Product Review: Kill Team Arena and Killzone: Sector Fronteris

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With the new Genestealer Cults codex coming out in a week, it’s likely some people will miss the release of Kill Team: Arena, which is out this week. I received lots of good feedback two weeks ago on my Urban Conquest review, so I figured I’d follow suit and do a similar write-up on Arena this week. I also picked up the Killzone: Sector Fronteris box set, so I’ll review that too while I’m at it.

Kill Team: Arena

Product Cost: $90 USD

Kill Team: Arena is essentially a competitive play expansion for Kill Team. Unlike Matched Play, which has the potential to be played competitively but still leaves a lot up to players to figure out, such as terrain, layouts, how to handle experience and levels, and expansions, Arena focuses on streamlining the experience and creating as balanced a field as possible.

What’s in the Box: The box comes with two identical sprues of terrain, each featuring 5 doors, some crates, barrels, and a plasma conduit end piece. It also comes with a 64-page rulebook, two decks of objective cards (more on those later), a deck of Tactics for use in Battle Brothers games, a set of larger Competitive Play missions cards for both 1on1 and Battle Brothers play, and 2 folding double-sided Kill Team boards that feature 4 new Killzones.

The new Killzones are the Generatorium (shown above), Catacombs, Armorium Stockpile, and Garrison Vault. Each of these uses the Ultra-Close Confines rules that first appeared in Kill Team: Rogue Trader, so if you’ve already played games on the Truehawk or in the Ministorum Shrine, you’ll be a bit more familiar with how these games play out. They use walls to block line of sight and obscure opponents, add in doors that can be opened as a model moves near them, and adds a Tactic for firing overwatch at enemies charging around corners or through terrain that might make them otherwise impossible to shoot when a charge is declared. Each of the Killzones has its own Environment random effects table with 5 effects that I suspect will be continually forgotten and/or ignored, and they all have symmetrical layouts with interesting variation between them.

In an interesting departure from prior products, the Terrain included in the kit is all designed to be built in very specific formations, detailed in the rulebook. This mostly means stacking crates and barrels a specific way, in identical pairs, to create symmetrical battlefields when teams deploy. The terrain itself is all pretty standard fare we’ve seen before — the doors are a bit different from Rogue Trader, and the crates and barrels have been done before. The plasma barrel that goes on top of a stack is new, though. The other thing to note is that the missions in Kill Team: Arena all call for very specific terrain layouts, so you’ll be setting up maps the same way each time you play a specific mission.

The rulebook includes 12 new Missions, 8 of which are for 1-on-1 play and 4 of which are for team play, 2v2, referred to as the “Battle Brothers” game mode. There are two for each Killzone, and each killzone calls for a specific terrain layout (so 8 missions, 4 terrain layouts). Competitive Play missions come in two flavors: The first is a straightforward, 4-objective marker mission with progressive scoring for holding objective markers (up to a maximum of 9 points during the game), while the second set are a bit more out there, with each having a bespoke primary objective unique to that Killzone. You can score up to 9 VPs for these, whether they’re take-and-hold or unique. Each mission also one additional secondary objective unique to the mission. There’s also an Arena Objectives mechanic, which uses the 12-card objective deck that comes with the box set. In each Competitive Play mission, players are given a list of 6 possible arena objectives out of the 12, and before the game starts they secretly pick 3 of these and reveal them as they’re scored during the game. These are all pretty straightforward, and they’re things like “more enemy models than friendly models were taken out of action this round” and “take the enemy leader out of action.” These vary in the amount of points they’re worth, so the average game of Kill Team: Arena will have players scoring between 0 and 20 victory points. On top of these 8 missions, there’s a 9th “Ultima” Mission template which is a more generic template that has players randomly determine a Killzone/map and draw 6 random objectives from their deck, then choose 3 in secret.

