There have been many a time when I have been late to the proverbial party. Never has it been more sad than with Space Hulk: Death Angel, now out of print, once published by Fantasy Flight Games. I was lucky enough to find a copy for pretty much retail price, not the crazy, ransom-like prices that it is now going for. I had seen a lot of solo gamers talking about what a great, albeit frustrating, experience this was. So, I looked into it, tracked down a copy, and gave it a spin.
Luckily I didn’t know too much about the game when I ordered it, I may have, on initial glance been turned off by the Warhammer 40,000 tie in. I’m glad that I missed that part. I’m sure that Warhammer is a fantastic game, so delete the hate mail you were just typing, but it just isn’t my type of game. To each his own, however, I am willing to admit this game, Space Hulk: Death Angel is. The game play is quick, as your Space Marines will probably be picked off by the dreaded Genestealers in no time flat. This is in part to the, well documented, evil red die. The game is hard, this is no walk in the park, people. Every time you turn around there are more and more Genestealers popping up, the die seems to be working against you, and time is running out. As a space marine is killed the swarms that consumed him move onto their next victim, until no one is left to hear you scream. (Did you really think we’d get through an entire post about alien attackers without me working that one in???)
The game is played by puling an even card, resolving it’s effects, and then placing new genestealers according to the color coordinated blocks on the bottom of the card. Genestealer can then move, also denoted on the event card. It is then your turn to try to combat this craziness. Each team of Space Marines must choose one action per turn to take, and it cannot be the action they took last turn. They may attack, move & activate, or support. Each team also has a special power that goes along with each action choice. To resolve an attack the Marine must roll the die, rolling a skull icon to be successful. Moving allows the Marines to do just that, move, one space up, or down, and can even change facing. They can also activate any cards in front of them that have the activate ability on it. Choosing support allows you to put a reroll token on any Space Marine. Once the Marines have taken their turns it is the Genestealers turn to attack. Each Marine must roll the (evil) die to see if they successfully defended the attack. This is accomplished by rolling a number higher than the number of Genestealers you are currently facing.
Easy, right? Sure, that’s what I thought, and then I played it. I actually won my first game too, and I was feeling invincible. Then I lost, and lost, and lost again. Then I was feeling miserable. Through it all, I wanted to play again, to redeem myself mostly. The game plays so quickly that it was easy to play again after a failed attempt. I love the feeling of accomplishment when things go your way and you are able to take out a swarm of Genestealers. I also like that I get upset when I lose a Space Marine. Some Marines have special abilities listed on the cards, and losing them can mean losing the game. I get attached to those poor guys, and am really sad to see them get devoured… I have to admit that I have never played this game multiplayer, which is a true testament to how good it plays solo. I like making the tough choices of which action to take, especially when I attacked last round and cannot do it again! Gulp!!
The components are well made, the cardboard tokens are sturdy, and even thought the die does require an exorcism, it is still well made. The cards are all linen finished, and standard thickness. The rule book jumped around a bit, but luckily, the internet had plenty of references to go to figure out rules questions. The box is also well made and has survived the trip all the way here from Canada (where I ordered it from) without a scratch. My biggest complaint, and this is entirely on me, is that the expansion packs are nearly impossible to get without mortgaging your home.
It seems Fantasy Flight lost the rights to produce Warhammer themed games, thereby having to stop producing this game. It would be great if they could take these mechanics and slap them on another IP that they own, perhaps Arkham? Think about it, poor Arkham investigators searching rooms in a mansion and finding creatures, like the Cthulhu behind every door. With the vast popularity of the Arkham games this would fit right in, and would work well. But, that’s just my opinion. 🙂