The Kill Team 2021 End-of-Year Review

2021 was a big year for Kill Team, with the release of a new edition that completely overhauled the game and changed the way Games Workshop approaches releases for it. We’re generally big fans of the new edition, and praised it upon first release. Since then we’ve had a steady stream of updates for the game, including a set of FAQs/errata, the Chalnath boxed set, and several new teams added through White Dwarf. With 2021 winding down, we thought we’d take stock of the year that was and talk about what we liked and didn’t, and how we feel about Kill Team’s future.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

What was the highlight of this year’s releases for you?

Thundercloud: Casting our minds back to January, we had the release of Kill Team: Pariah Nexus, which I was one of the few people to be positive about, because it gave a slight evolution of Arena, and fixed the close confines rules where they were unbalanced or aggressively unfun to play (looking at you doors).

In retrospect I’m a bit more salty, having painted up all the terrain just in time to get no games due to a global pandemic and work requirements, and then a new edition of Kill Team to come out. 

The new Kill Team Octarius hit, and it was an absolutely brilliant box with everything inside it a brand new model (with the exception of the scatter terrain sprue). This was followed up by two White Dwarf teams and another Kill Team box with two more teams, one brand new models and one an expansion sprue on an existing kit along with the same terrain as the original KT18 box. 

Octarius and the new Kill Team has been a massive shot in the arm for Kill Team, solving pretty much every problem I had with KT18. Since then we’ve also had Chalnath, which has shaken the meta up but got everyone complaining about how high off the ground the floors are in it. 

TheChirurgeon: I was not a fan of Pariah Nexus. It felt like a really cynical release to me, particularly given the contents. On the other hand, the big 2.0 release washed that foul taste out of my mouth pretty quickly and I’m very happy with this current edition of Kill Team. The core rules for the game are a lot of fun and much more streamlined than the previous edition, and now that we’ve had a balance adjustment to Custodes, the game is in a pretty good place. The new boxed set is probably the highlight of the year for me – the contents were just excellent, and everything from the terrain to the Death Korps to the new Kommandos were just outstanding models. 

My favorite individual release part is probably the terrain in the core box. The Ork ruins are just excellent, and mesh nicely with everything that’s been done for Orks so far. It gives them a full terrain kit to build with, and while it could stand to be a bit more modular vertically, the ability to put multiple pieces together to make massive forts is amazing. I love the kit so much.

T’au Empire Pathfinder Kill Team. Credit: Greg Chiasson

What do you think of KT21?

Thundercloud: I think it’s massively better in mechanical terms. Just a much better game than KT18 or current 40k. I think there’s a lot of potential for expansion, and I like what I’ve seen so far from White Dwarf and supplements is a significant improvement from the Compendium. 

The Compendium is controversial because in about two years time it will have been replaced by new supplements and White Dwarf teams, but gives you 19 factions (some better than others) to allow you to use all the book factions from 40k (except Knights before someone moans about that) plus Kroot. Some of these have been supplemented by White Dwarf teams (Admech and Thousand Sons). The Compendium Admech team can be taken still by people who want four special weapons and to have multiples of each weapon, but the Thousand Sons has been completely replaced by much better options. 

I think the potential for Narrative games has not been developed, and the Warhammer + battle reports are showing some of the potential for narrative to be fun and to give you a different game experience. Certainly I’d like to see multiplayer rules, and I can immediately think of half size teams as something to use in 3-4 player games on the same sized board (Leader plus 4 slots for the specialist teams and single fireteams for the Compendium teams). 

Overall I’m happy with where Kill Team is and where it is going. I know some people get very impatient about releases, but if Kill Team had released with 6 specialist kill teams in boxes with the Octarius set and 3 killzone packs (like the KT18 release which was two faction packs and a killzone per month after the initial release, and sales nosedived hard on the faction packs that weren’t Space Marines) and then a year of nothing, there’d have been much complaining. 

TheChirurgeon: I desperately wanted to love the original Kill Team but it just wasn’t a fun game to play. KT21 is. It’s better in almost every regard, with the only downside being that it’s not quite as customizable as the old game on a per-model basis. Though ultimately I think that’s to its benefit, since there are fewer traps and less insane imbalance between factions that have three model options and others that have two dozen. This new Kill Team is much more streamlined and marines and other big models now feel appropriately heavy compared to guardsmen and other 7-wound yabbos. 

The campaign system is also very much improved and I’m no longer afraid to incorporate the occasional game of Kill Team into a larger 40k campaign. I definitely want to play more of it next year.

Wings: I love it, and it’s one of the few things outside main 40K that has grabbed me enough that I want to make time for games of it. It’s one of the best system refreshes that GW have ever done, and creates a game that has real tactical depth while also creating cinematic moments. I do also like that they put out an early big FAQ/errata document to tackle some of the few bits that weren’t working as well as they should.


Deathwatch Killteam
Photo Credit: Musterkrux

What’s your current favourite Kill Team faction?

