You want to play a skirmish game from Games Workshop, but you are in doubt which one you would like best. In this article we take a look at Kill Team VS Warcry.
Tabletop skirmish games – miniature wargames where each player only controls a handful of models – are in their prime right now. From classic, complex Necromunda to innovative newcomers with recognisable brands such as Marvel Crisis Protocol, all the major publishers are betting hard on their skirmish games.
Games Workshop, being the industry behemoth that they are, actually have 3 (four if you count Warhammer Underworlds) skirmish games that receive more or less equal amounts of support:
Necromunda, which is a narrative-driven, granular gang war skirmish game with an old-school feel, and then the skirmish version of Games Workshop’s most popular IP’s: Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team and Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Warcry.
Kill Team and Warcry are similiar and many ways: The miniatures and fighter types are mostly derived from the big tabletop wargames from their respective setting, which makes both skirmish games a kind of gateway drug to the big expensive games that are the bread and butter of Warhammer fandom. Both games also feature dice, scenery, faction-specific abilities and special campaign systems for playing a series of games with your friends.
In this article, we compare Kill Team and Warcry in as many ways as we can think of, to help you get a sense of the strengths, weaknesses and quirks of each system, so you can decide which game system is the right one for you – or just decide to invest in both! They’re both wonderful games in their own unique way.
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Kill Team VS Warcry: The Setting
While there are definitely tabletop gamers out there who could decide to pick up a game solely based on its rules, most of us also look at the setting of a game before committing. Some gamers look for a game set in a fictional universe they already know; some like specific genres such as fantasy or science fiction, while others look for a game with a backstory that has room for expansion for many years to come. Warcry is a fantasy game, and Kill Team is a science fiction game set in the far future, but they’re also a lot more than that, which is what we’ll get into in this section.
Warcry takes place in the Age of Sigmar setting, which is a high fantasy setting with a twist: Instead of being about a beautiful world being invaded by the forces of evil (think Hollywood Lord of the Rings stuff), it’s about a world ruled by the evil forces of Chaos being slowly conquered by the allied forces of Order, led by the superhuman Stormcast Eternal armies of the God-king Sigmar.
Age of Sigmar is a setting that’s often defined by its immense scale and wild extremes: it’s full of gods fighting on the battlefield, huge monsters and demigod heroes who can take on entire battalions on their own. In Warcry, this scale is dialed down to an extreme degree, so that most of the original releases for the game were literally about the lowliest of Chaos cultists fighting a gang-like war to gain the favor of the Chaos leader Archaon so that they might one day become a Chaos Warrior, one of the most basic infantry types of the Chaos factions in the main Age of Sigmar wargame.
From those early cultist skirmishes in the Bloodwind Spoil, a kind of shantytown area on the outskirts of the palaces of Archaon, the second edition of the game has moved on to the Heart of Ghur, a jungle in the Realm of Beasts where everyone – not just the Chaos cultists – are scrambling to secure a downed starship created by the Seraphon, a reptile faction within the setting. The different editions of Warcry follow the main narrative of Age of Sigmar, which is also taking place in Ghur at the time of writing this, but you can easily come up with campaigns for the game that take place in the other realms of the setting, such as Chamon, the Realm of Metal, or Shyish, the Realm of Death.
Even though Warcry is set in a fantasy world, the limits of that fantasy world are almost endless – there are elements of both high and low fantasy, horror, steampunk and historical Europe, China and the Americas in its factions, so if you in any way like a world where sharp melee weapons and magic are just as prevalent as guns and rockets, the Warcry setting has a lot to offer.
Kill Team takes place in the Warhammer 40,000 setting, which is a science fiction setting, but it also has plenty of quirks of its own: in Warhammer 40,000, humanity has spread across the galaxy under the leadership of the almost god-like Emperor of Mankind (if you’ve read Dune, a lot is going to sound familiar in this section), but since he was betrayed and almost killed by the forces of Chaos and his favorite cloned super-son, the Warmaster Horus Lupercal, the Imperium of Man has been slowly falling apart for 10,000 years. The Imperium is ruled through a combination of theocracy based around the worship of the Emperor and a brutal, feudal military autocracy, all of which sees itself as the only bulwark against all the horrifying aliens and daemons that are constantly laying siege to the worlds of Mankind. The Imperium has very little faith in science and progress, and instead it prefers religion and the ritualized use of old tech to survive the all-pervasive wars taking place across the galaxy.
Like Warcry, Kill Team tells the same stories as its big wargame counterpart, but at a much smaller scale: It’s about very small squads of soldiers taking on spec ops missions behind enemy lines. The first “season” of the game took place around the Nachmund Gauntlet, a passageway through a gigantic Chaos rift splitting the galaxy in two, with each expansion exploring a new area of conflict along that route. The latest season, Into the Dark, shrinks the scale even more as the expansions now take place inside a floating graveyard of abandoned spaceships called a Space Hulk, meaning that the game is now played in tight indoors corridors rather than among ruins and battlefield debris.
Factions and Releases
Both Warcry and Kill Team let you choose between dozens of factions, and both games are expanding their roster all the time. Typically, an expansion box with two new teams are released each quarter for each game, and between those releases, rules for new factions can arrive in articles on Warhammer’s community website or in Games Workshop’s White Dwarf print magazine.
