To most inhabitants of the dark galaxy of Warhammer 40,000, the term “Space Marines” is synonymous with hulking, posthuman monsters charging head-on into battle, bolt guns ablaze and chainswords whirring. However, another kind of Space Marine exists that few are aware of, precisely because staying out of sight is what they excel at: The Vanguard Space Marines, often referred to as Phobos marines because of the versatile Phobos patter power armour they all wear, are specialized in fighting behind enemy lines.
Phobos Marines sneak into enemy territory before anyone else is able to, performing reconnaissance and sabotage from a distance while staying hidden. Each Phobos marine is equipped with high-tech gear, such as bolter rifles with scopes that can see through walls scramblers that can disable enemy communication. They operate in very small numbers, but are still a terrifying combat force in their own right, with their Primaris marine physique and specialist combat training.
Among the tech-heavy Incursors and Infiltrators of the Vanguard Space Marines, unlucky enemy troops might also encounter Reivers, who are nightmarish terror troops with massive combat blades, grav-chutes and skull masks whose only proof of not being actual devils is the purity seals on their pauldrons.
In the game, the Phobos Strike Team kill team is a highly elite but versatile kill team with a huge selection of different specialists that can take on any adversary. They can mess with your opponent’s activations, place mines and generally just manipulate the basic conventions of the game in a number of ways, so if you like to force your opponent to improvise and think on their feet – or die trying – the Phobos Strike Team kill team might be just the team for you (even if it is stupid that it has “team” in its team name!).
Abilities of the Phobos Strike Team Kill Team
All Phobos operatives can use the Unique Action Guerilla Warfare to change their order from Conceal to Engage or vice versa for the cost of one Action Point, although not in the first Turning Point or close to an enemy operative.
Infiltrators have the ability Omni-Scrambler that can be used instead of a Strategic Ploy in each Strategy Phase. It lets you select an enemy operative visible to an Infiltrator. That enemy operative then gets a Group Activation of 1 in the next Firefight Phase, and it can’t activate or perform actions unless as many enemy operatives have already been activated as the amount of Infiltrators in the killzone or it is the last enemy operative left unactivated. A really cool and free ability that lets you influence the order of your opponent’s operatives and leave a key target vulnerable to attack.
Incursors have this ability that changes how their Line of Sight is determined when choosing enemy targets. Enemy targets have to be 2 Circle/2 inches from an Obscuring terrain feature rather than 1, and smoke has no effect, when determining whether they’re within Line of Sight for an Incursor. TL;DR: The Incursors can see through walls!
This is an action you can use to remove Saboteur tokens from the battlefield for the Saboteurs Tac Op. Only Infiltrator Saboteurs and Incursor Minelayers can perform it while within Engagement Range of enemy operatives.
Terror is a Unique Action exclusive to Reiver operatives. It makes Mission or Pick Up actions cost 1 extra Action Point for enemy operatives close to a Reiver that performed the Terror action in the same Turning Point, and when determining control of an objective, enemy operatives close to a Reiver that performed this action count as having a -1 to their Action Point Limit. For a low model count kill team such as the Phobos Strike Team, especially the last part of this ability can be very useful.
Operatives of the Phobos Strike Team Kill Team
A Phobos Strike Team kill team is made up of one Leader (either an Infiltrator Sergeant, Incursor Sergeant or Reiver Sergeant) and 5 other Phobos operatives.
Infiltrator Sergeant (1 per Kill Team)
The Infiltrator Sergeant is something as rare as an Imperial leader with no additional weapon options: He simply has the lovely Marksman Bolt Carbine that’s like a bolt gun that scores critical hits on a 5+, and a decent Fists melee weapon. Like all Infiltrators, he has the Omni-Scrambler ability that can manipulate who goes last in a Firefight Phase (see above) and Guerilla Warfare which lets him change his Order.
In addition to this already good profile, the Sergeant has the standard fare 3 Action Point Limit of all Space Marines, a 3+ Save and the Strategise Unique Action that allows him to spend and Action Point to gain a Command Point.
Among the Leader options for the Phobos Strike Team, the Infiltrator is definitely the “lead from the rear” type, with no real melee capability to speak of, but if you want to make the most of Omni-Scrambler for board control, bring this guy and 5 other Infiltrators.
