, these instances of conflict lead to long-standing respect or even firm friendship.
Kill-teams are borne to their allocated war zones by onyx-hulled Strike Cruisers. These magnificent warships operate out of the watch fortresses, using their Warp-engines to ply the cursed tides of the Empyrean in order to reach their target as swiftly as possible. The Navigators that steer them are amongst the best in the Imperium, as are the Astropaths that provide the psychic link back to their base of operations. So it is that the Deathwatch slip through the sea of stars like stilettos cutting through silk -- silent and swift until the time comes to stab at the heart of a xenos empire. It is just as well, for if even a single Deathwatch vessel misses its mark, it could spell disaster -- with that failure, a swathe of Imperial space could be ceded to the alien, never to be recovered.
The Strike Well-Aimed
Over the course of the Imperium's history, the Deathwatch's Kill-teams have worked miraculous feats of arms. They have stymied alien invasions, cleansed infested space-fleets, and even hunted the denizens of hostile planets to extinction. In the process, some necessarily become specialised in the persecution of a particular type of enemy.
Some Kill-teams accomplish such unalloyed success against their chosen foes that their methods are taught in every watch fortress. For example, the methods Squad Veridium used to eradicate the remnants of the Beast's Greenskin armies in the 32nd Millennium are still in widespread use. Codified as Furor tactics, their techniques involved the delivery of explosive firepower across a wide frontage. By concentrating on the tightly-packed throng of Orks at the fore, Squad Veridium aimed each detonation to cause maximum collateral damage, sowing the field with dismembered corpses that slowed those elements behind.
Venator tactics were perfected after fighting the all-female pirates of the Dark Eldar Wych Cult Sybilla. Frustrated by the Eldar's ability to evade the Emperor's vengeance, Jaaghen Khan requisitioned bikes for his combat squad and led his enemies on long running battles where they perfected the art of leading their fire. When the enemy struck back by surrounding them, the Khan brought in the rest of his Kill-team. Equipped with comprehensive data concerning their targets, the Kill-team filled the air with so much firepower that the Khan's nimble foes were torn from the sky. This has proven an invaluable tactic against fast-moving xenos hosts ever since, be they capricious Eldar, Ork Kults of Speed, or even the outriders of a Necron metaphalanx.
It was Kill-team Brontos that first codified Malleus tactics. When breaking the Tyranid war-monstrosities infesting Rakkor IX, Captain Brontos and his men rode to war in a Land Raider whose Godhammer Pattern Lascannons claimed three Carnifex kills en route. Charging into the fray, they used Power Maces to stun the largest of the survivors, and then cracked even the thickest exoskeletons with their heavy Thunder Hammers. Brontos took the same approach to shatter the Dread Mob of Big Mek Dakkahorn, the Wraith Host of Yme-Loc and a boarding party of Daemon Engines led by Warpsmith Gruallex.
Purgatus tactics were developed by Librarian del Athyu, sworn enemy of Craftworld Ulthwé. They involve the concentration of utmost force upon the leaders of the alien hordes. By taking a commanding position on the battlefield under the psychic aegis of their Librarian, and then pouring pinpoint firepower into their quarry, Kill-team del Athyu overloaded their Farseer target's mystical shields and shattered the runebone armour protecting his vital organs. It was then that the killing shot was punched home, leaving the enemy host leaderless whilst the greater conquest began. Since that day, hundreds of alien warlords have been executed with these same tactics, their invasions brought low before they could claim a single world.
The Kill-team is the primary formation of the Deathwatch, serving as the core group that engages the bulk of their hated xenos foes, and to bring about the achievement of the Deathwatch's objectives. Most Battle-Brothers are veterans of a hundred alien wars before being inducted into the Deathwatch, but selection is not made upon length of service alone. In theory, even a Scout Marine who shows exceptional skill at arms against the xenos may be selected to serve, although such an event is extremely rare. In the main, it is those Battle-Brothers who have faced a broad range of alien threats and not only survived, but prevailed, learning and passing on new methods of defeating such foes. A Deathwatch Kill-team consist of no less than 5 Battle-Brothers, but they are no larger than a reinforced squad in size, tasked with carrying out a specific objective, such as the destruction of a particularly dangerous target or strategically important objective.
If a mission requires an unusually large number of Deathwatch Astartes to participate, the Inquisition may assemble several Kill-teams, though such instances are rare because of the elite status and potent combat ability of even a single Deathwatch Kill-team. The term Kill-team can also refer to larger, more ad hoc assemblies of Space Marines drawn from the companies of the standard Space Marine Chapters. These types of Kill-teams often consist of 3-5 squads within a standard Astartes company, or about 30-50 Space Marines. These Kill-teams are lightly armed and are intended to make use of speed and relative stealth to destroy selected, highly important strategic targets. These targets are primarily the enemy's most important command-and-control units, such as an enemy commander and his bodyguard. Additionally, standard Space Marine Chapters also make use of Kill-teams to mop up any remaining enemy troops after the primary combat has ended in an Astartes victory.
