Brother Marines, you have been selected for a mission....

Jedi Mind Trick
Jedi Mind Trick's picture

+++Incoming Vox Transmission+++
+++Authentication Grade: Umbra Vermillion+++
+++Confirmed Origin: Secure Conduit 03489// Sicarus//Baal/3+++
+++To: Strike Cruiser, Sword of Angels+++
+++From: First Company Sergeant Lorenzo+++
+++Date: 498.M41+++
+++Thought for the day: Only in death does duty end+++
+++Begin Open Channel Transmission+++
Brother Captain Raphael – Sergeant Lorenzo reporting. Boarding torpedoes have secured hull breach and void lock. Ingress made to main corridor. The stench of the alien is [static]…
Auspex readings indicate approaching xenos. [static]…in number and approaching our position at speed.
…[static] They are upon us. [gunfire]…
…[over gunfire] Hold your positions, Brothers! We are the Emperor’s Fury!.
…Brother Noctis is fallen. We will avenge him…
They are many in number. We are few but steadfast in purpose… [static] [gunfire]…eror protects!
…Brother Xavier is fallen. We will avenge him…
…[distorted voice] advance to establish choke point at [static] [gunfire]…[static][gunfire]…surrounded….
Holding position not possible…[static]…eep avoid [break] over run. [close explosion] …claws and teeth! [gunfire]…
…Brother Dorian is fallen…[static]…venge him…[over gunfire]…Brother Castiel is fallen….[static]
…only I remain…
…[static] [over gunfire]...Avenge us! [animalistic growling]…[gunfire]
+++Signal Lost+++


Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game is a co-operative survival card game for 1-6 players set in Games Workshops unforgiving, Warhammer 40,000 universe. In the game, players take control of Space Marines, each with different powers and abilities, as they take on missions against an insidious and numerous alien enemy known as Genestealers.
In the Box:
The game box includes 128 cards, 12 Support Tokens, 6 combat team markers, and 1 combat die.


The art is evocative of the Warhammer 40k setting and presents as full color artwork on the cards representing a dozen different space marines, several different locations, various types of Genestealers, and a deck of event cards that drive the action in the game. Each marine gets a unique card that shows him, his gear and abilities. The back of the genestealer cards is a nice touch, as it is presented as an auspex reading blips on a radar screen…a probable homage to the logical inspiration for the game – James Cameron’s 1986 blockbuster hit, Aliens.
There are also various cardboard tokens. Six unique space marine team identifier tokens and numerous pieces called support tokens that are used by space marine players to perform certain actions within the game.




There is also a custom game die. This little guy is pretty cool too. It is numbered from 0 to 5 with the numbers 1, 2, and 3 having a skull added to the corner. (The skulls represent kill shots by marines). The die feels solid and the numbers and skulls are engraved vs stamped.


Finally, the rules. The game rulebook is 32 pages in length and has smaller dimensions than an average rule book. Good news is that it is a rule BOOK and not a fold out. Organization of the book is acceptable and there are several game aid type breakdowns of turn structure in strategic locations (like the back of the book) for quick reference. While the rules are not overly complex or complicated, there are several ‘small’ rules for specific situations that are easy to overlook. This is compounded somewhat by there not being an example walkthrough of a complete game turn…just individual examples of rules in action. As a result, while reading the rules I kept thinking about going to YouTube to see if I could find an example of play to watch.
Playing the Game:
The game sets up and gets started fairly easily. This is really essential for most games as a requirement to read and mess with fiddly bits for hours will cause all but the most dedicated (re: desperate with nothing else to do) to abandon ship and never get started. It is also important for a game to set up and start quickly so that interest is maintained when someone is being taught a game for the first time by someone that knows how to play. Nothing sucks the life energy out of someone like sitting down all excited to play a game with their buds and then enduring a two hour ordeal that covers backstory, turn sequence and countless side discussions of ‘That one time when…’. This game allows for a fairly quick start…and, it seems, you can learn the specifics as you go. (In truth, it is really a lot to digest in one pass, so I’d expect that most would have to play a game or two before having the rules down cold. The point here is that it isn’t an onerous process to get going.)
Once you get to playing, the game is pretty fast and surprisingly fluid. The turn sequence is easy to pick up and stick with. It is basically:
1.       Decide Space Marine actions
2.       Reveal and resolve Space Marine actions
3.       Genestealers move/attack
4.       Pull and resolve event card
5.       Repeat
The only real mechanic that might take a bit of getting used to is the idea of the Formation. This is an abstraction that eliminates the need for a game board while still allowing for the illusion of movement through the confines of the space hulk and of fighting genestealers that pop out from every corner and crevice to attack and harass the marines. It took me a moment to orient to this idea and, once accustomed to how it worked, it really seems to work well.


