Review: Death Angel

And next in our continuing series of Space Marine games, today I’ll be reviewing Death Angel, a cooperative card game by the wonderful folks over at Fantasy Flight Games.

Firstly, when I was told there was a cooperative Space Marine card game, my eyes rolled back in my head. First, I love cooperative board games. Second, I love Space Marines. Sure, this is a “card game” and not a “board game,” but… shut up. You play the cards down on the table, and they make their own board, so damn it, it’s board game enough for me!

Death Angel lets each player take the role of a team of two Space Marines (Blood Angels Chapter, clad in terminator armor). The game ties directly into the Space Hulk board game that Games Workshop released a few years ago (itself a reprint of a classic board game they released eons ago). The characters of Death Angel are the same characters from Space Hulk, and the tale is the same – Blood Angels veterans in terminator armor board a space hulk to exterminate genestealers and win the day.

In Death Angel, each turn, each player chooses an action for their squad from three different actions (represented by cards) – Support, Move & Activate, or Attack. Each squad performs these actions slightly differently, with different bonuses or extras. They use these actions as they move through the corridors of the space hulk to fight the genestealers that amass around them.

What I Like:

  • Death Angel is a great cooperative game. The actions are chosen secretly, so you have to know what your opponents can do and are likely to do so you can work together with them. Between that and the genestealers who are constantly multiplying right behind you, the game offers a solid challenge
  • The cards have great art, they’re nice quality and they’re easy to read and understand.
  • The game doesn’t take much time to explain and is easy to understand even if your friends don’t know a heavy flamer from an assault cannon.
  • Even if your friends don’t know a heavy flamer from an assault cannon, the game is still very true to the Warhammer 40,000 universe, so fans will geek out over the art, the card names, and the stories on each character card.
  • The game takes only a few minutes to set up, less than a minute to clean up, and less than five minutes to explain. Despite this, the interaction of various cards and situations creates a good level of complexity and a lot of replay value.

What I Don’t Like:

  • The game may be too easy, but only a tiny, tiny bit. I may also just be too good at games. Compared to Space Hulk, where the genestealers almost always eat the Space Marines alive, I can win the day with the Space Marines most of the time in Death Angel. However, I haven’t played a game yet where I didn’t feel like we were going to lose. And maybe that’s a good cooperative game – feeling like you’re going to lose, but winning enough to have fun with the game. At any rate, it’s not super easy, so this really is a tiny complaint.
  • Some of the teams may be more boring than others, or slightly less effective. Certainly, the team with the Librarian and the team with the power sword Sergeant feel very effective while the team with the lightning claws or the team with the heavy flamer can feel overshadowed by their battle brothers. Again, this is a very tiny complaint, and it would be near impossible to make every team feel equally lovable while also making them different enough to have flavor. Any shortcoming here is totally forgivable.

Nerd Moment: Getting the figures out of my Space Hulk game and placing them on the corresponding Death Angel character cards. I was filled with nerdy glee.

I highly recommend Death Angel to anyone who likes cooperative games, or anyone who loves Space Marines and wants to give a card game a whirl. Fantasy Flight produces solid products, and if you don’t own one of Arkham Horror, Lord of the Rings: The Board Game, Descent, Fury of Dracula or Talisman, then what the Hell is wrong with you? Buy Death Angel and make up for your lack of Fantasy Flight games.

The best part about Death Angel is that it sets up quickly, cleans up quickly, and is easy to explain to new players. This is truly lacking in almost every other cooperative game in existence, so Death Angel makes a true mark for itself by this virtue alone.

Review: Kill Team

I always have room for more Space Marines.┬áSo, when THQ announced they’d be doing a little prelude game for their Space Marine video game, I was excited to hear about it.

Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team is a stand-alone DLC game. While Space Marine is an over-the-shoulder, Gears-of-War-but-seriously-Gears-of-War-wasn’t-that-original-in-the-first-place-so-shut-up-about-it style shooter, Kill Team is… well, it’s Smash TV.

