This week Travis Cheng is detailing his experiences making the jump from Kill Team to Warhammer 40k.
I started playing Games Workshop games in high school with Tau, getting mercilessly eviscerated by my friends’ Necrons repeatedly during 4th edition. Those models had been collecting dust until 10th edition rolled around, and a recent event let me take them out of cryo sleep. Shortly afterward, during a team tournament for Killteam, one of my fellow Brooklyn Rats @leila_gamer_mode managed to win a box of Start Collecting Tau. Between those models, a couple purchases at Atlantic City Open, and two different Tau Kill Teams, I already had 2k points’ worth of models for 40k. With a new edition, what better time to try and make the jump back to 40k?
In this article I’m going to detail my experience moving between the two systems, talk about the transition and what I learned, and offer some semi-outsider thoughts on 40k following a tournament experience.
Step 1: The Repaintening
My first task was to build. That meant assembling new Breachers and suits of varying sizes and figuring out painting and storage solutions for everything. Going from a skirmish game to one where I’d be fielding 60+ models certainly required a commitment to differently scaled solutions for painting, storage, and transport. The scale of work is not something I was looking forward to, but painting legions of ITD terrain for tournaments has given me some helpful experience on the matter.
I decided on a Farsight-ish paint scheme for my army and used a blue->red zenithal scheme that would do the majority of the visual heavy lifting on my suits. I’d follow that up with contrast-paint black to get some interesting shadows and then tie it all together with some sponge weathering and manual highlighting. My scheme came together rather effortlessly and with the heavier duty krylon paints my tanks and suits look unified without too much issue.
Having some larger models in the mix did allow me to work in some edge highlighting practice that I haven’t been able to fit into my Kill Team hobbying time. Farsight and Coldstar both came together very nicely. Having a good scheme helped keep my interest during the painting and later the playing process.
Quantity has a Quality all its own
There is something to be said about having all of your toys out at the same time. When it comes to kill teams it’s hard to have a sense of scale at home, and the larger models of the army game do help sell the scale. Squad-based games remain engaging as each model becomes a storied person in their own rights, but having a Stratoraptor line up bombs while taking railgun fire can only be handled with armies.
I certainly enjoy the spectacle of forces arrayed for the Crucible of War, and that will remain one of the cooler things that Kill Team can’t catch up with. Nor would I want a repeat of the Elites expansion of KT18. The current rule set seems perfectly capable of sustaining Custodes-level threats and I hope that GW doesn’t try to cram more 40k into Killteam.
List Building versus Game Playing
One of the major differences between Kill Team and 40k is the aspect of list assembly; modern Kill Team does not really have list building. This has made for gameplay with a much tighter focus on in-game decisions and balance, and less room for games to be over before players walk up to the table. 40k’s approach to list building means that less experienced players can have no shot at winning a game due to the choices they made when picking units and wargear. The constrained choices of Kill Team make it more akin to selecting a character in a fighting game and puts a higher weight on player choices in-game while still having a meta to consider. Learning to play 40k meant relearning to build army lists.
There are always aspects to learn for competition, and rules understanding for good competitive gameplay. Luckily with the transition to 10th, the rules are all in one place, and grokking what units do is as easy as reading an index card. Being a fan of the 4th edition Fish of Fury strats I quickly whipped up a list on the new Warhammer 40k app. Quick aside as a kill team player I wish we had an official app with all the rules! The core of my army is two Devilfish with Breachers, Six Crisis Suits, and a Ghostkeel. There are some supporting actors like Ethereals(for the CP), Fireblades, my two Kill Teams, and a Long Strike to do some Anti-tank shots. Who doesn’t like a big ass Railgun?
I figured for my first games, I might as well run all my cool Kill Team models, along with all my bigger toys. Big mistake! My first match was against a fellow Kill Teammate Isaias on Imperial Knights. That first game took over 4 hours as we muddled through the phases and rolled a crazy amount of dice. I suspect in our first turn of 40k we rolled more dice than a player does during a tournament day of KT. Luckily railguns, seeker missiles, and hot cyclic ions were able to down enough Knights to get me a 10 point victory.
What’d I learn from my first game? My Farstalkers suuuucked, at 105 points they seemed a terrible investment. My old standbys the Crisis Suits? Amazing. Chucking strength 8 ap2 shots for 2 damage seemed great, and I could access Kauyon on turn two for massive bonus damage. Unfortunately strength 8 didn’t seem great against the t10+ of the knights, instead I had to rely on volume fire to take those Knights down.The Tabletop Battles app did a fine job of tracking the flow of the game, and I’m glad it exists.
However no list lasts through first combat I suspect, and I was resolved to pick up a Farsight, to stylize my army. With the model in tow, I split my brick of six suits in twain. Having my Coldstar and Farsight both lead smaller squads of suits. While my Farstalkers made way for Kroot Hounds and Stealthsuits.
