Review: Space Hulk Death Angel

Space Hulk : Death Angel

The first time I played this game was co-op with a friend in a very busy store on games night. It was a hard fought game which came down to a extremely tense die roll. We sat on the edge of our seats as Annas cast the die. We shouted, we jumped and high fived. We didn’t care if anyone looked, it was awesome.

Space Hulk Death Angel is a card game from Fantasy Flight Games. Unfortunately it is now OOP (Out of Production). This does not mean that it is not still available. I’ve found quite a few copies in SA and I grabbed one of them as soon as I could.

Opening the Box

Specs on the box:

  • 1-6 Players
  • 14 age
  • 30 – 60 Minutes

The first thing that I thought when I opened the box was “Wow, FFG has finally made a useful insert.” Incidentally, that’s the first thing Annas said when he first say the game too. It feels kind of odd. The cards fit perfectly in the box, even sleeved. The insert even has a space under which you can store the custom D6 and all of the tokens.

Space Hulk : Death Angel
Small box, lots of stuff.

The rulebook fits nicely on top and keeps everything in place. It’s a small box with a small rulebook, which somehow clocks in at 30 pages! It is however, not a difficult read. I actually watched a play through of the game on youtube so I only really needed to lookup a few specifics. The rules also has a handy turn sequence guide on the back.

Sleeves

I sleeved my copy using these:

mdg-std-usa-chimera-card-sleeves-57-5x89mm-1

Theme

Space Hulk Death Angel is set in Games Workshops’ Warhammer 40,000 universe. Millions of years in the future derelict spaceships have been found wandering the galaxy. They are periodically absorbed into the warp and then found again days, months or even decades later. Often they collide with other ships and form giant space faring hulks.

Some of the ships were human, some alien, sometimes part of the hulk could be an asteroid or anything floating around. There’s no sign of the original crews, often these hulks are 1000’s of years old. This makes them valuable scavenging ground. It also makes them the ideal hiding places for aliens who want to travel without attracting too much attention.

Space Hulk : Death Angel
The ‘stealers only just failed their attack.

Genestealers are highly intelligent fore runners of the Tyranid armies. They use the hulks to travel the universe until they find planets teeming with life. They insinuate themselves into the local population and then grow their own population in order to send out a psychic message to their main forces that lunch is ready.

Just because they hide and do things clandestinely does not mean that they are not dangerous. They move faster than the average human can track and have 6 limbs tipped with claws so sharp they can tear through any metal known to man.

Luckily we don’t need mere men to stop them. Terminators are genetically engineered super humans. Standing almost 3 meters tall encased in powered terminator armour. They are walking tanks. These heroes venture into the cold, dark hulks and seek to destroy them so that no genestealers can ever escape to reach a human world.

Gameplay

Setup

Setup seems like it’s a lot but it’s actually really easy.

Separate the cards into their various decks. Then take the 6 Terminator tokens and mix them up face down. Each player will grab 1 of them and then take the corresponding terminator cards and their action cards. If you’ve got 3 or fewer players have each one take a 2nd token. If you’re playing solo then you grab 3 of them.

Space Hulk : Death Angel
The initial room with instructions on how to setup with different player counts.

Next find the Void Lock location which is based on the number of players. This car will tell you how to build the location deck. Then you shuffle the terminator cards and arrange them in a row under the location with the top half of them facing left and the bottom right.

Each location has a set of 4  terrain cards which then needs to be placed. Shuffle the genestealer cards and make the 2 blip decks. Then shuffle the event cards and draw 1 to create the initial genestealer swarms. Now you are good to go.

Space Hulk : Death Angel
Setup and ready to go. Bar the last terminator, he is facing the wrong way.

Turn sequence

Each player has a choice of 3 different actions per team of Terminators. While each team will have the same 3 actions they will all have a different extra ability added on to it to give them their own individual flavour.

  • Attack: have you terminators attack aliens that are in front of them. Each team has different weapon loud outs and will attack differently
  • Move + Activate: This action will allow the marines to switch position and change their facing (if they are flanked). After they have moved they can then activate any item/equipment that is located in front of them. Often different locations in the Space Hulk will have something useful in it.
  • Support: This is a defensive action. There’s usually some kind of defensive bonus and you get to give any Terminator, from any team, a support token. These tokens are most commonly used for re rolling attacks and defence dice.

Each player will select an action for each of their team(s) with 1 restriction, No team is allowed to perform the same action twice in a row.

Space Hulk : Death Angel
Everyone have different versions ofthe same actions…

After the Terminators have performed their actions any remaining genestealers will have a chance to attack the Terminators that they are engaged with. Roll a the custom D6 and if the number rolled is equal or less than the number of ‘stealers in the swarm then the marine is killed.

The next thing to do in a round is the draw an event card. This usually has something bad happen, sometimes you can get something good, but not usually. Then at the bottom of the card you will be instructed to spawn more genestealers. The card will tell you how many and where they spawn.

If at any point in the round, either of the blip piles is emptied then you can travel. It’s assumed that the terminators have cleared space in front of them to travel to the next area of the ship. Drawn the next location card, setup the blip piles and terrain as instructed. Any remaining genestealers will follow them through hounding them along the way.

Space Hulk : Death Angel
This is one of the mild event cards.

If the Terminators reach the 4th location and perform the task that is written on it then they win! If they are all slaughtered en-route (and they usually will be) then they lose.

Conclusion

I’ll admit straight up, I’m a fan of all things Space Hulk. I bought the 2nd and 3rd edition board games and I had my eye on this one for a while. I love the theme.

Naturally, I thoroughly enjoy this game. It’s solo and it’s Space Hulk. It’s also brutally difficult. For some it may seem like you’re at the mercy of the dice but it’s actually highly thematic. Genestealers are supposed to be able to cut through tanks, what’s a puny (genetically altered) human in Hulk buster armour?

There are also thousands of them skittering around. 1 is enough to wipe out all life on planet Earth. It’s supposed to be hard. You can with some forethought and careful planning mitigate the swingy nature of the die rolls by increasing your margin of success. You also need to take calculated risks.

Space Hulk : Death Angel
The spawning portion of the event card. I like the way it’s done. Even colour blind people can still play.

The game is full of tense decisions and merciless twists of fate. You will lose, often, unless you’re extremely lucky. Don’t play this game if you have a heart condition. If you like being beaten up by life and trying to make lemonade from your tears then maybe give this one a try.

I have not had a chance to play the game with a full 6 players but I can see it falling prey to alphagaming. There’s also player elimination. Each player has only 2 lives with a very slim chance of recovering 1 of them so it’s certainly not for everyone’s tastes. Luckily the average game is not long so if you are killed off you can get back in fairly quickly.

Aside from elimination there’s almost no downtime. Everyone selects and resolves their orders at the same time. This can lead to some healthy game discussion as you are deciding who does what but remember what I said about the alpha gaming.

How does it play solo?

The solo is actually really good. It’s also my preferred way to play this game. I can setup, play and pack away in around 30-40 minutes. Rules wise there’s no difference between the solo game and the multiplayer game. It just changes the number of teams per player. You can actually play with a full squad of 6 teams if that’s what you would like to do.

Can I braai with this?

I would not recommend it. It’s easy to get sucked into the game and forget about the fire, unless you don’t mind taking frequent breaks. There’s also the fact that the game has very little downtime and everyone else will end up waiting on you.

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