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Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Death Magnetic or St. Anger? rss

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Charlie Theel
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Space Hulk is a classic sci-fi dungeon crawl miniatures game that has been built up in the hobby and fawned over for the past 25 years. It’s a game that was re-released several years ago in a limited run as Games Workshop continues to fumble over their product line and prove they are more out of touch with their core audience than Metallica circa 2003. Fortunately for us, Fantasy Flight Games is picking up the slack as Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game was released in 2010. This compact card game has more in common with “Death Magnetic” than “St. Anger” as furious solos and unrelenting beats pummel your dome piece.

This is a cooperative card game that simulates the claustrophobic and intense combat of Space Hulk proper. Corey Konieczka does a masterful job in bringing that trademark intensity to the surface with a number of key mechanics while avoiding the baggage of attempting to directly simulate aspects of its predecessor. Like much of Corey’s other designs, this game is predicated on feel and atmosphere as it attempts to manipulate your emotions rather than provide deep mental exercise. It’s why his games so often speak to me as you get the impression he understands and truly cares about the subject matter, presenting it in a new and interesting way that takes you by surprise.

The game plays out with your group of Space Marines being assembled in single file as they take on several key locations of the dying starship they are cleansing. The current location or room you are encountering is at the top of table, with each location having special terrain cards and effects that have a bearing on the conflict. Each turn, Genestealers are spawned from blip card piles and appear either in front of or behind one or more Space Marines. The Tyranids cut you down and overwhelm due to sheer numbers, as you can easily dispatch a lone ‘Stealer or two.

On your turn you will play one of three cards for your Space Marine team. Each player controls two Marines in their team and you will need to coordinate which action card you are choosing. Your options are limited to Attacking, Moving, or Supporting. Attacking allows you to roll a die, looking for a skull result which allows you to kill a single alien. Movement allows each of your Marines to move forward or backward one space in the formation. Finally, Support places a Support Token on any Marine in the formation, which allows them to re-roll an attack die or re-reroll a defense die when the Genestealer swarms attack at the end of the turn.

The core mechanic of choosing a single action is complicated by the fact that you cannot play the action card you chose on the previous round. This results in having to think ahead as playing an Attack action now may be better suited next turn when new Genestealers may pop up in your Marine’s field of fire. There is also some additional depth in that every single action card has a unique special effect. So if you’re fielding the Blue Terminator team, they are better at defended and counterattacking, but if you are fielding the Red Marine team you have a devastating Flame thrower which can kill multiple enemies at short range. This asymmetry is interesting and adds to the replayability as the base game comes with a number of teams and you will only field a subset each game.

As you progress, cut down hordes of enemies, and then move to new rooms – the tension will continually grow as more Marines fall and the situation grows dire. Your goal is to get to the final room which will have a unique win condition on it such as clearing out a large swarm inside the location or setting off an explosive to take down the Space Hulk. The final location is drawn randomly from several options (just like other location cards) so the replayability and uncertainty is certainly there.

Space Hulk: Death Angel is a strange game in that it is fully marketed as a Cooperative card game, yet it fails in that regard. When you play in Cooperative mode, each player is given one or two teams of Marines and you must coordinate with other players on the correct action timing. Play is very unfulfilling in this regard because your decision points turn to turn are extremely limited. You are choosing between two cards for each of your Marine teams and sometimes the choice is quite obvious. Discussion is typically somewhat limited and the entire enjoyment is cut down to tension of the dice rolls and Genestealer spawns. This tension is not grand enough to facilitate a shared experience among a group as there’s just not enough there for multiple minds to be deciphering and strategizing about the current tactical situation.

While this game is not one I would recommend for Cooperative play, it is absolutely fantastic as a solo experience. It’s hit my table dozens of times as the palpable tension and decision points are taken up a notch with you chiefly in the driver seat. The game also has the trademark Space Hulk quality of the knack for one critical mistake to undo your whole formation as several Marines can fall in the blink of an eye. This can be frustrating in group play as participants can be eliminated rapidly and unexpectedly. In solo play it’s genius as you double over in agony watching your genetically altered super soldiers cut down by twisted approximations of H.H. Giger’s deranged visions.

This is a brutal game that will rip you in half and toss your remains aside like a lifeless toy. It doesn’t coddle you as the win rate of an experienced player will rest around 60%. It’s primarily an interactive story with just enough meaningful decisions coupled with an extraordinary atmosphere that delivers the goods. It’s a game that sits atop my solo collection with the triumphant fury of four soldiers planting a flag at Iwo Jima.

This review was originally written for 2d6.org. To view my other reviews/articles head here
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Richard
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So... What's the answer? devil
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Charlie Theel
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Coren wrote:
So... What's the answer? devil


If you have ears you should already know.

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Mark Jackson
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What is the sound of one card shuffling?
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charlest wrote:
Coren wrote:
So... What's the answer? devil


If you have ears you should already know.



Well this game is great so... Neither?
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Charlie Theel
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Ah_Pook wrote:
charlest wrote:
Coren wrote:
So... What's the answer? devil


If you have ears you should already know.



Well this game is great so... Neither?


.20 GG for humor
.05 GG for having a Cave Evil avatar
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Richard
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charlest wrote:
Ah_Pook wrote:
charlest wrote:
Coren wrote:
So... What's the answer? devil


If you have ears you should already know.



Well this game is great so... Neither?


.20 GG for humor
.05 GG for having a Cave Evil avatar

-.10 for being wrong.

Wait, it won't let me do that. Hmph!

P.S. Good review, BTW. I need to listen to All Nightmare Long now!
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Crazed Survivor
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The Orzhov welcome you. Please leave your belongings with the Obzedat. They are not yours anymore.
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Hi, I'm a european crested tit, and a very small punk rocker!
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Coren wrote:
So... What's the answer? devil


Kill'em All.
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