As mentioned in Servitob’s post recently, after availing ourself of some gaming at everyone’s new favourite venue, we tried out a new offering from Fantasy Flight Games. These are the same guys responsible for making the “need a bank loan to afford it” Horus Heresy board game. Death Angel comes a little more wallet friendly and a little more space friendly too as it’s a card game that fits into quite a tidy hand-sized box.
The basic premise of this game is that it is Space Hulk with cards. Trying to imagine how you get the razor edged tension of a Genestealer infested derelict with its cramped and confined spaces may be a little difficult but rest assured that FFG have managed to pull this off. Every player is on the side of the Space Marines and you control at least one Combat Team of Space Marine Terminators, the game can be played with anywhere from 1 to 6 players and the number of players defines how many combat teams there are. Each combat team is composed of two terminators, a normal Storm Bolter and Power fist chap and another special weapon one.
Each game starts with a location and this will define the starting locations (a deck of cards are provided that bring various locations, some of these have active components that you can use) as well as telling you how many Genestealers are likely to be coming to eat your face at any particular moment. You assemble a mission from a small selection of cards, picking them in accordance with instructions given on the starting location for your size of game. You will not know what you have to do to complete the mission until you move to the final location, from the games that we have played so far, the chances are you will not reach that final location.
The game turn is split into a number of phases, every turn starts off with the Space Marines deciding which one of their 3 different actions they are going to take. Each Combat Team has a set of 3 cards, there is a “Move & Activate” action, an “Attack” action and a “Support” action. Each combat team gets to play one, you can discuss with the team what you want to do but cannot specify which card you are going to play, also, you cannot play the same action two turns in a row. This means you need to think ahead as well as thinking of what the rest of the team are really going to do with their actions. Each action card has a number on it and when they are revealed you resolve them in order. This then plays out as to whether the Terminators swap places, activate terrain items, attack any Genestealers that are around or lie in wait for something.
After this the Genestealers attack if there are any on the board engaged with a Terminator, this is probably around 95% of the time, the more Genestealers fighting a Marine the greater the chance he will be chopped into kibble. After this the player who use the lowest number action pulls an event card and plays it. This spawns more Genestealers and generally screws at least one of the Terminators in some way, this event also gives directions as to where any existing Genestealers move to as they may try to get behind the Marines.
Each spawning of Genestealers comes from a blip pile on either side of the formation of Terminators, once a blip pile is emptied the players move to a new location which shifts the terrain cards around and spawns a new set of blips, some of the terrain also has an “Upon Entering” effect which comes into play. There are 4 locations per mission and as they are randomly pulled from decks you are not always guaranteed to get the same terrain or the same final mission. Once you get to the final location victory conditions are presented to the team, complete those and you win. Out of the three games the 6 Inch Move team have played so far we have completed the mission only once, when my Assault Cannon Terminator used his attack card to unleash three shots into a swarm of Genestealers, shredding the two regular guys and then popping a Broodlord. Servitob then clubbed the final Broodlord and we won, another turn and we probably would have been red paste on the decking.
The game does play quite quickly, you are trying to cut through the Genestealers as fast as possible in order to get to the next location, all the while every event card is spawning more gribblies that can tear you limb from limb. What takes the time is the individual players deciding which actions they need to take, but as you win and lose as a team you want to try to co-ordinate what you are doing. That doesn’t stop someone who is surrounded by Genestealers from playing his “Move & Activate” and then swapping places with a “mate” who is all of a sudden plucked from a position of safety into the clutches of almost certain death. In any given game you can guarantee that a lot of the Marines are going to die, the one game we won we were reduced to only three Terminator when we started with 6, the majority being eaten by massive swarms, but on occasion even a lone ‘Stealer can be a lethal adversary.
I picked up this game after reading a review from a forum I frequent, it recommended picking it up on sight as it was very good. I was lucky enough to get the last copy from our local game store and I’m glad I did. The box is small and transport friendly so if you don’t fancy carting models and terrain about this gives a great game that can be played in around an hour, depending on how many players you have. There is only one criticism I would make and that is that the rules aren’t always clear and we made a large number of mistakes in our first game, a few more illustrations of the layout wouldn’t go amiss, but overall I think this is a really great release.
It may be hard to get hold of now as I understand that it sold really well and there is no certainty that there will be another run, but if you can find a copy it is well worth the price of admission and in the few games that we have played so far it has been a lot of fun.
ZombiePirate gives it a solid 4.5 Alien Gribblies out of 5.