Another Warhammer game has reached us.
Space Wolf is the PC adaption of the iPad game, pushing into the not-so-common area of strategy deck games. I have not actually played a serious deck game since probably Metal Gear Acid. The Warhammer franchise has pretty much been pushed into every genre so far, so card games was likely never far off. What comes out is a nice distraction, a well-rounded card game which you can sink a few hours in without much bother; but having a few too many niggles and hitches in the mechanics stop this from being a stellar experience.
Space Wolf plays like any regular deck builder. Each squad member has their own deck of cards with various actions, such as movement, and various gear which can be played. Your squad takes turns against the enemy and, using two cards a turn, move and attack to complete the objective. Each map has a primary and secondary objective, with the secondary objective being rewarding as hell to do and not too far off the beaten path.
The card draw works really well. While there aren’t many movement cards for some characters, nearly all weapon and gear cards can be used for movement. Turns are dealt out with the effort statistic, each card used on your turn adds to your effort, which over time goes down. The next turn is always given to the character with 0 effort. This gives you another layer of thought, queuing up your effort correctly is a big part of winning a battle, especially when outnumbered.
The game is pretty thematically accurate to the universe. Bolters are your bog standard gun; Plasma guns are more powerful but risk blowing up in your hands; Melta guns punch through armour and Flamers deal AOE damage. The only major difference to the tabletop game is drop pods are far more precise at landing, which can be problematic when the drop reticule is occupying a good tactical location. The game has the benefits of looking good as well, being given a little graphical boost in the port, and the controls have transferred well to PC.
There are some weird issues with the gameplay which stop this being as smooth running as other strategy card games. You are not able to attack to your side or behind you without spending an action to turn around. You cannot walk through your teammates, but you can somehow fire guns through them without harming them, and enemies can use melee attacks diagonally which you cannot. The weapon ranges do allow for most attacks to hit at diagonals to get around this issue, but when surrounded by several enemies and attacks being at a premium you can easily get beaten by having to waste turns turning around, as the first mission is a prime example of.
Overall, Space Wolf is a simple, quite well polished experience which has transferred quite nicely to PC. All the free to play aspects on the iPad have disappeared thankfully, though it’s a shame a few of the mechanical niggles could not have gone with it yet. But hopefully the early access process will cut out most of these issues and leave an even better game than there is now.