Review: Kill Team reboot brings D&D-style storytelling to Warhammer 40K

Warhammer 40,000 Kill Staff: Octarius is a unprecedented reboot for the struggling miniatures skirmish game. As soon as the sick man of the Games Workshop catalog, this lavish new boxed set may catapult the area of interest title into the mainstream. Octarius, and the Core E book that it comes with, succeeds at utterly rebuilding the sport’s notoriously wonky ruleset. It additionally provides in lots of extra alternatives for narrative storytelling than nearly another title within the firm’s catalog.

In the event you have been on the lookout for a cause to wade into the grim darkness of the far future, Octarius is the proper place to get began.

Kill Staff is a by-product of the full-fat Warhammer 40,000 miniatures wargame. As a substitute of fielding armies with dozens of miniatures on all sides of the desk, Kill Staff solely requires a handful of figures and surroundings to get began. Gamers sit down with a comparatively tiny battlefield between them — simply 22 inches by 30 inches on all sides — and video games can take as little as 45 minutes to play.

The Kill Staff franchise was first launched in 2004, then rebooted first in 2018. That almost all current model of the sport tried very arduous to make use of the identical type of unit statistics and gameplay flip construction because the mainline model of the tabletop wargame. That in the end proved unwieldy, particularly with every participant shifting and capturing earlier than their opponent had an opportunity to reply. In comparison with extra nimble techniques like Corvus Belli’s Infinity and the upcoming Cyberpunk Red: Combat Zone from Monster Combat Membership, Kill Staff felt ponderous and sluggish.

A gunline of Krieg in green holds back an onrushing group of Orks along a barricade. They’ve brought an explosive animal with them.

Photograph: Video games Workshop

Octarius’ new Core E book throws these legacy trappings proper out the window, presenting gamers with a completely new technique to struggle. Now, every particular person mannequin — not every participant — takes its flip earlier than shifting on to the following. This ends in far more fluid engagements, with back-and-forth battles which are way more cinematic of their execution.

One other key change involves the motion economic system. Every unit on the map has a set motion level restrict, abbreviated to APL on their stat card. An motion will be shifting, firing a weapon, or aiding one other unit on the board to carry out a type of combo — as much as and together with doling out extra motion factors. Items even have distinctive actions that may solely be carried out by sure people, comparable to medics, explosive consultants, and melee specialists. The result’s one thing a lot nearer to the flowery tactical fight created for the 4th version of Dungeons & Dragons, or one thing like Firaxis’ XCOM franchise, than anything within the Video games Workshop catalog.

The Core E book contains guidelines for 3 distinct modes of play, amongst them the normal open (informal) and matched (aggressive) codecs. However the actual deal with here’s a newly invigorated marketing campaign mode referred to as Spec Ops Narrative Play. This expanded mode encourages gamers to call their kill staff and its particular person members, creating an attachment and enhancing their abilities over time.

All the models included in the Octarius set, professionally painted and set up for play.

Photograph: Video games Workshop

Items will earn expertise each time they take the sphere — even whereas taking part in open and matched video games. That have can be utilized so as to add feats to a unit’s skillset that can make them much more succesful and precious. Gamers even have an off-map (learn: invisible) base of operations, and may add to its capabilities over time. It’s catnip for devoted hobbyists, who might be wanting to create customized miniatures and terrain based mostly on their battlefield exploits.

The boxed set itself is a a lot better worth than the earlier one (Warhammer 40,000 Kill Team: Pariah Nexus). Whereas the ultimate worth level has but to be introduced, we anticipate it to come back in round $150. Shoppers will get two units of fashions: the Loss of life Korps of Krieg (vaguely German-looking troops carrying futuristic Pickelhaube and sporting lengthy weapons) and the hulking Ork Kommandos (who seem like inexperienced powerlifters that simply fought their means out of a junkyard). There’s additionally a ton of chunky, all-plastic terrain in addition to cube, rulers, and cardboard tokens. This time round, Video games Workshop even packed the included decks of playing cards inside tuck bins, which is able to significantly enhance their survivability in cargo. The gutter on the printed booklets can be a lot wider, that means that you just gained’t must tear the books in half to learn them.

Two different options for the same Ork torso, one with a multi-barreled bolter and the other with a single stub pistol.

Photograph: Video games Workshop

Another example of the same torso being used for two different figures. On the left, a sniper. On the right, a demolitions unit at his plunger.

Photograph: Video games Workshop

So far as the miniatures themselves, they’re all wonderful sculpts, however I’ve some reservations about how they’ve been designed. Whereas modders can have a area day with the Krieg, whose arms, fingers, and heads might be simple to lop off and exchange with simply the correct bits, the Kommandos are rather less fiddly. They’re simple sufficient to place collectively, however their poses and ornamentation will make them tougher to rework into distinctive silhouettes. Additionally, the brand new guidelines enable as much as 20 fashions in every kill staff unit checklist. Which means Octarius solely comes with half the variety of fashions you’ll want for matched play or an prolonged narrative marketing campaign.

Two gray plastic figures against a wood backdrop.

An instance of a few of the unpainted Krieg miniatures. The medals, in addition to the bedroll and tin cup, are additional bits of aptitude that may be freely added to your fashions anyplace you want.
Photograph: Charlie Corridor/Polygon

The actual innovation right here is the stand-alone Octarius e-book that comes bundled with the boxed set. Whereas my copy confirmed up faulty, with rumpled and creased pages all through, it’s nonetheless a brand new and novel merchandise. Very similar to a marketing campaign module in D&D, it accommodates all the principles wanted for these two factions to struggle in a selected theater of conflict, in addition to a linked collection of distinctive missions.

A graphic showing in detail the three different portions of a piece of terrain and what rules apply to them.

Picture: Video games Workshop

It additionally contains detailed guidelines for each unit within the boxed set, and every bit of terrain as effectively. It’s the type of readability and precision that has merely been missing from previous Kill Zone terrain releases.

The one factor lacking from the field, in my view — apart from useful pack-ins to maintain all the parts sorted and accessible — are clean unit lists. It’s irritating that, along with spending hours portray and assembling the miniatures, I additionally must create my very own participant aids on an inkjet printer.

General, although, this is likely one of the greatest rule units that Video games Workshop has ever produced. It feels daring and assured, and it may result in a really vivid future for the franchise as a complete. Pre-orders will be positioned quickly by your pleasant native sport retailer and on the Video games Workshop web site, and units are anticipated to start out delivery in August.

Warhammer 40,000 Kill Staff: Octarius was reviewed utilizing a retail copy offered by Video games Workshop. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media might earn commissions for merchandise bought by way of affiliate hyperlinks. You could find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.


Deathwatch Kill Team Cassius

Costs taken at time of publishing.

The Deathwatch has featured prominently in current Warhammer Neighborhood articles. Count on them to be included within the enjoyable with the discharge of Warhammer 40,000 Kill Staff: Octarius. | Review: Kill Staff reboot brings D&D-style storytelling to Warhammer 40K


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