Wanted to update everyone on my Deathwatch campaign progress. So far we have done 3 sessions. The first two were a split of the extraction mission in the back of the core rules, and now we're doing the Avalos mission from the QuickStart rules PDF, and we just got the the point where we are briefed by Syndalla after fending off the rebels from overwhelming the PDF forces near the chapel where our drop-pod touched down.
So I think that the most important thing is that the players are having fun and our fourth meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday so I guess I'm not messing up too badly considering this is my first stab at GMing. That being said, I definitely feel like I have a lot to improve upon in terms of how I'm handling the rules of the game, and how I'm balancing things for the players in terms of difficulty, which I'm aware is a central struggle of GMing.
I thought I could give you friendly folks a bit of context about the squad and hopefully maybe get some guidance on how to create some more meaningfully challenging encounters for them.
There are two marines in the squad, Aajz (Raven Guard Tactical Marine) and Kaggod (Iron Hands Techmarine). Having the techmarine has created some interesting narratives hooks for the extraction mission given we were retrieving a magos biologis. The Raven Guard player was mainly there as an escort who kept their footprint light so as not to attract the attention of the tyranid forces too overwhelmingly (at least at first).
The main problem I'm having is that it seems like I can't quite find the right approach of how many enemies to throw at them. Hordes seem difficult for a two-man team that doesn't have a devastator, because under the best of circumstances their bolters are only going to throw out 4 hits per attack, and it felt like even with some colorful descriptions fighting them was just an exercise in shooting a semi-auto burst every turn while hormagaunts rushed them. I stuck to mag30 hordes for the most part but I'm not sure that was the right call.
Several times I just sort of juiced the numbers to say the horde scattered when I felt they had killed enough because I thought combat was dragging.
So for the next encounter I had them attacked by surprise by 2 hormagaunts in close combat, and they just smashed them. Later I had them go up against a tyranid warrior but they just shot it to pieces really quickly.
So far, neither player has taken a single wound. LOL. They seem to be having fun but I want to have them sweat a little, without having combat feel tedious, and without accidentally killing one of them outright.
The current mission on avaios are basically cultist hordes and gene stealers as enemies so I'm wondering, if I have them ambushed by gene stealers, what would be a good number for them to encounter that would give them a workout and maybe feel a bit of heat? Also, are there any narrative tricks for having hordes be a little less of a drag to fight? Last time I had them try a turning point where they were going to go set an explosive charge on a building where some stub-gun nests were firing on PDF forces, but they decided they wanted to try to commandeer the nests and turn them on the rebel hordes, so I let them do that. But they made comically quick work of the few teams inside the building.
Anyways, I really appreciate the feedback/advice you all have given thus far!