Infiltrator Warrior (5 per Kill Team)
This is you standard Infiltrator operative, so most of what was said about the Sergeant above still holds true here: The Marksman Bolt Carbine is great, the Fists are less good than the blades of other operative types in this kill team, and Omni-Scrambler is good for board control. Incursor Warriors and Reiver Warriors have more utility and versatility, but if you want great shooting, a full team of Marksman Bolt Carbines is pretty formidable.
Infiltrator Commsman (1 per Kill Team)
The Commsman is an Infilitrator Warrior, but with the Comms Array Unique Action that lets is spend an Action Point to allow a nearby friendly operative to use a 1 Action Point action for free, but with a string of caveats: It can’t already have performed that action in the same Turning Point, it can’t be an action with movement in it, it can’t be performed while engaged with an enemy operative, and it can’t subsequently perform that action in the same Turning Point – so it’s mostly for shooting and using Unique Actions and Mission Actions.
This might sound like a Unique Action with very limited usability, but the nice thing about it is that the recipient of the free action only has to be visible to the Commsman, so it’s great for spending an entire activation running an operative up to an objective, and then using the Commsman to grant them the free action needed to perform a Mission Action or similar crucial task.
Infiltrator Helix Adept (1 per Kill Team)
The Helix Adept is a medic version of an Infiltrator Warrior: It has the Combat Restoratives ability that’s a classic healing ability that saves a friendly nearby operative from being incapacitated, and then gives it D3 wounds back and a free Dash action. It then subtracts 1 from the Action Point Limit of both the target and your Helix Adept.
It also has the Helix Gauntlet Unique Action is a stronger heal for a target that hasn’t been revived by Combat Restoratives, and it gives back a whopping 2d3 wounds. Since the Helix Adept is the only medic across all three “classes” of Phobos operatives, it’s worth taking even if you’re not building a pure Infiltrator team.
Infiltrator Saboteur (1 per Kill Team)
The Saboteur has the Unique Action Plant Saboteur Explosives that lets it plant a Saboteur Explosives token on the battlefield once per game. The explosive can be detonated by making a Shoot action with the Saboteur’s Remote Explosives weapon, and it then makes an attack against each operative (friend or foe!) within square/3 inches of the token with a strong 5 normal damage and 6 critical damage, as well as Armour Penetration 1 and the Silent trait. Since the Saboteur also has the Marksman Bolt Carbine, it makes him one of the really heavy hitters of the Phobost Strike Team kill team if you can pick a good spot to plant your explosives.
Infiltrator Veteran (1 per Kill Team)
This is a really fun operative that operates unlike any other in the kill team: it’s mostly a regular Infiltrator, but it has a Combat Blade for a great 5 critical damage in melee and a Custom Bolt Carbine that allows the player to choose up to two Special or Critical Hit rules for the carbine before deploying the Veteran.
You can choose between Balanced (to reroll one of your attack dice), Lethal 5+ like the Marksman Bolt Carbine, No Cover (the target can’t retain defense dice as a result of cover), MW1 for a mortal wound on a critical hit, P1 which gains Armour Penetration 1 to each critical hit or Rending (retain 1 extra critical hit instead of a normal succesful hit if you scored another critical hit in the same roll). There are some really nice combos in there, most of them involving Lethal 5+ and a cool Critical Rule like MW1 or P1.
Infiltrator Voxbreaker (1 per Kill Team)
The Voxbreaker is an Infiltrator Warrior with two exclusive Unique Actions: Voxbreak prevents rerolls of attack dice for nearby enemy operatives, and Auspex Scan lets you pick a friendly operative who can treat a selected enemy operative with the Conceal order as if it had an Engage order. This is an operative with really good utility while also retaining the excellent Marksman Bolt Carbine, with Voxbreak being a good “shield” for defending a nearby friendly Leader or key operative, and Auspex Scan being a good way to stop a sneaking enemy before it gets to its target.
Incursor Sergeant (1 per Kill Team)
The Incursor Sergeant is one of the three Leader choices for the Phobos Strike Team kill team, and like all the other Incursor operatives, its main feature is shooting through walls and obstacles: Its Occulus Bolt Carbine prevents targets from retaining defence dice as the result of being in Cover, and the Incursor ability Multi-Spectrum Array brings enemies that would usually be out of line of sight from being within circle/1 inch of the opposite side of an Obscuring character feature into the Line of Sight of an Incursor.