You remember Smash TV? “Good luck… you’ll need it!” Well, Kill Team uses the double-joystick style controls of that game. The left stick will move your Space Marine. The right stick, when pushed in a direction, fires your ranged weapon in that direction. When I was a kid and played Smash TV, that annoyed the Hell out of me. But, when I played Kill Team, I really loved this control scheme.

Kill Team
Yeah, it's kinda like that.

Kill Team is, of course, rendered in 3D with an isometric view and a panning camera, so it’s more advanced than its arcade ancestor. It’s a straight-up guns and explosions shooter, so don’t expect a lot of depth and innovation here.

What I Like:

  • Foremost, Kill Team embraces the Warhammer 40,000 universe. The models, the weapons, the inside of the Ork Krooser – all of it is taken right from the rich universe of the 40k game. Every detail is fanservice for those of us who love 40k. In fact, the game opens with a model I covet greatly – the Caestus Assault Ram. The game uses THQ’s beloved Blood Ravens, although Space Marine is supposed to feature an Ultramarine. The fact that I can even comment on that means they care about the lore.
  • The controls feel good. Usually, I have problems with Xbox sticks, but because I’m not trying to precisely aim an FPS, this is much easier. There are a few problems, but I put a compliment here because usually games of this type are finger-crampers, but this control scheme is easier on the hands.
  • The graphics and sounds are fun. They’re not groundbreaking, but they fit the game, the world, and the $10 price tag.
  • The gameplay is enjoyable. The permanent upgrades come at a nice steady rate. The four characters are each fun to play and the differences are enough to pick a favorite.
  • Power-ups sit there indefinitely. Because the gameplay features a lot of doubling back, if you do well in an area, you can leave a power-up or a health refill in case you need it when you come back. Everyone loves power-ups, so this is a nice change from the norm.

What I Don’t Like:

  • Melee doesn’t seem as effective as shooting, but there are two melee-focused characters out of the four. After playing a bit, I got the hang of using the melee characters much more effectively, but there’s a learning curve at the very least. It seems to me, if you want two melee characters, melee needs to be developed more than it is.
  • The game seems to have some control bugs. They’re not major at all, but sometimes my Space Marine just seemed to slow down and stop while I was pressing the stick. Either Space Marines are lazy, the controller is flawed (I don’t think s0), or there are slight bugs. It wasn’t very annoying, though.

Nerd Moment: “Why doesn’t the plasma cannon have a blast effect?” Yeah, it’s just a video game, Chuck. Don’t nitpick.

All in all, Kill Team is a fun romp with big explosions and orks saying funny things. It’s definitely worth $10, especially if you’re a 40k fan. But you’re not going to be playing it for years to come, except possibly as occasional stress relief (“Die, xenos! Die!”)

I read somewhere that THQ might use this engine as the basis for more games. I would be very excited to see this ported to a Space Hulk game – Terminator teams versus hordes of genestealers. I’d buy that for a dollar!

As Your Lawyer, I Advise You to Get WordPress

In a previous post from last year, I advised you (as a Dungeon or Game Master) to get a wiki. I still advise that if you’re making a homemade game world or otherwise need to pump a ton of information to your players in a searchable, easily linkable format. Wikis rule.

But recently, I started a Dark Sun campaign and I wanted it to be very deeply character and story-driven, with good roleplay elements and opportunities. I wanted players to really connect with their characters, and for their characters to develop actual personalities over time – not just “I like to kill evil and drink booze” type of things.

So my course of action was different this time. I decided, “Why not blog the game?” In fact, why not blog the game as an engaging narrative story?

For this, WordPress was perfect. It’s easy to set up (and in fact, I didn’t do the backend customization as I have for SaveVsBlog, just to show how easy it is). It has the capacity (now) for both blog entries and static pages (for PC and NPC descriptions). I’m hoping (time will tell) that the players will eventually want to write entries from their character’s perspective, or otherwise contribute – and WordPress lets me set that up with just a few clicks.

So, follow us now at The Light of a Dark Sun as five “renegades” in the Veiled Alliance attempt to rid Athas of defilers and usher in a new Green Age. As always, comments and questions are welcomed below!