Space Hulk: Death Angel reviewed

“Drrrrrft!! Peeeow PeeeoWW!! Arrrrrgh, squeal! Die Mother!!”

“What are you doing”? said my wife.


To her amusement and horror I was getting carried away, on my own, shooting Genestealers. This stuff matters. A new slant on a game from my childhood was never going to get past me, and as soon as it plopped through the letterbox, I was gleefully and lovingly unwrapping the beautifully illustrated box of temptation.

“Come to bed” she whispered, fluttering her eyelashes and revealing a delicate and tantalising flash of ankle.

“Away with you woman!” I yelled, why can’t she understand?

With trembling fingers I gently probed the fluttering insides of the tight little box, which, with a gasp of delight, revealed the treasures within, so long denied to me by Fantasy Flight’s extremely slow shipping.

After a cold shower I finally got to grips with the mechanics of the game, but first let’s see what that small box reveals:

Space Marines! 6 teams of two marines. In card format, not miniatures, this is a card game. A pile of Genestealer cards, locations, effects and orders, a nice red combat die and some support tokens. (N.B. Genestealers are aliens that use other lifeforms as a host for their DNA. The host’s future offspring will be either hybrids or pure Genestealers. Creepy!)

The cards are quality linen and beautifully illustrated. Brother Leon is ace. He’s orange and can shoot three Genestealers at a time. Take that purple slime!

The support tokens are made of suitably chunky card and the die is a custom 0-5 effort with 3 of the 6 faces containing a skull, which spells P.A.I.N. for the alien scum.

This game is derived from Games Workshop’s Space Hulk; you take charge of a number of Space Marines, exploring a large, abandoned ship, flushing out the Genestealers as you go.

The gameplay is nice and easy. The marines line up in “formation” (i.e. single file) whilst the location cards dictate what terrain goes where (down the sides of the formation). Each turn a team of marines can choose one of three actions by playing one of the three action cards relevant to that team:

Attack: Each marine in the team rolls the die. A skull means a Genestealer is torn to shreds, squealing in terror. Cool.

Support: A support token may be placed on any marine.

Move & Activate: Each marine in the team may be move one space in the formation, flipped, to change the direction he is facing and also may activate any special terrain in this particular location.

Each action will also convey a benefit particular to the team that is performing the action (which is printed on the cards).

After this the Genestealers attack any marine they are engaged with (i.e. adjacent to in the formation), the die is rolled and if the number of Genestealers engaged with the marine is not beaten, the marine is wormfood.

Lastly an event card is drawn, which can have a positive or negative effect on the marines, and Genestealers are spawned in locations indicated on the event card.

It’s that easy. Each marine has a range over which he can shoot his weapon and support tokens allow a re-roll of the die when attacking, and also defending, provided the marine is facing the swarm of Genestealers attacking him. Exhausting a supply of Genestealer cards triggers a new location card (with different terrain) and after battling through numerous areas, the final battle will usually see a fight to the death between the remaining slavering death creatures and the cuddly Genestealers.

Of course this is Games Workshop when all is said and done, so randomness and chance play a big part in this game, not just in the dice rolls, but also in the event cards. You can build up support tokens and have your heavy hitters covering the ‘stealers to try and minimise the randomness of the die. But one unlucky event card can see a pile of support tokens being wiped out or even worse, all your marines facing the opposite way you want in the chaos of battle.

If this wasn’t bad enough, you can’t use the same action card two turns in succession, which makes little sense thematically when you just want your team to keep blasting the monsters. Why can’t I just stand there with my finger on the trigger?

What’s that? I need to re-load? Oh, ok, I suppose so. Can I have a cartridge of fresh lasers please?

It’s a mechanic designed to prevent the marines winning easily but is massively annoying when an event spawns a horde of scuttling chitinous gits and you’ve just used up your attack actions.

Cue the feeding frenzy and the death wails of the Emperor’s finest. Mmmm crunchy. Nom nom nom!

So there you have it. It’s a 30 minute co-operative, bug-slaughtering suicide mission that can be played on your own as well as with friends. I haven’t yet beaten the Genestealers; an event card always comes out that lobs an enormous spanner into the teeth of my tactics and from that moment on my marines start to perish in hideous agony.

As a blast from my past I find it fun, but how long it will remain so with a limited number of locations, terrain and events remains to be seen. I’m not a big fan of co-operative games, preferring the throat-slashing cut and thrust of direct competition, but as a 30 minute filler, especially with the option of solo play, it’s hard to beat feeding some sorry-ass marines to flesh-eating alien monsters.

For the emperor!


One Comment to “Space Hulk: Death Angel reviewed”

  1. Very well done.
    The awesomeness of your review is seconded only by the awesomeness of Death Angel.

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