Getting Started: Kill Team (Updated May 2023)

From the smaller model count and board size to the shorter game length and tight balance, Kill Team is one of Games Workshop’s most accessible games. In this article we’ll talk about how to get started with the game, from what you need to buy to what you need to know about play to ensure that what you start with works in the long term.

Kill Team 2021* promised us a skirmish sized game in a box, and it pretty much delivered! However in true gaming fashion we’ve had a ton of changes over the last two years, and keeping track of what’s changed and what you need to play now can be a dizzying prospect. In this article we’re going to tell you everything you need to know to get up to speed and we’ll cover the different speeds for players of varying experience levels. If you’re a returning player don’t let that “get started” name push you away either – this article is intended serve as a resource for new and returning kill team players who want to get back up to speed quickly.

*Kill Team 2021? This is the second edition of Kill Team released as a standalone game, and was released in 2021. Prior to this, the original standalone Kill Team was released in 2017.

Brand New Players: Where to Start

For new players getting into Kill Team can be a daunting task, especially with words like errata, FAQs, and the volume of rules. Luckily for us Games Workshop has a few great options for those who want to get into the game at the ground level. Once you’ve had a taste and you have the rules basics down I’d always suggest getting in touch with your Local Game Shop to meet more people.

Starter Set (Link)

Coming in at $100 USD or so, the Starter Set is everything you need to start playing by yourself or with a friend. The set provides remarkable value for the price and comes with two teams with deep rules, which many veteran players still find fun. While the rules in the box may be outdated for tournament play they are a great way to start playing at low cost. Luckily enough the rule book included will call out spots where the official rules may diverge. If you and a friend don’t want to start with Space Marines, this remains my favorite recommendation for newer entrants.

Lite Rules & Intercession Squad Kill teams

For fans of the game with some space marines models already in hand, this pairing of FREE rules is a great way to get started. Note that the lite rules do not cover everything, but this document does have the basics so you can sit down and roll some dice with friends. For people worried about power levels the Intercession link can be pared down to models with the “Warrior” or “Gunner” names. This will keep the # of rules to a minimum and pairs perfectly with the Lite rules for a first game or two.

Teaching new players in 3 rounds gets lessons to stick

Shop Demos

Shop Demos are probably the best way to learn the rules, but require the biggest effort since they mean leaving the comfort of your home. Generally speaking, heading over to the local hobby shop or Games Workshop and having someone run you through the game will be the best way to learn. I run most of the demo set up for our local store through discord, and I assume your LGS may be in a similar position (Rob: If your local store doesn’t have a Discord, they may have a Facebook page where you can talk to other players and set up demo games instead).

A Note on the Kill Team Compendium

The Kill Team Compendium is a book which released at the same time as Kill Team 2021. The Compendium includes basic rules for kill teams for every faction in Warhammer 40,000, and was intended as a stop-gap measure for players to use until new rules and teams could be released later. While the teams included in the Compendium are good for learning, most lack the rules depth for competitive play.

There are some noteworthy exceptions (Craftworlds, Custodes, and Imperial Guard) but generally you’ll have a better experience if you start with one of the teams specifically crafted for Kill Team and learn how to play with fewer special operatives. If complicated rules are getting in the way, you can always proxy more of your operatives as “Warriors” at the beginning, then bring in more special operatives in later games.

Teaching Kill Team to Others

Play smaller squads with fewer rules!

If you’re trying to bring your friends into the game here some tips for making those first intro games easier. When you’re trying to ease people into the game, it’s critical to allow players to focus on the parts that are fun – Rolling dice and moving plastic miniatures around across some terrain. Leaning down over a table to spot models and re-rolling critical failures are often highlights of the wargaming experience.

Things to do when teaching the basics:

  1. Print out a copy or two of the lite rules for the players to share.
  2. Don’t over explain the rules, and don’t get hung up on the details of the rules. I often explain that each model has X actions, and point to the list on the Lite rules. Instead of explaining all seven options to new players (too many options), I just tell them to pick an action and I’ll explain how to do it
  3. Play on a smaller play space with fewer models to reduce the choices players can agonize over. I suggest half a board with three space marines each.
  4. When explaining how a rule works I like to mix in the in universe action along with the detailed rules. It makes remembering things easier when the chainswords clank before a mighty eight foot tall Astartes is cleaved in twain.
  5. I generally have one to two objectives to fight over, with one command point re-roll per player per turning point. Keeping the players focused on moving, shooting, and combat. The parts that lead to the best stories. There will be time for ploys and Tac Ops later.

