As I mentioned in a previous post, there are quite a few specialist options in the new kill team, as there have been in all versions of kill team. However, this edition has introduced the leveling up option in to the game with specific progression trees for each specialism. This means that it's not quite so simple to pick a specialist, as it requires you to think beyond the first game and about how they model will progress. As such I thought that I would run through my thoughts on the various specialist options that are applicable to the Astra Militarum units. I may look at the others as I flesh out the other forces I have planned but for now I'll just be sticking to the guard options.
But what are the options, well they actually change between data sheets, so we'll look at the three options;
Infantry squad - Leader (sergeant only) Heavy (gunner only) scout, sniper, Comms (guardsman with vox caster only), veteran, demolitions
Special weapons squad - Leader, Heavy (gunner only) scout, sniper, Comms, veteran, demolitions
Militarum Tempestus squad - Leader (tempestor only) Heavy (gunner only) Demolitions (gunner only) Comms, medic, scout, sniper, veteran
Straight off, two things jump out at me. Firstly, Leaders, for both the infantry squad and Scion squad have restrictions on there leaders but the special weapons squad doesn't, meaning that you could have a guardsman or gunner be your leader if you wanted. Secondly, the Comms specialist in the Infantry squad is restricted to a model with a vox caster, while in the special weapons and Scion squads there is no such restriction. Personally, I think this is an oversight. I can understand why the leader specialism is included in the special weapons squad, but I think it should be restricted to a non-gunner model at the very least. Really I think it should not be there at all. As for the Comms specialist, I think it should be restricted to vox caster only across all units, as this makes more sense. To keep changing the requirements for things across units seem like poor proof reading to me.
But enough with the moaning. Let's look at each option and see how they stack up against the various squads. For the most part I will just be looking at guard Vs Scion and not splitting the infantry squad and special weapons squad in to individual units as they are exactly the same in all respects apart from the max model counts.
Leader specialist - there is not really much to say about this one, as it is required by all kill teams. The only question comes if you are thinking of taking a combines guard and Scion kill team, which in reality most people are. If your going to combine the various different units, I would take the tempestor as your leader. There's a very basic reason for this, a 3+ BS\WS and 4+ save. It is also worth pointing out that you could have a guardsman for the special weapons squad be a leader but this doesn't really seem sensible. You loose leadership and gain nothing. If you have a good fluff reason for it great but in reality the Tempestor is the best choice.
Heavy specialist - in all fire teams this is restricted to gunners only, which makes sense, there the ones with the big guns. Unfortunately it doesn't really suit all the weapon options. The base ability doesn't help plasma guns at all and the extra ap on level 2 is not much use either. The same can be said for flamers as well, as they auto hit anyway, although the ap modifier would be useful. Really this pushes you towards grande launchers, melta guns, sniper rifles and hotshot volley guns. Now, I'm still not convinced by melta guns in kill team. Yes they will kick out a lot of damage but there are very few multi wound models in the game and most that are are 2 wound models. The range is also very short, so you will have to get close to do damage. So really that leaves sniper rifles and grenade launchers for guard and just hotshot volley guns for scions. Now, both will work for guard, as both weapons can make use of the abilities that are on the tree. I don't join that the grenade launcher does just edge it though as there are some abilities that work better for the grenade launcher but there are not any that work better for the sniper. As such if you want to take the heavy specialist for guard, then take it with a grenade launcher. For scions, there is only one option, the hotshot volley gun and it's not a bad choice at all.
Demolitions specialist - this specialism is unrestricted in the guard units but is restricted to Scion gunners. Why the restriction, I don't know, but it doesn't really make much difference. You could use this model with a normal lasgun and go the route of the grenadier but most people will probably go the pyromaniac route. The biggest trouble for me is that many of the later abiolities are not in game abilities but ones that work after the game or before the game, provided you use the scout phase. To me there is really only two ways to go with this specialism and that's to arm a man with a flamer and go pyromaniac or keep them with a lasgun and go grenadier, either way I don't think that this is a great option unless you are going to be playing a full campaign.
