Review: Kill Team

The summer has been an interesting one for Games Workshop, with some really interesting releases, but not ones that make major changes to the game, easing off the relentless drumbeat of the recent past, presumably allowing them time to get their Age of Sigmar house in order. But as the summer came to a close, and the school year started again…damn.

We’re drowning in new releases. Regrettably, this is a busy time of year for me, so while I’m going to try and get to all of them, they may be somewhat belated. But lets tackle one of them: Kill Team.

I got started playing GW games with Mordheim, and for good reason. It’s easy to justify buying a box of Empire Militia that will be all the bits and pieces you ever need. One box, and maybe a character figure or two, and you were set. I had my whole warband painted, and this ushered in a fantastic summer of gaming. And what’s more, these figures had character. I still remember them. There was “Shakespeare” (named for his sharp white beard) the longbowman, Giuseppe and Julian the Tilean duelists, all lead by Lady Fontaine, a Marienburg noble with ambition and a taste for expensive pistols.

Kill Team is the 40K expression of that same idea. A small band of soldiers, perhaps a minor hero, doing cool, cinematic, “This Week on…” style missions. It’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s a great way to get someone into the game, or “dabble” in an army you’ve always liked the look of, but don’t know if you $800 like the look of.

Released alongside the new boxed set, the new rules for Kill Team are modernized for 7th edition…do they still get the feel right?

First, lets talk about the price: I like it. For $65 you get a full-blown, “You and Your Buddy” starter set, with a copy of the proper 40K rules, the Kill Team book, and a Raven Guard vs. Tau collection. That’s well in line with a nice board game these days, and perfect for starting out. The book itself also comes in electronic format for $12.99 for the Swanky iOS Interaction Version, and $9.99 for the standard eBook edition (both of those links go to iTunes). Importantly, if you already owned a copy of the rules, this was a very minor update – and one you got for free. It’s nice to see them using that feature, and hopefully we’ll see more of it in the future.

The basic rules for Kill Team are pretty standard. You have 200 points to spend, and can buy 0-2 Troops, 0-1 Elites, 0-1 Fast Attack units, as long as they don’t violate any of the following:

  • You need at least four non-infantry models
  • No more than 3 Wounds of Hull Points
  • No vehicles with a combined armor value of 33
  • No flyers
  • No 2+ saves

There’s also a subtle restriction here that people need to take into account. While each model in Kill Team acts on their own, they are still purchased as a unit. Which means if your unit is 5+ models, you need to pay for all five. This does reduce the amount of mix-and-match you can do, and for some ultra-expensive units may be a little restrictive, but I’d guess Games Workshop would consider that working as intended.

The model with the highest leadership is your leader, and he gets essentially a mini-Warlord trait. Three other models each choose a type of specialist role, Combat (melee), Weapon (ranged), Dirty Fighter (tricksy close combat), Indomitable (“I specialize in not dying”) and Guerrilla (mostly movement related). You choose their traits, and some of these are quite powerful – Feel No Pain for the Indomitable Specialist, or Relentless if they’re hauling a heavy weapon. The Weapon Specialist gets a slightly better version of Haywire, +1 BS, etc. You only get one of each type though – so keep that in mind when designing your force.

Kill Team also comes with some custom missions, to play on a 4×4 board. These two tweak the game a bit, allowing transports to carry models from multiple units, forbidding Conjuration powers (wise…), and some other tweaks that make your units feel more like a small handful of heroes. A number of special rules, like Mob Rule, Daemonic Instability, Warp Storm etc. are turned off. There are objective missions, assassination missions, the odd “End up on your enemy’s deployment zone” missions, etc. There’s a few that are asymmetrical for Attackers vs. Defenders, which is pretty welcome in a narrative friendly environment. It’s also easy to make your own – because of the short length of the games, it’s pretty easy to see when a mission design is going sideways, and redo it, versus a much more involved 40K playtest.

img_4788
Took us a couple tries to get “Eldar Corsairs attacking the station” as a mission to feel right

There are some allusions to things you could do beyond just a single mission – like a tournament (fun for a single Saturday store tournament, for example), linked games, or what they’re referring to as “Challenge Games”, where a Kill Team faces off against a much larger opponent trying to sabotage a Superheavy before it comes online, live through overwhelming odds, or assassinate a particularly powerful foe.

The book also includes two data sheets for the pre-built kill teams in the box, which is a neat template to go off of, but unnecessary.

A Craftworld Kill Team tries to stop a small band of Corsairs from seizing a communication's relay.
A Craftworld Kill Team tries to stop a small band of Corsairs from seizing a communication’s relay.

But does Kill Team accomplish what I hope for it do accomplish – that is, is it fun? The answer to that question is more complicated than it first seems. Because the answer to that question is entirely on us. Kill Team is a game meant to be lighthearted, to be a “Beer and Pretzels” game between like-minded gamers. The LVO Narrative folks last year used it as an ice-breaker on the first day. Get a drink, shake someone’s hand, and move some models around on cool scenery.

That’s fun.

It’s also very easy to break.

We’re going to use some Eldar examples, not because they’re unique in this aspect, but because I’ve got personal experience with them. An Eldar Hornet is a Kill Team legal vehicle – but is an absolute nightmare to play against if it just sits in the back corner and hurls pulse laser shots across the board, running away whenever someone gets close. Similarly, the “Better than Haywire” Weapons Specialist ability, when put on a Scatter Laser-equipped bike can potentially ruin your opponent’s day if they’ve brought a Dreadnought, a transport, etc. GW isn’t shutting all of these off because Kill Team is a framework for playing, not a whole system in and of itself. The rules are…more guidelines than actually rules.

