Space Hulk: Death Angel card game

Space Hulk Death Angel card gameI got a review copy of something I’d never have bought myself. Fantasiapelit did a Finnish version of the Space Hulk: Death Angel card game and sent me a review copy. Why not — I know my brother has some interest to this, being an old Warhammer fan.

This latest incarnation of Space Hulk is a small box, filled with bunch of cards and some tokens. The story remains the same: a squad of space marines is investigating a spaceship infested with nasty aliens trying to kill them.

Co-op fun

This time the game isn’t one-on-one, marines versus genestealers. The card game is a co-op, where each player commands a pair of marines (two pairs, if there are less than four players). The marines form a line, facing either left or right. Both sides have terrain features, which will spawn monsters. The amount of players affects the number of marines in action, but the game scales the level of opposition a bit.

Space Hulk: Death Angel can also be played solo. It works fine, but is nothing I’d play more than once. I don’t like solo games, so that doesn’t say much about the quality of the solo game.

Three simple actions

Each turn, players choose one of three options: move, support or fire. An important thing: you can’t choose the same action twice in a row. That adds a nice level of planning.

Moving switches places in the line, activates terrain features (always useful doors, for example) and allows the marine to change direction. Support hands out a support token to some marine, these can be used for rerolls. Combat is simple: roll a die, if there’s a skull, alien dies. Marines have a facing and a range, which limit the action a bit.

Each marine team is unique. The marines have different ranges and the action cards have different special features in addition of the basic actions. There’s a flame thrower that can wipe out lots of genestealers, an autocannon that shoots three times, psychic attacks, supports that allow other players to attack and so on. All very useful for survival.

The goal is to survive through four rooms and then fulfill the victory condition of the last room. Things can get ugly, as the monsters start to form larger groups, making the death of marines all the more likely, eventually guaranteeing the death of every marine in front of them.

Neat tactical puzzles

It’s a pretty neat game. I’ve only played it once solo, so I can’t comment much on it, but there are some good ideas in it, the special abilities of the marines are interesting and managing your options seems like an interesting tactical puzzle. If players work together to solve the puzzles, it should be fun.

What comes to the components, the rule book is far from neat. It makes the relatively straightforward game seem way more complicated than it actually is. Quite a bit of rules questions in Geek, too. It’s a bit too small, a larger booklet would’ve made presenting the rules easier. On the other hand, I do like the very compact box that doesn’t waste any space.

The other components are fine, the cards are of good quality and the illustrations are typical Warhammer material.

So far I’d say Space Hulk: Death Angel is a nice co-op game and particularly good, if you like the theme. The Space Hulk theme is well suited for co-op play and the game seems to be fairly difficult, thus retaining interest.

Update (29.9.2010)

I played some two-player games and thought about the game a bit. It sure is difficult, mostly because you can’t take the same action twice. That would help the players a lot — too much, actually, because we tried. It would make more sense, thematically, and would be more fun, but the game becames really easy that way.

I think the game has some replayability issues. I’m somewhat bored of it already after just few games, and even fans will find the games pretty much the same thing, over and over. Sure, you get different rooms each time, but the rooms aren’t that different and there’s only three different rooms per level, so it’s not like there’s huge variety.

Space Hulk: Death Angel is best when used occasionally as a filler. It’s a fairly rare beast, an Ameritrash co-op filler, and I would recommend the game to the fans of Space Hulk and to those who think an Ameritrash co-op filler sounds like a fabulous idea. The game is difficult enough to keep things interesting for a while and despite flaws, it’s still a pretty neat little package.

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