Kill Team: First impressions from a casual

Hey all, Danny from TFG Radio here, and while I normally focus on 40K, primarily World Eaters, Chaos Knights, and Tyranids, I do actually play a fair amount of skirmish tabletop games like Kill Team and Warcry, so with the news of a whole new edition of Kill Team, complete with a fully updated and bespoke ruleset dropped, well, I had to dig deep into all the information that GW has been giving. I have some thoughts.

I love skirmish games, primarily because they are the main way that I can share my love of the Hobby with my friends who aren’t fully invested like me.  It can be very, very daunting for a person curious about the Hobby to find that they need to paint 50+ models, spend 500+ dollars, and learn both a weighty rulebook and a codex in order to play.  Granted, a good teacher makes all of this far more accessible, but small scale skirmish games provide the best point of entry.  I play Kill Team with a few friends who are not avid 40K players and War Cry with others, including my wife, who are not big into Age of Sigmar.  This can make for some fun social outings, especially since the time requirement is much less, and well, you can even bring these games places that you can’t really do with the army-scale games. 

With all that in mind, I am super excited for an update to Kill Team.  I enjoyed the reboot, and played it plenty, but it was certainly starting to feel a bit heavy with all of the elites and stronger models in the game.  Melee definitely felt unnecessary depending on matchups as being able to get to it wasn’t always a guarantee, especially since depending on the mission, a savvy shooting army could just camp objectives and make them come to you.  So looking at the three posts (here, here, and here) so far about Kill Team, my interest is certainly piqued, but I do have some reservations.

The overall step away from mimicking the 40K rule set to a bespoke set doesn’t bother me much. Warcry is very much a different machine than Age of Sigmar, and I love it, and at least in Warcry, there is enough parallels that it is not too much mental work to make the transition.  We’ll see if that holds true with KT, and I hope so because ideally, KT would be a path toward 40K as opposed to a deviating branch. Still, having a unique rule system gives the game more of an identity, and it also makes switching between the systems easier as when I play a lot of KT, I can suddenly start importing rules from it into my 40K games to disastrous results.  That doesn’t tend to happen with Warcry, and again, having a unique identity to the system and rules just makes the game feel more complete rather than just as a slightly modified version of another game. 

The new measurement system is a big deviation, and one that can absolutely work, but is a bit jarring.  Fantasy Flight Games and Marvel Crisis Protocol immediately jump to mind here as they all use different measuring instruments with set measurements to make game play faster and more precise.  Instead of having multi-jointed measuring tools, GW is going with essentially a widget (bringing me back to the Warmachine glory days) with specific distances on each side of the shape.  This can make measuring much faster, once you get the hang of it, but I will say that the color and shape system is a bit odd at first. Once you take the time to get used to it, it all makes sense, but it is a bit of a cognitive wall as it is feels a bit needless busy as you could just label them by number without the shape or just by color (also, the shapes used don’t really correspond to the distance in any way). 

The change to ranges where only the shortest range weaponry actually has one makes total sense in the scale of KT.  One of the usual criticisms of 40K in terms of its “realism” is that the ranges of weapons don’t make much actual, physical sense in terms of the physics and realities of the battlefield as weapons and movement seem to be on separate scales.  Since KT takes place in very small spaces like a single building, most infantry weaponry would have more than enough pop to shoot anywhere you could see.  It actually reminds me a bit of the mechanics in the space-battle game Dropfleet Commander where ranges in space are essentially unlimited due to the lack of friction and resistance, so the only way to avoid fire was to hide your signal rather than be “out of range” of weapons.  As someone who loves melee, hopefully the rules dictate a good amount of terrain or provide some abstraction to make it easier to hide.  From the rules spoiled so far, it does look like shooting has more defensive rolls built it into between a Defense Stat and an Armor Save. 

Speaking of melee, I do enjoy having it be a separate sort of dice encounter than shooting.  The system of having to parry or attack is interesting, making melee a much more brutal affair as if you have the expendable bodies, you can go full attack and ignore trying to stay alive in order to just take down a foe.  This sort of self-sacrifice is great for a player like me who is either going in with World Eaters or Tyranids, so I don’t mind sacrificing a Hormagaunt for a more valuable target or with World Eaters, just Blood for the Blood God.  The fact that melee is more killy as there are no armor saves also ups the damage of melee, making it, at least on the surface now, a more rewarding and damaging tactic in return for the inherent risk of it.  This is one of the bigger changes that makes me most excited.

Of course, my favorite change is to alternating activation.  As much as I love 40K and AoS (and Fantasy before it), alternating activation is the soup de jour for a lot of tabletop games for a reason: it creates more tactical, engaging turns.  When I play 40K against my closest friends, I can generally leave the table during their turn because A: I trust them and B: I don’t need to do much until I start making saves.  It is easy to zone out and lose interest in a game when you have an opponent that by necessity has a much longer movement phase or a complicated psychic phase where you have no real response, so alternation activation just makes sense to keep all players focused on the game.  It also adds more tactical depth as you cannot just create a plan and execute; you have to consider how your opponent is going to react and with what. 

Courtesy of WH Humor

Overall, it seems like the new KT is going to have a lot of new ideas (well, new to GW games), and if nothing else, those Krieg and Ork models look legit as hell.  I am not sure if I will try to get a full box or just the rule book, but overall, for a skirmish game lover like myself, KT sure does look exciting at first blush. Thanks as always for reading, and play games, be nice to each other!

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About Danny Ruiz

Long-long time 40K player, one of the original triumvirate of head 40K judges at LVO, writer, educator, tyranid-enthusiast, disciple of Angron, man about town, afflicted with faction ADD.

2 Responses to “Kill Team: First impressions from a casual”

  1. Rob Butcher July 18, 2021 9:21 pm #

    Proof-reading ? look at your last paragraph

    I like the look of the new edition as it resolves some of the issues of the game by borrowing concdepts from WarCry, Blackstone Fortress and Underworlds.

    It was great in the Summer of 2018, to see kids who only had six-ten models playing in store alongside those of us who had sunk money into the game. Many of those kids now have full armies in one of the GW systems, others made a full rooster for KillTeam and Warcry.

    I’m still waiting to see if we need all of the cards – last edition we used a 6×4′ table to play a 30×22″ game with all of the cards laid out. That felt less warhammer and more MAGIC or any other card game.

    I hated the NOVA inspired change to a 2d board – that put me off playing competitively. I liked KillTeam for the 3d tall Gothic Towers feel. I invested in six or more KillTeam+scenery packs, which really build up my scenery. It also meant friends had a large selection to pick from when they came round to game. And armies that I’d never pick up before like Tyrannids Genestealers, AdMech, GSC, DG CSM, AdMil.(I’ve always had houses armies/fleets that friends can play with, especially for those deployed abroad who only have a mad day or two to spend here.)

    Symbols are going to be found more and more – Warhammer is now played in 100s of languages (eg- we had 66 home languages among the 2000 pupils at the school I taught at in Kuwait – many who played.) Symbols mean less reliance on “translation problems”. It also restores more granularity (GW’s favourite design term) as you can subtract from the shape. eg- DK soldier has a move of 3 O (6″). If they get hurt and limp the O can be reduced to 1″. If they sprint it could be 3″.

    • Michael Corr July 20, 2021 3:10 am #

      It’s not a proofreading error. It is a custom html that works for some accounts and doesn’t for others. No real way to see whether it will work until the article is published.

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