The Cult of the Unshackled is a rather unusual kill team for the Games Workshop tabletop miniature skirmish game Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team. The rules for playing the team can be found in White Dwarf Magazine’s issue 489.
The Cult of the Unshackled is quite an unusual one. They were designed for a specific three-player narrative mission in White Dwarf Magazine, and as such, they don’t have any Tac Ops or equipment options (not to mention campaign rules or anything like that), but what they do have is a nice template for hobbyists who want to build an awesome-looking team and perhaps even play the mission the team was designed for.
The kill team represents an extremely powerful psyker being held prisoner in a high security facility, and that psyker’s followers.
They won’t win you any tournaments (and most tournaments probably wouldn’t allow playing them anyway), but if you have a collection of 40k Chaos miniatures and a cool idea for a psyker model, they might be just the team you need for a fun side project.
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Abilities of the Cult of the Unshackled Kill Team
The Cult of the Unshackled doesn’t have any faction-wide abilities.
Operatives of the Cult of the Unshackled Kill Team
The Cult of the Unshackled Kill Team always consists of 1 Prisoner operative and 10 Thrall operatives.
Prisoner (Leader, 1 per kill team)
The Prisoner is almost a one-man kill team. The only real downside to him is that he has a 6+ Save and only 10 Wounds, but everything else is pretty fantastic.
He is equipped with three different ranged weapons and one melee weapon. Burn is a 4 attack critical damage 5 weapon that scores critical hits on a roll of 5 or more and turns one of your normal hits into a critical hit if you score at least one critical hit in your attack roll. Blaze is a 5 attack Torrent weapon, so basically a (good) Flamer, and Ignite is a 4 attack, 6 critical damage Blast weapon. This means that at range, you can always choose between strong critical damage against a single target, short-range flamer attacks or area damage from Ignite, which is really great. To make it even better, you can perform 2 Shoot actions per activation, and the Prisoner has an Action Point Limit of 3! You just can’t use the same weapon twice in an activation.
The Prisoner’s melee attack, Wyrdlit Hands, is just like Burn, but hits on a 4 or more rather than a 3 or more, so it’s a melee weapon geared towards critical damage as well.
All of these weapons make the Prisoner a formidable combatant, especially at range, and his Warp-fuelled Constitution ability gives him some survivability as well with a 4+ invulnerable save and the ability to roll a dice each time he would lose a wound and ignore it on a roll of 5 or more. On top of that, he can also redirect incoming attacks to his Thrall followers, which you can read about in their entry below this one.
The Prisoner is also a psyker, of course, and he is immune to any enemy effect that would affect him when performing psychic actions, of which he has two: Soulflame Parasite lets you place a Soulflame Parasite token somewhere the Prisoner can see on the battlefield, and when any other operative (friend or foe) moves close to it, they gain the token and take D3 mortal wounds. They keep taking D3 mortal wounds every activation until they perform a Pass action to get rid of the token. Conflagration lets you select a friendly Thrall operative visible to the Prisoner, and then that Thrall and everyone else within Circle/2 Inches of it take D6 mortal wounds, rolled separately for each affected operative. These psychic actions are really, really cool, but also completely overpowered, and along with some of the Ploys discussed further below in the article, they’re most of the reason we wouldn’t recommend using the Cult of the Unshackled kill team in any kind of non-casual setting.
Thrall (10 per kill team)
The Thrall operative is 7 Wound, 6+ Save operative that can be armed with either a Pistol and Crude Melee Weapon, or a Firearm and Gun Butt. Both ranged weapons have 4 attacks, hit on a 5 or more, and do 2 normal/3 critical damage – the Pistol just has a range of Pentagon/6 Inches. The Crude Melee Weapon is the same, but hits on a 4+ in melee range. The Gun Butt is the same as the melee weapon, but with only 3 attacks.
In short, there’s nothing impressive about the Thrall’s weapons, but that’s not the point of the operative. Its Mastered Will ability is: It lets you redirect an attack directed at the Prisoner to a Thrall operative within Circle/2 Inches. This means that, in the most optional positioning situation possible, your 10 Thralls are a combined 70 Wound shield around your Prisoner, so who cares if their guns can’t hit anything?
