Kill Team Infiltrator, Part I - Casus Belli

As a Kill Team Infiltrator my mission is to play games of Kill Team with the Japanese players down at the Craft Laboratory without spending any money on Games Workshop products. I do, however, want to support Kitsune-San and his friendly local gaming store (FLGS) so I will buy paint brushes, primer, paints, terrain, miniature cases and so on to pass business his way. I'll even buy whatever non-GW stuff he has. But I'll be fucked if I spend a single yen on Games Workshop games and their rapacious business model, which requires you to keep spending in order to stay up to the date on rule books, codecs, updates, expansions and so on. Having been burned by their decision to discontinue Warhammer Fantasy Battle in 2015, I had resolved not to be tempted again. 

This resolution promptly failed in 2017 when I bought into the 8th edition of Warhammer 40K. I have an ancient Dark Angels army which had never seen the light of the tabletop, and one of my recurring resolutions has always been to at least play one game of anything I invest into. I played two games - one against the Black Legion, and another versus the Red Scorpions - and the Dark Angels retreated back into their fortress hideout, having finally achieved their mission. This incursion cost me my initial outlay on the Dark Angels army (which I bought secondhand as a kid so it couldn't have been too expensive, since I didn't have much money in high school and university), an 8th edition rule book, a temporary placeholder codex, the Dark Angels codex when it finally came out, and a bunch of miniatures from E-Bay to pad out the army. At a conservative estimate it set me back about about US$700. I measure cost by dividing my total outlay by the number of times I either play, attend or otherwise use something. My first stint at a fitness gym cost me US$16 per session for a total of 118 sessions. Boxing cost me US$25 per training session for a total of 150 sessions. I practice aikido (nominally), and since I haven't attended a class for two years thanks to COVID my current cost per class is over US$30 since I am still paying my monthly dues. This is not a fixed cost per class, but rather the total cost of entry and monthly membership fees divided by how many times I showed up at training. This calculation also includes the costs of boxing gloves, training gis, mouthguards, seminars, workshops, everything you need to take part in the activity. There was no cap on how often I could go, and the more I went, the less each session would cost.

I use the same calculus in gaming. This means that my foray into the world of 40K cost me about US$350 per game. This is in sad contrast to my Warhammer Empire army, which has seen a lot of love and a lot of battles on numerous tabletops both in Japan and in Australia. I don't know what the aggregate cost of all my Imperial troops are, but whatever it is it would have to be divided by 100+ games. At least. So even if my Empire army cost a grand, the cost per game would be US$10 per game at a bare minimum. By contrast, my Skaven army which I acquired from E-Bay in 2018 has never been fielded on the tabletop. It is a literal sunk hole of costs, and if I ever do get a game in, it will cost me about US$300 for that one game, which is the cost of buying all those plastic ratmen. 40K is a similar write-off. The game is currently in its 9th edition at the time of writing, which means my 8th edition rule book and codecs are now out of date and useless. The miniatures themselves, however, can still be used, and they can be re-purposed for other game systems so it's not a total loss. To enter the 40K pool again I would need to reinvest in a new rulebook and a new army codex.

Sadly, impulse buying is a recurring pattern of behavior for me, and with games becoming less and less frequent I have less and less chances to drive down the cost per game. I have a few board games I've only ever played once, which means I've paid over US$100 per game for these one hit wonders. That's the cost of a concert ticket or a meal at an expensive restaurant so I guess it could be justified, depending on how you look at it. The outlay itself doesn't bother me so much as the cost per game (or cost per training session). I'm happy to shell out money as long as something gets a lot of use. That for me is the key indicator of value - not whether something is expensive or not, but whether it is used often, played with, or shared with other people. Just owning something doesn't make it yours - you need to assemble it, paint it, spend time on it, and then field it on the table with or against other humans. I play the guitar, and for years I was content to learn simple songs on the acoustic. But I was consumed with the idea of getting an electric guitar, and so I eventually splashed out, bought one, played it for a few days, and then never played it again. I'm a fucking moron.

If I didn't have to play Kill Team I wouldn't, but I'm driven by necessity. I need to play games to paint my sci-fi models. Most miniature gamers in Japan are snapped up by Games Workshop, so in order to secure games and make new connections I need to play the most popular miniatures system in circulation. My old network of Japanese Mantic players is rapidly shrinking, having been driven away from the gaming tables by the pandemic. The English speaking gamers in Japan are a bit more cavalier in their attitude to COVID, but they have no interest in sci-fi skirmish games. I have learned that I will not paint if I don't have a game lined up to motivate me. In the two years of the lockdown I didn't paint a single thing, just because I didn't have a reason to. As soon as I was able to join some folks over at the Crown of Command for a Warhammer game in December 2021 the paint brushes came back out, and I was back in the swing of things. I need other people to make me paint.

Therefore I have become a Kill Team Infiltrator, with my covert goal being to integrate myself into the Japanese Kill Team scene, make some new connections, play some games, BUT not spend any money at all on Games Workshop stuff. Mantic, OK. Other studios, OK. Independent creators on Etsy, OK. Games Workshop, nope. I'll still buy their paints and primers though, because they're excellent. Their game systems, however, are just a terrible examples of corporate greed. Compare the 2nd editions of both Deadzone and Kill Team, for example. All the factions within the 2nd edition of Deadzone were included in the starter set. In the lifetime of the 2nd edition there were perhaps a total of four expansions, none of which were required to enjoy the base game. The final expansion (Command Protocols: Escalation), was compulsory for tournament players because it clarified all the rules errata accumulated over the game's lifetime, and introduced three new factions. For casual players, however, you could conceivably just buy the starter set, buy the army you fancy, and never need anything else except a regular opponent. As an added bonus, you could have a good working knowledge of the capabilities of the opposition (with the exception of the later factions), because their army list was included in the starter set even if you didn't play that force yourself. For more serious players, all the rules you ever needed to know were contained in two volumes.

By comparison, the 2nd edition of Kill Team had 33 expansions. A good portion of these were terrain kits, but for serious players you needed to either have the expansions, or have access to them because otherwise you would be going into the game blind, without any idea at all of how your opponent's army worked. This is the same system that Games Workshop implemented when I was a kid. When I played 5th edition Warhammer Fantasy I had to buy all the army books for my existing armies, and when I started playing tournaments in university I had to buy, borrow or spend hours leafing through the store copies in the Games Workshop stores to learn the capabilities of enemy armies. When the game rolled over into 6th edition I had to start the process anew, and that required another outlay. Staggered army book releases also resulted in power creep, in which newer armies became progressively stronger than older ones. You were like a hamster, forever running, always spending just to keep up.

The 3rd edition of Kill Zone came out in 2021, along with a compendium which summarizes all the forces to date. This is the perfect starting point for a neophyte like myself, even if I know that all the forces detailed in the compendium will be superseded by later releases. I don't need an army - I can use my existing models as proxies. I just need to acquire the rules and see what models are the best fit for the factions within the rule set. I even have legitimate GW models I can use - I bought a bunch of Primaris Space Marines for my Dark Angels army in my short foray into 40K. Knowing myself, however, I have to be careful not to get sucked in once again into the GW paradigm. The mission is to play more games to motivate myself to paint my existing sci-fi miniatures, not to drop a few hundred dollars on another game I'll only play a couple of times. I need games to motivate myself to paint, and if I can't play Deadzone, I'll have to play Kill Team instead.