The Mystery Of The Plasma Guard Kill Team

Guardsman without a plasma gun

Back in the olden days of Warhammer 40,000 4th 3rd* edition, Kill Team was born. It was a scenario driven way to play. One player built a Kill Team of individually acting soldiers/miniatures drawn from a Troops-choice unit. The other would have a roster of regular goons and leader – they were the opposition. The name of the game was cinematic action, combined with a heavily-customized squad of Your Dudes. Over the years, Games Workshop transformed KT into the closest thing to an entry level product they have.  And for some reason, the newest Kill Team release allows you to bring 8 plasma gun toting Guardsmen into the fray.

When constructing a team for KT2018, you are limited to having one hero and three specialists. But those are mere specializations. As far as the real meat of building a team goes, you draw your soldiers from allowed (and slightly modified) 8e units. So if you went with Tactical Marines, any number of them could have bolters. One could be the Sergeant. You can also have two gunners. One gunner can take a plasma or an another special weapon, one other gunner can have a heavy bolter and a missile launcher. This conforms to the composition of a Tactical Squad on the tabletop. It lets a new player build a Kill Team and still have a tabletop ready unit from a single box(ish).

Guardsmen - Obscure Space Marines
This ignores the fact that no box of Tactical Marines had been bough since June 2017

So for Imperial Guard (Astra Militarum), you get an Imperial Guard squad – one Sergeant, one gunner -, and a Kasrkin Stormtrooper Tempestus Scion squad – one Sarge, four gunners. It kinda makes sense – a Guarsman squad, out of the box, has ten dudes, and one of them can have a special weapon. Two of them can become a heavy weapon team, but those don’t come in the box. A ten man Scion squad can also tote 4 special weapons. So, you know, just two straight-outta-the-box Troop choices.

And Now For The Weird Part

What’s really stupid/amazing is the inclusion of the Special Weapons Squad in addition to the Guard and Tempestus. They can have three Gunners and any number of random Guardsmen, identical to the vanilla squad. However, they are not sold as a unit and probably had never been sold as a unit – not since the days of metal Guarsmen I guess.

Guardsmen Without Plasmas
The link embedded in this banner in the Guardsman Faction focus article lead to the store page for Cadian Snipers because, again, SWS are not a thing you can buy.

So this bizarre oversight/extremely odd design decision allows you to build a Kill Team of one Guardsman plasma Gunner, three SWS plasma Gunners and four Tempestus plasma Gunners. This clocks in at 84 points and 8 miniatures. With the standard KT point limit being 100 pts and a campaign team starting out with up to 12 dudes, you still have the points for a Sarge and two regular Guardsman who are trying (and failing) to hid their massive feelings of firepower inferiority. Alternatively, those two can be replaced by a single dude with a vox-caster who would start his own radio broadcast about the evils of plasma gunners.

Sure, this list lacks staying power… but you can shove the Tempestus to the front, to make use of their better Ballistic skill and armor save. With the small tables that Kill Team is supposed to be played on, your team will be menacing everyone from the get-go – just place them in cover that provides good line of sight. Hell, the forward Plasma Scions will probably be making use of 12″ range: this removes the -1 penalty for “long range” shooting and gives them two shots because of rapid fire. And that’s before you factor in the benefits of the orders, Coms specialists’ conferred benefits, and Breacher and Sniper specialists.

Plasma without a Guardsman
Shout at them harder for more plasma

Now, a newbie is unlikely to build this team. In fact, nobody who just boys a box of Scions and Guardsman is able to build this team, since you never get plasma in the Guardsman box. The business genius who decided to sell Guardsman in 10 man boxes instead of 20 probably also voted to remove plasma and melta guns. Those extremely useful guns – also beloved by awful cheesemongers with 7e Melta Veteran armies – are available separately as metal miniatures. So it’s not newbie friendly, no matter how you cut it. I mean, if they didn’t include heavy weapon teams…

Why In The Emperor’s Name Did They Do This?

In any case, this is some bizzare, half baked decision that is resulting in a potentially game-breaking combo – at the very least, it seems like a very nasty list to come up against. I wonder how the 5 (superhu)man Grey Knight team would fare against this! The design decision to include stuff you can get in a box – and which results in a unit – is understandable, even if it doesn’t always work in practice (Marine Heavy Bolters: not a thing in the Marine box). The idea that a newbie could get into hams, paint a small number of miniatures, play a few games to learn the rule basics and be ready to take the game on with one or two game-legal Troop units is great. Depending on the army, that’s almost a patrol detachment right there!