In addition to this, the Sergeant also has the “spend an Action Point to gain a Command Point” Strategise Unique Action like the other Sergeants in the kill team, and like the rest of the Incursors, he also has a good Combat Blade for melee combat.
If you’re up against a Kill Team that relies heavily on Cover and being Obscured (if, for example, it has bad Save characteristics), the Incursors are really great for effectively removing Cover as a tool from your opponent’s tool box.
Incursor Warrior (5 per Kill Team)
The Incursor Warrior is your standard Incursor operative, with the same weapons, ability and Unique Action of the Sergeant, but with slightly worse statistics.
Incursor Marksman (1 per Kill Team)
The Incursor Marksman is like an Incursor Warrior, but with a different rifle, the Stalker Marksman Bolt Carbine which hits on a 2+, has Armour Penetration 1 and the Lethal 5+ Special Rule. It also has the Unique Action Track Target, which lets you interrupt an enemy operative’s activation just after it has performed an action. You can then perform an Overwatch action against that target with the Marksman’s Stalker Marksman Bolt Carbine, and then the enemy target ends its activation (unless it’s incapacitated or revived after the Shoot action).
Track Target is amazing. It can be performed every Turning Point, and it both stops an enemy operative in its tracks and gives you an opportunity to take it out of action outside of your own activations. The only downside to taking a Marksman is that it doesn’t ignore Cover like the regular Incursors, but with such a disruptive Unique Action, who cares?
Incursor Minelayer (1 per Kill Team)
Like the Infiltrator Saboteur, the Incursor Minelayer can plant an explosive with its Unique Action, but it’s called a Haywire Mine, and instead of detonating it manually, it goes off when an enemy operative moves close to it, and it has the No Cover, Lethal 5+ Special Rules and the Stun Critical Rule, and also hits on a 2+. While not an area attack like the Saboteur Explosive, the Minelayer’s Haywire Mine is excellent for keeping a key target away from a specific location: nobody wants their best operative stunned and mostly dead from going near a Haywire Mine on purpose!
Reiver Sergeant (1 per Kill Team)
The Reiver Sergeant is a Leader with two loadout options: It can either take a Bolt Carbine and Fists (don’t) or the Special Issue Bolt Pistol and Combat Knife. Both of the latter are really good close quarters weapons. It also has the Terror Unique Action (which now costs 0AP as per the December 2022 Balance Dataslate) like all Reivers, which makes it harder for enemy operatives to perform Mission and Pick Up Actions and control objectives near him, and the Strategise Unique Action like the other Sergeants.
The Reiver Sergeant is a real “lead from the front” kind of Leader, and the only real downside to taking him is that his model, like the other Reiver operative, isn’t in the dedicated Kill Team box for the Phobos Strike Team kill Team.
Reiver Warrior (5 per Kill Team)
The Reiver Warrior is the standard Reiver operative, and like the Sergeant version, it can choose between the inferior Bolt Carbine and Fists or the good Special Issue Bolt Pistol and Combat Knife, and it has the Terror Unique Action.
Reivers are the Phobos masters of holding objectives, so if you’re willing to forego the wall-ignoring Incursors or board-controlling Infiltrators, they can make for a really fun close quarters kill team.
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Ploys of the Phobos Strike Team Kill Team
This is a brand new Ploy for the Phobos Strike Team, added to the team’s rules through the Balance Dataslate (latest version is December 23, 2022). It gives bolt weapons carried by operatives in your team the P1 critical hit rule, meaning that each time you score a critical hit with a bolt weapon, that weapon gains Armour Penetration 1 for the duration of that attack, so your target has one less Defense dice to roll.
This is the classic Space Marine Strategic Ploy that lets you Shoot twice in an activation if you use bolt weapons and you haven’t fought in melee. Really good for Infiltrators in particular – you could end up with a big pile of critical hits.
More or less the reverse of the above: If you haven’t performed any Shoot actions in an activation, you can Fight twice. Great for Reivers (and Incursors).
Adds Triangle/1 inch to the Movement Characteristic of all your operatives for one Turning Point, lets them ignore the first Circle/two inches they move for climbs, drops and traversals, and lets them automatically pass jump tests. Good for everyone, but really good for Reivers.
