My Price Points Contain Multitudes

Or: How Kill Team and Titanicus are different games.

I’m sitting here writing this on literally the eve of Adeptus Titanicus going live, and I’ve been thinking about some of the preemptive critiques of the game – one of which is, understandable, the pretty steep buy-in price, especially for the larger bundles. And while there are always critiques of Games Workshop’s pricing (though less than there have been in the past), they’re particularly severe at the moment?

Why?

I think part of the problem is that the game is suffering in comparison to the recently released Kill Team. What follows is why I think that comparison is…well…wrong.

This starts by exploring my thoughts on Kill Team.

There is a strong desire to play “small 40K” is a strong one. It’s been strong since I started playing in earnest back in 3rd edition. Some people call this “40K Lite”, but I’ve always found that name to be a little…dismissive. But there’s been a strong urge to capture that 40K feel, using 40K models, but on a smaller scale. And there have been a lot of attempts at it. Zone Mortalis – and Variance Hammer’s 8th edition adaptation CQB is in many ways an attempt at this. All the various iterations of Combat Patrol are attempts at this – trying to get the feeling of one or two squads and maybe their APC. And then there’s Kill Team, the “Dirty Dozen”-style game that’s gone through at least one iteration per edition, bouncing from a White Dwarf ruleset to lurking in the back of a big black book to it’s newest life as a full-on boxed game.

And there’s definitely a demand for something like this. Shadow War: Armageddon, the first and woefully under-supported foray into this genre for modern Games Workshop sold out in literally less time than it takes for Alaska Airlines to get through the priority boarding groups on a 737. And right now various gaming social media groups are filled with people showing off their new Kill Team ideas, and taking cool perspective shots of snipers lurking in ruined buildings.

So…it’s in-demand, it’s good, and at $130 it’s relatively cheap.

But here’s my assertion about Kill Team: It’s not a game. It’s a supplement.

It is literally small 40K. Or inverse-Apocalypse.

That’s not to say it isn’t an awesome supplement. But supplements should be cheap.

But as a game, compared to something like Necromunda (it’s logical comparator), it’s relatively shallow. Character advancement and customization isn’t as much of a thing. The campaign system is clearly made for relatively short, self-terminating campaigns.

It’s also a great introductory game. The core rulebook is $40. If you’re willing to share with friends and pass the rulebook around (as we were when I started playing Mordheim and took my first steps into this hobby), the total buy-in for each player, even assuming that you don’t have any figures already, is like $50. Call it $60 for your share of the book for a group of four friends. And while it’s a supplement, it also comes with functional enough rules to make it enjoyable. It might be small 40K, but it’s still a proper game. It’s got real rules, and tactical depth, and an intro game of Kill Team is a proper game of Kill Team, not the strange abbreviated game you see occasionally in older 40K starter sets.

And finally, it’s a cheap game for Games Workshop to make. The unit packs are already developed sprues – and they’re packed based on GW’s convenience, otherwise they’d be more functional, “actually 100 pt. Kill Team” sets. Outside the terrain pieces that I expect they’re using to drive sales, there’s nothing new about the Kill Team sets, and the inclusion of exclusive cards in the sets (one of the few things about Kill Team that genuinely annoys me) means they’re driving sales of models that have likely reached near saturation (how many among us needs a Galvanic Servohauler and hasn’t bought on yet?). It’s a clever strategy, and it’s likely making Games Workshop a fair bit of coin, but when it comes down to it, the $160 Kill Team game is not the game GW is hoping you play.

They’re hoping that you start eyeing that Start Collecting box and going “You know…”. Kill Team is a supplement. A prelude. And while GW’s margins are good enough that there’s no way it’s a loss-leader, it’s definitely an on-ramp to bigger, more expensive gaming.

So…so far I’ve spent over 700 words in an article about Adeptus Titanicus talking about…another product entirely.

Why? Because the only think Kill Team and Adeptus Titanicus have in common is the timing of their release. They are, in other ways, very different beasts, and that’s what makes the comparison unfair I think.

There are really three ways where the two do not resemble each other:

Adeptus Titanicus is a Full Game: The game is intended to stand alone – it’s not a supplement. It’s not “another way to play 40K” or a way to leverage your collection in new and unique ways. Can it tie in with a 40K game? Sure. I’ve got every intention of running a narrative campaign someday with a Titanicus side-game running to impact things on the ground. And the really expensive set at $290 (according to what I’ve seen) is close to a full “one and done” product – potentially for both players. Sure, you’re gonna want to buy a Reiver and a Warhound or two, but from the granularity of the gameplay we’ve seen, that’s probably a pretty full gameplay experience. And maybe some more terrain, because one of the great fundamental truths of the universe if you can never have too much terrain. And I’ll admit, I am treating it as a two-player set – outside mainline GW games (AoS and 40K) I don’t ever assume I’ll have opponents unless I provide the armies. That goes for SAGA, Dropzone/Dropfleet Commander…and it’ll go for Titanicus too.

Adeptus Titanicus requires new models: Obviously. Shrinking down modern Forge World/GW designs for Knights and Titans isn’t an insignificant task, even in the CAD era. It requires design time and expertise, and it involves new plastic molding. Kill Team just…doesn’t. There’s not a lot of upfront investment they had to make in bringing Kill Team to market, whereas Titanicus has to shoulder the entire cost of bringing that line into being – there’s no other use for that scale, nor any preexisting products for it.

Adeptus Titanicus isn’t an entry point: There will invariably someone here who points out that how they got started was Epic. But by and large, Titanicus isn’t an on-ramp for anything. It’s an accessory product. It’s under the Horus Heresy badge, which has never exactly been about inexpensive games. But it’s not being positioned as an easy way to start playing. It doesn’t mostly follow the rules for one of the mainline games. It’s for people who want to yell “Engine Kill!” and worry about getting their void shields back online. And – for the most part – those people are pretty deep into the hobby already.