Warcry easily takes the prize for the Games Workshop skirmish game with the most factions available. There’s more than 40 different factions to choose from! If you’re completely new to the world of Age of Sigmar and Warcry, the best way to begin to grasp the options you have in Warcry is to know the four Grand Alliances that make up the game world’s populations:
- The Order Grand Alliance consists of an extremely diverse coalition of factions that have one thing in common: they believe in the benefits of civilization and at least some form of stability, and many factions within this alliance have some form of allegiance to the God-King Sigmar and his mission to rid the world of the forces of Chaos. Apart from that, Order warbands can be almost anything: The Fyreslayers are mercenary berserker dwarfs (or duardin, as they’re called in the game) who worship their dead god by collecting ur-gold and inserting runes made of it into their bodies; the Lumineth Realmlords are aelves (elves) fighting against Chaos to atone for the cataclysm caused by their arrogance that once befell their homelands; the Daughters of Khaine are matriarchal aelves worshipping the (also dead) god of murder by ritually slaugthering their enemies (but they live in cities so it’s still Order!), and finally, the Stormcast Eternals are resurrected fallen heroes who live and die and live again endlessly to carry out their God-King’s invasion of the Mortal Realms while slowly losing their humanity – and we could go on. Order is an alliance more defined by its diversity than what its factions have in common, and it even has a cosmopolitan faction called Cities of Sigmar where multiple different people live and fight together, so if you want to be something vaguely resembling the good guys in a world where good guys don’t exist, Order is the way to go. You can find our overview of the Order Warcry factions here.
- The Chaos Grand Alliance is also very diverse, but its factions have the worship of the Chaos Gods in common: The Blades of Khorne worship Khorne the Blood God by constantly fighting and killing with unceasing fury; The Maggotkin of Nurgle worship Nurgle the God of Decay, slowly creeping across the battlefield in a swarm of locusts and flies to hurl their plague-drenched bodies at the enemy; The Hedonites of Slaanesh revel in the excess of battle, dancing contortedly among their terrified opponents in colorful garbs and ornate armor; The Disciples of Tzeentch flicker and mutate in worship of Tzeentch the God of Change, and the upstart Skaven skitter and swarm from their mysterious tunnels as humanoid vermin-hordes obeying the Great Horned Rat. Those are the forces of the main Chaos gods, but since the forces of Chaos are the most common of all populations in the world of Warcry, there are almost endless manifestations of what worshipping the Ruinous Powers can mean. The Slaves of Darkness are warriors on a path to glory seeking the favour of all the Chaos Gods, the Beast of Chaos are Chaos mutants who populated the world even before humans and aelves did – and then there are dozens of tiny tribes at the bottom of society who have as many interpretations as there are stars in the sky: The Untamed Beasts try to live like wild predators to worship Chaos in the aspect of the Great Devourer, the Horns of Hashut worship by tearing down and burning everything in their wake, and so on. Warcry focuses heavily on the Chaos Grand Alliance, since the competition and infighting within the ranks of the Chaos followers make for great skirmish stories. You can read our guide to all the Chaos Warbands in Warcry.
- The Death Grand Alliance consists of factions of undead warriors and mages, but even though that sounds like it’s all skeletons and necromancers, that’s far from the case: The Soulblight Gravelords are the closest you’ll get to the classic undead tropes, with vampire lords leading hordes of skeletons and zombies, but from there it just gets wilder and wilder: the Nighthaunt are ghosts all defined by the worst things they did when they were alive; the Ossiarch Bonereapers are a highly disciplined army of bone constructs who travel from city to city to claim a tithe of bones for their lord Nagash; , and the Flesh-Eater Courts are ravenous ghouls who think they’re actually noble knights and lords on romantic, chivalrous quests. You can read our guide to all the Death warbands in Warcry here.
- Finally, the Destruction Grand Alliance is exactly what it says in its name: it’s filled with crazy monstrous fighters, big and small, who above all find joy and fulfilment in just tearing everything apart for no other reason than the fact that it is their nature: The Gloomspite Gitz are goblins and troggoths (trolls) for swarm forth from dank caves to drown the world in their mushroom-fueled madness; The Ironjawz are orruks (orcs) who grow bigger the more they fight and who don’t respect anything other than pure close combat strength; The Kruleboyz favor traps and cunning to torture and maim their opponents; The Bonesplitterz run half-naked and chanting into battle against the greatest beasts they can find, and the Ogor Mawtribes just eat everything they can get their hands on. If you want a warband that you don’t have to take too seriously, and you like playing unpredictable, force-of-nature warbands who can’t always control themselves, Destruction is what you’re looking for. You can read our guide to all the Destruction warbands in Warcry here.
Each Grand Alliance has multiple dedicated warband boxes you can buy to get started with the game right away, and you can also construct warbands from any Age of Sigmar armies you might already collect. On top of that, Warcry rules are released for every warband that’s released for Warhammer Underworlds, which is a game with even smaller, more bespoke teams of miniatures, and while those teams are rarely fit for playing against regular Warcry warbands in their own right, they do add to the almost infinite diversity of the game’s miniatures range. You could argue that Warcry simply has too many factions and miniatures to choose from, and that the game’s balance can’t help but suffer from it, but if you’re playing the game just to have fun and craft an interesting fantasy narrative with your friends, you really can’t have too many options. Many warbands in Warcry also have a lot of different fighter types to choose from (Cities of Sigmar has 68 different fighters!), and while that also tends to give the game quite a few imbalances and redundancies, it makes it possible to dream up almost anything as a playable warband.
