Guest Review : Space Hulk Death Angel

Space Hulk : Death Angel CoverSpace Hulk: Death Angel – the Card Game is a card based iteration of the Games Workshop classic, Space Hulk. You take on the role of a Kill-team from the Blood Angels Chapter of the Adeptus Astartes (Space Marines) charged with the investigation and purging of a derelict Space Hulk. This is a highly thematic co-operative game for 1 – 6 players that can be played in about an hour.

Appearance

Death Angel is very well produced and fits nicely inside the 8” * 4” * 1.5” box. The individual Space Marine cards truly bring each marine to life and the text area on these cards is easy to read. The Genestealer cards also have fantastic art and clearly provide the information needed on them. The Terrain cards are rather generic and a bit boring, but cards with text are easy to read. The remaining cards (Location, Action, and Event) are well produced and have good art and easy to read text. The game also includes a red custom die, numbered 0-5, with a skull icon on 3 of the faces and cardboard support and squad tokens, all of which have a high production value.

Rules/Ease of Learning

Once you have a few games of Space Hulk : Death Angel under your belt, the game is fairly simple to play, but the rulebook can be a bit of a hassle to navigate, due to a dis-jointed presentation. For example, the book presents the components of a game round in summary, then in detail, followed by specific rules on how specific actions work. In short, the first few games will probably involve flipping between pages frequently. However, after a few games, the rules become pretty clear. Someone that knows the rules
of the game can easily explain how to play in 5-10 minutes.

When starting a game, the various decks are prepared and locations are seeded, based on a starting location card, which changes based on the number of players. Players then randomly select their two
man squad by drawing squad tokens. Each squad has a unique ability that is tied to the specialty of one of the marines (eg, Heavy Weapons, Close Combat) and a set of Action cards. A round in Death Angel has four phases:

  1. Choose Actions – players select an action to perform, but cannot perform the same action back-to-back. Players may discuss actions, but cannot show their cards to the other players. Once an action is chosen, it is placed face down on the table.
  2. Resolve Actions – players resolve their actions in initiative order, which is printed on the action card they selected.
  3. Genestealer Attack – any Genestealers that are engaged with a Space Marine may attack
  4. Event – the current player reads the top card in the event deck, but does not show it or read it to the other players. This player makes any choices that are identified on the card and then spawns new Genestealers, and moves them, as directed on the card.

Attacks are resolved using the die provided. When a Space Marine takes an Attack action, they roll the die and if a skull comes up, they are successful in eliminating one threat. When attacked by Genestealers, the Space Marine rolls the die and if the result is greater than the number of genestealers in the attacking swarm, then the Marine lives – but it only takes one failure to remove a marine from the game.

Marines explore the Space Hulk by travelling to the locations in the location deck. Each location has a set number of Genestealers that will spawn and once they have all spawned the Marines move to the next location. The game ends when the victory conditions on the final location are met, or all Space Marines are killed.

Gameplay

Space Hulk LayoutWhile you play as a team of superhuman Space Marines, Death Angel is not easy. Communication, tactics and a bit of luck are needed to survive. To survive a game of Death Angel players need to work together and tactically select cards, especially since you cannot play the same card back to back. The necessary teamwork combined with the different abilities of each Marine, one really feels like they are part of a well-oiled Space Marine Kill-team.

Death Angel also captures the feeling of an unrelenting horde through frequent spawning of Genestealers. At the end of each round, more Genestealers spawn – and as swarms grow larger, it becomes more difficult for a Marine to defend against them, which adds to the sense of urgency and horror of facing a foe that vastly outnumbers you.

The location deck also adds to the theme of exploration of an unknown vessel. With each location change, players will wonder if the next location will offer a reprieve, or will the onslaught ramp up? Death Angel constantly pours tension on with each die roll and card drawn.

Having played Death Angel solo and with up to four players the game seems to scale well. The obvious complaint that one could level against Death Angel is the low chance to hit with a regular attack (50% chance) for a single kill, but special abilities are quite powerful and seem to balance this out. Genestealer movement and shifting Marines after a brother falls in battle can be a little tricky – a better rulebook might set this right though.

Conclusion

Death Angel is tense, thematic, and fun. The rulebook isn’t the easiest to read, but Space Hulk : Death Angel is easy to teach once you have a few games under your belt. It’s excellent for when you only have a short period of time to play, and the action can keep eliminated players interested.