A closer comparison to Titanicus is Necromunda – again, it’s a niche product, required new miniatures, and is not really an entry point – all the Necromunda gangs in the world won’t turn you into a 40K player. And unless you’re interest only in the two gangs that come in the box, you’re looking at a similar price point if you want all the various accessories, game aids (cards, etc.) and the like.

Market segmentation is a thing. There’s a reason Volkswagen sells both Volkswagen and Audi branded cars. There’s a reason Apple clawed back their computer segment from the brink of oblivion off a 2×2 table of “Entry-Level” and “Professional” laptops and desktops.

Now, am I saying Titanicus is priced correctly? No. We’ll see what the market decides – and I certainly don’t blame anyone for deciding it is. I’ll admit that personally, it’s at a price where honestly, I’m likely to play it rarely enough that it stings. I’ll still probably get it, because I’m a huge Titan fanboy, but I get it.

But talk about that on its own merits – not by comparing it to an entirely different product with an entirely different intention and market in mind.

Enjoy what you read? Enjoyed that it was ad free? Both of those things are courtesy of our generous Patreon supporters. If you’d like more quantitatively driven thoughts on 40K and miniatures wargaming, and a hand in deciding what we cover, please consider joining them.

8 Comments


  1. Well put. I admit, I’ve been guilty of this to a certain extent, but mostly more in the context of “These are the two things competing for my disposable income at the moment. Which am I more likely to get better value from?”. For me, right now, that’s Kill Team. Partly, also, because of the limitations of the starter set. I’ll be much more likely to get into Titanicus once the Reaver and (especially) the Warhound are available. They open up more variety in the game, but, perhaps more importantly, I prefer their aesthetic over the Warlord in the current range of designs.

    Finally, re: “how many among us needs a Galvanic Servohauler and hasn’t bought on yet?”, I personally want like 4 sets of those. In addition to the one I already have built and the other that’s coming in my Sector Munitorum set. There are so many cool possibilities in that kit, and I’d love to be able to dive into all of them.

    Reply

    1. I’m sympathetic – at the moment my real question is “Which of these gets the one or two times a month I can actually *play*?”. And for that, Kill Team’s major edge, that it plays fast, isn’t as big a selling point, as I tend to be in for a night of gaming, whether that’s 6 x 30 minute games or 1 x 3 hour game.

      Whereas Titanicus is a new experience. But yeah, I wish they had the Warhounds done already. Because I love Warhounds.

      Reply

      1. Yeah, I should have put that in, too. I often can’t manage more than an hour or so at a time for gaming, which puts an additional mark in Kill Team’s column.

        Which, really, confirms your point: The arguments in favour of one or the other have more to do with various factors in our lives and gaming preferences than with the price points of the two products.

        Reply

      2. Yeah, availability of play time is another factor in Kill Team’s column for me.

        Which, really, reinforces your point: It’s factors in our lives and play preferences that make the decision, not the price points.

        Reply

    2. If you find yourself on the dry side of the state, you’re welcome to throw down with my set 🙂

      Reply

  2. “Adeptus Titanicus is a Full Game – one and done”. Hmmm. I’ll dispute that one. If it is successful, I’ll will bet my bottom dollar you’ll see new Titans for the 40K era. Ork Gargants, Eldar walkers, Necron monoliths, Chaos titans, Tyranid bio-titans – you’ll see them. I mean, $110 for a few pennies of plastic? That’s a nice profit margin. Or it might become the anchor that is Dreadfleet!

    I also think you might be missing one of the points of Killteam. I strongly suspect a full campaign supplement might appear, if sales warrant it, which would help the depth of the game.

    But although I’m sure you’re quite correct in that GW is hoping that Killteam appeals to new players, and provides them with a both a solid game, and a seductive starter to spending money for a full 40K army, I also think that Killteam will appeal to experienced players that are interested in other factions…but aren’t interested enough, or can’t afford it the money to time to paint yet another full 40K army.

    I’ve always thought Necron flayed ones are cool, but honestly the thought of building a full Necron army bores me. Killteam is the perfect answer!

    I think although absolutely Killteam can be characterized as an entry ramp, I also think it has the potential to be a stand alone game for experienced players that want to try Tyranids, or whatever army they’ve always liked, but never collected. As you point out, Killteam isn’t just stripped down 40K, like previous iterations, but rather a game system – evolved from 40K, ’tis true – with its own unique strategies and depth.

    The Rogue Trader supplement of Killteam in the pipeline is also quite interesting and suggests some really interesting avenues that KT might go down. Just that supplement alone suggests that GW might have some other designs for KT…

    Reply

    1. Note that “One and Done” doesn’t mean you can’t spend more money. Games Workshop will always be happy to take your money. What it means is that, by and large, you’re looking at a complete and coherent product once you take the shrink wrap off.

      I agree with you – I think that entry ramp concept applies to veteran players too. You start out with a Kill Team of “that faction you always wanted to try” and, well, it ends with picking up a couple more units, etc. I’m excited to see where they take it, and it should be clear that my stance that Kill Team is a “supplement” isn’t a bad thing – Apocalypse is a supplement, and it’s my favorite way to play 40K. And this is definitely the best version of Kill Team yet. I’ll be curious to see where they take it – though I confess I don’t want them to upgun the campaign rules much. I want there to be a short, “We hammer this out over a weekend” style system to exist. If you want granular skirmish campaigns, that’s Necromunda. And I think there’s value in that differentiation.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.