The easiest way to get a game up and running is to get one of the expansion boxes available for the game: These boxes always consist of two warbands, some scenery and a booklet with rules for the warbands. You can see the latest boxed releases in this overview (click on the Warcry tab in the Table of Contents).
Kill Team doesn’t have as many factions as Warcry does (yet – the game is a couple of years younger than Warcry in its current iteration), but it still covers most of what the Warhammer 40,000 universe has to offer. The kill teams available in the game fall into three broad categories (you can browse our guides for the various kill teams here):
- Imperium kill teams all consist of humans (and human-adjacent beings) serving the Emperor of Mankind. It is the largest category of kill teams in the game, and its function in the game is a bit like that of Chaos in Warcry: the story of the game, and its releases, often revolve around Imperial kill teams and the challenges they face. While a bunch of kill teams consisting of humans sound like it might be repetitive, the Imperium kill teams are actually very diverse in playstyle and appearance: The Veteran Guardsmen or Imperial Navy Breachers are ordinary human soldiers fighting for the Emperor in the billions; the Novitiates are battle sisters in training – women who face the horrors of the galaxy through faith, flame and skilled swordsmanship; the Hunter Clade are machine-worshipping cyborgs, and the Space Marines are superhuman giants clad in ceramite armour – just to name some of the Kill Teams. The Imperium aren’t by any means the good guys of the Warhammer 40,000 setting – the Imperium is a theocratic, xenophobic autocracy with very little regard for its citizens, but in many ways, they are the protagonists of the setting, and as humans, they’re also often the most relatable.
- Chaos kill teams are composed of Space Marines or humans who have left the Imperium behind to follow the Gods of Chaos (yup, the same ones as those from Age of Sigmar). Some Kill Teams follow specific Chaos Gods, such as the Nurgle-worshipping Death Guard Space Marines; others are deserters from the Imperial armies who are now taking the fight back to their former masters, such as the Blooded kill team, and yet others are actual Chaos Daemons who have emerged from the Warp to spread terror among mortals. Finally, the Chaos Legionnaires are a Chaos Space Marine kill team whom you can equip to follow any of the 4 main Chaos Gods, who in turn grants them various benefits. If you want to overthrow the false Emperor, the Chaos kill teams are right there beside you.
- Xenos kill teams aren’t really a united faction at all – they’re just a common term for all the non-humans of the galaxy, and there’s immense diversity within this category. The Corsair Voidscarred are ancient aeldari (space elves, more or less) who have become pirates and privateers; The Ork Kommandos are orks who are doing their best to be as sneaky as the special forces of more civilised factions (and looking like hilarious caricatures of 80’s B-movie protagonists while doing so); The Wyrmblade are the final generation of an alien infestation into a human population, preparing their homeworld for an invasion by the all-devouring Tyranids; The Hierotek Circle are metallic Necron automata who have slumbered for eons, waiting to rise again and conquer the galaxy – and the list goes on. If you want something a bit more strange and colorful than the militarism of the Imperium or the heavy metal of Chaos, there’s almost certainly something you’ll like among the Xenos.
Unlike the myriad fighter types of Warcry, Kill Team is still keeping things pretty tight and focused. Most kill teams can be built from a single box of miniatures, and apart from the pretty elite space marines of both the Imperial and Chaos persuasion, there’s very little in Kill Team that isn’t derived from the basic infantry types of Warhammer 40,000, which is something that gives the game a grounded feel (for a game about space monks and Chaos Gods) and a game balance that’s better than much of what other Games Workshop games have achieved.
This also means that it’s very easy to get started with the game – you can just buy a box of 40k infantry, and you probably have a team ready to play from that box alone. If you want one of the teams designed specifically for Kill Team, you can’t go wrong with one of the boxes consisting of two kill teams, some scenery and a book with rules for the two teams. The cheapest one is the Kill Team Starter Set, which has a Veteran Guardsman team and an Ork Kommandos team, and you can check out all the other releases here.
Fighter Rules and Statistics
Both Warcry and Kill Team have factions that consist of a number of different fighters that you can choose to field in your games, and most factions let you field between 5 and 20 models at once in one battle. In both games, the rules for these fighters (or operatives, as they are called in Kill Team) are all heavily inspired by their respective parent tabletop games in their design, but each game also has tons of quirks and mechanics that are unique to it. In this section, we compare the basic statistics and components that make up the rules of a fighter in each game.
In Warcry, each fighter has a Fighter Card. Fighter Cards are immediately recognisable due to the fact that, apart from the name of the fighter, there’s barely any text on them – it’s all numbers and symbols. The statistics and categories of symbols on a Fighter Card are as follows:
- Weapons (left side): All the weapons of a fighter are listed to the left, with a symbol indicating what type of weapons it has. For this Drillmaster, there is a symbol for a club and some throwing bolas. After the weapon symbol, the arrow pointing into a crosshair defines the weapon’s Range in inches. The shining sword symbol shows the amount of Attacks the weapon has (how many dice you roll for it). The fist symbol shows the Strength of the weapon (more on that in the combat section of this article), and under the split skull symbol, normal damage and critical damage for the weapon is shown.
- Runemarks (middle right): The game has a huge amount of different Runemarks, little round symbols that show which abilities the fighter can use or be affected by (see below). In the case of the Drillmaster above, the flaming skull symbol defines that the fighter is a Berserker, and in the Iron Golems warband, that means the Drill Master can use a specific ability from the warband’s Abilities list.