Thundercloud: This is the tricky one. I came in from KT18 with Custodes, Death Guard, Genestealer Cult, Orks and Space Marines as the factions I played, and I’d taken Death Guard and Orks to big tournaments. I’m currently putting together more Space Marine Kill Teams (Scouts and Tacticals) but all the White Dwarf Teams (Admech, Thousand Sons and Genestealer Cults) have a little pile of miniatures waiting to be built or for a few more models to be added. 

I’ve got a ticket to the Kill Team Team Kill (or whatever they’re calling it) event at Warhammer World next year so I’ll be painting up a couple of competitive rosters to take. Eldar may be out by then and Corsairs scratch a nostalgia itch (and I’ve got the Rogue Trader metals in a box upstairs that I can get out and repaint).

TheChirurgeon: I’m sick of playing my Death Guard in 40k, but much less so in Kill Team, where I enjoy laughing as enemy attacks bounce right off my models. That said, this is also because I haven’t finished painting up the necessary sorcerers to start really playing with my Warpcovens kill team, and I suspect once I start playing more with them I’ll be switching favorites from Nurgle to Tzeentch. They just seem like a better play right now and if I’m gonna spend all this time painting blue and yellow stripes on Egyptian muscle wizards, I’m going to get as much use out of them as I can.

Wings: Still got plenty I want to try, but I found Necrons surprisingly enjoyable despite their limited roster, and am keen to give them a further go in the new year (plus am really crossing my fingers for them to get the White Dwarf treatment at some point.


Photo Credit: Musterkrux

What do you think of the Warhammer TV narrative games?

Thundercloud: I think Warhammer plus gives us a window into how GW actually play their games. We all sit out here in the community on our little plastic hordes, one lizard onesie away from being discount Smaug, and think about competitive metas or whatever and talk about optimising and competitive play while the people who make the game do with whatever they think is cool. Taking Genestealer Cult Acolytes without any power tools, painting Christmas Grots, writing your own Christmas pun rules, etc. Having fun with other game nerds basically. For those of us without a regular game hook up due to either living with our opponent (hence the rise of the dad gamer) we end up veering towards matched play, because it requires much less preparation and is a ‘fairer’ experience. No one is painting Christmas Grots to head down the local gaming store for a pick up.

I think narrative has the most potential for fun game experiences in the future, but it’s about how the community respond and develop it. This is all predicated on community and building a decent group of players, which runs up against the issue that we’ve had some barriers placed in the way of developing local communities in the last year and a half.

TheChirurgeon: I thought the first game was pretty straightforward and a good way to introduce Kill Team and how it’s played. The second is really just more of a promotional tie-in where they’re trying to do more narrative stuff. That said, I definitely feel like they missed some opportunities here – I’d have just run the Blood Angels as Deathwatch in order to make five operatives work and it would have let them kit it the team out more accurately. I think it’s fun otherwise and it’s not that far off from the kind of thing I’d pull in one of my campaigns, where the focus is on achieving specific narrative aims over balanced play sometimes. I can confirm that it does require a shitload of work though – I’ve built entire terrain sets and models just to run a single game before. Otherwise, it’s fine – I’m less irked by the narrative loadouts/team construction than I am the in-game decisions around leaving objectives, and I enjoyed watching it enough.

But before we move on, we need to talk about the fact that the hosts of the battle report refer to distances not by shape or inches, but by color. What in the actual hell? The measurement tool you get in the box doesn’t come painted or anything. I cannot wrap my head around how this ended up being how GW think about distances in the game internally. I did like how they do a number of dice in hand for their scout orders instead of a die face, though – harder to cheat/mess up.

Killteam of Tactical Marines
Photo Credit: Musterkrux

What would you like to see in Kill Team?

Thundercloud: I’d like to see more of the same, specialist Kill Teams. I think narrative could be developed somewhat, though given the two teams + terrain + campaign model for releases, I don’t know how that would fit in. Perhaps included in a 2022 Kill Team annual? 

I think we’re very likely to see an Eldar Corsairs vs somebody box in Jan or Feb (hopefully in plenty of time for Kill Team Team Kill event which has a 20th February cut off for submitting lists). 

I think the supplement boxes will be a bit hit and miss, depending on the contents, but it’s likely we’ll see some terrain we’ve already got that inflates a box with two new Kill Teams in. However that’s not a bad thing for people getting into Kill Team as it’ll give them different terrain layouts that they already have, while building up their terrain pile for 40k.  

Wings: Despite Commanders being very poorly implemented in the original version of Kill Team, I’d be fascinated to see an attempt at that idea (swapping out one model for a more elite unit) in the new system, especially as the much more granular stats would likely allow you to pitch them more sensibly compared to the other models. That highlights the value of de-coupling things from mainline 40K stat-wise, as Commanders was basically doomed as soon as it tried to stick to the codex statlines of the various units involved. This time around, units could be properly balanced for Kill Team, and it would add just a dash of extra customisation.

TheChirurgeon: I like the current model for releasing 40k units out-of-cycle by introducing them through Kill Team, and I hope that eventually leads us to plastic Aspect Warriors of all stripes so our long metal Warp Spider nightmare can finally be over. 

