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Kill Team is back, and it’s time to start paying attention to Warhammer 40,000

Games Workshop is going all-in on a low model count skirmish game

Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team artwork Games Workshop
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Today Games Workshop took the cover off Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team, a brand new skirmish game set in the grim darkness of the far future. It’s the most substantial new product roll-out that I’ve seen the company make in a long time, and it has the potential to be a smash hit. Simply put, it’s time to start paying attention to 40K again.

Kill Team was first released as an expansion to the core 40K tabletop miniatures wargame, but this new version is a complete standalone product line. In a community post on its website today, Games Workshop detailed what’s in the starter set and opened up about what makes this new product line different than all the rest. Here’s what you need to know.

Low model count: Traditionally, 40K is played with massive armies. Each side can have dozens of models and multiple vehicles on the table at one time. With Kill Team, you can get started with as few as five miniatures on each side.

Here’s what comes with the Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team Starter Set.
Games Workshop

Smaller play field: Those massive armies traditionally need an equally massive battlefield to play on, something in the neighborhood of four or six feet on each side. Kill Team shrinks that down to a tiny game board that’s just 22-by-30 inches.

Focus on terrain: The starter set and each and every expansion will come bundled with their own bits of terrain. Designed by the same team that made the wildly popular Sector Mechanicus line of industrial terrain, the new Sector Imperialis designs looks good in any number of settings within the world of 40K. Note that these designs emphasize multi-story structures. Just like Necromunda, which was released late last year, verticality will play a key role in Kill Team and the product line is being designed to support that.

Customer-focused product design: Games Workshop has always seemed tricksy with how it sells its products. Want the full manual for that fun spin-off? Well, then you’ll have to pick up the entire boxed starter set. Need to know how to use the vehicle on page 27? That’s in a whole other book, buddy.

Kill Team appears to flip that script by selling most of the core components a la carte. The base manual is being sold separately from the starter set and contains all of the rules you need to play as one of 16 different factions. There will also be faction specific starter sets that come with five miniatures and a few bits of terrain. And, given the scale of the game board, terrain kits are now sold as self-contained battlefields complete with their own play mat.

Games Workshop
Games Workshop
Games Workshop

New Sector Imperialis terrain is both modular and customizable. It’s also built to tesselate well with the older Sector Mechanicus line.

A focus on storytelling: What has always attracted me to the world of 40K is the lore, and Kill Team is looking to reinforce that. No more anonymous Space Marines bleeding on the surface of another barren moon. With Kill Team, assembling your squad requires you to customize your characters. Fighting with them over time will allow you to level them up, and help lend each of them a personality at the table.

Games Workshop

No release date or pricing information has been given, but I expect we’ll learn more soon. Judging by what’s in the box, expect the starter set to be in the neighborhood of $150 retail. If you already own some 40K miniatures you’re in luck, though, and might be able to get away with just the basic manual. If you want to know more, check out Games Workshop’s lengthy FAQ document.