Overwatch In DZ

First principles: if all else is equal, simple is better.

The discussion around Overwatch has been both interesting and frustrating to watch at the same time. After reading many comments I ended up more confused than when I’d started, and so I decided to take a step back and return to first principles. It felt like we were getting into ever murkier waters, with all sorts of convoluted situations and logical loops.

Don’t get me wrong: this is my fault. You guys are just trying to understand it, and it’s not clear enough. So, how to make it clearer?

Well, I always start with what’s printed. Once a game is live then what is written and current should be changed as little as possible. That’s my view. It’s fine to clarify what’s not clear, or correct typos and whatnot if they can’t be resolved without change. However, in this case there is a perfectly reasonable way to play Overwatch from what is written in the rules. All you have to do is ignore a confusing comment I wrote in the FAQ. That’s fine. When I post the new FAQ it will be gone.

So, to go back to the rules as they stand in the book, do we need to make any changes? At the moment, I think I need to add a note that you cannot have more than one Overwatch counter on a model at once. This question comes up with the Sentry ability. There is also one phrase that needs to be explained a bit, or perhaps rephrased (see below).

With that in mind, using just what’s written in the rules, how does Overwatch work?

Let’s say I have a model called Bob in my Strike Team. When it comes to my Turn I could activate Bob to Move, Shoot, and so on as normal. Instead, I decide to put him on Overwatch. The Overwatch rules (p31) say I place an Overwatch counter by the model as a reminder. The Turn sequence (p21) also states that I mark him with an activated marker as he has chosen an action (nothing in the rules says I should treat him differently from other models in this regard). The activated marker means that he cannot have another action allocated to him, while the Overwatch counter means that resolving this chosen action has been deferred. So far, so good.

If Bob uses his Overwatch to react to an enemy action then resolve it as per the normal rules. People seem to be pretty clear on how this works. I’ll deal with the odd wrinkle (mostly sentry guns and Indirect fire) in the FAQ proper.

If Bob gets to the end of the Round without using his Overwatch then this counter will remain in place. However, like all other activated counters, Bob’s will be removed at the end of the Round. Again, this is what is written in the rulebook as it stands.

So, Bob could potentially start a new Round with an Overwatch counter already beside him. (This is the situation a model with Sentry starts every Round in.) What does that mean? It means that Bob is still on Overwatch and can react to enemy actions as described in those rules. However, he has not got an activated counter and so he could be given a different action in any of my subsequent Turns¹. Following on from this, if he does react and loses his Overwatch counter then he will still not have been activated this Round. His Overwatch was last Round’s action deferred. So he can be given a new action, which could be Overwatch again.

I think this is both clear and resolves most of the questions posed. Apologies for the confusion.




1: This is the meaning of the phrase at the bottom of the left hand column on page 31. This new action is likely to be in a subsequent Round, but need not be. It must, however, always be in a subsequent Turn. This means that there is always a least a small gap in the Overwatch coverage of a single model for an opponent to exploit.

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38 Responses to Overwatch In DZ

  1. Mike Earley says:

    Jake, I’m being a bit dense here, let me ask some clarifications on this:
    () Turn 1, Round 1, I put my forge guard on overwatch. That’s his activation for the round. At end of round I remove his activation, but he stays on overwatch.
    () Turn 1, Round 2, I have initiative. I activate my FG that is on overwatch, and move him. Does he lose overwatch at this point? If I shoot with him, does he lose it? If I get mean, does he lose it?
    () Turn 1, Round 2 alternate option. He has an overwatch, and I declare he’s on overwatch again. Does he subsequently have 2 deferred actions? Or does the 2nd overwatch token ‘replace’ the first?

    • crimsonsun says:

      Once he activates its lost and not regained until it goes back on overwatch, but the overwatch counter is not lost until it activates again. Its really simple if you put someone on overwatch make sure you use the counter before you activate them again! The rule allows you to cover into the following round, ideally in this example you want to put him on over watch during your first activation and then unless he uses the overwatch activate him in the last activation sequence of the next round thus essentially providing cover for the longest period.

      If its easier think about it as the fighter delaying its turn, but if its turn comes round again its delayed action is lost. simple. 😀

    • Quirkworthy says:

      @Mike – as it says in the Overwatch rules, you keep the Overwatch marker (and therefore the status) “until their Overwatch test tells you to remove it, they are Injured, Pinned or Suppressed, or they choose a new action…“.

      Overwatch therefore never stacks with anything (even itself, as choosing to Overwatch again is still choosing a new action). If you have an Overwatch marker and choose to do any action then by the above quoted rule you immediately lose the Overwatch marker.

  2. Bookawar says:

    Jake, related question (that should really go in the FAQ, but, hey, you brought this up). Let’s say Bob is an Enforcer sniper on Overwatch playing against, say, Rebs. A Teraton is sitting in Bob’s LOS, but hasn’t activated. A human runs past, letting Bob roll for an Overwatch test. Bob passes. Can I choose to have Bob shoot the teraton instead of the human? I can’t find anything in the rules that say I can’t. (This came up in game because the human started out of the Sniper’s LOS, and the sniper’s roll required him to take the shoot action before the human moved, with the teraton being the only target).

