Brian McCormick
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If you're a Space Hulk fan, you're almost certainly shaking your head at the title. How could this yahoo think that a little co-op card game could replicate the gloriousness of Space Hulk? I'm sure you're thinking.

But to be honest, that's pretty much how I approached this game. I was well-aware of the 3rd Edition craze back in 2009. I even knew a buddy who picked up 1/2 a dozen copies for scalping purposes. To me, the price was absolutely absurd. I don't care about the quality of the bits, and I don't care about how great a game Space Hulk is. I wasn't paying the insane price for a freakin' board game. So, when Fantasy Flight announced "Space Hulk: Death Angel - The Card Game" (oof. "Death Angel" from here on out, okay?), I was elated. Here was a co-op game from the 40k universe that fit into a Silver Line-sized game box. Surely the designers of Death Angel took all of the good aspects of Space Hulk and crammed it into this game, right? Surely this game would be a perfectly valid substitute to the Ameritrash juggernaut, right?


courtesy stormrover

Nope, this ain't Space Hulk

Death Angel is close to Space Hulk, but ultimately they are two different games. The most obvious difference between the two is that Space Hulk is a 2-player throwdown, but Death Angel is a co-op that supports 1-6 players. In Death Angel, the game progresses through a "location deck", and each turn a new wave of Genestealers rushes out of the shadows to attack the enigmatic Space Marines.

Players control teams of Space Marines, each with their own special abilities. The Space Marine cards are all arranged in a vertical stack, and Genestealers are placed to the right and to the left of the stack. What is important to note is that the direction a card faces is important, because a Space Marine can only face and attack in one direction at a time. This approximates the surprise attack-from-behind maneuvers of the Genestealers in the Space Hulk boardgame. Naturally, getting attacked from behind is very bad and you're likely going to die.

Though each team of Space Marine has unique abilities, they all share the same three basic actions:

- Attack (roll a die and attack a swarm of Genestealers)
- Move + Activate (adjust the position of a Space Marine; activate a location ability)
- Support (add a Support token to one Marine, which allows them to re-roll the die)

The trick is that when you choose a card for your team, that card cannot be played on the next turn. So, when you attack, you have to keep in mind that during your next turn, you won't be able to attack at all. Ouch! This rule means that players really need to co-ordinate, and sometimes sacrifices must be made in order for the mission to succeed. It's easy to want to save your own Marines, but if you allow your buddies to be picked off one-by-one, pretty soon you'll be the only team left on the board.

Think of it this way: you're playing Pandemic and you spend your turn removing three cubes from the board. When your next turn rolls around, you can still move, you can still research a cure, but you can't remove disease cubes. Let's say you choose to move. On the following turn, you can pick up disease cubes again, but now you can't move. Though this sounds frustrating, in Death Angel it adds extra layers of tension, strategy, and teamwork that would otherwise be absent.

The neat thing about the action cards is that they each have a special ability, and this is where the differences between the teams comes into play. Each team has a different set of special abilities, and if you're randomizing the teams, not every team will make it into your session. That means that the "Forcefield" card that saved your butt on more than one occasion in the last session might not even be around this time. The card abilities add a remarkable depth and flavor to the gameplay, and to be honest, without the abilities, Death Angel would be rather boring. One team might have a Space Marine with a large autocannon, and the special ability on the Attack card will allow that particular Space Marine to kill multiple Genestealers with one attack. Or, a team might have a Space Marine with a large shield, which will make it much easier to defend against any Genestealer attacks.


courtesy victorman

But I already own Pandemic

One major complaint against Pandemic and other co-ops is that it turns into a puzzle where the experienced players telegraph the "right" actions to the less experienced players. In Death Angel, that problem is greatly reduced. The reason why is that you cannot say to your friend "move your Marines this way", because when the next turn rolls around, they might have just screwed themselves. In Pandemic, the situation gradually becomes unmanageable, but in Death Angel, you could be killed by a few unlucky rolls right in the very first turns. The game starts of intense, gets more intense, and if you win, it'll be just barely.

