Heralds of Ruin Kill Team: An Introduction

By Martynas Klimas 09 Mar 2017 0

Warhammer 40,000 is the biggest miniatures game out there. If you know someone who likes pushing toy soldiers on a table, he/she likely spends their time in the grim darkness of the far future. [ED: Unless they're Bill.] Unfortunately, it is far from being the best ruleset, especially as the tables are too small for the fights between 28mm scale miniatures to look like anything else than knife-fights in a phonebooth. Luckily, some fans understand that less is more and they have produced the Heralds of Ruin Kill Team variant for skirmishes of small special operations teams.

Header image courtesy of Markus Kuttelwascher.

A Storied History Of Killing Teams

Back during the 4th edition of the main game, Kill Team was introduced as an alternative mode where a team of models acting individually (instead of being grouped in squads) would face off against grunts guarding an objective. There were customization options for both the 'Kill Team' and the grunt player, making for some really cinematic scenarios where heroes would be taking on numerous mooks before facing off against their leader. It didn't live long, and for many years, the only semi-supported small model number game type was Combat Patrol, which wasn't well developed or all that special. Last year, Kill Team saw a re-release as a rules supplement + boxed product that gave players two (unbalanced) teams to start with. Since it had more to do with Combat Patrol than with original the Kill Team, the limitations meant that you could only take one or two types of units at best, with limited customization options.

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However, fans had never forgotten Gorkamorka, Necromunda, and Mordheim - skirmish rulesets that had been released (and killed) under the Specialist Games banner. Those games were all aimed at small skirmishes between gangs, hilarious rules interactions and campaign play. So it came to pass that blessed Tom Meer, he of Heralds of Ruin blog, released an unofficial Kill Team supplement and army lists a few years back. The game was inspired by (and even tooks some of the rules from) Specialist Games and featured all of the customization you could want.

Kustom Gubbinz Fer Everywun

If the official Kill Team would limit you to, say, a squad of Tactical Marines bought and kitted out just like a Troop choice would be in the regular game, then HoR lets you assemble a team of individual miniatures. Each list gives you a selection of Team Leaders, which will be accompanied by Core troops that make up the bulk of the team, while special models provide specialized skills.

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For example, my 250 points Iron Hand Space Marine Kill Team has a Veteran Sergeant leader with Armor of Alacrity that let's him re-roll failed armor saves, six Tactical Marines (one carrying a Plasma Cannon equipped with Suspensors that allow the Marine to fire this heavy weapon after moving, if only at half range), two scout marines with sniper riles and camouflage cloaks, one Assault Marine, one Vanguard Veteran with a power axe (so a better Assault Marine) and one Apothecary that projects a 6-inch Feel No Pain (armor save after you fail an armor save) bubble, which naturally leads to my team clustering around him. If I wanted, I could have taken Terminators, bikers and even Centurions, as well as giving them certain toys usually restricted to heroes or plucked from other Warhammer 40,000 games – with certain limitations, of course!

HoR KT also includes a lot more armies than the official version. While the game was still firmly under the guiding hand of Blessed Meer this only meant Adeptus Arbites, which are the federal police force of Imperium of Man and an army of Judge Dredds at the same time. They had had rules and models at some point in the past, but, understandably, they never found their way to the regular tabletop. Perfect for a skirmish game though.

At some point, Meer could not continue contributing to the project, so it was given to the community to develop. This has lead to an explosion of army lists as everyone could (and still can) lobby for and put together a list for their fetish faction. Do you want to play as Hrud, the enthropic whacky inflatable tube arm hobo aliens? Sure, there's a list that pretends that they're space skaven. Still have some squats or bought Mantic's space dwarves? Their list is basically built with those models in mind. Rebel Grots? Da, komrade, you can relive your glory days of leading a goblinist people's revolution in Gorkamorka.

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Less Models, More Choices On The Battlefield

So the models act like individual units (except for certain squishy troops that are grouped into squads up to 5 man/alien strong) just like in Kill Team, but that's basically where the similarities end. The additional rules mean, for example, that if a miniature goes down to enemy fire, his friends within 3 inches have to test for pinning. Initiative rolls are used outside of close combat, too – usually to decide whether you can climb or jump safely (one Veteran Guardsman sniper died on me by failing his jump down from a roof). Bottle tests mean that the entire team runs away instead of individual models, which leads to faster games and less of the boring grind. Various abilities are conferred in a bubble, which makes them a lot more useful than in regular Kill Team where the Apothecary could only give Feel No Pain for himself.

It's a hoot.

The community also does a great deal of balancing, using the army lists to fix things that Games Workshop can't – or won't. Space elf jet bikers are scary and overpowered on the table top, so the Eldar development group stripped them of one point of armor saves and made scatter lasers a lot rarer. An Apothecary and Iron Hands chapter tactics combo made Space Marines too hard to kill, which lead the group reworking the interaction between the two to not make it such a blatant Correct Option(TM) (like playing Imperial Fists is on the regular Kill Team).

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Community Driven

Of course, there are issues. No rule-set is perfect and HoR KT is just an addition to Games Workshop's main rules. To fix them could be the task what would lay low even Kevin Roundtree, the man that replaced former CEO and capitalist caricature Tom Kirby who thought that rules are incidental to selling “jewel-like objects of wonder” (plastic toy soldiers).

However, the community has demonstrated that it is more than ready to carry the torch whenever Game Workshop kills off a game (which is quite frequently). Epic Armageddon has at least two living rule-sets that are constantly improved and used in tournaments. YakTribe and others have done a lot to keep Necromunda, Gorkamorka and Mordheim kicking. So Heralds of Ruin KT seems to have a great future in front of it.

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As for target audience, HoR KT caters to a variety of people. It might not be the best for absolute newcomers: they are better served by the regular Kill Team that restricts their choices and lets them learn the ropes. But those who have several games under their belt and a hunger for customization in their soul can easily make the jump to HoR.

The format is also perfect for people who have already established armies, but have grown bitter about alpha-strikes, invulnerable heroes and death-stars (a hobby term used to describe unstoppable blobs of rule exploitation). I know at least one guy like that at my club! [ED: Is it you? It's you isn't it?]

People interested in the hobby aspect will also find their place, because having 15 Space Marines in your army lets you put more time and effort into customizing each one. It's also cheap to collect – even if the freedom of building the team means a bigger variety of troops, it's not like you can't poach the single terminator on Ebay.

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And the game has campaign rules, so you can see your customized space barbies grow in skill and glory. This is one of the things that keep Specialist Games in such great nostalgic regard. It's handled in a more thorough way than the regular Kill Team campaign and gives you the the feeling that rather than being “plastic mans,” your soldiers are named heroes with their own stories. 1d4chan – one of the greatest repositories of geek knowledge out there – dubs it “Your Dudes.”

So if there's an acceptable way to play 40K, Heralds of Ruin Kill Team is definitely it. The rules aren't as clunky at such low numbers of models, it looks a lot better, there's a lot more in the way of tactics and movement... And we should remember that “less is more” applies to Jedi and Space Marines both: the less of them you see in action, the more special each of them is.

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