But you know what’s also a plasma special weapon-heavy cool unit in the Imperial Guard? Veterans. Though the years have not been kind to them – the drive of WYSIWYG to deny 3rd party sales that combined with unwillingness to sculpt Guardsmen deprived them of those fun veteran tactics – they’re still the cool dudes of your army. Forget the Scion pansies – they’ll never be a real army, and their fluff is stupid. Veterans are the cool dudes with three special weapons, BS 4+ and shotguns. They’re made for this shit. They’re not some Guardsman who advanced rank from Conscript because he could breather with his mouth closed. Those have been in thick of it.

Guardsman Veterans
These guys have seen some editions

They also have a cool Forge World kit that gives them those shotguns, but they’re also fit for the other conversion kits. Veterans have the right to look distinct from the rest of your men, and there’s fewer of them to boot. Converting them with FW bits is less of a crime against your wallet. And you’re already buying stuff beyond what you can get with a Guardsman box, so you don’t need to pretend that you’re just playing with what you get.

Plasma Guard Kill Team shows that rule writing still isn’t GW’s forte. With a simple entry, The Plasma Guard Team kinda breaks the game, making everyone not stocking up on the plasma guns feel like they’re not taking The Right Choice, and wastes the opportunity to use the conceptually cool and much more fitting for KT action Veterans.

But hey, at least the new Kill Team isn’t the wet fart that the last release was.

*a groggier-than-I reader notifies me that the first Kill Team appeared in a White Dwarf article back in 3rd edition. Thanks!

6 thoughts on “The Mystery Of The Plasma Guard Kill Team

    1. It depends. A melee horde would be hard-pressed to get through the picket line of Scions – and their overwatch fire. And as soon as you get a horde down to Broken team level, they’ll be stunlocked for the entire game, as having 5 dudes (gaunts?) down gives you -5 to morale rolls.

      Here’s hoping that “continuing support” also means “FAQs, FAQs all the time”.

  1. Well spotted so soon.

    My gaming group have seen shooting dominating killteam despite having a rather terrain-dense board.

    We all used to play Mordheim and some of us argue that shooting there is too powerful. Now to compare…

    1) In Mordheim pretty much every single house blocks line of sight, the new KT terrain has lots and lots of large open windows allowing models to shoot straight through the buildings.

    2) In KT you only get a -1 modifier to hit when a model is obscured, almost no models hit on 3+ but you DO get a penalty for moving and shooting (which is less of an issue if you’re a gunline). You also have an ABUNDANCE of ways to improve your +1 with traits (notably sniper and comms), tactics and orders(AM)/canticles(AdM)

    3) In Mordheim you can HIDE.

    4) Getting models out of action is a 5-6 result instead of a 4+ but you can ‘execute’ stunned models in melee, thus melee is considerably better for getting models off the table.

    5) In Mordheim you can run/advance and charge double your M characteristic instead of like in KT having to roll 2D6 for charge distances and can only run/advance your movement +D6.

    6) Melee hits a lot harder in Mordheim than shooting respectively with possibly 1-2 exceptions. In KT it’s difficult to find melee weapons that can dish out the level of hurt of a plasma gun. Even in Mordheim you can expect to get one full round of shooting off but it rarely crippled the opponent like it does in KT. In one round my Nids lost half their strength facing Admech.

    7) In Mordheim you can not fallback, when you’re in melee you’re stuck in it. You can’t just back-off, have your opponent just sit there and look stupid as your other models take a large dump on him with their guns.

    8) Unless you’re elevated you can only target the nearest enemy model, no sniping of key models.

    And really the list goes on but I think the point has been made. The KT lists have made it stupidly easy for some teams to just load up on gunners and special weapons and it’s too cheap not to do so. The game would have been much better off if these options were restricted more and instead better melee options were provided to create balanced teams fielding a little bit of both.

    The core mechanics of KT are a blast and when teams are well rounded it’s a LOT of fun to play, the currents lists just don’t allow for that in any competitive setting however. It’s to no surprise that AM won at Nova.

  2. Sure, please do fit as many plasmas into your Guard kill team as you possibly can. My Harlequins will thank you for not going for maximum volume of fire and Dodge your substantially fewer shots on a 4+ just fine. Also, we’ll be in combat turn 1.

  3. Why is Scion fluff stupid? They are selected from the best soldiers that come out of the imperial orphanage (schola progenium) and get the best training as kit. They are fielded as drop troop special forces. All seems legit to me.

    1. I object to the whole brain-bleach thing and their ugly transport vehicle. Plus, there was more variety when each would could have their own stormies.

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