The roll of the dice is what makes Death Angel more chaotic. In Pandemic, you have an overall idea of what cards have and have not been drawn, and you can plan accordingly. In Death Angel, you could set up the perfect defense and then see it all go into the garbage after a few bad dice rolls. Conversely, you could be up against the wall and then fight your way through a situation with some good dice rolls. It goes both ways.

Granted, this makes Death Angel more "random" than some of the other co-ops out there. You can't plan as efficiently, you need a bit of luck, and you need to assess the situation with each passing turn. For some, that ruins the "co-op puzzle" aspect of many of the other co-op games out there. However, for others, it eliminates the "co-op puzzle" aspect, which is exactly what they want.

Obviously, the theme of Death Angel might not appeal to everyone. I doubt it'd be easy to shift someone from treasure-hunting in Forbidden Island to Death Angel where you're slaying grotesque alien creatures.


courtesy peekitup

Let's play again! And again! And again!

Since you are playing against the board in any pure co-op game, the issue of replayability always arises sooner or later. Perhaps an expansion is necessary to keep things fresh, or perhaps you could re-arrange the board. Whatever needs to be done, co-op games usually need a wide number of variables to keep it engaging over a long period of ownership.

In this department, Death Angel is average. It doesn't fizzle out after a few plays, but it isn't infinitely replayable, either. The two "print on demand" card packs add a surprising amount of replayability to the game, but even so, this is a co-op, and a fairly straightforward one at that. If the theme doesn't interest you, then I would not necessarily recommend buying this game simply because it's a co-op.

The location cards do add some replayability, but the problem is that you might never see some of them because the location cards you pick are based on how many players are present in the game. You could always have a player controlling multiple teams, which not only helps with the issue of player elimination, but it would also allow you to use the different locations. Still, even if you use the same location deck over and over again, there is a variety of cards within each deck, so you won't be visiting the same locales each and every time.

Well, maybe I'm being too harsh on the replayability thing. Death Angel really is a good co-op game. As mentioned before, the dice rolls and restrictions on your actions make it very intense, and it's definitely one of those games that you only win on rare occasions (the way a co-op should be, IMO). Additionally, I find Death Angel to be more tactical than most of the other co-ops I own. So, I take that back. Death Angel is a pretty good co-op even if you don't care for the theme, and it has a fair amount of replayability, too. I suppose the replayability starts to dwindle if you objectively reduce the various mechanics of the game down to their core. I don't like to assess my boardgames that way, but some people do, so there ya go. It does feel like the designers could have added a few more location cards, but what is included in the box is perfectly fine. Let me just say that if you do enjoy getting into the 40k universe, it'll make the game feel much more replayable.


courtesy Dofin

For the Emperor, or for the trade bin?

Although my copies of Forbidden Island and Pandemic get played a LOT more than Death Angel, I'm still glad that I own it. The stacking/facing mechanic is pretty novel, and since I happen to enjoy 40k, the theme is right up my alley. This game is at its best when you have at least two or three other people to play along, and it definitely helps if they can also enjoy the theme of the game, since it keeps the tension genuine. Shout out loud when you roll a great dice roll. Groan when your Marine bites the dust. This game isn't meant to be played with quier calculation. Get into the spirit of the game and have yourself some good ol' alien-slaying fun.

If your preferred genre of boardgame involves building an economy or bidding at an auction, this game likely won't resonate with you. But if you embrace chaos and you're willing to win or lose based on a lucky dice roll, then perhaps Death Angel has a place in your boardgame collection. Plus, for less than $20, you're not breaking the bank.
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Kostas K.
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Misleading title, nice review.
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Brian M
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A solid review, but I have to disagree with this:

Quote:
One major complaint against Pandemic and other co-ops is that it turns into a puzzle where the experienced players telegraph the "right" actions to the less experienced players. In Death Angel, that problem is greatly reduced.


