Monday, March 7, 2011

Space Hulk: Death Angel - The Card Game

THE CARD GAME   by Fantasy Flight Games
Published in 2010

This copy of the game is in Finnish. Usually I want my games in their original language, but I couldn't find this game in English here in Finland, so bear with me... at least the artwork in the cards is universal (if you can make something out of my photos) :>

Death Angel is a spinoff from the very popular Space Hulk board game. While the actual Space Hulk game is a huge assortment of miniatures and counters, the Death Angel is a very compact game. Just a bit over hundred cards, one dice and few markers.

The game sets in a Warhammer 40k universe, where a small group of Space Marines enter a Space Hulk called 'Sin of Damnation'. The hulk has been infested with alien monsters known as the Genestealers, and the Marines are sent in to purge this threat.
And so the Marines have to slowly advance from a location to another, fighting off swarms of Genestealers, while trying to complete their mission.

Death Angel is purely cooperative game; even while playing alone, at least six Marines must be used. The game has 12 Marines in total, forming six combat teams which all have their own abilities. The placing of the cards on the table is very specific - they form kind of a game board, with the Marines in the middle, and the terrain and Genestealers on the sides.

The Marines cannot just be placed in any which way, but in one column shown in the picture above. This means that they literally advance one after another, which brings some serious strategizing in the game. Also, the Marines have a facing, allowing them to shoot only in front of them, leaving their backs exposed to alien attacks.

The other cards next to Marines are Terrains. Like a corridor and a ventilation duct in this picture, the Genestealers enter the room via these terrain cards.

Each combat team has three actions:
'Move + Activate', 'Support' and 'Attack'.
The basic actions work the same way with each of the teams, but each team has their own additional special abilities associated with them.

Green team here has the actions 'Run and Gun', 'Block', and 'Dead Aim'.
Basically they have a chance to deal lots of damage, while their Sergeant Gideon has his Storm Shield to block incoming attacks.

I also have yellow and purple teams. Yellow team's most prominent asset is Brother Claudio, who can use a 'Heroic Charge' to slay multiple Genestealers at a time, with a risk of being killed in process.
Purple team can scout and strategize, and their Brother Zael has a devastating Heavy Flamer.


The mission begins when the Marines enter the Sin of Damnation via Void Lock. The goal of this assignment is unknown at his point... But all will become clear when - and if - the formation reaches the last location.

Two Genestealers charge in from the ventilation duct, and two more from a door.

Purple team uses their 'Forward Scouting' to gain some tactical advantage by using the door. Also, they get a glimpse from future events with this ability. The other teams attack, killing three of the four Genestealers currently present.
The surviving monster attacks and kills Brother Omnio of the purple team! What a devastating start for the mission... Every Marine is important, and now one of them falls in the very first combat.
Two new Genestealers appear, Brother Zael incinerates one of them. The other two Genestealers attack furiously: Sergeant Gideon survives with the help of his Storm Shield, while Brother Zael stays alive thanks to the support from the green team.

"They're Everywhere!"
More Genestealers suddenly appear from every direction. Seven monsters are now engaging the five Space Marines I have left, a tough situation!

Luckily the formation gets to travel into a new location, a Teleportarium.
Two of the Genestealers are slain with the strategic help of the door.

The Teleportarium offers an interesting choice:
If some of the Space Marines were to activate the control panel in the room, the whole formation would teleport right to the next location. But there is a risk; some of the Marines might not survive this teleportation.

Green and yellow teams attack the Genestealers with a great success; Brother Noctis shoots one of them, while Brother Claudio's 'Heroic Charge' kills three. Brother Zael strategizes.
The only surviving Genestealer attacks Brother Goriel, but misses him.

It turns out that Brother Omnio is still alive!
He joins the formation from behind and the purple team is whole again. This is excellent news, but at the same time, four Genestealers enter the Teleportarium.

Casualties for both sides: Brother Zael burns two monsters to death, but Sergeant Gideon's Storm Shield fails, allowing a single Genestealer to charge in and kill the Sarge.
A 'Chaos of Battle'- event disorients the Space Marines...
Some more chaotic skirmishing takes place, when four more Genestealers are slain, and Brother Goriel of yellow team meets his end by an attack from behind.

The Teleportarium is left behind.

