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Space Hulk: Death Angel

Reviewed by Chris Kovac

(Fantasy Flight Games, 1-6 players, ages 13 and up, 30 minutes; $24.95)

 

deathangelboxSpace Hulk – Death Angel the Card Game is a co-operative card game designed for 1-6 players published by Fantasy Flight Games as part of their small box Silver Line Games. The game is designed by Corey Konieczka of Runewars and Battlestar Galactica (featured in the Summer 2009 GA Report) fame. This game is based on the popular Games Workshop miniature game Space Hulk where heavily armoured space marines explore derelict space ships (“space hulks”) and fight off waves of rampaging carnivorous space aliens call Genestealers. This card game attempts to simulate this miniature board gaming experience and on the whole, it succeeds.

In this game, you get a variety of nicely illustrated card decks done by a variety of talented fantasy artists, some gun shaped support tokens and a single six sided combat die. To start the game, you need to separate the cards into their various decks and shuffle the event and gene stealer decks. Next, you must find the appropriate starting void airlock card for the number of players. This starting location card gives you information on how to create the location deck, how many space marine teams (two marines per team) are played per player, the number of gene stealer cards for big and small gene stealer swarms (more on this later), the location of terrain (corridors, vents, etc.) where gene stealers will appear and how many cards (called “blips” in the game) are in the initial gene stealer piles for the left and right side of the Space Marines column. Each player then chooses his team of space marines and takes the appropriate space marine cards (two per team) and three actions cards of that faction. All factions have the same action cards but each faction has different special abilities depending on which action is taken. Now you take all the marine cards involved in the game, shuffle them up randomly and lay out a column with the first half of the cards facing left and second half to the right. Then you place the appropriate terrain cards on the left and right side of the column as indicated on the void airlock card. You now start the game.

The first card on the event deck is turned over to generate the initial waves of gene stealers. The colour at the bottom of the card tells which terrain the gene stealers appear from and the triangular symbols indicate how many blip cards are taken from that column’s blip piles in order to form a hoard of gene stealers. (The event is ignored just for this initial card.) Now each player will choose one of his three action cards to perform the action on the card for both of space marines as well as any special effects listed on the card.

Actions are resolved in numerical order as listed on the action cards (from lowest to highest). The first of the possible actions is a support action which allows a marine to put a support token on any marine in the column. These support tokens can be spent by a marine to reroll attack or defense die rolls. The second action is the move action where a player can exchange positions with an adjacent marine, switch facing and can activate a terrain card with the activate command on it if they are adjacent to it. Finally there is the attack action where marines may attack a gene stealers hoard which is in range of the marine (range is listed on the marine card) and is on the side the marine is facing.

To attack, the marine rolls a die and if a skull symbol is rolled (numbers 1-3), the gene stealer card is eliminated and discarded. Support tokens can be used for rerolls if available. The interesting catch is that you cannot use the same action card twice in a row so you must plan your actions carefully. After all the action cards are completed, the gene stealers attack the marine they are next to.

Starting at the top of the column, a die is rolled for each attack and if the die roll is higher than the number of gene stealers in the hoard, the space marine survives the attack. If it is less, the marine is killed and discarded from the column. The column is then moved up to fill in the space. Support tokens can be used for rerolls if available. After each attack is resolved, an event card is turned up and the event is resolved. Then the gene stealer cards are shifted if they match the symbols on the event card. A new turn then commences.

When a blip pile runs out of cards, game play stops. The next location card is turned over, any entering effects resolved, the appropriate terrain put next to the column and the gene stealer blip decks are resolved. The game then resumes.

If you have eliminated all the gene stealer cards and this is the last terrain card, you have won. If all space marines have been eliminated, then you have lost. In terms of strategy, you need to plan the action of your marines carefully making sure they are all not doing the same action at the same time or the gene stealers can easily take out a marine or two while you are waiting for people to recycle their combat or support cards. Also making sure that marines have at least one or two support tokens for bad rerolls through the game helps your winning chances immensely.

I found the rule book a bit awkward in places requiring careful reading to understand the rules and turn order correctly. The rules often felt as if they were poorly translated. Also, I found the game play a bit dry at places but the short playing time makes this a minor issue. The game is a bit too complex for the average gamer but it does simulate the Space Hulk theme quite well, helped by the good illustration of the cards, making it an OK light filler for gamers, especially fans who liked Space Hulk but do not have enough time to play the original game.

 


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