I find that this is actually a far worse problem in Death Angel than in most co-ops because of the exceedingly high coordination required between marine teams. For example, if a genestealer is out of range, you can't both move into position and attack, you have to rely on someone else to move you into the right place. Every action you take strong impacts the rest of the team, so you better all plan together what's going on. If someone else takes the "wrong" action, it can completely hose your action.
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Brian McCormick
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StormKnight wrote:
A solid review, but I have to disagree with this:

Quote:
One major complaint against Pandemic and other co-ops is that it turns into a puzzle where the experienced players telegraph the "right" actions to the less experienced players. In Death Angel, that problem is greatly reduced.


I find that this is actually a far worse problem in Death Angel than in most co-ops because of the exceedingly high coordination required between marine teams. For example, if a genestealer is out of range, you can't both move into position and attack, you have to rely on someone else to move you into the right place. Every action you take strong impacts the rest of the team, so you better all plan together what's going on. If someone else takes the "wrong" action, it can completely hose your action.

I see what you're saying. I guess my group gets very caught up in the gameplay that we rarely feel like one person is dictating all of the commands to the other people. I'm not against coordination.
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Wade Nelson
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Did you do much with the game as a solo game? If so, did you enjoy it as much as you did as a coop game?

I've played this game about 8 or 10 times solo and just don't feel it to be very exciting. I had more fun with it when I decided to throw out the "can't play the same card on two consecutive turns" rule.

I keep reading good reviews of the game, and have been thinking about trying it out with the wife as a 2P coop rather than solo (normal rules intact). I do think the solo game has made me a bit sour on it though.
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Richard Hutnik
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Why? Well, I never misplaced the bigger copy of the game I have. I have no idea what i did with the $20 card game I bought awhile ago, and never got to play.
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Michael Mesich
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I'm still trying to reconcile the It would be hard to get treasure hunting Forbidden Island people and Pandemic people to play this gruesome game but I like it and I play those other games more than I play SHDA line of reasoning.
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Brian McCormick
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wadenels wrote:
Did you do much with the game as a solo game? If so, did you enjoy it as much as you did as a coop game?

I've played this game about 8 or 10 times solo and just don't feel it to be very exciting. I had more fun with it when I decided to throw out the "can't play the same card on two consecutive turns" rule.

I keep reading good reviews of the game, and have been thinking about trying it out with the wife as a 2P coop rather than solo (normal rules intact). I do think the solo game has made me a bit sour on it though.

I do not play games solo, so I can't really speak from your perspective. However, I will say that the game is decent with 2 (depending on how they like the theme), great with 3, and either awesome or terrible with more than 3 (depending on your group).

I will say that the game is pretty brutal, more brutal than the other co-ops I own.
 
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Michael Mesich
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I enjoy playing SHDA solo.

I think it's IMPERATIVE that any player solo or otherwise should make sure they read through the "things you may be playing wrong" thread here:

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/577108/what-am-i-doing-wrong...

There are several little rules that, if played wrong, can really give an incorrect impression of the game.

I find the game exciting along and with others. Just remember that you're not really expected to win, the important thing is to just stretch out your death as long as possible!

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Joel Berg von Linde
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Oh, thanks for pointing that thread out mmseich. I've been playing wrong a little too i see. I have very much enjoyed though, i think this is a great coop experience for 3 or more players. Works ok for 1 or 2, but IMO the experience is greater when you only have to manage 1 space marine team (though player elimination happens a lot earlier in the game) per player.
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Dan O'Brien
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wadenels wrote:
Did you do much with the game as a solo game? If so, did you enjoy it as much as you did as a coop game?

I've played this game about 8 or 10 times solo and just don't feel it to be very exciting. I had more fun with it when I decided to throw out the "can't play the same card on two consecutive turns" rule.

I keep reading good reviews of the game, and have been thinking about trying it out with the wife as a 2P coop rather than solo (normal rules intact). I do think the solo game has made me a bit sour on it though.


I think Forlorn: Hope would be a better single player Space Hulk experience. I have not played but I have read the rules of both games. Forlorn Hope seems to be more of what you are looking for...
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Wade Nelson
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cailinsdad wrote:
wadenels wrote:
Did you do much with the game as a solo game? If so, did you enjoy it as much as you did as a coop game?