From a selfish stats point, I’d like to see some better game tracking for Kill Team at events – right now most rosters look exactly the same, so it’s really hard to tell what players are doing in-game when they play. What equipment is being chosen? Which fire teams is someone bringing? Not having this information makes it really difficult to understand the play decisions of players without a stream and as a result, diminishes the competitive play footprint of the game. Which is sad to me because I really like KT21 as a competitive game.

As far as Commanders go, I’m not even sure how they’d look in current Kill Team – leaders generally have improved WS and BS on their attacks and an extra wound or two. I guess you’d give a commander a couple more +1 APL for the cost of an extra model? Seems like the payoff is not great there.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

What do you think of the Community Reaction?

Thundercloud: Initially there was a very vocal and negative reaction to a new edition of Kill Team, often on facebook from people with strangely no history of posting painted miniatures or talking about Kill Team games they’ve played, or some youtubers participating in the negativity economy. 

Strangely this reaction finished after the release, and those people moved on to being negative about the next new release. Since then we’ve seen positive reactions to the rules (though not necessarily to the layout of the rulebook) and a lot of chatter about the relative meta between the different factions. 

There’s also been a lot of great modelling done and shown on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as people go nuts with the modelling opportunities of only doing a small number of models. 

Wings: I was very surprised at how hostile the initial reaction was, and am very glad that it’s largely subsided – something that’s frankly a testament to the quality of the KT21 experience. It is reassuring to know that just making a really good game can, in fact, do wonders once people get a chance to play it. From chatting to people outside the internet echo chambers, my impression is also that the game has landed very well in the more casual community, and I firmly hope that GW keeps supporting something that has such broad cut through.

TheChirurgeon: It was pretty rough to see for a game that hadn’t seen much play through 2020, though in retrospect I think at least part of it was how GW handled Space Marine kill teams. I’m still shocked we haven’t seen White Dwarf rules for a marine kill team yet, and I suspect when we do finally get rules for a team or two they’ll be a bit more exciting. 

Otherwise, I’m hoping to see the community do more with the game – Kill Team was always huge in Spain and they’ve picked up right where they left off, running large events that allow for five rounds to be played in a single day, which is really cool.  Whenever we do our meta analyses on Kill Team, they’re always at the forefront.

Kommandos. Credit: Rockfish
Kommandos. Credit: Rockfish

What is your current competitive top team?

Thundercloud: I think the current top competitive teams are Kommandos and Tau Pathfinders, Kommandos because of their flexibility and Pathfinders because of the intrinsic strength of 4 / 5 guns and markerlights.  

I think the Specialist Fireteams are starting to pull away from the pack of Compendium teams, with the exception of teams like Harlequins, Dark Eldar and Talons of the Emperor (which are still pretty good after their nerf). 

I think the very high performance of Tau Pathfinders will lead to a limit on sequential activations in an FAQ, but that will only slightly nerf the team as the strength is in their guns and markerlight mechanics. 

TheChirurgeon: Now that the Custodes nightmare is behind us, it seems like Kommandos have stormed to the top, and a lot of our initial fears about Harlequins have started to slowly materialize. Pathfinders are also doing well. I suspect that the Compendium teams will be mostly left behind in the coming months as they’re replaced by more specialized and interesting teams like the Warpcoven or Hunter Clade. Very few vanilla teams feel like they have legs or can stand up to the more modern teams and in my opinion that’s a bit of a shame

Are the White Dwarf Kill Team updates good or bad?

Wings: This is the one of the few things I don’t really “get” about how the new release is being handled. I think the Compendium teams are perfectly fine for playing games, but the mixed model teams enabled by the White Dwarf options are generally just kind of better – so given they aren’t massively more dense than what’s in the Compendium, why not just put them in there? The best lens I can put on it is that they give the designers a chance to do a second pass through the teams with an understanding of what works and what doesn’t, and keep factions in line with the power offered by the big box teams. That’s not a bad thing, and it gives a steady stream of content to look forward to, but it would honestly be nice just to have an explanation of the thought process that’s going into it.

TheChirurgeon: I really like White Dwarf teams as a way to update Compendium teams but I’ll reiterate what Wings said in that it’s weird that they all seem to be straight upgrades on existing teams so far. That part’s not great, because it immediately makes the Compendium look like trash and makes it clearly a book that you’re going to regret buying within a year. On the other hand, I do like how it gives us a steady stream of new Kill Team content that players can pick up when their faction comes up, and it’ll make good content for the inevitable Kill Team Annual we’ll get at some point. On that note, please make the Kill Team Annual a spiral-bound book like the 40k/Age of Sigmar competitive rulebooks. In fact, make every rulebook spiral bound.

Thundercloud: I think they’re a good thing, providing Kill Team with a stream of new content and updating factions that aren’t getting a new box or an upgrade sprue to keep them competitive with the specialist Kill Teams. 

Continual support is a good thing, and we’ve got another year of boxes and White Dwarf teams, so it’s going to be a real interesting year coming up.


More to Come

That wraps up our look back at 2021 but we’ll be back next year with more great Kill Team coverage, looking at new articles on each team, plus regular coverage of new releases and the new teams in each month’s White Dwarf. Have a happy new year, and we’ll see you again soon!

Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at