This guy gets it
This guy gets it

 

Kill Team is nice because it mixes up which types of units are good and which aren’t. I’ve got a feeling Harlequins are nasty in Kill Team, while somewhat less of a threat in a standard 40K game. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still standout units, and with low model counts, it’s easy to swing things into anti-fun. Personally, I believe it’s on us, the players, to make sure we don’t push things that direction. Take unusual units, or units that feel like they’re more supported narratively. Or those ones you really like, but never get to field. I’ve got a longer essay planned for this concept, but basically: Be responsible for your own game, and make it fun for you and your opponent. There’s no reason to make Kill Team a high-stakes, go big or go home kind of game. Save that for standard 40K.

All in all? Easily worth $13, Kill Team lays out some common ground for small skirmish games. The rules aren’t going to set the world on fire, but they do provide a good starting point. It would have been nice to see a small experience system or linked campaign rules, again mostly as a guide, but it’s easy enough to either make up your own, or adapt them from a number of sources. And that Games Workshop decided not to charge existing digital customers for a very minor rules update is a very welcome change of pace.

I’d give it a solid 8/10

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8 Comments


  1. I’m glad to hear that GW is improving on their electronic delivery. One of the big complaints in my review of the 2013 Kill Team booklet (http://bit.ly/2cpPMJL) was that I tried really hard to buy the eBook, and GW’s website made it such an unmitigated hassle that I eventually gave up.

    I have a lightweight linked narrative campaign framework here:

    http://rocketshipgames.com/40k/legacies

    It’s designed for my club’s Recon Squad rules, but those and GW’s Kill Team rules are essentially drop-in replacements for each other so the campaign will work just as well for either. There are 8 asymmetric missions, which players are attempting to complete subsets of to build their squadron’s reputation and then achieve a related objective in a larger multiplayer battle. We’ve run that campaign several times in my club and at our home shop, and just used the missions earlier this month as the basis for the new Recon Squads track of the 40k Narrative at this year’s NOVA, all to great success. Worth checking out if you’re looking to string together some Kill Team games in a simple, storyful way.

    Our Recon Squad variant lives here:

    http://rocketshipgames.com/40k/recon-squad

    It keeps in the same style of using 40k rules and army construction with just a couple tweaks, but I think it improves on GW’s official rules in several ways, including:

    – Presents the rules more concisely;
    – Deals with some ambiguities in GW’s rules;
    – Keeps things like wargear squad effects and IG orders relevant without becoming over complicated or owerpowered;
    – Addresses some real balance problems in GW’s rules, like Marines being able to throw grenades all the time, mass Flickerfire, or enormous blobs;
    – Adds some simple rules to help play on more dense terrain;
    – The break test is more fair to armies that pay a premium for abilities like ATSKNF;
    – Leader traits aren’t random, because nothing kills narrative and thematic army building, let alone strategy, more than random powers & traits.

    Plus, it’s a free download.

    Thanks for the review, it was a worthwhile read. Despite my specific rules qualms and shared disappointment over the lack of a thematic campaign, overall I also think this is a very good offering from GW.

    Reply

  2. Hey,

    thx for the nice review.
    I thing about buying Killteam for me and 2 friends.
    We are not into 40k rules, I love the universe tho and am looking for a decent but easy skirmish game.

    I got alot of bits just for building stuff (inquisimunda style stuff) and would like to get us started, but I before I do I need to know what is needed for Killteam aside the Box?!

    Do we need codexes? Do we need Codex supplements? Which of these? What is needed to create a warband from a box of GW miniatures?

    I would be really glad if you could answer these questions, as I cannot find them answered anywhere 🙁

    Kind regards

    Reply

    1. Hey there,

      So by the looks of it, the Kill Team box should be a stand-alone product for the two teams involved. For Kill Teams outside those, you’ll likely need the codex for the army in question.

      ~ VH

      Reply

  3. Have you tried the Heralds of Ruin killteam? I haven’t done much with it but from what I’ve read it looks pretty good for a more detailed system, if that’s what someone wants to look for. Sort of a midpoint between GW killteam and Inquisimunda.

    Reply

    1. Heard good things, but haven’t tried it.

      Reply

      1. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you ever do. I never had the opportunity to get into old school necromunda or mordheim at the time, so I’m always interested to hear how things stack up.

        Reply

        1. I found HoR Killteam as-well, now thinking about getting me just the 40k rules (which seem to be needed for some reason) and get started with these.
          I did read however that it is ill-balanced compared to GWs ruleset. What I dont like about GW just from reading is that I need to run full squads…I mean its a kill team, why not send one thunderwolf, 3-4 marines and a lone-wolf scout…would just make more sense than 5 standard spacewolves…this would be possible with HoR however.

          Would be actually good to know what is needed from the actual 40k rules…what is in the GW-Kill Team box concerning 40k rules? I read it would be a reduced version…

          Reply

  4. My experience playing Harlequins in Kill Team was not that great – writeup here https://www.reddit.com/r/Warhammer40k/comments/546sxk/disappointing_kill_team_experience/

    Roughly, my Harlies were outnumbered and outranged by the teams they played, and my strength in assault didn’t help because I could only take out one enemy model per charge due to the ‘each model is a unit’ rule. (And then cross fingers that my consolidation move would be enough to get back into cover.)

    Reply

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