And They Shall Know No Fear
Lets you treat all friendly operatives as if they’re not injured, as well as ignoring modifiers to their Action Point Limit for one Turning Point.
This allows a friendly operative with a Conceal Order to resolve two succesful hits at the same time in a Fight action a single time in an activation, but it can’t also shoot in that activation. The rulebook notes that this requires you to change the order of the operative to Engage as well in most cases.
This lets you retain a normal succesful save as a critical save when rolling defence dice for a shooting attack made against one of your operatives.
One Step Ahead
This allows you to switch one of your operatives with another operative during deployment after seeing the opponen’ts kill team, so you can swap an Incursor for a Reiver, or change the loadout of an Infiltrator Veteran, just to name a few options. Really good for tournaments and other situations where you’re meeting multiple players you don’t already know.
At the end of the Scouting Step of the mission sequence, you can redeploy two of your operatives and resolve an additional scouting option that must be different from what you originally selected.
Equipment of the Phobos Strike Team Kill Team
This is exclusive to Reivers, and vastly improves the way it climbs and drops from terrain features.
This is also exclusive to Reivers, and it allows the wearer to move a free 2 circle/4 inches after deployment as if it can fly, and when it moves off a Vantage Point in the game, it can fly as long it lands at the same height or lower than the Vantage Point. Excellent Batman stuff.
This is a throwable grenade that creates an area that breaks Line of Sight between two operatives on opposite sides of it.
This is an area grenade that can subtract from the Action Point Limit of nearby operatives on a roll of 4+.
This is the standard area damage frag grenade, like those available to many other kill teams. Good for hitting multiple low wound enemy operatives.
This is the standard single target damage armour-piercing krak grenade available to many other kill teams.
This is a really nice medium range weapon with the Silent Special Rule and a high critical damage of 5.
This gives the bearer a free Command Re-Roll Tactical Ploy for a shooting attack being made by it or against it once per battle.
Tac Ops of the Phobos Strike Team Kill Team
The Phobos Strike Team Kill Team has the Infiltration, Recon and Seek and Destroy archetypes, meaning it can choose its Tac Ops from the corresponding lists in the Core Rulebook. In addition to those, it can also choose the following faction-specific Tac Ops.
Shock and Awe
This scores you Victory Points when you control an objective that was previously controlled by the opponent. Great for Reiver teams!
This Tac Op lets you and your opponent take turns placing three Saboteur Tokens in total on the battlefield close to terrain features. Subsequently, your operatives can score Victory Points by removing those tokens during the game.
This Tac Op grants you Victory Points in Turning Points where more enemy operatives than friendly operatives are incapacitated while more than half of your operatives have a Conceal order. Basically, this encourages you to use the Guerilla Warfare Unique Action in most activations to make sure your fighters go back into concealment after attacking. Very cool and thematic, but it will cost you a lot Action Points.
Playing the Phobos Strike Team Kill Team
In general, playing the Phobos Strike Team Kill Team is all about switching orders around and playing a very tightly controlled tactical game with the relatively few operatives you have at your disposal.
Apart from that, there are generally two ways you can go with the team: Playing all Infiltrators will give you an experience very similar to playing other bespoke kill teams released in expansion sets from year 1 of this edition of Kill Team: you have many different specialists to choose from, there’s a healer, a communications guy, a veteran and so on, and with Omni-Scrambler, you can really mess with your opponent’s ability to choose who they want to move where and when. It’s a generalist’s elite kill team with some good access to critical damage, and you have a tool for most situations.
Alternatively, you can specialize, with the wall-ignoring Incursors for shooting (especially if you include their Marksman), or the objective-controlling close combat Reivers, or even a good combination of the two, since none of them have synergies tied to everyone else being the same operative type as them.
Beware that for the first time in this edition, the Phobos Kill Team is a bespoke one-box kill team that has two operative types that are a) pretty good but b) also aren’t on the sprues in the kill team’s box! This can make this one of the more expensive teams to build in an optimal way if you’re going for the second of the approaches suggested above.
All that being said, the Phobos Strike Team kill team is a very cool elite team with some terrifying specialists (the activation-interrupting Marksman being a particular highlight), and it’s a fun, different way to play Space Marines.