With those few changes I played against a friend’s beautifully painted skitarii list, which seemed to us absolutely terrible without enough damage to reliably threaten any of my suits. Then against a combined arms Adeptus Sororitas list which also seemed to bounce harmlessly off of my crisis suits. I wasn’t sure if my wins were due to my opponents lists or mine. My list seemed totally able to adapt to both big knights and smaller arms so I said why not, and locked it in for a local RTT.
Different Goals During tournaments
After much clipping, scraping, gluing, painting, and testing, we finally arrived at the end of July when it was time to take my new toys out to the local watering hole for an RTT. My army was still unfinished, meaning I left 10 painting points on the table. I could have rushed and put 3 colors on models, though I’ve always treated local tournaments as a spot to learn. Which is why my Kill Team monthly tournaments at the Brooklyn Strategist (link) have no painting requirement. I’ve left painting requirements for larger show events like the upcoming Goonhammer Open (link), and later New York Open (link).
This would admittedly sour the experience a bit for me; 40k requires such a time investment already and I only really want players to win or lose by their skill. In contrast my experience at the tournament was that the win itself mattered more: While all three of my opponents’ armies were lovely to look at, I couldn’t help but feel a bit salty at their readiness to claim a win on paint score. I suspect this will be a minority opinion here, and perhaps 40k players really just care more about painting.
Rob Note: This is definitely an event-specific thing. Most RTTs I’ve played at do not require painted armies and do not dock players points for having unpainted armies. RTTs are usually seen as important learning/testing environments for larger events, and those larger events typically do not allow unpainted models to begin with. Winning on paint score is gross.
When you have 3 hours to play, it can be easy to miss rules interactions in the rush to finish on time. I felt like the environment led to me not double checking things enough and letting stuff fall through the cracks. For example round one has a minor rules mistake from my first opponent. They had a ball of devastators which had an enhancement, Bolter Discipline, played as giving sustained hits on 5/6s. When I finally questioned it on the 3rd bolter discipline enabled devastation volley, I discovered the final line of his enhancement was not read. However we’d already played 2 massive rounds of shooting and rewinding that was just not in the cards. I also didn’t feel as if he was trying to cheat me, and I generally prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt.
Tournament play requires a high level of trust that other peoples rules are correct, and as a newer player still learning my own rules. I just didn’t feel like I had time outside of focusing on handling my own rules. I also did not particularly enjoy that final model positions were used to score unplayed turns as it allowed my round one opponent to sit back, until turn 3. When he pushed out and grabbed 3 points leading to a 5 point delta over turns ⅘ without my realizing how that worked. Luckily I know most people are just trying to have fun and get their games in, so it’s not a knock. It’s one thing I prefer about Killteam as auditing movement and rules is much easier. Giving both players reasons to stay engaged and not take things on trust.
My round two opponent played Black Legion, and we actually finished on time! By the time we hit round 4 we only had 3 units each jockeying for position on the board. Unfortunately for Farsight’s retinue the plasma, and melee just couldn’t crack the armor of the Warmaster. The game ultimately came down to a tie with me losing to painting points. Some highlights included many terminators dying to their dark pacts, all venomcrawlers going down to railguns, and a lone Raptor denying me 2 points against a squad of Pathfinders.
Firmly in the 0-2 bracket, my final round was against fellow Brooklyn Rats teammate @leila_gamer_mode. Sporting a Land Raider and a Rhino, we both fully expected the Railguns and Seeker missiles to make short work of the first turn. Khor-tunately for Leila, her legendary luck juxtaposed with my poor luck, guaranteed that her berserkers made it into my lines unscathed. With Eightbound, Kharn, and Berserkers pressed in on all flanks I was surely doomed. Leading to my only true loss, in my mind. The highlight play for me was a deep-striking 9” charge Farsight, which swung some backline points and deleted Leila’s backline. Upon reflection my initial model set ups definitely could have been better so my broadside could have been firing on 2s instead of 3s on turn 1. Overall it was a fun 1-1-1 at the local RTT, though I had no clue what I would update going forward if I wanted to be competitive.
While I won’t be throwing down 40k games regularly, the system seems like a much chiller time for pick up and play. More akin to Commander games with friends than tight competitive games of Killteam. The joy of tanks, and bricks of 30+ dice are ultimately no comparison to finding a good line in Killteam for me. If tenth goes the distance and can maintain a tighter rule set, perhaps I’ll warm up to it over time. However I have always been less of a list builder, and more of a game player. Meaning that a large part of 40k is just not that interesting to me, nor is chasing the meta models of the day.
However I suspect I won’t be putting away the bucket of dice anytime soon, when there is the possibility of Farsight dueling with Abaddon, Imperial Knights or even the Gretchin Revolushion. I’ll be keeping the army for games of beer and pretzels when I want to be less competitive, or just want to roll a bucket of dice.
P.s. I did break my rules a little to buy another 5 Crisis Suits, so I could run two bricks of 6. As they were the best part of any game. Sorry Breachers!
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