Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team review

29 October 2018
Kill-Team-93514.jpg Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team
It's back – and this time, it's personal

There’s something massively appealing about assembling little humans and little aliens, painting them to the nines, and then having them blow each other apart on a pretend battlefield. What’s not appealing is feeding your children Spam because you spent the bulk of your payslip on the Emperor’s finest plastic commandos.

Thankfully there’s Kill Team, the abridged version of Warhammer 40,000 where a half-dozen models spit fire at another half-dozen a foot or so away. With such a low buy-in and miniscule terrain requirement, your children can get back to Yorkshire pudding and ditch the canned meat.

Kill Team has been around for years. Historically it’s existed as a 40,000 supplement with stripped-down concepts. This version is altogether different. It’s been built as something new from the ground up, persisting as a fresh system with familial ties to its bigger sibling, as well as recent Games Workshop releases such as Necromunda and Shadow War: Armageddon.

The result is quite the success. Utilising a surprising hybrid of ‘IGOUGO’ (‘I go, you go’) and alternating model activation proves compelling. Separation occurs between movement and shooting: the former having each player complete their entire faction’s orders before their opponent follows suit. Shooting trades the old-school for the new with a mechanism of each player taking turns firing with a single model. There’s a clever integration of player agency by allowing figures that have not moved to open up with their bolters and autoguns first.

The mixing of IGOUGO with alternate activations juxtaposes strategic concepts with tactical considerations. This blend is effective at forcing players to commit to overarching manoeuvres while allowing for a zoomed-in cinematic combat phase. It’s the single greatest trick they’ve stashed away into the guts of this design.

Other system elements are what you’d expect. You still use ballistic skill to hit, compare strength and toughness, and roll armour saves. It mostly feels familiar while still retaining a couple of those alien edges. 

The huge divergence in Kill Team is the heavy integration of a campaign. Since the scope of play is more personal and intimate, the inclusion of an ongoing system of growth arises organically. In a clever twist, specialists and leaders develop along individual ability trees while grunts improve as a single entity.

As you progress, the game keeps everyone on an even keel by utilising point limits within scenarios. This means that your entire kill team will not be utilised typically, with a subset being hand-selected based on mission details. This works extraordinarily well as it allows you to play with multiple toys – snipers, flamers, grenades – but tailor your armament appropriately each session.

For those coming from the tattooed gutter realm of Necromunda, you may feel the campaign is somewhat lacking. It’s less granular in detail and packs less narrative oomph. Kill Team’s enduring philosophy is to trade detail for velocity and this is one of the many aspects woven into that DNA.

Others coming from the 41st millennium may be disheartened to find their favourite unit missing. While the scope of the rules manual is quite large, it’s devoid of some common 40,000 units such as Aspect Warriors and Terminators. These discrepancies may be plugged over time, but it’s difficult to say at this juncture.

Despite those potholes, it’s hard not be impressed with the totality of the Kill Team launch product. It’s much more inclusive and diverse in options than its peers, and they’ve seemingly eased up slightly on the endless rulebook stream we’ve seen in Necromunda. This is a near-fully-realised head-to-head skirmish executed in a rapid 45-minute block of carnage. 

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A wonderful skirmish game with some electric concepts and an affordable buy-in.

Buy your copy here.

Designer: Games Workshop team

Artist: Games Workshop team

Time: 40-60 minutes

Players: 2

Age: 12+

Price: £80

This review originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.

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