Review: Big Jim's 'Special Operations - Killzone'
Hey guys, special treat for you today! Big Jim's forays into the world of rules design have produced another success. His latest release, 'Special Operations: Killzone' is a blast to play and comes highly recommended from Rules Manufactorum. Here's what my first playtest notes have yielded:
The rules themselves are a breeze to read through being just 6 pages long. Jim really makes the most of the core ruleset which makes Killzone very 'rules-light' - if you can play 40k you can play Killzone with next to no extra effort. This touches on a design theory of mine that people prefer rules expansions and additions to rule revisions. Although there are several core rules that get overturned in Killzone it maintains that approachable quality that purely revisionist rules tend to lack.
This is also due to the common-sense approach that Jim has exercised in the rules that he opted to change. Simplification of the Run and Difficult Terrain mechanic have allowed him to expand in other, more interesting directions such as Priority rolls and Overwatch. In and of themselves these changes do not appear to affect the game by much but in practice I found the dynamic use of new mechanics such as Grenades changing tactics and strategies that had remained unchanged since 4th edition.
Any excited I felt for the re-release of skirmish 40k games in the Battle Missions has long since died away. The half-assed design that produced that book is a nightmare that is slowly fading from memory as I recall the awesome moments of 40k grandeur I experienced under the direction of this much more comprehensive ruleset. Perhaps though Killteam was a necessary stepping stone on the path to enjoyable 40k skirmish games. Many of Jim's rules show an eagerness to overcome the myriad balance issues that cropped up while handling the near naked Killteam rules. Thus Killzone adds limitations that are, in my opinion, absolutely necessary if this game type is to be taken seriously. I'm quite happy to see Valkyries kicked out of skirmish battles even though I play airborne IG.
Just as important as these limitations are the options and freedom that Killzone adds. The original Killteam granted you a paltry 3 Special Rules with which to add character to your force. Killzone enhances the game adding the ability to purchase models individually, extra wargear options and, my favorite, the ability to overturn certain army building restrictions through the purchase of 'Themes' among others. Much has been done to add depth and intrigue to the ruleset making the creation of each Special Operation Group an intense mental exercise (perfect for the throneroom or while driving). This game is a prime example of the old adage "easy to learn, impossible to master" as I feel my tiny Killzone force will undergo dozens of iterations before I am totally satisfied with its performance.
The document is in its infancy and although it works satisfactorily as it is there are a few things that can be added. There are a couple of typos* and rules that might be expanded to be a little more watertight. I would like to see still more 'Themes' added as well perhaps army-wide special rules for purchase. I'm planning a small series of Killzone specific characters that might help generate more narrative for each game. The document itself references a few things, such as reference cards, that have yet to be seen but will undoubtedly contribute to the overall quality of the document.
The flaws of this system are hardly worth mentioning and after a few games together my gaming group and I are eager to revisit this ruleset at our next meeting. In closing, I'll leave you with my list - if you've got a second comment and let me know what you think can be improved.
6 Wolf Guard in Terminator Armor
2 x Combi-Plasma
1 x Heavy Flamer
1 x Power Fist
*Only one that I remember is the Medipack special rule but there was one other one I believe.