Comms specialist - this is a slightly odd one, as it's restricted to a guardsman with vox caster in the infantry squad but there are no restrictions on scions or special weapons squads. I would have thought that they would have restricted it in the Scion squad as well but they haven't. When I first looked through the rule book, I instantly went for a vox caster with the Comms specialism, then I thought about it for a bit and decided that it wasn't actually that good. Now I'm back to thinking that this is actually quite good, although several of it's abilities do rely on random dice rolls. I have not taken it as a specialism for either of my kill teams yet, but I am thinking that it might be good to add it in. However, for me, it is another specialism that seems to have one good route and one poor route for guard. I suppose that this is part of the reason for the two different routes, to give options and make it so that every specialism is equally valuable. Overall I think that this is one to consider but will require a certain play style, namely that of sitting this model at the back and protecting it, as it's buffs do not need it to be up close to the enemy.
Scout specialist - I am still having trouble deciding if this is a good specialism or not. I have taken it with one team but I'm still not convinced by it, hopefully a few games will tell me if it is worth it or not. On the face of it, it looks like a good option, giving you some good bonuses, not only for the model with extra mobility but for the kill team later on in the campaign. As the base ability is re-rolling to advance rolls, you really need to have this model using an assault weapon, which limited you to using a gunner with either a flamer, melta or grenade launcher. I'm instantly discounting the melta, for previously mentioned reasons, and I would also question the grenade launcher, as with the range, you don't really need to get close quickly. This just leaves the flamer, which with its short range would be helped by getting close quickly.
Sniper specialist - I guess most people, like me, will look at this and think, sniper rifle = sniper specialist. Well, I'm not so sure it's a good idea. As with many specialists, one side of the tree is a lot better than the other. In this case, one side culminates in bonuses for a 6+ roll, when a sniper rifle gets a mortal wound bonus anyway. So this side seems a bit unnecessary. The other side is good though, but again there are some bonuses that are not so good. Extra range on a weapon that can already hit pretty much anywhere on the board? There are some good bonuses but I do think that taking a different weapon on a sniper specialist, such as a plasma gun or even just a plain las weapon (yes, I know the sniper rifle is technically a long las) might actually be better. That being said, I've got a sniper specialist with a sniper rifle.
Veteran specialist - the veteran specialism is a bit of an odd one, as there really doesn't seem like a right option for it. You could slap this on pretty much any model with pretty much any weapon and it would work. At the moment I think that for guard and scions alike, sticking this on a plasma welding model maybe the best bet. This is due to the fact that it is less likely to be shaken and so not be able to fire, it can get a free re-roll, useful.for those pesky 1's when over charging and as it progresses further, gains a bonus to its save and can even generate a command point of it very own. All these things can help keep that expensive and valuable plasma gun firing longer and better. Like I said though, you could put this on just about anyone and it would still be useful. The question really comes, it is better to have a generalist specialist model (of that can be a thing!) or a more focused specialist in you force.
Medic specialist - this is only available to the scions, although I'm not really sure why. The medic specialist is very much a supporting character, giving out buffs to those around him, although he does have a pretty short range. One of the big benefits comes at level 3, when he has the ability to keep your men alive if they die as a result of there injuries after the game. This can be a huge bonus, especially late in campaigns when you've leveled up several.of your specialists and don't want to loose them to a bad dice roll. To be honest though, I don't think this is a particularly good specialism and I have taken it mostly because of the modeling opportunities. If you can keep your guys close, then he'll work, but that rarely seems like a good idea.
One thing many of you may have noticed is that I have not included the stratagems in my review here. Well there is a good reason for this, unwanted to look at the basic options and levels of each specialism. These are the guaranteed bonuses and don't rely of command points to get. Many of the options have some very good stratagems but if your relying on the stratagems to make a specialism with taking, I think your looking at things the wrong way, as youay not have command points to spare when you need them or may have multiple models that could benefit from stratagems in a single turn. If the base options aren't any good for you, then it shouldn't matter how good the stratagems might be. The best way to look at the stratagems is as a bonus not a given and ignore them until you've actually chosen the specialisms you want.