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

Subject: Death Angel Didn't Have the Right Payoff for Me rss

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Mike Fox
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By this point, there's no need for another review that tediously describes the mechanics and game play. Some reviewers have done an excellent job describing and analyzing it. I bought this game primarily because of reviews here on BGG, but in the end, it just wasn't for me. I'd like to provide some of the reasons why.

The Main Problem: The Rule Book
Death Angel has the messiest, most cluttered, least intuitive rule book I've ever seen. Important points are often unclear, and the rules simply tell you that they'll get to that later, or you can turn to page X (and, of course, page X will tell you to look back at the original page for clarification).

The game is extremely fiddly, mostly in the setup, so a clear and streamlined rule book should have been a priority. The first time my son and I tried to play, we were in need of a break before we even got started, so we agreed to just pack it up and try again some other time. I talked to some folks at my FLGS about this, and they said you MUST find some clearer rules online to really understand game play. But, they insisted that it's worth it, it just takes a lot of work to get started.

Not Enough Payoff in the Game Play
My son and I tried some more, but the situation is complicated by the fact that two players must control multiple units. You have to read and reread the special abilities for each character you control, go over a ton of options, plan ahead, plus this plus that plus checking the rulebook on each and every turn. Then you take your turn, which lasts 5 seconds and comes down to the roll of a die. My son and I tried a couple games, but we never finished them. Both times we were completely enthusiastic, but after working through the rules and getting started, he eventually asked, "Dad can we just play this or that game? This sucks." Both times I said yes and we moved on. You have to weigh priorities, and for me, meaningful and fun "Dad time" outweighed giving Death Angel more chances.

I'm not against complicated games. My son's favorite game is Descent, and he's an absolute ACE at it. He regularly plays Chess outside with other kids his age (he's 12), and he's undefeated (he even got me once!). We also love Lord of the Rings, Kingdoms, Hellas, Pandemic, and a large variety of games, and the kid has no problems with them. Please don't assume that he and I are stupid and just don't get it. But fidgity rules MUST have a payoff. For us, Death Angel didn't provide enough payoff for all the rule dependency and analysis paralysis. I'll dig a deep hole in the ground if the payoff is a well with flowing water. But I won't do it simply because I want to know what the dirt looks like down there.

Consider this. The 1st edition of Red November (another FFG Silver Line game) has another fidgity, unclear, messy rule book. But the kid and I love it. We're even willing to control 2 pawns each and treat it as a 4 player game (it's officially 3-8 players, so that's our 2p adaptation). So, we're not unaccustomed to being patient through unclear rules to give a game a chance. We now play Red November regularly. Not so with Death Angel.

Solo Play
Solo gaming is not my preference, so please keep that bias in mind. But, I've battled insomnia most of my life, so I like solo games late at night (or in the A.M. hours) when I need to focus on something. Since I never felt confident in the rules for Death Angel, imagine trying to play it while controlling 3 units (6 total characters). I tried several times and never even got started. Death Angel just doesn't fit my individual needs for solo games.

Why You Should Ignore Me
I don't think I'm a better gamer than someone else simply because I want a specific type of rules or a specific type of payoff. This review really is meant to represent one perspective. There are some reasons why you should take my opinions with a grain of salt and consider more positive reviews.

Ignore me . . .

---If you like extremely challenging games. I'm not talking about game play. I'm talking about difficulty. I perceive that Death Angel is extremely difficult to win. Its fans would agree (and to their delight). I like challenging games, too, but this one just didn't do it for me.

---If you like a lot of complexity. I like it all. I like the complexity of Descent and the simplicity (or elegance) of Carcassonne. But if simple and elegant games are just not your cup of tea at all, maybe you should give Death Angel a long, hard look. I have a lot of bias because I'm writing a dissertation right now . . . my whole friggin' life is complex! Having a beer and playing Carcassonne or Castle Ravenloft or Pandemic (no worries, my son has Orange Crush soda) is a nice break from reality. But for some, maybe the fidgity rules and lengthy analysis each turn is a good thing. If that's you, you might ignore my review. Like I said, I like complexity, but I need a particular kind of payoff, and for whatever reasons (personal preferences probably), Death Angel didn't provide it.

