The original Space Hulk is a fairly complex board game; it plays on a large surface utilizing myriads of figures, dices, and a ton of other accessories. Death Angel, on the other hand, tries to deliver the core experience of the board game in a faster, easier-to-follow, cooperative card game format. Players simulate the events on the space hulk using only cards, a limited number of tokens, and a single dice. They do that by moving a column of space marines through randomized locations and events (all represented by cards) while fighting off swarms of genestealers. Fights are resolved by the dice, and the game is over when the marines either fulfilled their mission presented on the last location card, killed all genestealers, or all died. Simple enough; the random nature of the game and the large number of cards, however, allow players to experience different scenarios from game to game--well, in theory, but I will get to this later.
One thing I especially like about Death Angel is that it can be played alone. People do not always have friends available for playing; so it is advantageous that Death Angel has this option. The mechanics of the game remain the same during solo play; the player simply assumes the role of other players, controlling more than one space marine squad. While this does not change the gameplay drastically, it does give the player more freedom to come up with different strategies trying to tackle the genestealer attacks. Solo play, therefore, is an integral part of the game, just as fun--if not more--than playing with friends.
While I believe Death Angel successfully captures the essence of the original Space Hulk in a creative and engaging card game, unfortunately, it does suffer from some minor flaws. For instance, despite their bulky armor, space marines fall prey to the alien swarm much too fast. In a 4+ cooperative game where each player only commands one squad (two space marines), this becomes especially problematic, often resulting in an untimely death and rendering the dropped out player a mere spectator while the others play. Although on a somewhat lesser degree, but difficulty also affects games with fewer players (controlling more squads) and even solo play. After more than five tries, I have yet to win a single game!
Another, and perhaps a bit more serious, although not at all uncorrectable, issue I have with Death Angel is its core mechanic. The game puts almost all emphasis on fighting, meaning that other aspects, such as exploration or problem solving, do not live up to their full potential, if at all. This not only hurts replay value but also renders the game one dimensional--although, for fairness sake, I have to point out that it delivers the mechanics of fighting exceptionally well. The good news, however, is that this issue can easily be corrected with an expansion pack, with which this game is clearly destined to wind up. New cards providing more diverse terrain (something that Death Angel desperately needs, as currently it has only 8 of these cards, 4 of which rarely come up), new locations, more mission objectives and events putting a bit more emphasis on exploration and a bit less on fighting could really spice this game up.
Despite my many complaints, however, I had a great time with Death Angel. It delivers a solid game experience (in solo or with friends) while successfully captures the gloomy atmosphere of the original Space Hulk. The game has a fair amount of replay value, which hopefully future expansions will further improve, is complex enough to capture the more hardcore crowd while not too complex to intimidate casual players, and only costs $25. These are qualities hard to come by these days. So, if you like board or card games, the Warhammer 40k universe, and/or science fiction, I would highly recommend you picking up Space Hulk: Death Angel.