Game Review: Death Angel

Death Angel by Fantasy Flight Games (FFG)
Official Death Angel Website

Death Angel is a cooperative, card-based board game for 1 to 6 players. The players control a varying number of space marine terminator teams, dependent on the number of players, who venture through an ancient space hulk filled with Tyranid genestealers. It’s fast paced, exciting, and nerve-wracking. Death, on both sides, happens fast and frequently.

There are five locations where play occurs and each location presents a distinct set of circumstances for the players to deal with. The locations used in each game are mostly randomized and allow for each game to be slighlty or largely different from the last. Multiple turns occur at each location and at the final location, the players must complete a specific objective to win the game.

At each location, there are a specific number of genestealer blips. The blips represent lifeforms detected by the terminators via auspex but not yet engaged. Each terminator team consists of two terminators, and they entire force of terminators is lined up in random order to represent their positions move down a corridor in the space hulk. The location card defines four terrain cards are located in relation to the terminator formation. The terrain cards are important because they are the points through which genestealers engage the terminators. Most of the terrain present at each location is simply and entry point, however some of them have special abilities that can be activated by the players. Every turn, players choose and resolve actions, resolve genestealer against their terminators, and resolve events. Events are the key mechanic for moving the game forward. An event card is revealed and the special text defines an event or scenario for the turn that can either be beneficial or detrimental to the players. Events also dictates the severity and location of genestealers encountered. A number of genestealers are placed, from the blip piles, next to the terminators at the specified terrain cards. Whenever a blip pile is exhausted into play this way, the terminators advance to the next location, but the genestealers engaged with them come along as well.

Each terminator team has three actions, one of which can be resolved each turn. All of the teams have the same actions but the special text for each action is specific to the flavor of each team. The actions are Move & Activate, Support, and Assault. Move & Activate allows members of the corresponding team change positions in the formation and change facing (this can be important depending on how terrain is placed in relation to a terminator but I’m not going to get into it in the review), as well as activate special abilities on terrain cards they are adjacent to. Support allows the team to place a support token on any marine in the formation. These tokens can be discarded during combat to reroll unfavorable dice outcomes. Assault allows the team to attack the enemy. The special text on these cards can be very powerful, but most of the powerful abilities come at a price. For example, you could choose to automatically kill 3 enemies, but you have to roll a die and there is a 1 in 6 chance the marine will die also. Typically, players quickly become so outnumbered that the risks are worth it but it makes for very challenging decisions. After the players choose an action for each team, all of the actions are resolved in order of priority as defined on the cards, typically support happens before movement and assault happens last.

Combat is very simple and involves one six side dice. The is numbered 0 to 5 and on 3 of the faces there is also a small skull. During terminator assault, the skull is used. Each terminator has a range and can shoot at any genestealer up to that many spots in the formation away from them. The controlling player rolls the dice and if a skull shows up, one of the genestealers is removed. If the terminator has support tokens on their card, they can remove a token to reroll. Special text on the action cards can modify assault outcomes. After all of the actions are resolved, the genestealers get their chance to attack the terminators. The attacks are resolved one at a time for each terminator. If there are genestealers adjacent to a terminator, the dice is rolled. If the resulting number is less than the number of genestealers engaged with the terminator he dies. If the terminator has support tokens however, he can remove one to have the dice rerolled. During both terminator and genestealer combat, support tokens can continue to be removed for multiple rerolls as longs as there are tokens to be removed.

Death of both genestealers and terminators happens fast and often. It is likely to reach the last location with multiple teams at half strength or completely dead. This keeps the game quite balanced as it’s very easy to wipe out genestealers but the threat of death is still very present.
I’ve primarily played solitaire games of Death Angel but recently ran through a game or two with HappyDD. The end results are very similar, when the players win, they are often very very close to a complete wipeout and when the players lose, they are often very very close to completing the win condition. Overall it makes for a consistently exciting and tense game.

I definitely enjoy Death Angel. Being a coop game is a big plus in my books as it makes for easier entry to players who don’t normally play games, or who want to play but aren’t necessarily as tactically oriented. The solitaire version is thoroughly enjoyable as well and it’s a good way to kill time when needed. After you’ve got the rules down you can cycle through a game on your own quite quickly and while there is a starting location specifically for 1 player, there’s no reason why you can’t use any of the starting locations and just control more teams on your own. If you have access to a demo copy or just want to try something different and new, definitely give it a try!

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