Gang, I am beat. Fencon was a wonderful event, and the weekend was a blast. I always have a great time with this con, but this was especially great time. Every panel I was on was great. Everyone was enthusiastic and fun. And if you didn’t make it, you missed out. I’d go into more detail, but I am just exhausted and it would probably come out very dry and dull. So I’d much rather discuss a couple of cool games I came across recently.
As I’m sure you’re well aware (being my fans and all) I’m a guy who likes to play games. I don’t like using the word “gamer” because it implies a certain cultural niche that just doesn’t sit well with me. Also, when most people hear the word they think of video games, and while I was once an avid video game player, those days seem behind me. I’m perfectly happy with my Wii and WoW, and while I’m sure I’d enjoy a PS3 or an Xbox360, I don’t really have the motivation to buy them.
I really like board and card games and like to occasionally post something about the topic to help bring some attention to this marginalized hobby. There are more of us out there than society realizes, and I’m always happy to tempt more into the enjoyable experience of sitting at a table, sharing a good time with friends as you crush them beneath your heel.
Or, to get more to the point, here’s a game I’d like to recommend.
DEATH ANGEL by FANTASY FLIGHT GAMES (www.fantasyflightgames.com)
There’s a new breed of game that’s gained popularity recently. It’s the cooperative game, where instead of competing against each other, they try to work together to win the game. There are quite of few of these types of games now, and many are very good. My personal favorite is RED NOVEMBER (also by FFG), a fantastic board game where gnomes run around in a malfunctioning submarine, trying to survive until recue. There’s also PANDEMIC, FORBIDDEN ISLAND, ARKHAM HORROR, SPACE ALERT, and a few others I haven’t even played like DEFENDERS OF THE REALM.
Death Angel is a game set in the Warhammer 40k universe. It’s a universe of constant war, where the best you can hope for is a glorious death, and everybody hates everybody. Seriously. The word “grim” and “dark” both appear on the cover of the box for Death Angel without a hint of irony. Death Angel is inspired by a specific game called SPACE HULK where two players duke it out on an adrift spaceship in a battle to the death. It’s space marines vs. aliens before the concept was overdone to the point of cliche. It’s a fun board game, though a bit pricy and hard to find.
Fortunately, Death Angel does the seemingly impossible and manages to capture the experience of an $80 board game and distill it into a beautiful card game. Anyone who has ever played Space Hulk knows the drill. Cramped quarters. Aliens at every turn. Marines hopelessly outnumbered, gunning down monsters by the dozens only to have them continue to crop up. Do you rush forward? Do you hold position? Watching the aliens (or being them) as they close in for the kill. It’s a tense, exciting game, and Death Angel is as close as you can get to the experience without having a flesh-ripping monster spit in your eye.
This is a great game. It’s a reasonable $26 and, even better, the box is of such compact dimensions that you can easily carry it in one hand, stick it in a suitcase for easy travel, or otherwise tote it with ease. While it can take a lot of table space when laid out, it’s still a streamlined and easily transported game. The game supports from 1 to 6 players, and as a solitair game, I find it immensly more satisfying than . . . well, Solitaire.
I won’t get into the rules because, though the game is actually very simple once you get the hang of it, it has to be played to understood. And you will make mistakes the first few times you play, but the game plays quick so it’s not as if you can’t get enough practice in.
What makes the game rewarding is its replayability. A nifty semi-random layout system means that you can never be quite sure what’s coming next. The aliens move and attack with cruel efficiency, flanking and maneuvering in deadly packs. And you have just enough choices to keep it interesting without being overwhelming. In particular, I love that every player gets one or more pairs of combat teams at their disposal, each with their own unique feel. Will you be the flamer team, with the deadly cleansing flames at your disposal? Or the librarian team, with amazing psychic powers? Each team does better at some things than others, and using them to the utmost is key to completing the mission.
Most fun, is that you never really know what your victory condition is until the end. The game is a journey that you can never be sure of. Except that you will probably be killed because genestealers take no prisoners and one mistake can destroy your squad of marines.
Game over, man! Game over! It’s a bug hunt!
Great fun. Highly recommended.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,