---If you have the right kind of gaming group. I can envision the right group getting a lot of laughs because of the brutality of this game. Seriously, you analyze your options and determine the best possible moves, and then a d**n roll of a die blitzes your optimism in one second. The right crowd will enjoy pouring it on with celebratory (but fun) ribbing.

---If you like solitaire games where you have to analyze a lot. And I mean a LOT. I've already made this point, so nothing new is needed.

I hope this is helpful. Death Angel just isn't my cup of tea. I've tried to share some of the reasons why.
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Nathaniel Baker
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Thank you for not providing another analytical rules and gameplay 10 page review. I like your reasoning and structure in this review!

Since it isn't your cup of tea....whatcha want to sell it to me for ninja
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Brother Leon
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i don't disagree with this; but you seem to be writing it off before you have properly internalized the rules.

You may enjoy it more when the gameplay is speeded up by this?
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Dr. Octatrack
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Great review! And not because I agree with pretty much everything you said
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Mike, I agree the rules are a huge obstacle to a lot of people who try this game. This is a game that doesn't click with a lot of casual gamers. Many parts of the game can appear counter-intuitive although at the end of the day, I find it an ingenious abstract representation of the Space Hulk boardgame.

I found the playmat designed by Viktor Csete incredibly useful. Nowadays when I play the game, I find that this playmat is all I need to remember how to play, without having to refer to that horrible rulebook.


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Gadi Oron
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Hi

I fully agree about the rulebook - it seems it was written to be read by a robot audience.

On the other hand, I disagree about the game being complex. I frequently explain it in about 10 minutes to new players, and on the second round they are already playing on their own. The only tricky part in the game is probably travel, but really nothing exceptional.

Have you tried going through the thread: What am I doing wrong? The list of possible mistakes.
it might help you to overcome the rules.

Happy gaming

PS: If you need any assistance trying to give the game a final try, just tell me
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I just wanted to add my voice to those commending this review -- IMHO it's an excellent review of its type -- well done!
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Mike Fox
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knatebaker wrote:
Thank you for not providing another analytical rules and gameplay 10 page review. I like your reasoning and structure in this review!

Since it isn't your cup of tea....whatcha want to sell it to me for ninja


I appreciate your compliments. I recently traded it to another BGG user for Condottierre (which he didn't like). Turns out I like Condottiere and he seems to like Death Angel (which illustrates my point that it's just a matter of preference), so it was a good trade.
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Mike Fox
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nssxxx wrote:
i don't disagree with this; but you seem to be writing it off before you have properly internalized the rules.

You may enjoy it more when the gameplay is speeded up by this?


You're probably right about this. I'm sure it's just a matter of time before the rules become intuitive and the game goes a lot more smoothly. But I could kind of tell that this one just wasn't my thing.

I certainly don't begrudge or look down upon anyone who enjoys it. With games, it really does come down to preferences in the end.
 
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Mike Fox
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chromaticdragon wrote:
Mike, I agree the rules are a huge obstacle to a lot of people who try this game. This is a game that doesn't click with a lot of casual gamers. Many parts of the game can appear counter-intuitive although at the end of the day, I find it an ingenious abstract representation of the Space Hulk boardgame.

I found the playmat designed by Viktor Csete incredibly useful. Nowadays when I play the game, I find that this playmat is all I need to remember how to play, without having to refer to that horrible rulebook.




That. Mat. Is. AwEsOmE!!!!!!!! That's EXACTLY what someone like me needs to get started with a game like Death Angel. We really mix it up a lot, so, you know, if you haven't played a game like Death Angel in a couple weeks, you don't even want to get it out and work through the rules again. That mat is pure genious. Thanks for sharing.
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Mike Fox
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regex wrote:
Hi

I fully agree about the rulebook - it seems it was written to be read by a robot audience.

On the other hand, I disagree about the game being complex. I frequently explain it in about 10 minutes to new players, and on the second round they are already playing on their own. The only tricky part in the game is probably travel, but really nothing exceptional.