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Ploys of the Cult of the Unshackled Kill Team
On the Run
This lets D3 friendly operatives make a free Dash action if they’re out of line of sight of any enemy operatives, but doesn’t let them end up in engagement range of enemy operatives.
Strength in Numbers
This lets you reroll one attack dice in an attack against an enemy target that another friendly operative already attacked in the same Turning Point. It affects all your attacks in one Turning Point.
This lets you resurrect D3 Thralls that have been incapacitated, completely healed and within your drop zone. It costs an extra Command Point for each time you use it during the game. Another one of those completely overpowered Ploys this team gets because it’s made for a narrative scenario.
This can be used when the Prisoner activates. It lets him reroll his attack dice with one result (so for example: all his rolls of 1) for all his shooting attacks against targets within Pentagon/6 Inch range for that activation.
This can be used when the Prisoner loses a wound, and it makes all visible operatives within Circle/ 2 inches of him take D3 mortal wounds (so you really, really don’t want to get into close combat with him if you’re playing against this team!)
Fires of Revival
This can also be used during the Prisoner’s activation, and lets him incapacitate a nearby Thrall to regain D6 lost wounds.
Equipment of the Cult of the Unshackled Kill Team
The Cult of the Unshackled doesn’t have any equipment options, but if you are playing them in a casual context, you could pick an equipment list for them from the Chaos Cult kill team or perhaps the Blooded kill team.
Tac Ops of the Cult of the Unshackled Kill Team
The Cult of the Unshackled doesn’t have any Tac Ops, but if you’re playing them in a friendly/narrative game, you could just give them a couple of Archetypes of your choosing from the Core Rulebook.
Playing the Cult of the Unshackled Kill Team
The Cult of the Unshackled is a bit weird as a kill team: In terms of damage output and healing capabilities, they’re a completely overpowered death star with the Prisoner surrounded by the Thralls as his healing potions/hand grenades with legs (and guns!). In terms of playing the actual game of non-narrative Kill Team, with its great focus on objective control, use of scenery and tactical maneuvering, they’re way too simple and don’t have any other tools at their disposal than killing/not dying.
The mission in White Dwarf which the team was designed for pits them against two other teams who compete to extract the Prisoner from the killzone, and if you want to play the Cult of the Unshackled, that’s probably the most fun way to play them: as a sort of PvPvE game where the Unshackled are the NPCs of the mission, providing a fun challenge for the two other teams. If you’re playing kill team with your kids or with friends who don’t normally play tabletop games, letting the more experienced player play the Cult of the Unshackled so they can throttle their damage output a bit to scale the difficulty of the game and help two new players have a fun game against each other, that’s pretty much the intention of the way this team was designed.
In terms of tactics, it’s all about keeping the prisoner alive and using the Thralls for healing/shielding him and for slowing down the enemy and funnel them into spaces where you can use Conflagration to blow up a bunch of enemy operatives as well as some of your own – remember that Thralls are expendable due to the Summon Thralls Strategic Ploy.
Building and assembling your Cult of the Unshackled Kill Team
The Cult of the Unshackled doesn’t at all specify which miniatures you have to use to represent it on the tabletop. To some gamers, that would be annoying, but if you like the hobbying side of the game (building and painting miniatures), having some freedom in building your team is probably great news!
The “flavour text” for the Thralls in White Dwarf gives you some good ideas for where to start: it mentions Chaos Cultist and Beastmen, meaning the Devotee miniatures from the Chaos Cult kill team or the Fellgor Ravagers, but you could absolutely also start kitbashing away with Necromunda Gang kits such as the Cawdor Gang or the Corpse Grinder Cult.
Since the datasheet for the Thralls just lets you pick generic stuff such as Firearm, Pistol and Crude Melee Weapon, you can basically do what you want.
For the Prisoner, you have all sorts of fun options. You can use one of the Psyker operatives for the Chaos Cult kill team, the Rogue Psykers from Blackstone Fortress, or, if you’re ok with working with resin miniatures, the Delaque Spyker (sic) pictured above here would also be a great, insane-looking choice.