Following a reboot of the underlying ruleset in 2021, Games Workshop’s small-unit skirmish game Warhammer 40,000 Kill Team is in an excellent place right now. The action is fast and fluid, and it still maintains the small physical footprint and low model count that it had at launch. Unfortunately, the product line has a lot in common with classic Star Trek movies — it seems that every great expansion is immediately followed by one that’s a bit shit.
I’m happy to report that Warhammer 40,000 Kill Team: Into the Dark, available for pre-order as of Sept. 3, is more Wrath of Khan than Search for Spock. Every miniature inside this box, including the terrain, is brand new. It even includes one faction that’s practically never been seen in three dimensions before. It’s also the first of a year-long cycle of Kill Team releases that should breathe life back into one of the franchise’s most storied settings — the space hulk.
Note that I didn’t write Space Hulk, the classic 1989 board game that pits Space Marine Terminators against Tyranid Genestealers. Into the Dark takes place in a space hulk, of which there are many in the 40K universe. These masses of derelict space ships, asteroids, and other debris blink in and out of reality, appearing seemingly at random all over the galaxy. They can sometimes contain valuable treasures, but they’re also home to all manner of fell creatures, including Chaos Space Marines, Asuryani Eldar, and worse. This particular space hulk is called the Gallowdark, and Into the Dark takes place in a very small part of it, a human-made starship called Glory of Terra Triumphant.
What makes Into the Dark so special is the terrain, which portrays the labyrinthine corridors of the doomed starship in chunky gray polystyrene. Each wall section is festooned with skulls, naturally, but also with computer screens, cables, and all manner of grimdark industrial nick-nacks. Each of the 16 wall sections comes pre-weathered, with dings, dents, and gouges already molded into the surface. It makes them an absolute breeze to paint with rattle cans, and after that you’re just a wash away from being done.
But the terrain also rewards extra attention, especially for those looking to practice new skills. For Polygon’s build, I took a stab at airbrushing in some object source lighting — that is, painting in the reflection of light sources as they would naturally reflect off of surrounding surfaces. Combined with a very high zenithal application of a silver metallic spray paint, I think it really conveys that muted, monochrome look of lighting up a pitch-black room with a flashlight. I also pasted on some cheeky in-fiction propaganda posters that I’ve been hanging on to for just such an occasion. You could take this even further by creating a textured base, with holes at regular intervals for LED lighting — which would look just like the more interesting side of the included double-sided battle mat.
That invitation to tinker and modify extends to the miniatures in this kit as well. Both the Imperial Navy Breachers and the Kroot Farstalker Kinband have lots of different options for poses and weapons. The Breachers in particular are shockingly easy to paint, and they’re a great starting point for any newcomers to the hobby in your circle.
The included paperback sourcebook mentions several obscure races like the Fra’al and the Khrave, but there are also entirely new entities, called the Larvae of Silica and the Eclosions of the Metal, which are both described as “artificial species granted intelligence by their now extinct creators.” All four races are said to have “built settlements and waged wars across the Gallowdark” for millennia.
Just like the mysterious lost primarchs, founding fathers of the original Space Marine chapters, the new details in the sourcebook are lore gifts to hobbyists and kitbashers — open breaches in the larger universe that dedicated fans can fill in with their own creations.
As far as the ruleset goes, outside of the units and perks, there aren’t any substantive changes to the general flow of play in Into the Dark. That’s a good thing, in my opinion, as the core rules themselves are excellent. There are plenty of new rules concerning the confined environment of the Gallowdark, however. Some deal with opening and closing doors, while others modify how and when you can interrupt or fire during your opponent’s turn. Into the Dark also grants some extra oomph to explosives and area-of-effect weapons.
However, Kill Team — like Games Workshop’s other small-unit skirmish games Necromunda and Warcry — is a very vertical game that uses multi-level terrain to encourage players to maneuver their troops off the beaten path. Into the Dark is explicitly two-dimensional, so much so that it is literally against the rules to climb up and over the walls.
That makes Into the Dark similar to Kill Team’s most disastrous release: Pariah Nexus. But, while that game’s rules for terrain were essentially designed only for the factions that came in that specific box, this time around the rules are much more widely applicable. I can easily see any faction performing well in the Gallowdark; they’ll just need to adjust their strategy by, among other things, leaving their long-range snipers at home. And that’s good news, because many factions will be fighting over that terrain in the coming year.
Into the Dark is just the first of three “major quarterly expansions” for Kill Team. The roadmap, released on Aug. 25, names them — Shadowvaults, Soulshackle, and Gallowfall — and promises participation by many more factions from across the 40K universe. If past is precedent, expect the terrain in those kits to be fully compatible across the entire Kill Team line, and maybe even beyond. Pick up all four boxes, and I expect you’ll have at least a full table of terrain for a game of Zone Mortalis, the fan-favorite two-dimensional variant of the Horus Heresy ruleset.
Regardless of the success or failure of the Gallowdark season, this Kill Team release feels foundational. There’s something here for everyone — collectors and fans of terrain, diehard Kill Team players, those who went all in on the recent Horus Heresy boxed set, and even total newcomers to the hobby. Warhammer 40,000 Kill Team: Into the Dark is one of the best Games Workshop releases in recent memory, and it comes highly recommended.
Warhammer 40,000 Kill Team: Into the Dark was reviewed using a retail copy provided by Games Workshop. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.