Have you tried going through the thread: What am I doing wrong? The list of possible mistakes.
it might help you to overcome the rules.

Happy gaming

PS: If you need any assistance trying to give the game a final try, just tell me


THanks for the reply. I toyed with the idea of trying to meet with another local BGG user to show us how to play, like you did with your friends. I'm a kinetic learner, if that makes sense. I learn best when I get my hands on the tools or the engine or the board game WHILE someone is explaining it. So kudos for being a good teacher and a great gaming partner. Seriously, if my son and I would have had a tutor like you, it would possibly still be on the shelf.
 
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This was a big disapointment for me. I had high expectations for it. I did manage the rules but the play was fidly, repetitive and some rules did not make sense, such as not disclosing what you are going to play until you have played it and this despite being a co-op game in essence.

The art is nice, the theme and purpose was appealing but ultimately I found it lacking, and I played it with people who knew what they were doing.

Sold.
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Great review! I think your "Why You Should Ignore Me" Section is of most value, highlighting what style of gameplay a potential player probably should have in order to enjoy this game.

I would just ask that you amend the following:

foxfan wrote:
Solo Play
Solo gaming is not my preference, so please keep that bias in mind. But, I've battled insomnia most of my life, so I like solo games late at night (or in the A.M. hours) when I need to focus on something. Since I never felt confident in the rules for Death Angel, imagine trying to play it while controlling 3 units (9 total characters).I tried several times and never even got started. Death Angel just doesn't fit my individual needs for solo games.


This should read 3 units for total 6 characters. I know it's probably a fairly narrow category but any potential player who
A) can get past the rulebook and
B) wishes to play solo
shouldn't be daunted by the thought of having to control 9 characters.
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Dirk Holding
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Thanks for the review; I wish more were like this - straight to the pros and cons while keeping an eye on their own subjectivity thumbsup. It's a shame this game didn't work out for you. I recently picked this up and really enjoy it solo; funnily enough what I like about it is the quickness of setup and the simple, elegant mechanics, go figure . I agree though that many FFG rulebooks don't suit the "kinetic" learner, and the space constraints of the silver line games probably don't help.

Cheers!
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foxfan wrote:
The Main Problem: The Rule Book
Death Angel has the messiest, most cluttered, least intuitive rule book I've ever seen. ...

Really? I've heard others say this, so there must be a problem. But I didn't run into any problem at all. I read through the rules, set the game up according to the instructions and full-page color diagram, and started playing. In my first game, I looked up a couple things I wasn't quite sure of yet. Other than that, it was a piece of cake.

Of course, I'm an old wargamer who once learned ASL on his own. But I really don't see what's wrong with the SH/DA rule book.

Now, the Race for the Galaxy rules I had some trouble with. I even ran into a snag with Forbidden Island and had to look something up online for clarification. But SH/DA? The rules worked for me.


Quote:
Not Enough Payoff in the Game Play
My son and I tried some more, but the situation is complicated by the fact that two players must control multiple units. You have to read and reread the special abilities for each character you control, go over a ton of options, plan ahead, plus this plus that plus checking the rulebook on each and every turn. Then you take your turn, which lasts 5 seconds and comes down to the roll of a die. ...

I did find the "puzzle" aspect odd and a bit difficult to get used to. It seems incongruent with fast-paced tactical action to have to sit there working out optimal moves based on the characters' special abilities and all. Like Marco in his video review, I wondered, "What's this puzzle doing in the middle of my shoot-em-up?"

Yet, that's the interesting part of the game. I figure that with repeated play, I'll get used to the mechanic and see that it fits with the theme after all. Anyhow, after two or three games, I decided it's definitely worth two or three more games to find out.

In the meantime, I bought a couple expansion packs.

Quote:
Solo PlaySince I never felt confident in the rules for Death Angel, imagine trying to play it while controlling 3 units (9 total characters). I tried several times and never even got started. Death Angel just doesn't fit my individual needs for solo games.

Hmm. Fits mine to a T. Small footprint, quick setup, interesting game play, and exciting action. Oh, and quite a challenge!