- Faction Runemark (top left above portrait): The big Runemark symbol on the top left of the fighter’s portrait shows which faction it belongs to.
- Points Value (top right above portrait): This numerical value shows how many points it costs you to add the fighter to your warband. A warband for a standard game can often field 1000 points of fighters.
- Move (bottom left under portrait): This arrow shows how far the fighter can move in a single action, measured in inches.
- Toughness (middle of bottom under portrait): This shield symbol defines how hard it is to hit your fighter (more on that in the combat section).
- Wounds (bottom right under portrait): This skull symbol (one of many different kinds in Warcry!) shows how much damage your fighter can take before it’s taken down.
This is all very simple and streamlined for a Games Workshop game, and it has the advantage of making your fighter rules very easy to learn and keep track of in the game. Your fighter card doesn’t show everything your fighter can do, though: as mentioned above on the topic of runemarks, each warband also has an Abilities list that shows which abilities your fighters can use, and some of those are often tied to specific fighters.
Compared to the fighter cards in Warcry, an operative datacard in Kill Team looks a lot more like what you might be used to from the big Warhammer wargames such as Warhammer 40,000. There are a few innovations in there, though, so let’s go through the different sections and statistics:
First, your basic statistics are as follows:
- M (top right corner, top row to the left): This is your operative’s Move statistic, and it’s one of the most unusual things about Kill Team from a Games Workshop perspective. Movement in Kill Team isn’t (officially) measured in inches, but rather in increments of specific distances represented by symbols: a Triangle means 1 inch, a Circle means 2 inches, a Square means 3 inches and a Pentagon means 6 inches. This means that the Intercessor Warrior above can move 3 times 2 inches. To say it takes a while to get used to is a bit of an understatement, but the movement tool that comes with the game has all these distances designed into it, so it’s actually really easy to use in game.
- APL (top right corner, top row in the middle): This is your Action Point Limit, meaning the maximum amount of Action Points you can spend in a single activation with this operative. Actions in Kill Team costs points, and if you have a bunch of actions available that only cost 1 Action Point, this Intercessor will be able to perform 3 actions in an activation rather than the usual 2. The APL also does double duty as the statistic you count when figuring out which player controls an objective, meaning a big operative with 3 APL can count for more than a regular 2 APL infantryman when determining control of an objective. Note that there’s a bunch of abilities in the game that can affect the APL of an operative positively or negatively.
- GA (top right corner, top row to the right) is the Group Activation statistic. Usually, this just reads “1”, but if it’s higher, you can activate that amount of this operative type in a row before your opponent gets an activation – for example, the Veteran Guardsmen’s standard operatives, the Veteran Trooper, has a GA of 2 so you can activate two of them before your opponent gets an activation.
- DF (top right corner, bottom row to the right) is Defense – simply the amount of dice you roll when defending against shooting attacks.
- SV (top right corner, middle of bottom row) is Save, shown as a number with a + behind it. This is the number you have to roll (or roll higher than) to save against an attack when rolling your defense dice.
- W (top right corner, bottom row to the right) is Wounds, the amount of damage you can take before you’re incapacitated (just like in Warcry)
The middle section of the datacard is for weapons, which are quite a bit more complicated than in Warcry. A weapon statline has the following sections:
- Weapon type (symbol) This can either be Ranged (crosshair symbol) or Melee (crossed swords symbol. A thing worth noting here is that ranged weapons in Kill Team has unlimited range unless their special rules say otherwise! The guns are so advanced, and the battlefield so small, that ranged weapons are always assumed to be able to hit anything they can see within the game area as long as they’re not shotguns, flamethrowers, pistols or something like that.
- Name – these are usually just the name of the weapon for distinction’s and clarity’s sake, but some rules interact with weapons with specific words in their names, such as bolt or pulse weapons.
- A is Attacks, meaning how many attack dice you roll with this weapon, just like in Warcry.
- BS/WS is Ballistic Skill/Weapon Skill. If it’s a ranged weapon, it’s called Ballistic Skill, and if it’s a melee weapon, it’s called Weapon Skill, but that distinction is mostly just a leftover from Warhammer 40,000 terminology. Regardless of which type of weapon you’re looking at, BS/WS just shows what number you have to roll equal to or higher than with your attack dice to hit with that weapon.
- D is damage, shown as X/Y, where X is normal damage and Y is critical damage.
- SR is Special Rules, which can be a ton of different things, ranging from a shorter range for a shotgun, to the popular Lethal 5+ that let’s you score critical hits on a roll of 5 and 6 rather than just on a 6, to Fusillade which lets you split your attack dice between different targets – the list is really long and accounts for a lot of Kill Team’s mechanical complexity, but if you like rules that can simulate many different types of weapons, you’ll love this system, and you might really miss it when playing Warcry, even though it takes a long time to learn all the Special Rules by heart.
- ! is Critical Hit Rules, rules that apply when you roll a critical hit with an attack dice. These are also quite diverse: There is MWx which deals x mortal wounds to the target on a critical hit (you’ll find this on sniper rifles and meltaguns), Stun which affects the APL of the target, and many more. These make critical hits even more valuable than they are in Warcry, where they’re already a huge deal, so both games can be said to strongly emphasize critical hits as a way to succeed.
All those weapon rules can seem pretty overwhelming, but there is some logic to them, with many weapons of the same type having roughly the same Special Rules and WS/BS, so if you understand the setting of the game well, these rules will be a lot easier to learn.