- Aquila Kill-team - With the pounding of armoured boots, the blaze of Jump Pack jets, and the roar of finely-tuned engines, the Aquila Kill-team takes to the battlefield. Armed and armoured to handle any eventuality, the team's Battle-Brothers keep in constant communication, evolving their battle plan with each new twist of fate. They assess the strengths and weaknesses of the foe with the penetrating gaze of a hunting eagle, devising the optimum courses of action before swooping in for the kill. These operatives go about their work with such fluidity and skill that they strike in synchrony even when spread across a wide front. So skilled is the Aquila team at taking the measure of unknown foes that they can tear a bloody victory from their enemies in a series of explosive strikes, no matter the nature of the horrors ranged against them.
- Dominatus Kill-team - Should the enemy rely on specialist forces of its own, the Dominatus Kill-team will make their destruction a priority in order to secure dominion over the field. The team's Vanguard warriors roar out of the skies to launch their alpha strike even as the Veteran marksmen that form the rest of their Kill-team pin the enemy in place with disciplined firepower. It is a tactic that has been employed to great effect against the most marshalled xenos armies. Alien marksmen, thinking themselves secure in commanding positions, are swiftly ripped apart by the airborne warriors that dive into their midst, whilst the close assault specialists sent to crush the Imperial army are hammered by heavy firepower. Every sweep of a Chainsword or detonation of a bolt strips away the xenos army's potency until their prized assets lie in tatters.
- Furor Kill-team - The air fills with flesh-chewing explosions as the Furor Kill-team's marksmen open fire. Every bolt and frag charge is selected and aimed to cause maximum damage to lightly-armoured foes. Whole swarms of xenos can be taken down by the storm of bolts and shells the Furor team rains upon its foes as its main assault closes in, and explosive bolts sow anarchy and confusion amongst the ranks. Where the enemy still threatens the Imperial lines through sheer weight of numbers, the team’s close combat specialists will charge in at the last moment. With voices raised in praise to the Primarchs, they dismember the survivors with powered blades, Chainswords and lightning claws. The forward elements of the Furor team drive onwards with each new charge, breaking enemy offensives one after another.
- Malleus Kill-team - The Space Marines of Malleus Kill-team are monster slayers and tank killers. They are fearless heroes who stand unyielding before the towering abominations and deviant war engines of the xenos menace. In order to best perform this role, the Malleus Kill-team makes great use of the heaviest man-portable assault weaponry available. They also look to their own defence -- typically deploying with a number of Battle-Brothers protected by Terminator Armour and Storm Shields, for the enemies they fight can crush even a Space Marine to bloody pulp. The Malleus Kill-teams return the favour, however, for their heavy Thunder Hammers and lethal Power Weapons make a mockery of the thickest chitin and xenoform armour. Their target selected, the Malleus Kill-team attacks with absolute focus and relentless ferocity. Firing pointblank volleys of melta and plasma energy into their victims, the Malleus Battle-Brothers blast and batter at their chosen target until it is reduced to smouldering ruin.
- Purgatus Kill-team - Purgatus Kill-team must be indomitable in heart and mind, for they are sent into battle against the leaders of the alien host. These squads hunt down and slay those dominant creatures that hold xenos forces together, whether through conventional command structures or through psychic means. Aided by heavy covering fire, the Kill-team's Librarian closes with his prey, his Warpcraft concealing his brothers from sight until it is time to strike. When the Purgatus team is in position it will burst from concealment in a storm of Hellfire shells and purifying lightnings, the Librarian engaging his quarry in a fierce war of the mind as his comrades cut down the fell leader's guardians. In a matter of heartbeats the xenos leaders are slain, and the mastermind that holds the enemy force together destroyed.
- Venator Kill-team - A Venator team is assembled when the Deathwatch face a foe too agile or manoeuvrable for a conventional strike force to contain it. Where such a xenos army could run rings around an armoured division or Gladius demi-company, the Venator team turns the enemy assault on its head, its bike-mounted warriors hurtling in wide sweeps to encircle the foe in their turn. When their designated quarry is located, the Bikers share the Auspicator data of their previous forays with the rest of their team. It is then that cold vigilance turns to fiery, red-hot fury. As the bikers finally open fire, the weapon systems borne by the rest of the team’s veterans send salvos blasting in on the coordinates set by their bike-mounted brethren –- no matter how fast their prey, the pinpoint vengeance of these volleys strikes home with killing force.
Optional Deathwatch Tactical Marine Wargear
- Specialised Bolter Ammunition
- Plasma Gun
- Choice of Heavy Weapon, including Heavy Bolter, Multi-Melta, Missile Launcher, Plasma Cannon or Lascannon
- Choice of Close Combat Weapon, including Chainsword, Combi-melta, Combi-flamer or Combi-plasma gun
- Plasma Pistol
- Power Weapon
- Power Fist
- Melta Bomb
- Codex: Deathwatch (7th Edition), pp. 18-19, 91-96
- Codex: Deathwatch (8th Edition), pg. 19
- Deathwatch Core Rulebook (RPG)