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.
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.
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.
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.
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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