Tuesday is game day again! Today I’m going to share my first thoughts on the card game Space Hulk: Death Angel, which I got round to playing for the first time this weekend. I first bought this game two or three years ago, couldn’t figure out how the hell it worked, so decided to sell it. Well, I wasn’t able to get any fun out of it! This is because the rulebook is notoriously badly-written.
Anyway! Fast-forward to a couple of weeks ago, and I have now developed an interest in Warhammer 40,000 and also bought the legendary Space Hulk board game. After a little look around online, I managed to find a really useful youtube video that explained the whole gameplay, and lo! Excellent stuff.
So you control a team of Space Marines from the Blood Angel Terminator Squad, tasked with clearing the space hulk Sin of Damnation of an infestation of Genestealers. Each player takes control of two Space Marines that make up the combat team, and must move through a series of rooms killing the genestealers to the end.
Each combat team has a set of three action cards that can be used each round (shown on the left). When setting the game up, you place the space marines in a vertical column called the Formation, where they face either left or right, which becomes important for attacks and the like. Above the Formation is the room currently exploring. Each room has a specific set-up for terrain, the cards placed either side of the Formation.
The locations are numbered on the back, and the Void Lock you start on tells you which number to use. There are three each of each number, so the set-up is randomised each time. You can see the terrain each room requires down either side, the icons corresponding to those on the terrain cards. The numbers on the bottom of each location card denote how many genestealer cards are placed in the blip piles to either side of those cards.
The genestealers are spawned by Event cards, which have coloured icons to show at which terrain cards the genestealers spawn at. Furthermore, the initial Void Lock card has two triangles on the bottom, in yellow and white, which indicate how many genestealers are spawned – yellow for major spawn, white for minor spawn. The Event card will tell you which terrain cards have major or minor spawns.
Is all this sounding a bit too complicated? It’s not, honestly – if you checked out the youtube playlist earlier, you’ll see what I’m on about, anyway…
So on your turn, you choose which action cards you’re going to use:
These cards are one of three types: Attack, Move & Activate, and Support. Attack cards allow you to, well, attack the genestealers – marines can only attack genestealers they face, which is why facing is important. When you attack, you roll the die and, if you roll a skull, you slay one of the genestealers, discarding it from your location. The move & activate card allows you to move marines around the Formation, then activate any terrain your marines might be facing. Support cards allow you to place a support token on any marine, which can be discarded to reroll the die.
After that comes the Genestealer phase, where they basically attack you by throwing the die and, if the result is more than the number of cards in the swarm, the attack misses. However, if it equals or is lower than the number in the swarm, the marine is killed! Brutal.
The fourth location card features the win condition, which is either eliminating all of the genestealers, or slaying the Broodlords, or whatever.
I’ve only played this game once so far, so take from this what you will, but I really enjoyed it! I mean, the flavour coming out of the game is just brilliant, but it’s also really involved, trying to determine which action cards to use each round and stuff. There’s a lot more to it than it first seems, at any rate! One of the things I love about Lord of the Rings, my all-time favourite card game, is that it is hard, and it is almost masochistic to even play. So the fact that this game feels the same is definitely in its favour!
When I say there’s all this flavour coming out of it, I mean you really feel like your guys are in a column walking down the cramped corridors of the space hulk, and you’re being assailed by genestealers at every turn, and you’re twisting around each turn trying to cover them all. The action cards are closely aligned to the combat teams, and one of them allows one marine to slay I think three genestealers before possibly dying himself. It’s all just fantastic and well-themed, I’ve gotta say!
Obviously, I’ve only played this once, so it might get easier, or it might not. Certainly, one of the other videos I’ve seen on this game leads me to believe it won’t. But that’s okay, because it’s still fun trying!
It’ll also be interesting to see how this compares to the board game!
But wait – there’s more!
Fantasy Flight have released four print-on-demand expansions for the game, which I bought at the same time as the base game.
These packs, being print on demand, have a different feel to them than the regular game, so they only include cards that don’t get shuffled together with the base game. Luckily, each deck in Death Angel is pretty self-contained, so it’s fairly straightforward to produce these packs, I suppose! The first one was Mission Pack 1, which is made up of new locations. Despite the fact that it looks very much like a “more of the same”, there seems to be a nice new feel to come out of this mission pack. It adds four Adrenal Genestealers, who are spawned in specific places when you travel, and move around when they attack and miss. Good stuff!
The next expansion was a set of new Space Marines. Two new combat teams, along with their associated action cards, are in this pack. However, usually when you set up for the game, you pick one of the team tokens at random, so in this expansion they have given us combat team cards to use, instead. So two cards for the new teams, and six cards for the six teams available in the base game. The new marines look pretty good, too – the grey team looks to be most useful, but I’ll have to try them out before any further remarks…
The next expansion is a new enemy deck – Tyranids!
For those of you who don’t know, genestealers are something like the vanguard of the Tyranid army, which moves from solar system to solar system basically eating anything in its way. They have something of an Alien xenomorph look to them, but still. The expansion looks incredible, and is one that I’m really looking forward to trying out! It replaces the genestealer deck with a Tyranid one, and as well as some general enemy cards, there are four types of Elite Tyranids within that have specific actions that are taken either when spawned, after the action phase, or after the genestealer attack phase. Even more exciting than this, however, is the new level 4 location card deck included, which features one “boss” Tyranid!
Yes, they’ve really mixed it up with this game! Each of the Hive Lords includes a different way for the players to win, continuing to add to the diversity of the game. The expansion was designed by Brady Sadler, who has also done some work on FFG’s Warhammer Fantasy RPG, and has done an absolutely amazing job on this. All in all, this looks like a fantastic addition to the game!
And last, but not least…
Yes, Deathwing! The first expansion to the first edition of the board game, this expansion is a full set of twelve new Space Marines, and looks fabulous! Pretty much every combat team in this expansion has some awesome abilities on their action cards, and it looks like another truly excellent expansion for the game!
Each of the print on demand packs brings something new for the game, though I think the bigger (later) two look to be the best. I’m definitely going to be playing more of this game, I think, anyway!