    • Quirkworthy says:

      No. You are reacting against the active model. Of course, if your shot happened to have a frag effect then there might be collateral damage. Same with BA. But you are still reacting to the active model.

    • crimsonsun says:

      Also the rules do clearly specify this, in the description of the over Watch reaction test, it states your action to take place around the targets action, which cannot be someone other than the active model because that is the only model acting.

      • Quirkworthy says:

        To be fair to Bookawar, I can see how he’d get to this. It’s an easy thing to imagine you could do, and in certain circumstances I can see the temptation. It’s just cleaner if Overwatch is focussed on the triggering model.

        • crimsonsun says:

          This question was actually asked on the Mantic forums and I answered it this morning by saying the RAW is no because of the wording but I could easily see it being utilised (and would have no problem with that) in the other way as a house rule for a campaign due to possibly being the intention but due to lacking omnipotence I could not possibly comment on rules as intended and only on rules as written.

        • Bookawar says:

          What about plague dogs, then? Let’s say we have a plague dog Spike. A Marauder Commando moves, triggering spike, and spike sprints towards the commando, but the commando is three cubes away. Spike ends his turn in a cube adjacent to the commando. If that cube happens to have another commando sitting in it, Spike gets to fight, right? It just seems like Overwatch favors certain types of units more than others, and not the units you’d expect.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Put yourself in the models’ positions.

          Spike spots a tasty snack moving about. He charges off in pursuit. If he walks into another enemy en route then he has no choice but to try and eat it because he cannot move past to his original target without doing so.

          On the other hand, you’re a sniper. You spot a target and track it as it moves. Even if you track past another potential target you’re focussed on the one you’re actually tracking. That’s the one you’re calculating range data for; working out that specific shot. If the target then disappears out of sight before you actually take the shot then you can’t rewind time and take a different shot at a different target instead. Nor does it make sense to me that I see enemy A moving and then snipe model B as my most obvious reaction.

          So yes, it will effect different responses in different ways because those responses interact with the battlefield and with the enemy in different ways.

    • crimsonsun says:

      I am going to have to provide a opinion upon this though you may not agree. Yes they get to fight but no the rules do not favour Spike (in that instance) because not only can that marauder hit spike but spike has no way of engaging at range which is HUGE! To say one is unfair due to combat against range in that sense is something I feel you could argue until the cows come home!
      Now while rules as written state that what you say in the above is the correct outcome you could easily introduce a rule regarding visibility to stop the engagement into squares to intentionally trigger a different fight. I will also point out your example is rather more a theoretical case than something that will crop up often, because why are you putting spike on overwatch when it could charge Marauder B during its activation instead? By placing him on overwatch you only bring out the possibility that your target can actually escape instead…

      • Quirkworthy says:

        Depending on the missions involved and the terrain layout and the relative model positions, it may well be a good idea to put Spike on Overwatch to defend an approach rather than chuck him at the enemy in an offensive move. If the situation changes then you can retask him later. Overwatch puts a model’s action on hold, but it doesn’t predefine what that action may be. It’s entirely acceptable to think you’ll do one thing and end up doing something else. That’s part of it’s strength.

      • Bookawar says:

        Just to be clear, I don’t think it’s unfair that the plague dog can attack while the Sniper can’t. I was merely pointing out that their are loopholes in the rules, where some units can still use their action and not waste their activation on overwatch, while others can’t.

        In the case of the sniper, if the model that causes the activation (in the game where this came up, the human) moved into a cube where he could no longer be seen, and the sniper rolls low, forcing him to take his action after the target model, the sniper can’t do jack. In the same instance, the plague dog can still move. Overwatch, in that instance, favors the 3 pnt plague dog over the 13 pnt sniper, since they have equal chances of rolling poorly on the Overwatch check, but the plague dog can still do something if that happens. The gamble for the sniper is larger, and not really worth it, while, on the face, it seems like it would be better to put a sniper on overwatch than a plague dog.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I don’t think it’s a loophole, it’s simply a difference in usefulness of the thing. Using pooches as watchdogs is just a different term for overmatching. The sniper, though perhaps less likely to be effective, can have an effect at a far larger distance, can do so for many more Rounds, and probably has a higher kill rate when he does have an effect. I think this balances out. They are different, not broken. If you choose not to overwatch with your sniper then I, for one, would be quite happy as your opponent.

  3. PikaRapH says:

    All this clears a thing up : triggering a model on Overwatch doesn’t make it Activated, great news for the Sentry models !!

    • Quirkworthy says:

      That’s right, using overwatch doesn’t activate a model, but a model will already be activated if it is in the same Round it set Overwatch.

      • Smud says:

        Unless it has the Sentry ability. Thats my personal problem with this rule…

        For example the asterian drone with sentry: it starts every round in overwatch, has a good chance to stay in overwatch after triggering it and at the end of each round it can still get activated to make additional shoot actions.
        So this single model has at least 2 shooting attacks (possibly more) every round. I know, the survive stat of this model isn’t great, but who cares if you can shoot before the opponent could.

