Kill Team: Octarius (some thoughts)

I finally finished building all of the new Kill Team box up recently, so I thought I’d just come here and write a short bit of bumph about the new edition! I still haven’t played it yet, because children, but I’m rather excitedly planning for some dummy walk-throughs at some point, just to see how the things work in the new edition.

It’s been a couple of months now, of course – and we’ve got the next box set currently on pre-order, so things have definitely moved on! – but I think it’s useful sometimes to revisit these things at a remove, and see if the new and shiny was blinding me in any way to the actual value or worth here.

In terms of the actual plastic, there is a hell of a lot in here. I bought this from my local game store, so for £100, I’ve had ten guardsmen, twelve Orks, five substantial structures, and a bunch of scrapyard scatter terrain and barricades. It’s really quite brilliant value, when you think the two kill teams alone probably account for around £50-£60 of that. The terrain is nice and chunky, full of great little details, and given the size of the board we’re talking about, it really fills the playing field out well. It can combine to create an Ork fortress, or be used to make that kind of shanty town thing, plus combines excellently with the workshop terrain that came out a couple of years back, the scatter elements of which are reused here.

All in all, there is a tremendous amount of awesome plastic in here. The Death Korps of Krieg miniatures are simply beautiful, with an amazing level of detail that I really like and appreciate. They’re everything I suppose we can expect from models these days. The Ork models are similarly full of character, even the sprue is as crazy as the xenos themselves! Whereas the guardsmen can be built from parts clustered together on the sprue, the Orks have their bits scattered all over the place. Very Orky.

Of course, a lot of people seem to value these things in terms of the plastic content, and forget that Games Workshop have had to pay people to come up with a game that uses this stuff. The rules for the new Kill Team do take a little bit of reading to make sense, at least to me, but this is largely because it’s now a clear departure from the regular 40k ruleset.

There are three phases per round – Initiative, Strategy, and Firefight. The round is called a Turning Point, and each game takes place over 4 Turning Points. During the Initiative Phase, models are readied and given either Conceal or Engage orders. Conceal means your operatives are being stealthy, so can’t be targeted by the enemy, but it also means they can’t take certain actions. Engage has no limitations on what actions they can take, but it does mean they’re viable targets for the enemy.

In the Strategy Phase, you generate a command point, which can be used to pay for Strategic Ploys or Tactical Ploys. These Ploys are much like Stratagems in 40k, with Strategic Ploys being the kind of set-up type, use them beforehand when you expect something to happen (such as Overcharge Lasguns for the Veteran Guardsmen, which improves the gun profile for that weapon for all operatives before they shoot with it), while Tactical Ploys are played when that specific situation arises (such as Combined Arms, again for the Veteran Guardsmen, which allows for rerolls on an attack against an enemy that has already been targeted that round). I find it helpful to think of it in Magic terms – Strategic Ploys are like Sorceries, and Tactical Ploys more like Instants.

There is then the target reveal step, where you can reveal (if you want/are instructed to) any Tac Ops that you are trying to achieve. These are basically secondary objectives, and you usually pick around 3 per mission. The kill team you’re playing comes with an archetype, and you choose Tac Ops based upon that – again, sticking with the Veteran Guard, their archetype is Security, so they’d pick from there. Veteran Guard and Ork Kommandos have faction-specific Tac Ops, and the newer teams featured in White Dwarf, allowing for further customisation. In fact, getting rules like this is one of the reasons why I’m so attracted to the new Chalnath release, as I don’t know if the model for releases includes the actual rules you need for these teams outside of the big boxes.

The Firefight Phase is the main action, where operatives alternate activating, starting with whoever has the initiative. Each operative has an action point limit, for the Veteran Guard that’s 2 each, and they can do the usual stuff like move, shoot, charge, etc.

