A Tale of Two Kill Teams: A review of the new Kill Team game by someone who hasn’t played Kill Team.

Kill Team: Octarius. Games Workshop, 2021. Designer/Artist – Who knows? GW doesn’t credit their designers like they should.

Ever since I saw ads for Warhammer 40,000 in comic books of the early 90s, I was fascinated by this grimdark vision of the future. I recall seeing a 2-page splash of Orks and Goblins with machine guns charging at a battalion of men and dwarves clad in power armor, while all around them, a barren warzone was being blasted from unseen cannons. I had no idea where I could find these distinctly English toys, but I thought it looked amazing.

Fast forward to my college days, and I finally found a place that sold these little metal soldiers. Unfortunately, they were expensive–far too expensive for a guy with a part-time job and a Magic: The Gathering addiction. I was resigned never to get to experience the grim darkness of the distant future.

However, in 2018, I was in a better place, financially, and Games Workshop announced Kill Team! Finally, an affordable way to get into Warhammer! I bought the book, along with a few boxes of models, and went to work putting together teams of Salamanders, Necrons, and Thousand Sons.

Here’s the thing…though I watched battle reports, painted models, read articles…I could never find anyone to play Kill Team with. This is partially due to my schedule at the time, and partially due to my anxiety at meeting new people, but in any case, I never got to play before COVID killed my chances.

For Krieg!

Now, in 2021, Games Workshop has released new version of Kill Team, and it’s a completely different game. New rules, new models, new everything. I said to myself, “I never played the last one…I should not spend $200 on the new game.” But then I saw that the Death Korps of Krieg, an army was usually only available as expensive resin models from Forge World, were included as plastic models, and I pulled the trigger.

I just got my copy, read the rules, and started to put together my Death Korps. I figured, having never played a game of either version of Kill Team, this was the perfect time to write about how KT21 stacks up against KT18.

What’s Going On Here?

Kill Team is the Warhammer 40,000 skirmish game. Instead of building armies of 50-200 or more soldiers and vehicles, you build a team of 5-10 operatives to take on a comparable-sized force on a small battlefield. Like in the previous version of Kill Team, there are options for Matched Play, where the battlefield and objectives are symmetrical; Open Play, where players decide what kind of battle they want to play; and Narrative Play, where a story is told over multiple missions and characters gain experience, as well as battle scars.

What’s Good Here?

There are two ways to answer this question: How good of a game is this? and How does it compare to KT18?

I’ll be making this judgement based on the Kill Team Octarius box, as well as the separate Compendium book.

So what’s good about Kill Team is that it’s a cool Sci-Fi skirmish game set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Just about every faction is represented, so if you already play Warhammer 40,000 and want to field some Tau, some Heretic Astartes, or some good ol’ forces of the Imperium, you probably have the models you need to play. If you don’t have models for the game, you can spend as little as $38 for a Death Watch kill team and have a playable team. It’s probably the cheapest way into Warhammer unless you buy one of those Barnes & Noble exclusive games on clearance.

The rules are surprisingly straight forward. Your datasheet tells you how many dice to roll for a weapon, what you have to roll to hit, and how much damage each hit does. The defender, likewise, can see how many dice to roll for defense and what number they need to hit. There are some tricky line-of-sight rules that complicate things, but there’s really not a lot of math. This makes for a quick game (it lasts exactly 4 rounds) where you can focus more on the action and less on the mechanics.

So much…stuff!

This is in contrast to Kill Team 2018, in which each character had a defense rating, and you had to compare your attack strength to their defense and adjust the numbers you needed to roll based on whose number was higher, and then they rolled their defense dice to see how many hits went through, and then you rolled your damage dice to see which of your hits actually did damage/incapacitated your opponent…there was a LOT of rolling. KT21 cuts the rolling in half in a way that still makes attack and defense matter.

Speaking of reducing math, the other great change in this new edition is in the list-building. In KT18, you built each member of your team based on points. This led to your 100 point team being, like, 102 points, and having to find someplace to shave those points off. In KT21, you build your Kill Team as 1 or 2 fire teams. Each Fire Team has a specific number of a specific type of model, and loadout options are given in the description. I have a 3-man Thousand Sons fire team (A Gunner, an Icon-bearer, and a Leader/Sorcerer), and a two-man fire team (Gunner and Standard Rubric Marine). Five models with whatever options I give them from the allowed options. No fiddly points. It’s great.

Finally, The Death Korps of Krieg. That’s all I have to say about that.

What’s Not So Good?

THIS is $100 worth of books?!?

My first complaint, and this is a big one, is the price of entry. I know…I already said that Kill Team is the cheap way into 40K, and that you can get by with a $38 team. However, besides models, you need, at minimum, the core rule book ($50) and your factions data sheets (in the Compendium book, $50). And if you buy the Octarius box set, it doesn’t come with the Compendium (though it does come with data sheets for the included models), so your $200 purchase is a $250 purchase if you want to play anything besides Death Korps of Krieg or Ork Kommandos. Kill Team should be an affordable way to get into Warhammer. $100 for two books is kind of ludicrous, especially when the rule book for KT18 was only $40 AND included all the data sheets. Not only that, but it is generally understood that each faction is going to get a box set with much better teams than what is in the Compendium, so that book is just a stopgap until the REAL kill teams are released.

My second, albeit much lesser, complaint is that while the list building is easy, having fire teams made up of the same types of model is kind of…boring? Like, my old kill team for Salamanders had a tac marine sergeant, a heavy gunner, a couple of Intercessors, a Scout…it was a mixed bag. Now, a kill team of Adeptus Astartes is one, and only one, team of either 6 tac marines, OR 5 Intercessors, Or 5 Revivers, or 10 scouts, Or etc., etc., etc. List building might be easy, but its at the cost of a lot of the personality KT18 had. Also, and this might just be me, but because I’m building teams of 2-10 models as 1 group, I feel like each character is less personal to me. Each member of my Salamanders team (which is now illegal*…I can’t even play it with models I own) had a reason for being in Squad Kerberos. And while nothing is stopping me from assigning the same degree of personality to any new teams I build, I’m still thinking of them in groups instead of as individuals.

And don’t get me started on the measurement symbols.


What do I think?

Overall, this version of Kill Team is an improvement over KT18 in almost every regard. If the cost of entry wasn’t unnecessarily high, I would recommend that everyone I know go out and buy a copy so we could start a league or something, but at the current price, I’m going to build a couple of teams and hope my anxiety/this pandemic lets me actually start playing.

8/10, though it would score higher if it were cheaper.

*Of the 3 teams I built for KT18, only 1 is still legal, and that’s after losing a tzaangor that I can’t run without a bunch of other tzaangors.

Not a single Kill Team can be made from this.

2 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Kill Teams: A review of the new Kill Team game by someone who hasn’t played Kill Team.

  1. Thanks for the review, a real shame GW chose to invalidate most of our previous Kill Teams in favor of pushing more book purchases. C’est la vie.

    1. Yeah, it’s like: Am I upset that I have to rebuild my teams and buy new models? Yes.
      Is that going to stop me from doing it? Nope! You got me again, GW!

      I actually think I like the new list building system…I just wish it’s what they had done in KT18.

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