Below the weapons are two types of “skills” for the operative:
- Abilities are a bit like passive abilities in a roleplaying game: They’re special rules for your operative that are always active. Often, some of these are abilities that everyone in your specific kill team has,. Examples of abilities could be those of your healers or medics that let them revive fallen comrades, or the Living Metal ability shared by all operatives in the Necron Hierotek kill team that let them heal between rounds.
- Unique Actions are actions that cost action points, just like shooting or moving. This can be support abilities that buff your allies, or combo actions that let you perform several fight actions in a row – or a long list of other things. Many specialist operatives are more important for their Unique Actions than for their weapons loadout.
Finally, the bottom of the datacard shows the keywords of your operative, which put them into different categories that interact with different rules (just like runemarks in Warcry), and a set of icons to the right which show the specialisms that the operative can take in narrative play.
The Kill Team datacard is definitely a lot more complex than the fighter card for Warcry, and they really show the differences between the two games: Warcry is in many ways an attempt to ultra-streamline the skirmish game experience by making the path from selecting a target of an attack to dealing damage to it as short as possible, while Kill Team, even though it’s also a streamlined version of Warhammer 40,000 in many ways, clearly aims for a more complex simulation with lots and lots of options for making your operatives and your playstyle unique.
Abilities and Faction-Specific Rules
Even though most of the rules for playing Warcry and Kill Team are located on the datacards/fighter cards, both games also have a number of rules outside of those that you can take advantage of. In this section, we cover how those work.
Warcry definitely wins the prize for most streamlined experience here. Apart from the core rules (which both games have a set of), everything else you need to know about playing your warband that you can’t find on your fighter cards is on an abilities card. The abilities on this card can be used in two ways: Your Reaction is an ability that you can use during your opponent’s activation, but only with a fighter who hasn’t already activated, and they cost one action to use. There are a few universal reactions in the core rules, but each faction also has a unique reaction on their abilities card. Reactions are pretty fun as they keep both players engaged in the game, even when it’s not their turn to activate, but the usefulness of the unique faction reactions differs a bit too much, and not all warbands will even want to use them. The other abilities on your abilities card all work within the same system. At the beginning of each round, you roll 5 dice, discard any single rolls, and then you can pay for abilities with any rolls you have more than one of. This means that, if you rolled two 5s, for example, you can use them for Double abilities, and three 5’s can be used for Thriple abilities, all the way up to powerful Quad abilities. You also get Wild Dice every turn that you can add to your rolls representing any roll. Some abilities become better the higher the value of the roll you’re using (so a Double 1 roll is worse than a Double 6 roll), while others work optimally as long as you have the right amount of dice. The abilities can also mostly be used by fighters with the right combination of Runemarks.
The abilities card is where a lot of the soul and complexity of a warband lies (while still keeping all the rules in one easy to manage place on a card), and it’s one way in which Warcry doesn’t streamline everything – and pulling off the right ability at the right time can hugely affect how much you get out of a single activation of one of your fighters.
On top of the faction abilities, there’s also a couple of universal abilities everyone can use, a few select abilities only available in certain missions, and some factions such as Cities of Sigmar can choose between a bunch of different ability sets for their warbands, but otherwise, that’s it, for better or worse.
When looking at the fighter cards in the section above, it’s easy to assume that the way Kill Team puts way more rules on the datacards themselves would mean there aren’t that many abilities for you to use that you have to find outside of each operative’s datacard, but that’s not the case at all. In addition to weapon rules, Abilities and Unique Actions found on operative datacards, Kill Team also has the following other systems for faction-specific rules:
- Faction Abilities: Confusingly, some faction abilities are simply Abilities found on all datacards belonging to your kill team, while others are special bonuses that your kill team gets to use, for example at the start of a Turning Point. Some Imperial factions have Orders which can be issued to grant bonuses to your team each round, Chaos Space Marines can take different Marks of Chaos, and so on. They’re a lot like allegiance abilities in Age of Sigmar, or the Leadership abilities in Marvel Crisis Protocol. Not all kill teams have the same amount of faction abilities, either: Veteran Guardsmen have a ton of them, and the other team in the starter set, the Ork Kommandos, just have one datacard ability that most of them have.
- Strategic Ploys: These are abilities you can pay Command Points (more on those below) to use before a round begins. Each faction has a few of them, and they often change how your rules work for the duration of the round – maybe specific guns get an extra attack, the Movement of your operatives increase, or your faction abilities work differently for a while, just to name a few types of Strategic Ploys.
- Tactical Ploys: These are abilities that you also pay Command Points to use, but they have immediate effects and are activated within an operative’s activation. They are the closest Kill Team has to the abilities in Warcry.
These types of abilities mean that Kill Team is once again the more tricky game to learn, especially if you want to know what your opponent is able to do – there’s just a lot of moving parts to a kill team. But then again, if you don’t count the bespoke one-warband-one-box warbands in Warcry, Kill Team is definitely the game with the fewest different operative types to keep track of, so you don’t have to keep track of too many different statlines in Kill Team, but you do have to learn a lot of different abilities.
Missions and Objectives
Warcry and Kill Team handle missions and objectives quite differently. Warcry’s standard game mode puts a lot of emphasis on replayability and randomization, which can be a lot of fun and let you play with the same set of terrain and rules for a long time, while Kill Team takes inspiration from Warhammer 40,000’s 9th edition and ties a lot of the goals of the game to the kill teams the players choose to field. Once again, which ruleset you’ll like best comes down to what kind of gamer you are.