I've played this game about 8 or 10 times solo and just don't feel it to be very exciting. I had more fun with it when I decided to throw out the "can't play the same card on two consecutive turns" rule.

I keep reading good reviews of the game, and have been thinking about trying it out with the wife as a 2P coop rather than solo (normal rules intact). I do think the solo game has made me a bit sour on it though.


I think Forlorn: Hope would be a better single player Space Hulk experience. I have not played but I have read the rules of both games. Forlorn Hope seems to be more of what you are looking for...


I had (and traded!) Forlorn: Hope. It's a good game, but not quite what I was looking for in that respect. Got Incursion on the way
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Dan O'Brien
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I will be ordering Incursion this week hoping to fill the empty whole left from selling my copy of Space Hulk.
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Tim McCormley
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cailinsdad wrote:
I will be ordering Incursion this week hoping to fill the empty whole left from selling my copy of Space Hulk.

You might want to consider ordering Earth Reborn to replace Space Hulk, if you haven't already considered it.

Tim
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armor_11 wrote:
cailinsdad wrote:
I will be ordering Incursion this week hoping to fill the empty whole left from selling my copy of Space Hulk.

You might want to consider ordering Earth Reborn to replace Space Hulk, if you haven't already considered it.

Tim


I have been on the fence. I am a little intimidated by the complex rules since I mostly play with my family.

It looks really cool though.
 
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Tim McCormley
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cailinsdad wrote:

I have been on the fence. I am a little intimidated by the complex rules since I mostly play with my family.
It looks really cool though.

I don't want to derail this thread any more than I already have, but real quickly:

ER is not as complex as it seems. The rules are designed to teach you the game as you read along. You read a little. Then play a little. Rinse and Repeat. (At it's core, ER is just a "Move/Punch/Shoot" skirmish game.)

I don't know what kinds of games your family plays, but this game can be quite violent. E.g. One of the main characters is a zombie with a buzzsaw attached to his arm. (There will be blood.) Having said that, it's quite surprising how many of the scenarios are *not* designed to be bloodbaths. Sometimes all you want to do is spy on the opponent. Or launch a missile. Or steal equipment from their lair.

Hands down the best skirmish boardgame I've ever played. By a pretty wide margin. (Yeah, I'm a fanboy, but ER earned my fandom!)

Tim

Edit: I guess to be at least a *little" on topic, I should point out that I also love "Space Hulk: Death Angel."
 
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Warren Davis
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My opinion is summed up in the comment for SHDA in my profile. and I'm really sure it'll get that playtime again from me.
 
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armor_11 wrote:
cailinsdad wrote:

I have been on the fence. I am a little intimidated by the complex rules since I mostly play with my family.
It looks really cool though.

I don't want to derail this thread any more than I already have, but real quickly:

ER is not as complex as it seems. The rules are designed to teach you the game as you read along. You read a little. Then play a little. Rinse and Repeat. (At it's core, ER is just a "Move/Punch/Shoot" skirmish game.)

I don't know what kinds of games your family plays, but this game can be quite violent. E.g. One of the main characters is a zombie with a buzzsaw attached to his arm. (There will be blood.) Having said that, it's quite surprising how many of the scenarios are *not* designed to be bloodbaths. Sometimes all you want to do is spy on the opponent. Or launch a missile. Or steal equipment from their lair.

Hands down the best skirmish boardgame I've ever played. By a pretty wide margin. (Yeah, I'm a fanboy, but ER earned my fandom!)

Tim

Edit: I guess to be at least a *little" on topic, I should point out that I also love "Space Hulk: Death Angel."


Yeah, I didn't mean to hijack this thread. Great review and SHDA looks like a great game. I certainly plan to pick it up after reading this review.

Earth Reborn is back on my wishlist as well. My kids are 10 - 14 and we play games like Last Night on Earth all the time. I didn't see anything about Earth Reborn that offended me and I doubt that any board game could rival what they see in the average teen rated video game or PG-13 movie. So buzzsaw zombies it is.
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