Returning and Experienced Players

Did you play a round or two of Kill Team and decide you wanted to come back later? Maybe you played a demo and enjoyed it but then lost interest? Or maybe Games Workshop finally got around to releasing the kill team that you’re interested in. Well later is now and this is the spot for you! Depending on when you had that first touch, a lot may have changed and Games Workshop hasn’t always made it easy to keep abreast of changes. Luckily there are some helpful resources you can refer to and in this section we’ll cover those.

Into the Dark Rules (Link)

A whole new variation of the Kill team rules that takes players into the heart of a space hulk for close quarters combat with all new missions, actions, and layouts. The Into the Dark rules originally released in 2022 but kicked off a year’s worth of related releases and since them have been baked into many tournament scenes. Unfortunately that means picking up a whole extra rule book detailing changes to the core game. Luckily there are resources online which make it easy to learn and track many of these new rules. At their core they can be boiled down to the following:

  1. Measurement for movement is done around walls but can go through open hatchways. This means moving through the maze-like physical spaces of the Gallowdark requires a bit more thought.
  2. Indirect weapons have their range reduced to 3”, while blast weapons pick up the Lethal 5+ special rule, making grenades much more deadly.
  3. Hatchways are physical objects that must be opened for 1 action point, and play a big role in the space hulk setting. You can measure movement and line of sight through open hatchways.
  4. Operatives can now go On Guard, preparing for the chance of an operative entering their line of sight to unleash an Overwatch shot, or taking the initiative with a Fight action.
  5. Shooting attacks through engaged allies now incur -1 attack dice penalties, which makes the rules about base movement matter much more than on Open. One poorly placed operative can now cause a veritable traffic jam making accessing the space hulk hard.
  6. Barricades are now placed on your board half, compared to Open where you are restricting to the space within 6”s of your deployment zone.

Playing games with Into the Dark rules can be complicated but it’s a very fun way to play which can dramatically change the tactics you use and how you build teams. Some teams do better when playing in the Gallowdark while others do better in open terrain.

The Critical Ops Deck

Games Workshop changed competitive play for Kill Team late last year with the release of the Critical Ops Deckwhich changed the way you play for objectives in games. These are one of the harder objects to track down, which is a shame because they’re the current tournament standard. These cards adjust the four archetypes based on play data from the game’s first two years and replace the original decks and missions in the Core Rules.

When you’re playing at home these won’t matter as the old decks work fine, but approaching tournament play without them may cause issues. Luckily most tournament players understand the issues and can probably point you to some resources to help with the product shortage. Note that there’s also an addendum to the deck for Into the Dark Missions on the Warhammer Community site, which we’ve linked above and includes important changes to the cards around Vantage and Seize Ground to account for the Gallowdark setting.

Kill Team Downloads (Link)

Over the last two years GW has released a number of downloads for Kill Team with rules changes and balance updates, which you can find at the above link. The most important of these is the quarterly Kill Team balance Dataslate, which is a review and adjustment of rules for competitive play (Link as of Apr 04, 2023). Depending on when you played some of the largest changes to the core rules are located here. Whether it be compendium team buffs, grenade nerfs, or command point changes, this will be where the meta changes the most. From 2021’s release to the April 2023 changes we’ve had many updates that have made the game healthier. Not every section will apply to you, but it’s a fairly concise read and the first page details the core rule changes, while other pages change numbers on specific teams.

And although it’s intended for competitive play, we can assure you that the changes here make for a much more enjoyable casual game as well.

Kill Team FAQs (Link)

English remains a complicated language full of lively debate, and the rules releases are no stranger to such debates. Whether thunderdomes are involved in the arbitration will vary by the volatility of your local play group, but it’s no question that the FAQ pages often clarify muddy wording. At this point every team has had changes, and the core rules themselves have a fairly deep document that is critical for tournament play (Link as of Mar 03, 23). Some big notes from those Core rule changes include:

  • Line of sight rules clarifications
  • Injuries not affecting psychic action ballistic skill
  • Close Quarters Rules for forward deployment ploys (Wrymblade, Hunter Clade, and more)
  • Many clarifications on how going on Guard works within In the Dark boards

While returning players don’t need to know these all, it remains useful to remember where to look when rules clarifications are requested!

In Closing

Kill Team 2021 has changed quite a bit since release, with new missions, changed core rules, and rule book edits. These changes have sculpted the game from the original release into a strong competitive game. However the veritable avalanche of changes has made approaching a “quick” skirmish game into a far different experience. Hopefully this article can point you in the right direction whether you’re new, or returning!

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