        • crimsonsun says:

          From the instant I saw Sentry I felt it was one of the most dangerous abilities in the game. Personally I feel its too strong but I am not sure on what an appropriate nerf would be for it, that is very simple though I feel its fine on sentry guns, it just becomes unbalanced when you have 4 infiltrating pathfinders and a pair of enforcer snipers with it… Game over… LOL

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Yup. Sentry is good, as it is supposed to be. It’s also only on a handful of specialised models.

          A model with Sentry gets, on average, slightly under a double result on their Overwatch test. They need to triple to keep the counter. They also have a chance of getting nothing as well as getting several shots.

          Remember too, that in order for these relatively frail drones to be in a position for them to make use of their Overwatch ability they must be exposed to enemy action. I think a shooty Strider with sentry is scary. A drone, not so much.

        • Smud says:

          I can tell, that this drone with sentry is indeed very dangerous ;).
          Only without exploding dice it stays under double result, with its slightly over, but thats only simplified theory of probability (the complexer i learned to long ago)…

          Yes the drone have to be exposed, but not to the whole army, one to three models are enough to get a significant effect. Rember it has frag and with such the abilitie to kill mor than one model with a shoot or at least to pin them. By the way when the model gets pinned before it can do it’s annoucend action, does it loose the action or can you change it into get mean?

          In campaign it is possible to get the strider with sentry, or any other model. It has to be at rank 5 I know, but even so it feels overpowered.

        • Smud says:

          As a possible change to the rule:
          A model with sentry has the opportunity to get an overwatch counter at the start of each round, but in addition it also gets an activated counter.
          This way the rule wouldn’t feel so overpowered…
          Just my 2 cents… 😉

        • PikaRapH says:

          @Smud : good question : is a model pinned before it can complete its action able to change it to Get Mean ?

  4. Luke says:

    This is how I understood overwatch to work. What were the main issues/confusions people were having with it?

    • PikaRapH says:

      – Things about flipping the Overwath token after triggering it to mark the model as activated
      – what would happen to the Overwatch token at the end of the round
      – what would happen to a model that has Sentry and is placed on Overwatch withits Overwatch token from Sentry still in place

      • mastertugunegb says:

        Some of that had to come from the fact the core set had their Overwatch and Activation symbols on reverse sides of the same cardboard token, which, I think the rules in the core book seemed to build upon. This was made even more confusing for those who use the acrylic tokens instead of the cardboard double sided tokens.

      • Torkel says:

        Add to that the descriptions under Command (Action) in the rulebook that says something similar to “you can activate a friendly model that is marked as Activated or on Overwatch”. This, along with the token-flipping descriptions, is suggesting a strong link between the states of Activated and Overwatch. I’ve been trying to make up my mind if they are mutually exclusive or if Overwatch in essence means “Activated + Overwatch”.

        Since it has been cleared up that they are actually completely independent, the wording on Command should definitely be cleared up. I don’t remember where the confusing text on tokens was, but if it is in the rulebook, it should be changed as well.

  5. Greg Kourik says:

    So how about Glue Grenades effecting Overwatch models? As written no effect beyond giving an Activated token (if they don’t already have one)

    • mastertugunegb says:

      Of course if the Overwatcher can react to the person throwing the glue grenade… It may not even get to affect the Overwatcher. Interesting idea having Glue Grenades affect Overwatch markers as well.

    • MrPyro says:

      And also the various distraction cards/command actions as well; do these cancel existing Overwatch?

      • PikaRapH says:

        It has ben answered in the FAQ previously (page 5 now) : if you distract an opponent mdel he loses his Overwatch token If you give an action to one of your models, he keeps his Overwatch token.

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  7. Minitrol says:

    I thought I understood Overwatch and thought it was quite a simple rule but now I am actually confused. Is this a case of something really simple being made overly complex?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Overwatch is simple. The only fiddly bits appear when it combines with other rules such as command actions, and that’s more to do with command actions breaking the normal turn structure than how overwatch works.

  8. As to targeting a model not activated you could have some kind of skill like *Opportunistic*; If the Opportunistic model does not use his Overwatch shot before his next activation, he may take a *Target Of Opportunity* shot against a model that is in LOS. After the ToO shot, remove the OW marker & activate the model asnormal.

    Maybe with a pently to the roll. This would prevent potential *sniper targets* from camping, not moving at all to avoid an Overwatch model. Leave it only for Snipers & as a veteran skill upgrade& so forth, so as to not be too abused.

    It seems thematic that even if the target doesn’t move (activate) it’s still looking about, popping it’s head up to see what’s goin on & such like. The *Opportunistic Sniper* will not be deterred by the lack of the model activating & will at least take a pot shot (albeit aimed & from a trained Sniper). This could also lead to thematic *Sniper duels* & anti-Sniper tactics (from veteran skill upgrades/new cards/whatever).

  9. I’m an old WH40k 2nd edition player & we used this rule for all overwatching models.

    & for those confused by the volume of debate here, go back to what Quickworthy wrote in the article, not all the back & forth, *confusing the issue* stuff in the comments. Then add in just the *points of clarification* from Quickworthy only. It’s all there.

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