In Warcry, you generate a mission by drawing 4 cards from 4 different decks of cards:
- 1 from the Terrain Deck, which gives you a bird’s eye view of where your terrain is supposed to go on the battlefield. Each terrain set for the game comes with a corresponding terrain deck. If you don’t have a terrain set, the game has alternative rules for placing your own terrain which can replace the terrain deck.
- 1 from the Deployment Deck, which shows where each side has to deploy their forces. Before the game, each player must split their warband into three battle groups, The Shield, the Dagger and the Hammer, with as close to an equal amount of fighters in each as possible, and the deployment card has symbols for those three battle groups for each player. Deployment cards can also show when battle groups show up, so that your Dagger might show up in round 3 instead of at the beginning of the game.
- 1 from the Victory Deck, which states the win condition for the battle, such as controlling objectives or killing specific fighters.
- 1 from the Twist Deck, which, as the name suggests, changes the rules of the game in some way, changing the range of weapons, movement of fighters, or something along those lines.
The Campaign system for the game also includes more traditional (and untraditional, weird boss fight-type) ways of setting up a mission, but for casual games, the decks are the way to go. Missions set up in this way can be so much fun when the right combination of cards are drawn, but it can also create really unfortunate setups where one player can immediately see that they have a better shot at winning the game than the opponent.
In Kill Team, you win a game by scoring more Victory Points than your opponent. How you score those Victory Points depend on two things:
- The chosen mission: Missions can be found in all sorts of books for the game, from the Core Book to the faction rulebooks included in each expansion. They show you how to deploy, and what things you can do to score Victory Points in that mission.
- Tac Ops: These are objectives specific to your kill team, of which you choose a couple before the game begins. Each kill team has one or more Archetypes, which roughly define their playstyle and give them access to specific Tac Ops in the Core Book, but they also have faction-specific Tac Ops in their kill team rules. The faction-specific Tac Ops are often really fun and help you play your kill team that makes sense when considering their lore – so a bunch of crazed Chaos Cultists might score Victory Points from both killing and dying a lot (and a bunch of crazed Imperial fanatics might do the same), while more finessed kill teams can gain points from sneaking behind enemy lines or taking out key targets. A Tac Op usually gives you Victory Points the first time you achieve their condition, and then once again when you do the same thing in another round, so you can get 3-4 Victory Points out of each Tac Op if you play them just right.
The great thing about Kill Team’s system for victory conditions is that, while Warcry’s system has a lot of replayability, the mission- and faction-specific nature of Kill Team’s system makes it much easier to immerse in the story of a game, even if it is only a casual game on a Thursday afternoon. It’s also a lot of fun that two players don’t score points in the same way.
Turns, Activations and Rounds
Like all other Games Worshop games, Kill Team and Warcry are played in a succession of game phases that make up one turn in the game. Both games also have alternating activations, meaning that each player gets to perform actions with one model, then the other gets to perform actions with one of their models, and when all models have activated, the round ends. If you’re coming from larger tabletop miniature wargames where a player moves all their models before it’s the opponent’s turn, this might take a while getting used to, but it’s a really fun way to play that keeps both players engaged in the game all the time. Let’s take a look at how a round looks in each of the two games. Note, however, that we’re skipping all the pregame setup stuff that can be part of a mission in both games – it’s an important part of the game, but so is many other rules that we’re not covering here. We’re just trying to set up a basic comparison of the mechanics of each game. For a fully detailed overview of each game, check our guides for Warcry and Kill Team.
A game of Warcry is made up of a number of battle rounds, and that number is determined by the battleplan (so, for example, it could read “the player with the most objectives held at the end of round 4 wins”). A battle round in Warcry has 3 phases:
- The Initiative Phase begins each battle round. In this phase, each player rolls 6 six-sided dice as their initiative dice. The player who rolls the most single rolls (rolls with a number they only roll one of) gets to choose if they want to take the first activation in this round. The dice that the players roll more than one of can be used for abilities (see above), and each round, the players get a wild dice that can be added to any set of dice to increase its value for abilities (so if you have two rolls of 3 and add a wild dice, you now have 3 rolls of 3 and can spend them on Triple abilities). These wild dice can also be used to turn a single roll into a double roll.
- The Reserve Phase only happens from round 2 onwards, since this is where battle groups that are only allowed by the battleplan to arrive in later rounds can be set up on the battlefield.
- The Combat Phase is where the real game happens: the players take turns activating one of their fighters. In an activation, a fighter can perform two actions from the following: Move their fighter up to their Move characteristic, Attack with one of their weapons, Disengage to move out of close combat, or Wait to spend one of their actions later in the round. There are no restrictions on how many times they can take each action, so they can Move twice or Attack twice as their two actions idf they want to. In addition to that, the fighter can also use one ability from your Abilities card or the universal abilities. This can often mean that they get anoter Move or Attack in that activation, so one of the things that define the experience of playing Warcry is that, usually, a lot can happen in a single activation! There are even bonus actions, such as consuming an item, which don’t count as part of your two actions! When your activation is done, the opponent gets to activate one of their fighters. In your opponent’s activations, you can also use Reactions (see above) if any of your fighters have an action to spend on it (meaning they haven’t activated yet or they’ve chosen to Wait in their activation).