Shooting and Fighting is completely different from the regular 40k stuff. To start, you roll a number of dice equal to the attack value of the weapon, and compare it to the BS/WS of the model wielding that weapon. 6s are critical hits. Defence works interestingly, where the defender can negate hits with successful defence rolls (using 2 normal saves to negate a critical hit). Fighting follows a similar route, where you each select a melee weapon and roll dice at the same time – for each successful hit, you then choose if you are going to strike or parry. If you parry, you discard the dice and one of your opponent’s successes. If you strike, you can deal damage – whether as attacker or defender. It’s a very dynamic way to play, and sounds like it’s what melee combat should be! I suppose implementing this in a game the scale of regular 40k could be a nightmare of course, but who knows what 10th edition might have in store?

There are more rules for supporting fighters, and the like, rules for injured fighters where the stat line is worsened, etc. Objectives are controlled by whoever has the most number of APL on their models near an objective – that’s an interesting take on things, and works in the favour of some teams like Custodes, where each operative has 4APL. Aside from some pistols, ranged weapons have infinite range, which I find a bit baffling… but I suppose the board is small enough that it probably makes sense…

All of this is the core rules for Kill Team. Which is great – it’s an interesting new system with a very nice implementation of melee combat, and I feel like games will actually be pretty quick to play, and you could potentially play a couple of matches over an evening, which is a nice touch. The second big attraction of the Octarius box, after the shiny new terrain, is the narrative book. This has the missions that are themed to the Octarius storyline, as well as the rules for the specific Death Korps and Kommandos kill teams, which are much more extensive than the rules for generic teams found in the Compendium book. I know why GW released the latter, but in retrospect it seems like a move that soured a lot of the online community against the game at first – “why do the Death Korps get fancy rules when my Space Marines are boring?” etc. I suppose the answer to that is simply to wait, as the release model appears to be going through the factions slowly, with currently six fully-fledged factions now with rules (including the two White Dwarf articles and the upcoming Chalnath box).

It all just serves to heighten the fact that Kill Team is not intended as the same gateway to 40k that it was previously. Whereas before people could build a team from existing models, and then you might buy a box or two to create a new team and then perhaps consider a smaller army of those and so forth, now it seems very much that you’re supposed to just buy one box of models and that is your team. Well, maybe two of the same box. The Fire Team structure of the new style of teams means that you don’t have the same freedom that you had in the last edition, so you won’t necessarily need to buy a box of 5 or 10 models to get the parts for one operative. Having had a while to think about it now, I think it’s a really good move, and has already allowed for some pretty cool models – the upcoming Sisters Novitiates is a prime example of this, such an eclectic bunch and really full of character. I really love the fact Kill Team is getting its own releases, which remain compatible with 40k but aren’t ‘40k and also Kill Team’, if that makes sense? They’re primarily designed for this game, and much like the Underworlds warbands, will have rules for the main game system alongside.

That actually begs the question as to whether we’ll see increasingly wild Kill Teams? It’s all very well and good seeing a 10-man unit boxed up with a sprue of Fancy Bits to use in Kill Team, but what about having some more weird and wonderful ones? The upcoming Sisters team seems to be starting to break the mould a little with having a character-style model on the sprue, so they aren’t just ten of the same type of infantry, but whether we’d ever see a Haemonculus Covens team, for instance, which has two Wracks, two Grotesques, and some weird experimental part-mutant type thing, only time will tell! A lot of people are clamouring for Gaunt’s Ghosts to be released with Kill Team rules, which would be awesome but would give us a Commissar as well as some pretty specific Guard models (sniper, scout etc).

It very much speaks to something I talked about during the last edition, having Kill Teams of Renown or something, where you get a very specific bunch of models, not necessarily a team of ten of the same type of model. I suppose this is kinda what the Elucidian Starstriders were, a Rogue Trader crew with a variety of model types. I really hope they give us rules for those miniatures, heck I hope they find a way to make all the random Imperium models from this and Blackstone Fortress playable going forward! I also have fervent hopes that we’re going to see an Inquisitor and retinue!!

At any rate, it seems to be a very interesting rule set, and one that I’m looking forward to giving a whirl. The future definitely looks bright for the system, as well, although I’m not sure how many £100 boxes I’m going to want/be able to afford!!