The next locations reveals to be a Hibernation Cluster. This place doesn't have that many Genestealers in it, but there is a special terrain called a Spore Chimney. This chimney spawns a lot of Genestealers, unless it is quickly destroyed.

The brutish Brother Claudio destroys the Spore Chimney right off, blocking it. Brother Noctis uses his 'Run and Gun'- ability to operate the door, while shooting and killing one Genestealer. Brother Zael supports this action with his Heavy Flamer, destroying the two monsters that were right behind Brother Noctis. Co-operation is the key here!
After this furious combat, the Hibernation Cluster is quickly left behind. The next location will be the last one...

The "Genestealer Lair"!
Two Brood Lords are inhabiting this place - these beasts are significantly more dangerous than the ordinary Genestealers. However, this time there is not that many minions for the Lords to command, reducing their deadliness... I believe I'll have a chance to pull this off and slay these creatures.

And I still have Brother Zael with his flamer, as well as Brother Claudio and his 'Heroic Charge'... The final showdown awaits!

One of the Brood Lords is alone, so Brother Claudio kills it easily with his charge. But the other Lord has three Genestealers with it, making it a lot more difficult to kill. Claudio kills two of these a well.
The Brood Lord counter-attacks Brother Claudio with the remaining Genestealer, catching him off guard from behind - an extremely hazardous situation, but Brother Claudio survives!

No time to rest, as six more Genestealers appear from the dark corners of their Lair. Luckily, the monsters are separated in numerous smaller swarms, reducing their lethality.

Victory! Brother Claudio reorganizes, allowing Brother Zael to get the Brood Lord at the range of his Heavy Flamer. The Brood Lord - along with its "bodyguard" - is reduced to ash!

The mission - and the game - is successfully completed!

But what about the four remaining Marines? Their mission is over, but will they get out of the Lair?
Let's play a few more turns and find out...

- Brother Zael dies right after his triumphant attack. While burning the Brood Lord, he allowed other two monsters to sneak close enough for a kill.
- Brother Claudio, the other great hero, faces a huge swarm of Genestealers and attacks them with his famous 'Heroic Charge'. Three monsters are killed, but Claudio finally runs out of luck, and receives a fatal blow during his charge.
- Brother Noctis is the next one to fall, leaving Brother Omnio - the one who "died" once all ready - to fend for himself...
He finds himself alone in the Genestealer Lair, with four Genestealers around him. Two more appear in his radar screen... I ended the game here, giving Omnio a slight chance to survive this situation.


What an interesting game! I believe this was the first time I ever completed the game with the Genestealer Lair as the final location. The rough start I had ensured that this game was non too easy, which is a good thing - challenge is always appreciated. I also got to play some of my favourite teams (I drew them in random).

Death Angel can sometimes be a ruthlessly difficult game. Like in this game, when I lost one of my Marines during the very first turn, it reminded me that none of them is ever completely safe.
So the Marines are quite vulnerable... The odds are that at least some of the Marines will die in each game, and if two or three of them is lost in the first half of the game, you can pretty much say goodbye to you chances of success.
Laying down some numbers, when a single Genestealer attacks a Marine with no additional abilities on him, there is a 33% chance of the Marine being killed. With just two Genestealers attacking, the fatality rate is 50%, so no wonder the Marines die so easily.
But that's where the Marine special abilities play an important role: Don't let the Genestealers attack at all! The player really has to learn to utilize everything his Marines got.

Artwork of Death Angel is a bit hazy for my liking. The Genestealers themselves are pretty cool, but the pictures on the other cards are small, and it is hard to tell just what's happening in there. I can see a marine, a genestealer, a muzzle flash and so on, but only a few of the cards are clear enough to be enjoyable.
But maybe this is intentional, picturing the chaotic nature of the close quarters combat between Marines and Monsters.

RATING: 8 /10


Death Angel can just as well be played alone, as with friends. You can even increase the number of teams you want to use in solo, but I wouldn't try with all 12 Marines. Three teams (six Marines) are enough for me, even though some of the locations will never be played with the minimal number of teams.

When playing with other people, conversation is a necessity: Every action someone takes must build into the common goal.

1 comment:

  1. Although I haven't played this one in a few months, I enjoyed it. It's certainly a tough game, there's no doubt about that. I've had many games where I've died without even making it past the first door. Really have to get this one back to the table at one point!