I just had SH/DA out today, looking it over. I was reminded that I like the artwork too. Something about it draws me in and makes me want to play. And I know nothing about the Warhammer universe or Space Hulk.
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Roger_Jay wrote:
This was a big disapointment for me. I had high expectations for it. I did manage the rules but the play was fidly, repetitive and some rules did not make sense, such as not disclosing what you are going to play until you have played it and this despite being a co-op game in essence.

The art is nice, the theme and purpose was appealing but ultimately I found it lacking, and I played it with people who knew what they were doing.

Sold.


My personal preference is to disregard the secret aspect of the Choose Actions phase, but to impose a 1-min time limit for this phase. This allows the marines to behave cooperatively and eliminates analysis paralysis but of course puts even more pressure on the players... just like the original Space Hulk.

For me, the genius of the game design is that we can add house rules such as this to a very limited number of components without unbalancing the game mechanics.

If you're not already feeling the Space Hulk love, try the above rule tweak. Happy bug hunting, Brothers.
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Mike Fox
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thewagon wrote:
Great review! I think your "Why You Should Ignore Me" Section is of most value, highlighting what style of gameplay a potential player probably should have in order to enjoy this game.

I would just ask that you amend the following:

foxfan wrote:
Solo Play
Solo gaming is not my preference, so please keep that bias in mind. But, I've battled insomnia most of my life, so I like solo games late at night (or in the A.M. hours) when I need to focus on something. Since I never felt confident in the rules for Death Angel, imagine trying to play it while controlling 3 units (9 total characters).I tried several times and never even got started. Death Angel just doesn't fit my individual needs for solo games.


This should read 3 units for total 6 characters. I know it's probably a fairly narrow category but any potential player who
A) can get past the rulebook and
B) wishes to play solo
shouldn't be daunted by the thought of having to control 9 characters.


Thanks for catching that, I corrected it! Nine would probably cause a head explosion surprise
 
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foxfan wrote:
Thanks for catching that, I corrected it! Nine would probably cause a head explosion surprise

I routinely play 6 squad solo games with 12 marines to control, and even once a house ruled 8 squad game with 16 marines.

Certainly it would have been a head explosion as my first full playthrough, but now that I've gotten the hang of the game I don't find it much more complicated than 3 squads.
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dypaca wrote:
foxfan wrote:
Thanks for catching that, I corrected it! Nine would probably cause a head explosion surprise

I routinely play 6 squad solo games with 12 marines to control, and even once a house ruled 8 squad game with 16 marines.

Certainly it would have been a head explosion as my first full playthrough, but now that I've gotten the hang of the game I don't find it much more complicated than 3 squads.


That's crazy. In a good way! But still crazy.
 
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Good review. My problem with the game is that it takes WAY too long for what it is.
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acrah wrote:
Good review. My problem with the game is that it takes WAY too long for what it is.

You must not think much of what it is, then. It's not that long a game (unless you have AP).
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acrah wrote:
Good review. My problem with the game is that it takes WAY too long for what it is.


I think my problem was that I definitely have games that set up and play more quickly and easy while also providing more payoff from game play.
 
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Hmmm. Have you tried watching any youtube videos of the game in play?

Before purchasing Death Angel, I watched a series of videos by a fellow who plays a game from start to finish (just checked to see if I had it bookmarked for you, but unfortunately I don't).

It was probably a total of an hour or so, as there were several videos in the series, but it was well worth it. When Death Angel arrived at my door recently, I felt like I already knew how to play it thanks to having watched it being played on youtube and really only read the rule book as a refresher.

My first game I think I referred to it maybe 3 or 4 times to look something up for clarification, but after that I haven't needed it since for the dozen or so times I've played since then. Look for some videos to watch the game in action, and maybe that will clear things up for you!
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Beer Ogre wrote:
Hmmm. Have you tried watching any youtube videos of the game in play?

Before purchasing Death Angel, I watched a series of videos by a fellow who plays a game from start to finish (just checked to see if I had it bookmarked for you, but unfortunately I don't).

It was probably a total of an hour or so, as there were several videos in the series, but it was well worth it. When Death Angel arrived at my door recently, I felt like I already knew how to play it thanks to having watched it being played on youtube and really only read the rule book as a refresher.

