Firstly, it’s confession time: beyond my beloved and now doomed Conquest card game, I have never played 40K before. I will admit to staring longingly at player’s beautiful Forge World models, approaching, asking a few polite questions and then running away again whenever a tome-like Codex is pulled out for a lengthy, often heated rule check. 40K is an intimidating game for the more casual player like myself, who flits from game to game like a magpie on a never ending hunt for shiny new things. So thank goodness for Games Workshop’s Kill Team – a deliberately light skirmish experience that appears tailor made for newbies. Just be warned, the full 40K manual is hiding in the box and there a plenty of times you will need to thumb through it.
This is not the first incarnation of Kill Team – there was even a pretty terrible videogame spin off in 2011 – but the contents of the latest incarnation are both affordable and inviting, providing you have remembered to bring your glue, plastic clippers and stack of spare time. Concealed inside the compact box are a Space Marine Tactical Squad and a feisty Strike Team from the Tau Empire, complete with pair of handy drones and a devastating tactical support turret. Each is armed with specific weapons, including distinctly sculpted boltguns, flamers and pulse carbines, while specific soldiers act as leaders, who buff those within a short range but can cause your entire squad to do a runner if they die and their grunts fail a break test. This adds to the tension of what is already more of Gunfight at the OK Corral with tape measures than the interplanetary, table filling battles of the full fat 40K experience.
Bolt pistols at dawn
I will happily admit that when taking Kill Team to the table for the first time I needed help from veteran 40K pals, who both guided me through the basics of combat – from the benefits of specific weapon loadouts to the those invaluable Space Marine Power Armour saves. They also provided the fantastic scenery you will see in the pictures for this piece, an element that immeasurably adds to the atmosphere of the game and is sorely missing from the base set. Furthermore, we were able to test out the flexibility of the rule-set by bringing a painted Tyranid horde to the table, which swarmed the normally tough as nails Space Marines before they had a chance to scream, “For the Emperor!”
The basic rules come in a surprisingly brief pamphlet and include pre-built squads and a simple scenario for balanced first battles. This reflects the brisk, one hit kill, style of the play but the inclusion of a full, yet mini-sized, 40K manual gives you a not so subtle hint that there is more to this game than a swift dice off. In fact, more often than not a page of the pamphlet will contain a reference to its big book brother, which can induce an understandable groan from those who have always considered Warhammer to be excessively rule heavy.
However, once you have fought a few battles and become familiar with the special effects of skills like the Marines’ Brother Jovas’ Expert Shot and the Tau’s ultra-devastating DS8 support turret (with its smart homing missile system ensuring plenty of KABOOM moments), your scraps will flow more smoothly. You will quickly learn how memorising unit stats, war gear and specialist traits is the secret to being able to put up a decent fight. Admittedly, patient pals who can put up with novice questions that would make the average 40K-er blush the colour of a Red Templar are handy too.
All killer no filler?
This is undoubtedly a gateway game to the ever expanding, and ever expensive, Warhammer universe, yet it remains a solid skirmish experience in its own right. In many ways Kill Team is reminiscent of old-fashioned Western duels. To explain, you command your lesser squad members to push forward and thin the enemy herd, before unleashing your Sergeant and more powerful units to finish off the feistier baddies. With range being a minor factor, due to the suggested table size, cover is essential and adding scenery to crouch behind really boosts the complexity of the challenge. Without it, firefights risk becoming dry dice duels, with luck being perhaps too much of a factor, and the melee combat is rather clunky until you get the hang of it, particularly when multiple units are banding together to lay a space smackdown.
Fortunately, the six missions included for you to mow down the opposition through are well-designed and gradually introduce extra challenges, such as securing objective markers or dominating areas of terrain. Primary and secondary objectives also offer victory point bonuses for feats such as drawing First Blood or Slaying the Leader. A comprehensive win is very satisfying and striving to finish off your checklist of kill orders adds a strategic depth, making these games more rewarding than your standard death match.
There is only WAR
Players who still want more are also given tips for setting up tournaments, a horde mode straight out of Gears of War and guidance on bringing multiple Kill Team squads to the battlefield for a massive mash-up. The opportunities for chainswording your chums are, if not limitless, definitely diverse.
When contrasted with more streamlined skirmish games – the excellent, very flexible Open Combat springs to mind – Kill Team makes a convincing case, even if it feels less imaginative than then the magic-blasting of Frostgrave or the vertigo-inducing futurescapes of Mantic’s recently rebooted DeadZone.
Basically, If you are craving something that really feels like it was designed from the ground-up to offer quick fire skirmish experiences, there are lots of other options out there that might better tickle your tactical fancy. Yet, if you want a very sensibly priced way to test drive the 40K experience, or need an affordable way to bolster your Space Marine or Tau roster, Kill Team is easy to recommend for new players or grizzled veterans alike.