Kill Team

 

Kill Team 2018b

So, Games Workshop released a new version of WH40K Kill Team about a month ago (give or take).  For the uninitiated, Kill Team basically uses Warhammer 40K 8th Edition rules (with a few modifications) to fight smaller skirmish battles instead of large battles.  Battles use between 3 and 20 models per side, and take about an hour or so to complete (once you’re familiar with the rules).  If you’re curious about Warhammer 40K, or wargaming in general, Kill Team can be a relatively inexpensive way to explore the hobby.

Earlier this year I’d gotten into Necromunda, which is another skirmish game published by Games Workshop.  Overall I liked the game, especially the premise and fluff behind it, but found the rules to be rather fiddly and, at times, downright grating.  My hope for Kill Team was that it would be simpler, cleaner rule set to work with.  And in most respects, it is.

Shooting combat in particular has been vastly simplified, at least compared to Necromunda.  Instead of having to subjectively judge whether a model has partial cover or full cover, Kill Team uses obscurement:  if any part of a model’s body is obscured by terrain, the attack has a -1 to hit.  That’s it.  Likewise, instead of Necromunda’s numerous range modifiers varying by weapon, Kill Team just applies a -1 to-hit penalty for any attack between 1/2 and the weapon’s maximum range.  Clean, elegant, objective and simple.  I love the shooting rules.

Kill Team 2018a

However (you knew it was coming), other parts of the rules are far more fiddly.  Particularly dealing with movement, close combat and firing pistols in close combat.  Kill Team uses a hybrid of IGOUGO mechanics (for movement), and alternating activations (for combat).  It also uses measurement of inches to regulate movement (like a traditional wargame).  And it is the combination of these factors that I think causes problems for me.

Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:

  1. Can that model slip around two models in close combat without coming within 1″ of them, or going over the edge of the board?  Maybe, but measuring it out with rulers can be a pain in the ass.
  2. If you charge, but fail to roll high enough to reach your target, you can still move towards your target, but it also still counts as a failed charge.  This can affect the order in which close combat is resolved if that model is then in turn successfully charged (something I got wrong in a recent game, much to my chagrin).
  3. Pistols are the only ranged weapons that can be fired at models less than 1″ away (i.e. in close combat), but not on a turn in which they charged or were charged.  Again, a fiddly little distinction rule tacked on, required because of the hybrid movement/alternating action economy of the game, and a rule that causes considerable confusion.
  4. A model in close combat can choose to Fall Back (i.e. move out of close combat).  But only if it began its movement phase within 1″ of an enemy model.  That’s another way of saying that a model can’t Fall Back on the turn it was charged, a rule that is required so that a model that was charged cannot then fall back and shoot its charger in the same turn (again, because of Kill Team’s hybrid action economy).  But what if the model started its turn in close combat, and was then charged by a different model?  Can it still Fall Back?  Turns out you can’t, but I had to look it up, because the whole sequence of events is not intuitive, or well written.
  5. If your model is charged, you can choose to Overwatch.  However, all other shooting rules apply, such as line-of-sight, whether the overwatching model did a regular move, advance move or charge, the weapon it is equipped with, etc.  Yet more side rules to keep track of, and could have been vastly simplified without breaking the game by just saying models always get to Overwatch, unless they’re already locked in close combat.
  6. Alternatively, a charged model can react to a charge by Retreating.  But if that model is charged a second time in the same turn, it can’t retreat a second time.  Also, if the model already moved in the turn, it cannot Retreat.  More fiddly side rules.
  7. It also doesn’t help that rules for the same concept are sometimes spread over two or three different pages.

I don’t think I’m the only person having problems remembering all these “side-case” rules.  Read any Kill Team forum and questions regarding the proper sequence of movement and close combat are, by far, the most common.

Kill Team 2018d

I wish Kill Team used a more regulated system of movement.  In other words, a grid, hexes or at least some form of zone-based movement (similar to Deadzone or Deathwatch Overkill).  Kill Team is already firmly wedded to a literal game board, so it wouldn’t have been much trouble to print a grid or hexes on top of it.

With a grid (or hexes), you don’t have to worry about whether your model’s base is going over the edge of the board, or whether it will cross the base of another model, or whether you’re within 1″ of an enemy model.  The grid handles all of that for you (and so much more)!

Combining grid-based movement (or something like it) with full alternating activations (like Necromunda) instead of WHO40K’s IGOUGO mechanics would eliminate the need for most of the fiddly side-case rules, which cause the most confusion.  And not having to spend mental processing power on tracking lots of little annoying detail rules leaves more processing power for actually playing (and enjoying) the game.  It would also make the game more accessible to new players, making Kill Team a gateway to the wider world of miniatures wargaming (a good thing for GW, and the hobby as a whole).

One final thought/suggestion:  Kill Team uses Tactics, which are similar to WH40K’s Strategems.  Players spend Command Points (CPs) on tactics/strategems to gain temporary bonuses or advantages.  One nice improvement is that Kill Team allocates CPs on a turn-by-turn basis, as opposed to WH40K’s approach of dumping all your CPs on you at start of the game.

Kill Team 2018c

However, there are simply too damn many tactics to keep track of:  there are 6 general tactics any player can use; each faction has 10 to 12 tactics; kill team specialist models have their own tactics (up to 4 specialists on a team, including the team leader); specific kill zones have special tactics; and some missions have their own tactics, as well.  With so many tactics to keep track of, it’s very easy to forget to use them at the right moments (or at all), especially if you’re already trying to keep a bunch of other rules straight in your head.

It would have been great if Kill Team had used a card-based mechanic instead of Command Points.  Each player builds a Tactics Deck of roughly 12 cards, drawing 1 or 2 of them every turn to create a hand, and then playing them when needed.  Faster, cleaner game play, more opportunities for strategy in designing a deck (and building a kill team around the deck, or vice versa), you only need to worry about the tactics in your deck, and it creates interesting fun-hard choices during the game (“I only have 2 of this tactic in my deck – do I use it now, or wait and hope a better opportunity presents itself next turn?”).

Okay, so overall I like Kill Team (I know it doesn’t sound like it, but I really do).  However, the fiddly bits are starting to wear on me some.  I feel like GW missed (another) opportunity with this game.  I wonder if the design team felt they needed to adhere closely to the game’s WH40K roots, so they weren’t willing to go too far afield.  It’s hard to argue against the game’s success so far, but I think just a few more flourishes could have made Kill Team a classic for the ages (like HeroQuest or Necromunda), rather than just another good game people will play only as long as GW supports it.

Still, if you’re already an experienced wargamer, then most of the things that grate on me will probably be old hat for you, so no worries.  And if you’re new to wargaming but thinking of giving it a try, then Kill Team is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to get into the hobby, and the rules are cleaner and simpler than most I’ve read (despite my issues with them).

Thanks for reading.  Cheers!

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