Kill Team Compendium: The Underwhelming Underbelly of Kill Team

If you haven’t seen my recent review of the new Kill Team rules, I strongly advise you give it a gander. The system itself is unique and works rather well to most extents. If you pick up the Kill Team: Octarius box you’ll be getting Kill Team 2021 at it’s best. However, the Kill Team: Compendium, which supplies rules for the other factions outside of the box, provides something of a watered-down experience. This alone diminishes the value and heart of Kill Team single-handedly.

The Octarius box allows you to field Ork Kommando and Kriegsmen Operatives against each other. Within the box you get the models and rules for both factions. Not only do the models and the scenery enrichen the experience, but the full rules provided for the factions give a great experience. This is truly the way that Kill Team is meant to be played and enjoyed.

Compending Doom

From here the Compendium swoops in to accommodate players who do not wish to field Ork Kommandos or Kriegsmen. It allows you to field many other fire teams, be they Primaris Reivers to Necron Warriors to Genestealer Cults and everything in-between. This will be essential to anyone wishing to play Kill Team with models not included in the Octarius box.

With the Compendium being a required purchase for most players, it’s a shame that it’s been delivered so undercooked. It certainly seems more along the lines of an Index, back from the early days of 8th edition Warhammer 40,000. However, the Index books were released with the assurance that full books were coming for each faction. With the Compendium, I can see no such equivalent being promised.

Thus, as you go through the Compendium and compare it to the Octarius book, you realise how glossed-over the other factions are. In Octarius each of the two factions gets bespoke rules for the following:

  • Tac Ops
  • Spec Ops Rules
  • Abilities/Ancillary Support specific to the factions
  • Equipment
  • Rare Equipment
  • Assets
  • Requisitions
  • Strategic Ploys
  • Tactical Ploys

In comparison, each other faction in the Compendium gets the following:

  • Strategic Ploys
  • Tactical Ploys
  • Equipment

Disparate Battles

This is a sizeable disparity between what you get in the big, expensive box compared to those who wish to play factions outside of it. When you compare the rules for the Death Korps of Krieg to, say, Traitor Space Marines, the Chaos Marines are a mere shadow. This applies even more so to narrative play where the two Octarius factions have far more options throughout a Spec Ops campaign compared to the other factions. This strange division brings me a great sense of unease as it simply feels that some players are playing the full Kill Team experience but most are playing a diluted version.

Even the lack of abilities plays a part here. The Octarius Orks have a special ability to be able to charge even when Concealed. The Kriegsmen have the ability to give orders from a Leader to nearby Operatives. These abilities help to give the two teams a sense of individuality and self. No factions in the Compendium have faction-wide abilities such as these. With this, along with the fewer options/nuances, the Compendium factions don’t feel wholly different from one another.

Certainly, the stats and characteristics for each faction are different and units themselves can have their own abilities, but it simply doesn’t feel cohesive when comparing the Compendium and Octarius box. It feels very uninspiring and it ultimately hampers the experience in both gameplay and narrative. I won’t say that the efforts into the book aren’t there as I can imagine it was an almost herculean task to prepare a game system to yield so many factions. Nevertheless, it feels like just a bit more time on the Compendium to flesh it out would have made it a far more enjoyable product.

Wargear for Fears

Some of the rising concerns from the Kill Team player base are focused on a perceived lack of customisation within the game. Specialists a la old Kill Team are no more and the prospect of the “fixed” fire teams does feel as though the flames of creativity are doused. However, this isn’t wholly the case. Each Kill Team can be fielded with Equipment in your games and this can help to breed that unique twist to your fighters. Even if it’s simply a case of gluing a few Frag Grenades to your Guardsman’s belt or attaching a Kabalite Banner to your Sybarite.

When considering the units available in the Compendium, there are some non-surprises. Adeptus Astartes Kill Teams have the options of approximately 20 different Operatives, whereas most other factions have around 10. The variety available across the Compendium is generous and every faction has something on offer here. Bizarrely, the Beast Snaggas aren’t here, which I questioned somewhat. Be it for release scheduling reasons or something more narrative, we’ll never know.

The various factions do play somewhat differently to each other. The Genestealer Cults rely on large numbers and group activations to succeed, with each model usually having 2APL. Weigh this against the Custodes and you’ll see they have a smaller body count but with 4APL each. The stats for each unit and their abilities are all that stand them apart for the most part and, bar equipment and a few ploys, these are the main factors you’ll be relying on for any semblance of differentiation between them. Without reiterating what’s already been said, even just a single ability for each faction would help here. Worse still, there are no additional rules for sub-factions such as Space Marine chapters, Chaos Legions, Tau Septs, etc.

A Grim Prospect

Sadly, the Compendium for Kill Team 2021 is very bittersweet indeed. It’s wonderful that each faction has some coverage for the new game, especially coinciding with the launch of the new system. However, the paltry coverage that each faction has is very underwhelming, especially when you compare to what is offered in the Octarius box.

Part of me gelidly hopes that there will be a myriad of supplements and expansions that will give the other factions the breadth that they need. Whilst it’s a shame there’d be further purchases needed for this, I think it’d be worth it to get the most out of the factions and a game system that I believe I would truly enjoy. However, without any of this being shown or teased at this point, I will act on the presumption that this may be all we get. Considering what happened with Cursed City, I wouldn’t be surprised and that’s a very sorry state to be in as a fan and a customer.

Update (16/08/2021) – Games Workshop has recently announced the plan for future Kill Team releases, including new war zones and models. This will likely see the other factions receive the Octarius treatment and include their full rule sets. As stated, it’s unfortunately that this will see a Necromunda-style schedule with faction rules creeping in over the coming months, as some factions linger behind and feel unfinished where others can enjoy the full experience. Whilst this isn’t a huge surprise, it’s a shame in many regards and adds to the disappointment wrought by the Kill Team: Compendium.

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Article originally written by the author for The Unrelenting Brush blog in affiliation with Boards and Swords Hobbies.

Note – Games Workshop supplied us with a copy of Kill Team 2021 for this review content.

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