August 4, 2011 by brennon
Most of us have played the brilliant game from Games Workshop, Space Hulk. Well, what if you took the Terminators, genestealers and downright terrifying gameplay and made it portable? That’s what Death Angel from Fantasy Flight Games is all about, and its pretty awesome.
Death Angel can be played either solo or in co-operative play with up to 6 players (yes I did say 6!). Each of you takes on the role of three Terminators which make up your fire team. One of the Terminators is usually your shining star, be it a Terminator Sergeant or a Librarian for example with the other two being ‘vanilla’ Terminators watching your stars back at every turn down a dark corridor. Once your team has been picked its all about picking a random mission and getting down to the task at hand while fighting off genestealers and even broodlords to complete your objective. But first, lets talk about the components in the game.
Being a stand alone card game Death Angels major components are of course the cards themselves. Each of the different Terminator fire teams come on different coloured cards allowing you to easily identify them while in the play area. The art on them is brilliant with a nice image of a single Terminator on it in a heroic pose. As well as the Terminator cards you also get your action cards which are kept in your hand during play. These come in three types; Move, Action and Support. I will explain these in more detail later on but each like the Terminator cards themselves have a nice piece of artwork on them showing some more Terminators in badass moments.
The other cards cover a variety of things. You have location and objective cards which show different rooms around the Space Hulk each with their own environmental hazards or boons. There are also a set of genestealer cards and two broodlord cards which make up the enemies you will be fighting throughout the Hulk. On top of all of this is also the Event Deck. This can make or break a mission as each of them can help or hinder your Terminators.
Other components come in the shape of small bolter tokens which represent support tokens used for re-rolls and other card specific events. You also get a set of tokens for each fire team which are used to indicate which cards have been used from round to round. The last piece of kit is a custom dice. This numbered dice is used for combat situations for both genestealers and Terminators.
For a small box you get quite a lot for your money. The art on them is taken from both the renewed Space Hulk game and some in-house art and it evokes the feel of walking through a dark Space Hulk well. However despite the dark feel of the art Fantasy Flight Games have done well with the colours on both the fire teams and other cards so its incredibly easy to tell between them on a cluttered tableau.
Like I mentioned earlier gameplay begins with you choosing which fire team you want to take control of. The number of fire teams you choose is dependent on the number of players with a 3 player game for example having each player control two fire teams at once. Once you have selected your squad of Terminators you gather them all together and shuffle them, laying them out one after the other randomly down the table.
The teams all have different things which make them unique. Blue team for example is lead by Sergeant Lorenzo (the same named hero from the miniature game remade by Games Workshop). He has the ability to move around genestealers and also do repeated damage if he keeps making successful attacks. On the other hand you have yellow team whose special hero Claudio has a pair of deadly lightning claws. He may be hampered by having no ranged attacks but he can slaughter huge amounts of genestealers around him in a reckless rage. The key to victory is using the different special abilities of the Terminators at your command and combining them in order to keep the genestealers at bay and fight your way to your end objective.
Now, once the terminators have been placed and an end goal has been picked at random you set down the first location card and lay out the inside of the Space Hulk on the left and right of the terminators. Location and the layout of each card is different from mission to mission in most cases. For example on one card you have a teleporter room. This could on the one hand be a easy ticket out to the next location, but if you don’t play it right you could see your Terminators vaporized as something goes wrong on the Hulk. A different example would be deep in the bowels of the ship where you have to contend with spore chimneys which can be destroyed to stop the flow of genestealers.
A game turn is comprised of just a few stages. First off each player plays one of their Move, Attack or Support cards face down and ‘locks’ them on the playing surface. Once everyone has done so you turn them over and resolve them in initiative order. But here is where the interesting mechanic comes into play. You can never consult with the other players about what your going to do on a given turn which mirrors the hectic nature of being caught in the twisting corridors of a Space Hulk. On top of this you can never play the same card twice in a row so you really have to try and work together to make sure you escape a location intact.
Move cards allow you to change places with other Terminators. Attack cards allow you to attack genestealers within your range and finally Support cards give a support token to a fellow marine (or yourself if you so wish) and have other boons to them. The real challenge is balancing what you play so everyone gets to do something useful in a turn.
Once you have attacked and the genestealers after that you turn over an Event card to see what happens as you fight for your life. This can be something as simple as jamming a weapon or as monumental as rescuing a downed marine who had been previously killed.
The basic premise from then on is for you to clear each location of genestealers and move from section to section fighting your way to the eventual ending objective. These can range from something as easy as setting a self destruct sequence but can get as difficult as having to not only cleanse every genestealer from a location but also slay the two broodlords that arrive as well…and trust me, that can be your worst nightmare.
The Bad Stuff?
The quality of some of the cards and components is sometimes a bit questionable. The cards for example while being glossy to begin with seem to fade rather quickly and the edges fray a little with the mass of use. The bolter tokens too can be a little rough around the edges with the coloured surface coming off in some instances. It’s not a massive problem if your simply careful with the cards and tokens but if you play the game regularly it could mean you having to ditch a token or two as they become rather gnarly.
On-top of this the game has one of the little bugbears I always have with any card or board game, and that’s player elimination. Once an entire fire team has been killed there is no way for that player to get back into the game through even a rescue marine card in the event deck. While this isn’t such a problem in smaller games where people have multiple teams; in a bigger game this can mean that one person just has to sit there not doing much as other people play on. The other side to this coin is that its really up to you as a group to defend each other and stop this happening but with the deadly nature of your genestealer foes its more than likely going to happen a few times.
Overall its one hell of a hectic game from start to finish. You will never have a moment to breath as you are confronted by not only genestealers but also some incredibly dangerous events which can make or break your game. It all comes down to a serious amount of teamwork and working around the problems that arise. Like the miniature game its not unlikely that you will fail in your mission as your turned around, beaten up and generally massacred slowly by genestealer foes…but that’s part of the fun. Sure you will fail a few times but you will suddenly get that serious moment of ”oh my god we could win this” and it will come down to a climactic last ditch attempt by maybe a single marine which wins you the game and cleanses the Hulk of the genestealer menace.
Another boon to this game is the fact that it has a single player element too it. There are a few occasions where I have been bored and picked this up for an hour and played through and its good to find a card game which doesn’t need a bunch of mates every time to play it. Its a philosophy that I see Fantasy Flight Games adopting with the Lord of the Rings Card Game and of course in the new Star Wars card game too. It can only be a good thing.
I strongly recommend Death Angel if your looking for a challenge and a fan of Space Hulk or Warhammer 40,000 in general.
Solo Play (1 hour) 2-6 Player (1 to 2 hours)
Have any of you folks played this game before and if so what are your feelings on it?