The most exciting addition in the book for me are the Battle Brothers rules, which are rules for playing 2-on-2 team games. These are pretty straightfoward too–players don’t share CP, and models on the friendly team are treated as neither friendly nor enemy models, which prevents you from buffing teammates’ models and creating weird interactions. Teams are constrained according to the need to share a faction keyword (the factions you can do this with are Imperium, Chaos, Aeldari, Necrons, Ork, T’au Empire, and Tyranids/Genestealer Cults), and all of the Battle Brothers missions use two Aerna boards placed side-by-side (these are also supposed to be symmetrical, meaning you’ll need 2 sets of terrain and 2 sets of game boards to play 2-on-2 missions). The game mode adds 12 new generic tactics for battle brothers games that let you buff teammates’ models and get team bonuses, plus another 16 that are specific to the factions in the Kill Team base rulebook.

Final Verdict

Essentially, Kill Team: Arena is the “5 Stock, Final Destination, No Items” version of Kill Team, for better or worse. Kill Team Arena missions are all 100 points and don’t include Commanders or experience. They do call for the creation of a Command Roster from which players choose Kill Teams prior to each game and after the mission is selected, just like in regular Kill Team (you skip the Scouting Phase in Kill Team Missions). That said, I like the simplicity of the setup, and I feel like streamlining the terrain process will also help make games go faster. There’s also some question as to how good/balanced the experience/level rules are so jettisoning them for competitive play seems like a fine call. I’m vaguely concerned that Kill Team: Arena might get boring sooner, but overall I think there’s enough tactical complexity in Kill Team to sustain the game for a long time. It’s in no way going to replace Narrative games for the people who want to play that way but Kill Team: Arena feels like what matched play for kill team should have been from the start, and like the closest thing 40k has to Shadespire, though it trades off deck building for team customization, which I tend to prefer. I’m looking forward to making Arena my default way of playing Kill Team outside of campaigns or events, and I’d recommend it to anyone who plays a lot of Kill Team.

 

Killzone: Sector Fronteris

Product Cost: $80 USD

Killzone: Sector Fronteris is a Kill Team Killzone that’s designed to simulate the dusty backwater frontier worlds on the edge of the Imperium, basically letting you set up sweet-ass Wild West showdowns with your Kill Teams in the Grim Darkness of the 41st Millennium.

Like the other Killzone sets, this one comes with one double-sided game board and 5 large cards: 1 Killzone card with an Environment Effects table that no one will ever use, plus 4 missions that take place in the Sector Fronteris Killzone. It also comes with a set of Killzone- and terrain-specific tactics and four sprues of Ryza Ruins terrain. The terrain is the biggest deal here, since it finally gives players access to full, undamaged walls and a ceiling for Ryza Ruins terrain, though these don’t really stack like the similar Age of Sigmar ruins. The four missions kind of simulate a few different wild west scenarios, and they’re only just OK. Shoot Out, which simulates a pair of teams taking cover and firing blindly, is neat but prevents teams from charging or fighting in the first two battle rounds, and is probably going to be wildly damaging to some Kill Teams. Cover From the Storm has teams fighting through a raging sand/sun storm, reducing visibility and affecting models who aren’t on terrain. Defend the Settlement wastes an opportunity to be a sweet Magnificent Seven-style mission and instead is just a boring-ass “control some objective points” objective.

Final Verdict

I’m a big fan of the Killzones, though admittedly I like them more as ways to get more terrain on the cheap than as Killteam expansions. The boards are great, but the missions tend to be lackluster and Sector Fronteris misses some big opportunities to do sick Wild West scenarios. Shoot-Out and Cover from the Storm are the best of these, but I’d have preferred to see more missions that replicate movie scenarios, like a mission that has a team of hard dudes fighting their way down a dusty street while being shot at from above, or having a a duel at high noon. Also a scenario where my dudes can rob a space bank. Overall, it’s worth it just for the terrain (especially the new bits), but I’d have preferred it be worth more than just that. If you don’t need the terrain, you’re not gonna miss this one much.

Anyways, that’s it for my reviews this week. Tune in next time when I’ll probably be writing about my new campaign in lieu of new shit I’m buying. Until then, see you, space cowboy.

 

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