…and that’s basically it! A game of Warcry keeps going through these phases until one player wins the game. It’s simple, fun and doesn’t feel bloated with extra mini-phases and complex systems. You start the game, activate your fighters and before you know it, the game is over. Warcry games between routined players can last as little as half an hour to 45 minutes.
Kill Team also has three phases in a Turning Point, which is what the game calls a round (Kill Team is generally defined by the team having come up with a new name for almost everything, which is a bit annoying at times):
- the Initiative Phase is where you ready all your operatives (the game’s word for fighters). This is a thing that can be done in Kill Team because all operatives have an Order token with an orange and a black side. These Order tokens define what an operative can do: If it has a Conceal Order (a skull symbol, of course), it can’t Shoot, Charge or anything like that, but it also can’t be shot at if it is in cover. If it has an Engage order, it can make all kinds of actions, but it’s easier to shoot at. This forces you to think about when to sneak up the board towards the enemy in relative safety, and when to commit to going on the offensive – but we digress: no matter which Order token you have on an operative, at the beginning of the Initiative Phase, it turns to its orange, Ready side, so you know which operatives are ready for activation. Then, quite simply, you roll a dice to see which player gets to choose if they want to take the first activation.
- the Strategy Phase is where both players take turns spending Command Points on Strategic Ploy abilities (see above). Each player has 2 Command Points at the beginning of the game, they get 1 extra in each Strategy Phase – and then their kill team can have all sorts of ways to gain or refund Command Points in their faction rules on top of that. You can save your Command Points for Tactical Ploys in the next phase or even save them for later Turning Points if you want to.
- the Firefight Phase is where everything else happens: Just like in Warcry, the players take turns activating their operatives, but what happens in activations is a little bit different. At the beginning of an activation, you can change the Order Token of the activated operative. Each operative can make as many actions as they can afford for their Action Point Limit (some operatives have an Action Point Limit of 2, some have one of 3), and all actions don’t have the same Action Point cost. You also can’t make a type of action more than once in an activation, so you can’t shoot twice, for example. In addition to that , there are far more actions to choose from: you can Move, Charge, Fall Back, Dash (a short extra Move on top of a normal Move), Shoot, Fight (in close combat) – and then possibly also use any Unique Actions you have on your datacard and any mission actions the mission allows. It’s a lot at first, but the different basic action types make a lot of sense in the context of the game, and in actual gameplay, it doesn’t feel a lot more complex than Wacry on the action level. When you’ve spent all your Action Points, you switch the activated operative’s Order token to its black side, and the opponent gets to activate one of their operatives, and so on, until everyone’s activated. If you finish activating all your operatives before the opponent, you can use the free Overwatch action to take a Shoot action with worsened statistics when its your turn to activate. This is especially important to elite teams with few models on the battlefield, and each operative can only Overwatch once in a Turning Point, and only if they have an Engage Order token.
The Kill Team round structure is a lot like the one in Warcry, but the general added complexity of the game also shines through here. Note that we haven’t included alternate game modes such as narrative play in this comparison. You can check our narrative guide for Warcry here and our narrative guide for Kill Team here.
Shooting and Combat
Shooting and melee combat is where Kill Team and Warcry really part ways rules-wise, and they’re both quite different from how other Games Workshop handles these situations.
Warcry’s combat system was refreshingly simple compared to everything else when it was released: shooting and melee combat use the same rules: If you make an Attack action, be it with a ranged weapon or a close combat weapon (or the glorious in-between category of Range 3 spears that were a very strong choice for any warband in the first edition of the game at least), you go through the following phases:
- you pick a target within range of the weapon
- you roll dice equal to the Attack characteristic of your weapon, and then you compare the Strength of your weapon with the Toughness of the target. If your Strength is higher than the opponent’s Toughness, you hit on a dice roll of 3-5. If it is the same as the opponent’s Toughness, you hit on a 4 or 5. If it is lower than the opponent’s Toughness, you only hit on a 5. This makes it sound like Toughness is an extremely important characteristic, but regardless of your opponent’s Toughness, you automatically hit and do critical damage (which is usually much higher than normal damage) on a roll of 6, so many players just go for weapons with tons of attacks and good critical damage so they can mostly ignore the opponent’s Toughness. Being behind cover from terrain adds 1 to a fighter’s Toughness.
- When you’ve figured out how many of your attack dice rolls are hits and critical hits, you simply add up the total damage of those hits, and do that amount of wounds in damage to the target! No save rolls, no counterattack, no nothing! Since you can use two Attack actions in one activation if you’re within range of your target, this means fighters die in a single activation in Warcry all the time. The game is really fast-paced and bloody, and it’s as chaotic and fun as it sounds – it really makes you prioritize aggression above all else when you play. Take them out before they take you out.
