13 December 2018
The small-team skirmish game expands
“Rogue Trader” is a title with great baggage. It was originally released by Games Workshop in 1987 as the first version of Warhammer 40,000. It was quirky and marvellous and is spoken of highly to this day. Now it’s back.
Oddly enough, this is the first big-box expansion for the recently-released Kill Team. No-one saw this coming, but admittedly, the fit is perfect. In addition to tactical squads of Space Marines and Orks, you can now field mercenary privateers serving the Emperor. You can now seize your charter to explore the far reaches of the universe and put fire to the stain of chaos.
The first aspect of this box to unpack are the strong narrative underpinnings. This feels like a standalone product. It features a compelling supporting piece of fiction, a strong set of story-based scenarios and two full kill teams dead set on tearing each other apart.
While you can incorporate the two new factions into a regular Kill Team campaign, the Elucidian Starstriders and Gellerpox Infected feel best suited as cast members of their own particular story. It comes across as an odd decision to feature specific named characters intended to recreate a previously written narrative arc. This clashes conceptually with the more generic squad generation of the core set. It also comes across as clunky when implementing them into an existing campaign. What if two players want to field rogue trader squads? Can they both utilise Elucia Vhane?
The focus on a particular narrative and contained experience forms a bit of a clouded identity. It feels as though the design team was pulled in two separate directions, wanting an expansion as well as a standalone product. The requirement of already owning the Kill Team core rules stymies the functionality of the set and limits the utility to a degree. This awkwardness leaves room for confusion.
Fortunately, the included campaign and narrative direction is top-notch. The scenarios are fantastic and pull double duty for universal use with other kill teams. They feature a small set of additional rules that tailor the experience to a claustrophobic battlefield. There are fresh tactics, and the commitment to this particular setting is wholesale.
The rogue traders themselves are the most interesting unit we’ve seen yet. They feature a wild mix of abilities and specialties while highlighting Games Workshop’s commitment to inclusion. Beyond the rules and fluff, it should come as no surprise that the sculpts are fantastic. The Starstriders are of course the stars of the show, but don’t turn your nose up at a huge mutant behemoth with a furnace carved into its gut.
There’s also a section dedicated to a new set of commander rules. These allow you to field empowered heroes that are potent from the get-go. Commanders, however, don’t gain experience or level-up with your warband. The text hints at these rules being expanded in an upcoming supplement, which we eagerly await.
Rogue Trader is certainly not a necessity for Kill Team addicts. It is, however, a very endearing expansion that offers value. You receive two kill teams, two Killzone environments, a full-blown narrative campaign and a fresh dash of tactics cards. It’s a departure from other products we’ve seen and brings a fresh take to a game that’s already found massive success.
A solid big box expansion with a strong identity.
Designer: Games Workshop team
Artist: Games Workshop team
Time: 40-60 minutes
This review originally appeared in the November 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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