Into the Fray – Kill TeamAugust 17, 2018
Into the Fray is an ongoing series of articles exploring skirmish wargames.
Games Workshop has been exploring the universe of Warhammer 40,000 for over three decades. Its newest expression of the beloved setting is the latest iteration of Kill Team, an expressly skirmish-sized adaptation of the classic 40k mass battle game. Kill Team has had a few incarnations in the past, always presenting a small-scale take on whatever the core rules of 40k happened to be at the time, but its current form represents the most successful version by far.
Warhammer 40,000 (or 40k) is a game that inspires fanatical devotion in its players but even in its excellent, uncluttered current format it still demands several hours of time and dozens, if not hundreds, of painted miniatures to play. Kill Team presents a highly polished alternative for players who wish to take part in 40k gaming without pulling out (or buying anew) an entire army for the evening. Gameplay is fast paced, highly tactical, and extremely engaging. Better still, it only demands a player assemble and paint a handful of figures to take part.
Kill Team offers a number of entry points for a new player. The two-player starter is undoubtedly the best value proposition including two full forces (Adeptus Mechanicus Skitarii and the nefarious Genestealer Cults) plus the full rulebook, dice, tokens, and an impressive set of terrain and battleboards (more on these later) for only $150. Bought separately, these components would be almost twice the price of the set.
For players who perhaps don’t care for the cyborgs of mars or the bugmen, the core book is available on its own, and a new line of Kill Team box sets including a fully useable set of models, new scenarios, peripheral items, and scenery are being released, each of which costs only $50.
Whatever your vector of attack, Kill Team’s rules are simple to pickup for experienced 40k players, and only a reasonable challenge to master for totally fresh players. Games Workshop has provided a solid series of articles on Kill Team’s rules and factions but I’ll share a brief overview of the most interesting portions of the games rules.
Each player builds a Kill Team from their collection of models (which must share the same faction) using the points system familiar to experienced gamers. A typical game allows 100 points to be spent on at least 3 of your models and their armaments which are listed and explained in the rulebook.
A certain number of models in each Kill Team may be Specialists, who gain innate abilities. A Sniper might reroll rolls of 1 when shooting while a Scout may gain additional movement in some situations. Naturally, each faction also offers its own set of unique combatants to choose from, armed with different weapons and abilities allowing a great deal of customization for players.
Building your army list is a compelling part of play in Kill Team. With so few models to work with you’ll want to really make sure you’re models are a finely honed killing machine. People who enjoy list building or making RPG characters are sure to take great pleasure in this pre-game paperwork, though the game’s randomized elements mean that even a new player may throw a wrench in a veteran gamer’s plans once the game begins.
Kill Teams in hand, you and your opponent—or opponents, Kill Team readily supports multiplayer games—will choose your Killzone. Killzones are the environments in which the game take place. Killzones are typically played on a 30” x 22” board, making the game ideal for people who don’t have room for the standard 4’ x 6’ 40k game table. Each Killzone requires a roll on a unique table which will determine which, if any, environmental effects are in play. These rules add real immersion to the fight and offer surprising challenges or opportunities for both players.
A variety of scenarios are available for players to choose from, each offering a specific and sometimes asymmetrical set of victory conditions. Players may be attackers enacting an assassination attempt against the defending opponent or attempting to capture and take prisoner enemy models.
Playing the Game
Once play begins, each round is broken into 6 phases: Initiative, Movement, Psychic, Shooting, Fight, and Morale. These are largely self explanatory, with some interesting twists. Initiative is determined randomly each round, so a player may have the initiative in multiple rounds, a common spoiler in modern skirmish games. The really interesting part of the phases are the sub-phases that come into play through the issuing of orders to individual models.
Each model is issued an order each turn, and it is here that the game’s tactical choices come into the fore. Since the game utilizes an alternating activation system your choice of orders and the order in which you choose to activate your models is nail-bitingly critical. For example, during the Shooting phase, models that received the Readied order will shoot before models that made a normal Move order.
To further add to the tension, there are plenty of opportunities for players to react to their opponents. When a model is Charged, the target of the charge can react by either firing Overwatch (typically requiring a hard roll of 6 to hit) or retreat up to 3” away. Since the Charging model will move 2d6 this can be a dicey proposition.
The result of all these microchoices is that both players are fully engaged in the game at all time, never twiddling their thumbs while their opponent plays.
This gameplay is made more complex through the use of Tactics. Players will generate Command Points each turn which may be spent on special Tactics abilities, some generic, some specific to their faction. These abilities offer the chance to reroll dice or offer more specific and thematic opportunities for the player.
Kill Team has a few other bells and whistles, including a secret Scouting Phase which can offer small benefits before the game starts and is played out like a numerical game of rock-paper-scissors (some choices may cancel your opponents ability when revealed). The game also offers a simple but fun campaign system allowing players to build their Kill Teams game-to-game. While I haven’t played this system myself, it appears to be well thought out and could offer a really great experience for a group of players.
Gameplay and models aside, one of the most appealing parts of the Kill Team line are the new sets of terrain. The new Sector Imperialis terrain kits are brilliant sculpted and engineered, allowing even the freshest hobbyist to build imposing and highly modular ruined cityscapes. They’re very competitively priced and best of all, they remain partly modular even after assembly via a cunning design of sockets that allow them to stack. They’re simple to assemble and paint and compatible with a variety of other 40k terrain kits.
I suspect Kill Team will ultimately appeal most to already dedicated 40k hobbyists looking for an alternative to their mass-battle games. It’s certainly an appealing game for completely fresh wargamers, but the plethora of choices to make during list construction and then during game play from the Tactics cards could be overwhelming for some. On the whole, Kill Team is a very solid addition to the current slew of skirmish hobby games on the market and I expect it will be supported for quite some time.