Kill Team couldn’t be more different than Warcry in this regard: it has two very distinct systems for shooting and fighting in melee:
- Shooting works as follows: You perform a Shoot action with a chosen weapon and picks a target within Line of Sight (someone you can actually see from the perspective of the operative, unless the target has a Conceal Order – then you don’t have Line of Sight of them if they’re in Cover. It’s all a bit too complex to go into here). The target can’t have any of your friendly operatives locked in melee next to it. Then, you roll attack dice equal to the Attacks characteristic of your weapon. If you roll equal to or higher than the gun’s/bow’s/vomit projectile’s Ballistic Skill (BS), it’s a hit. If you roll a 6, it’s a critical hit – and all sorts of Special Rules on your weapon can further influence how this roll is calculated. Then, the target rolls its Defense dice equal to its Defense (DF) characteristic. Any defense roll that’s equal to or higher than its Save characteristic negates one of the succesful hits of the attack, and a roll of 6 can negate a critical hit (two normal saves can also cancel a critical hit). Finally, the attack dice that weren’t canceled out by the Defense roll do damage or critical damage to the target. If that sounds like way too many steps for you, congratulations! You’ve figured out that Warcry is the GW skirmish game for you. But if you like melee combat, maybe stick around for just one more bullet point on this list. If you think it sounds like a cool simulation of combat, we’re happy to tell you there’s even more complexity to it: Some guns can shoot Concealed characters, and if you get up high enough in the scenery of the game, you can get to Vantage Points, which are sniper nests that also improve your shooting against Concealed targets.
- Fighting in Kill Team is really elegantly done, and it works as follows: The attacker performs a Fight action and selects a target within melee range (called Engagement Range in the game). Then, each player in that attack, the attacker and the target, select one of their melee weapons. Then, both players roll a number of dice equal to the Attacks characteristic of their weapon, and they keep the rolls that are equal to or higher than their Weapon Skill (WS) – sixes are critical successes. Then, it gets interesting: the attacker starts by choosing one of their dice and deciding if they want to Strike or Parry with that dice. If they Strike, that dice does damage to the opponent. If they Parry, that dice removes one of the succesful rolls of the opponent, so they can’t attack with it. Then, it’s the defenders turn to do the same, and so on until one operative is taken down or they’re both out of attack dice. It’s really intense and engaging for both players, so it’s almost an unreasonably fun system for a game that’s otherwise a lot more focused on shooting than combat. On top of the system explained here, Special Rules and Critical Hit rules can change how each fight goes in many ways. One example is the Brutal special rules, which makes it impossible to Parry a weapon’s attacks unless you do so with critical successes. The only problem with this combat system is that it makes it so risky to enter melee combat that a player will often just try to avoid it altogether, unless their weapons have really high damage so they can almost take out the opponent in the first Parry-safe Strike the attacker gets.
Shooting and Fighting in Kill Team is really great, and the description above doesn’t do justice to just how much the abilities and special rules of operatives and weapons can influence how combat and shooting actually play out. It definitely makes it look like Kill Team is more of a simulation game, and Warcry more of an arcade action game, and that’s definitely true on the level of basic rules. In real life, however, tactics, planning and knowledge of the opponent’s rules are skills that are just as important in Warcry as in Kill Team, so it’s perhaps more correct to say that Kill Team is more of a weapons fetichist’s game than Warcry is: the weapon rules are really detailed, and all your loadout choice can have interesting consequences. Warcry, on the other hand, is just very fun, cinematic and brutal in almost every activation.
Games Workshop’s Ongoing Support for the Game
When deciding to commit to a skirmish game, it’s always helpful to know if the game will be relevant a few years down the road, and how many releases you have to keep up with if you want to play (or just understand) the game on a competitive level. Both games are relatively new, but their release schedules have varied a bit already.
Warcry just got a new edition in the summer of 2022. Along with the new edition came PDFs with new rules for all the old warbands and free online core rules, so it’s really easy to jump on board. The game also seems to be supported by a pretty intense release schedule, with a new expansion set with two warbands and new scenery releasing every three month (something the game learned from the slightly older Kill Team), and in between the expansions, new warbands and allies have been released as well. Finally, the game seems to be starting a tradition of releasing Warcry rules for Warhammer Underworlds releases in Games Workshop’s White Dwarf magazine regularly, so for the forseeable future, the game is extremely well-supported, and it also remained so during most of its first edition, so it’s a pretty safe investment.
Kill Team has been a Games Workshop skirmish game before, but they did a complete re-imagining of the game in 2021, which is the edition we’re describing in this article. Since then, the game has had an expansion with two kill teams and some scenery every three months, and in September 2022, it entered into a new “season” with indoors battles called Into The Dark, which itself was a huge expansion rather than a new edition. The game has also had a ton of new kill team rules released in the White Dwarf Magazine, and it’s set for continued quarterly expansions in 2023 and beyond as far as anyone knows – there are still factions, such as the Leagues of Votann and the World Eaters who haven’t received new kill team rules, and most of the game’s kill teams are specially designed for the game anyway, so it can keep going for a long time if GW wants it to.
Kill Team and Warcry has one thing in common, above all: as Games Workshop games go, they’re both pretty radical innovations on the formulas the company have been using for 40k and Age of Sigmar for years. Before these two games, old Kill Team and Age of Sigmar Skirmish were mainly just mini versions of the main tabletop games, but the new games are franchises in their own right, and they’ll probably stay that way for a long time. They’re also both a hobbyist’s dream, since you can justify spending so much more time painting and customizing a small team than a whole 50+ model strong army.
That being said, the two games are very different. They’re both pretty fast-paced, but Warcry is a lot more fast and chaotic than Kill Team, at least on paper (playstyles of individual wargamers may vary). Many players will simply choose to play the skirmish game that’s set in their favorite fictional universe, but if you’re a Warhammer agnostic, what you need to know is that Kill Team is the game for you if you love having many weapon options and a pretty high level of simulation and complexity in the basic rules, and Warcry is the game for you if you like high stakes and wild, cinematic superhero moments where fighters are taken out with a single swing of an axe – while also having hundreds of options for which models you want to field.