Since the game, at its core, is a you vs the deck game, there are also mechanics built into the rules/game to make it play like an opponent. To challenge the players, the game has to actively work against them. Space Hulk: Death Angel does this well with a number of intricate cues and signals for which you have to know where to look, pay attention to and manage. These range from the completely hard to miss – Space Marine Facing to the obscure – tail, tooth, head or claw indicators on the genestealer cards and the associated arrows that indicate which portions of a swarm and how/where to move them. The overall effect is neat since it has you looking everywhere for clues and watching for the indicators of what happens next – not unlike you’d imagine the marines in the situation to be doing if the scenario were reality.
That said, the mechanics turn an inert stack of cards into a brutal and unmerciful opponent. The game has a well deserved reputation for being challenging…And that is a good thing and fully in the spirit of the original game and its successors (Space Hulk was originally released as a tabletop miniatures game back in the early 90s…but that incarnation was head to head  - one player playing marines and the other playing genestealers. Then after that it was a turn based computer game where the stealers would tear squads of terminators apart with relative ease. The game has iterated back and forth between board game and computer game update since then…so turning out a card game was something completely different.)
There is good variation in terrain/location from the randomizer mechanics (Three cards per location and variable set up for different numbers of players). The event cards have good range of activities and results so that you really aren’t sure if you are going to get a Gun Jam or a Genestealer Swarm.
There are also some supplements for the game…one that adds additional marines, another that supplements the missions/scenarios, another that adds additional Tyranids (the name of the Alien race of which genestealers are a part) and, finally, another one that allows players to switch Blood Angel marines for Dark Angel Deathwing marines. This is a clear nod to the original Space Hulk set that had Deathwing members of the Dark Angel chapter in combat with the genestealer menace. I’ve played none of these supplements so can only comment on the base set game.
Final Verdict:
In the end, I think the game is a blast to play…however, as with many things, this comes with a caveat. The ‘absolute blast to play’ applies to low player count games. I played solo and freakin’ had a great time with it. I played with my GF and we had a great time working together to fight our way to the victory condition (the game ends when you navigate through the random maze of tile cards and fulfill the requirements on the last location card…or when you kill all the genestealers in your blip piles FROM that final location. Sounds easy…don’t be fooled!). In these modes I couldn’t help but channel my inner space marine and play ‘in character’ during my turns by using my best ‘Brother Marine’ voice to shout things like ‘Brothers! Stand fast and hold your positions!’, ‘Brother Zael, cleanse the xenos with promethium!’ and other such goofiness.  
What modes might not be as fun? I haven’t played large player games, but I’d imagine it would be a real drag to be the first marine team to get dusted in a large game. The game is brutal and death comes easily…so getting clawed down by genestealers early in a big game would mean sitting out for a good while. Additionally, there really isn’t much for non-players to do in the game…except draw cards for the guys IN the game. That would get old quick, I’m sure. So, that said, I’m going to say that while the game is rated for up to six players (one, two man space marine team each) it is probably more workable at the lower end with 1-2 players being ideal.