My first game I think I referred to it maybe 3 or 4 times to look something up for clarification, but after that I haven't needed it since for the dozen or so times I've played since then. Look for some videos to watch the game in action, and maybe that will clear things up for you!


It's too late, I already traded it. To be clear, though, it's not a good game for me personally. That does not mean that it's not a good game. It's merely a personal preference sort of thing. If I need video instructions to play a board game, then it better have the right kind of payoff for my personal preferences. As I tried to articulate in the last section of my review, its payoff will be the right sort for certain types of gamers.

Thanks for your comment and feedback.
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This thread inspired me to pull SH/DA down off the shelf and play it again. I wanted to see if it had the right payoff for me or not.

I played two solo games this past weekend, having only played two or three others many months ago. So, I first had to relearn the game.

I read the little rule book from cover to cover. It probably wasn't necessary, and many people would be better off just setting a game up and starting, referring to the rules as necessary. But I like getting the rules into my head first.

Next, I set the game up according to the instructions and diagram. Since it was a solo game, I set the action cards up in a 3x3 array, where I'd use the team markers to select actions during play. That way, all my options were always laid out in plain sight, and the team marker would remind me which action I took last turn and could not choose this turn.

Then I started playing.

Puzzling through the options for my three combat teams took a little time. Each team has special abilities, so I had to read the action cards and consider what the situation seemed to call for. Frankly, that process seemed incongruous with a skirmish-level combat game, but I chalked it up to the futuristic setting and forged ahead.

Then I ran into the next odd thing: though I knew this was a tough game and I had better try hard to get my moves just right, it didn't seem to matter much which actions I chose for which teams. There were certain things I did not want to do, as I'd end up with marines flanked by genestealers or something. But I basically wanted to attack, and most all my guys could attack--at first, anyway.

As the game progressed, action choices became more meaningful. A lot depended on the die rolls, though. I lost both games. I've yet to win one.

So, did it have the right payoff? Kinda sorta.

The pluses:

Clear, simple rules
I really don't get why some people find the rules so difficult. If I worked at it, I guess I could come up with ways to organize the rules better. But as far as I can tell, all the rules are there, and they're clear enough. Yes, the first section or two of rules will leave some things unexplained; but the next section or two explains those things. I did have to refer to the rule book now and then as I played, but it took only seconds to refresh my memory. No big deal to me.

Quick setup
It took a little time, in my first game, to sort out the cards and get the game set up per the instructions. But setup for my second game then went very quickly. It's especially important for a game like this to be up and ready to go right away: you're likely to lose a lot, and you'll want to jump back in and try again.

Challenge
The game doesn't kill you right away; you get to have a little fun first. But usually it kills you before you can complete your mission. And in a solo game, that's a good thing; you don't want it to be too easy. I've gotten up to last location card and ended up feeling that I almost made it--which made me want to try again.

Game length
Just long enough to make setup and play time worthwhile. I don't think either of my games took much more than thirty minutes. By the end, I felt I had done something substantial but hadn't wasted too much time doing it.

Features of interest
The special abilities on the action cards, plus the possibilities and surprises on the location and event cards, give the player a good deal to consider and experience. I don't see this game getting stale anytime soon; there's a lot of variety in it.


The minuses:

Combat puzzle
As a longtime wargamer, I like combat to feel realistic. In this game, puzzle solving substitutes for tactics, while a simple (usually unmodified) die roll determines the outcome. That gives the game a different feel than I'd prefer. Not terrible, but different.

Abstraction
I had to stretch my imagination to account for mechanical quirks in the game. For instance, sometimes when a marine gets killed and the remaining cards get pushed together, two terrain cards can end up in the same place. It seemed weird that terrain features would move at all, much less end up occupying the same space. But I rationalized it as meaning that one marine is left guarding both those places at once. On the whole, though, the game is simply too abstract to simulate the squad tactics supposedly being portrayed.


I'll play the game again and again, hoping to win one of these days. But I don't expect it to ever be a favorite. To me, it's pretty good but not great.
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