Space Hulk. Space Hulk has had several editions throughout the years, but as the most previous edition, released just last year, shows with its sky-rocketing secondary market value, it's an expensive, high production value, collector item. Retailing originally at $100.00, you got many high-quality space marine terminator and tyranid genestealer miniatures and a very sturdy modular board.
When Death Angel (DA) was announced from FFG, it was actually quite exciting. Would DA give us a cheap alternative that we wouldn't have to put up our houses for collatoral on a loan for? I would read on to learn that not only would it be a card game retailing for $25.00 but it was cooperative... and have rules for solo play. Having taken the chance to play it now with five players and on my own, I'm going to make you Keep Reading to see if I think it lives up to its prestigious pedigree!
There are really two view points to this review - how does it play multi-player (specifically in my experience with five players) and how does it play solo? I'll do my best to address both viewpoints if they differ from limited experience with the game.
One of the things that actually surprised me about the multiplayer version was how quickly player elimination was to occur. Each player in a 4+ player game gets one space marine to fight with. The team consists of two marines and their action cards (unique to the team - this is where most of the uniqueness of the teams comes into play). So if both of your space marines end up dying - you're out. There's not much else you can do to help or participate. However, given how quick DA takes to play (the box estimates 30 to 60 minutes, which I think is accurate), I don't really see this being a problem for future plays.
We never felt unfairly screwed over in the game, but multiplayer DA was tough. That being said, when that final space marine fulfilled the requirement of the mission (as determined by one of three randomly chosen final destination cards), there was a literal cheer that went up around the table like we all really acheived something. You don't get that a lot in games. It was also pretty much agreed upon that everyone would be up for more DA in the future. Also a nice feature of the game.
Overall - and you already know this if you've been paying attention - my group and I really liked it a lot. I have no idea if FFG is planning a follow-up release, but I could see so many different directions to take the game as it's set up right now. It flows very well, and it never felt like there was a lot of time between turns since you're kind of always coordinating your actions with your teammates. One of the ways I could see upping the challenge for solo play would be to have to remove both piles of blips from each location before moving on. As it stands, you only have to remove one pile - either the left of right - to move to the next location. You end up not having to fight off any of the genestealers from the blip pile then. If you have to remove both, you'll be fighting at least three to four more genestealers a level.
One of my favorite things about the game is the space marine formation. Everything that comes into play from terrain to genestealers is always in regard to the placing of the space marines. The formation is a single-file column where the marines can slowly move around (very slowly) to different positions within the formation. Facing is also a big deal as a space marine can only interact with one side of the formation at a time, and they need to spend effort on actually turning around. If this feels too constricting, it's not - it adds a ton of tactical depth to the game. It's also a great call back to the immobility of the space marines from the original Space Hulk. I like Death Angels a lot and can guarantee that we'll be seeing more plays on our table.
I got my copy of Space Hulk: Death Angels at Noble Knight Games for a nice little discount available to all customers. Like my review and want to expend just a tiny bit of effort to try to support The Hopeless Gamer and our future endeavors? Simply click the Noble Knight banner above, and it'll start a cookie that means The Hopeless Gamer earns a portion of what you purchase. It's a small thing to do, but it adds up quickly! Of course you don't need to stop at Death Angel when you get to the site, and we'll get a portion of everything else you buy too. You get great games, and we get the opportunity to review great games in the future - everyone wins.