Review: Warhammer 40K Kill Team Starter Box

By “Outrider Chris” Allen.

Skirmish-play adherents of Games Workshop’s SF Warhammer 40,000 universe have looked with a bit of envy at the success and playability of its Warhammer Fantasy Shadespire game, and wished for a 40K equivalent. The new Kill Team platform is *not* that…but it takes what GW had provided in recent past and betters it significantly, supported by an ongoing product line that, at least, follows—or perhaps betters—the Shadespire model.
Kill Team Box Contents
Last spring, GW unexpectedly revived a form of the original 40K skirmish, the second-edition-rules-based Necromunda, in Shadow War: Armageddon (designed primarily to introduce a new terrain line), which was so hugely successful it sold out overnight, and prompted GW to follow that up with a quickly-cobbled-together boxed mini-game collating the various ‘Kill Team’ rules which had been published in various places for years. That was less successful (and went totally unsupported), but still sold out, and in concert with the popular smash Shadespire skirmish has become for fantasy Age of Sigmar, has led GW to this summer’s full new Kill Team release, complete with a fancy starter box and an extensive line of follow-on support.

From the all-important rules standpoint, Kill Team is not ‘Shadespire 40K.’ It is, however, virtually the same ruleset from the previous Shadow War release, polished for eighth-edition and consistency with the main game (a good thing), and with the broader, more mainstream unit options from the small-box Kill Team release which followed. Players will assemble teams of five-twenty models, with open play (use whatever you have painted), matched play (build 100 point teams of roughly equal strength) and narrative play (extended story-driven campaigns) options.

It *does* appear GW has Shadespire in mind with the line support, however, with announced releases of Kill Team boxes (a selection of appropriate models supported by cards with specific rules and some supporting terrain), Kill Team ‘arena’ boxes (terrain-specific playing boards and corresponding rules) and Team colour dice.

Seen in the most positive possible light, GW appears to be trying with this iteration to combine the best elements of these three previous stabs at skirmish play.

They missed their target in two key areas: 1) where Shadespire is exceptionally focused, with teams of 3-6 models maximum and quick, often sub-half-hour games the norm, Kill Team still represents a more significant time commitment to play, particularly when time setting up the table and scenery is added to the time expected to push 5, 10 or 20 models through it; it *is* skirmish, but is more easily thought of as a ‘small game of 40K’ than something completely unique and streamlined, which Shadespire represents; and 2) thus far, none of the models pulled together for release as Kill Teams appear to be new or unique—missing a *huge* part of Shadespire’s appeal, where every model is an original sculpt, with character name, unique abilities and weapons and specific background an integral part of the appeal.

These weaknesses are immediately apparent in the Kill Team boxed starter set…which leads to a bit of a let down, on purchase. That’s unfortunate, as what GW has provided is appealing, and good value—and absolutely in the smash sellout ‘Shadow War’ mold: in this box comes a full Adeptus Mechanicus Kill Team, buildable as up to ten Skitarii Rangers or Vanguard (or combination), and a full Genestealer Cult Kill Team, buildable as up to ten Neophytes. The full Kill Team rulebook is included (in paperback), along with a booklet for assembling all the models in the box and booklets with the background and rules for each Kill Team, a cardboard sheet of punch out movement tokens, a Kill Team dice set in the game’s dedicated orange-and-black colour scheme…and the game’s major purchase appeal, eight sprues of all-new Sector Imperialis terrain, and the game’s major innovation, a fold-out, double-sided game board which can be quickly set up for  Kill Team games, enhanced with scenery and to establish the rough dimensions of a standard Kill Team skirmish.

This is all quality stuff, and easily 180ish-bucks-plus worth of goodies in a $130 box. It is just that, in the wake of the delightful and unique Shadespire teams of all-original models, rereleases do not as quickly excite—even with new terrain to be had. Had GW even followed the model of the campaign-specific boxed games of the last edition of 40K and added a unique ‘leader’ sculpt for each Kill Team, this box would be much easier to recommend. The first several ‘team boxes’ to follow on look very much the same—good value packages which would excite the modeler much more if the actual teams weren’t all things we’ve seen before.

That marketing disappointment aside…Kill Team in its previous iterations has provided me most of the 40K fun I’ve been able to muster, in my crazy-busy recent history, and this is a cleaner, tighter, better-thought-through version of that kind of fun, with one really solid play-enhancing addition (the game board bases) and the very exciting prospect of ongoing line support.

Recommended. So long as you aren’t looking for Shadespire.

+++ Despatched from stygies-pattern Mk Vis+ handheld auspex.

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