Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf is a turn-based strategy game using elements of tactical unit combat with card-based mechanics. Set in the much-loved Warhammer 40k universe, Space Wolf sees you commanding squads of Space Marines across the battlefield in a quest to defeat the minions of Chaos.
There are a variety of classes, card types and scenarios to play, as well as a newly added PvP (player versus player) multiplayer mode, card evolution, card crafting, and various skill trees to unlock and customize.
Warhammer 40k has a huge fan base, so the expectation levels are high: but is it a good game? Read on to find out…
For each mission, you’ll take your main character (from one of the three classes, Scout, Power Armor and Terminator, which each have unique skills, abilities, and cards available to them) and a number of supporting Squad members from a range of classes. You’ll only control up to 3 of these Space Marines at any time, but each unit has his own deck full of cards appropriate to his specific class.
You’ll use your hand of cards across the bottom of the screen to navigate around the map, equip weapons and attack enemy units. Each card is multipurpose, as you’ll be able to use cards to move as well as for their primary purpose. Each unit gets two action points to spend in their turn by moving, equipping and attacking.
Guns can be single-use items, or they can be equipped with ammo for multiple shots. Some cards can be used to “reload” the equipped item to give you more ammo. There are also items that give you defensive shields, teleport you through blockades, or reduce your effort.
The effort system is a way to determine initiative between turns, and the stronger the cards you use, the higher the “effort” that will be added to your character. The turn always goes to the next unit that has effort of 0, or the closest to 0. By keeping your effort usage under the enemy units’, you can take extra turns to get in more actions before they have a chance of attacking.
In Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf, guns deal a set amount of total damage, but this may be divided between a number of bullet shots which the unit fires in a single action. Each shot will have a percentage chance of hitting, so it’s possible for some shots to miss. This introduces a semi-random element into combat as you’re never entirely certain that all the bullets will hit.
Some of the classes have special abilities, such as gaining defense shields automatically, summoning a wolf companion, giving enemies effort points when shooting at them, and so on. There’s enough variation here to make it interesting and it gives each class a unique feel.
Moving around the maps can feel a little slow and clunky at times, but generally I find the game presents interesting decisions about how to go about completing each map’s required objectives and I have a lot of fun with using the game’s weapons, especially when they zoom close in for a mini cut scene showing the attack animations.
Modes and Features
The single-player campaign in Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf stretches across a number of maps in a linear pathway, with increasing difficulty. There is a bit of a story line going on, peppered through the main screen characters and in the missions as small dialogue bubbles every now and then which I really liked — but overall, you’re mostly just smashing in the heads of anything that gets in your way with awesome weapons.
The recent addition of the multiplayer PvP mode is certainly going to help with the longevity of the game. Now you’re able to take your Squad and cards up against another person. The matchmaking is a bit rough at the moment, with veteran players being matched to new players, but this will balance out over time and players should be paired up more fairly in the future. The PvP matches are really enjoyable because you’re getting a much harder opponent, a real person, who is making decisions against you and not holding back. I love it and look forward to playing a lot more PvP in this game.
Some other modes of note are the Forge and Armory. In the Forge, you’re able to create cards out of the resource of gears that you earn in the game. You are able to control the chances of higher rarity of cards being made, but at varying levels of “chances”. There is one final chance bar at the bottom which determines the success of crafting, and if it doesn’t succeed, the newly made item will shatter. You can pay a Rune to ensure 100% success, but these cost 800 gold each.
Cards can also be “evolved” by pairing up two cards of the same type and level into a new one of the next level up. Lots of weapons have multiple levels that they can be evolved up to and this will typically lower their effort cost, increase damage, or improve other stats on the card. You can also disassemble useless cards to get more gears to spend on crafting, too. This is a fantastic system that feels fair, rewarding, and cost-effective and I really enjoy it — it gives you a chance to make your cards stronger and gives you a sense of a long-term goal for improving the cards in your decks over time.
In the Armory, you can level up your Squad units by paying gold to increase their level. This gives them more health but it also unlocks choices along a skill tree. These will add new cards into their deck or give them a special ability of some kind. It helps them become stronger and more useful for you in the main missions but also now as support in the PvP mode, so you can’t afford to ignore this part of the game.
You can also do this with your main character, with the exception that they don’t get new cards for their decks, rather they gain special abilities, but usually very powerful ones. I like the level of control this gives you over the direction in which you want to take each specific class leader. You can come up with slightly different “builds” and it makes the game a lot more customizable beyond just the deck editing.
Deckbuilding and Strategy
Each class in Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf plays slightly differently. The Scout likes to use Sniper Rifles at a long distance, move quickly and quietly, and can also summon a wolf companion to help attack enemies (by far the coolest thing about this class). The Power Armor class likes to have a lot of defense shields and jet packs so it can get up close and whack enemies with powerful melee weapons like Chainaxes and Lightning Claws. The Terminator class loves to teleport around the place, pounding enemies with Thunder Hammers, Storm Bolters and Assault Canons.
When building a 30 card deck for any class, it’s best to have a mixture of movement, single-use guns and equip items, as well as a Storm Shield or two if you want to add some defense. I tend to be careful about using too many melee weapons because often I can’t get close enough to make good use of them, so I prefer to stick to guns unless I build a melee-heavy class that is fast with a lot of fast movement cards.
Similarly, not using enough movement cards can leave you stuck with a hand full of good weapons you don’t want to waste on movement, so don’t neglect movement cards just because they’re not very interesting on their own.
Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf is a fantastic game and I absolutely love playing it. If you’re a fan of the Warhammer 40k universe, it’s got the right amount of flavor and a great range of awesome weapons to play around with, but be prepared for the slower pace of gaming than other Warhammer 40k games out there. This isn’t a real-time strategy game, and it’s more like a board game with cards, movement and hand management. If you set your expectations to this level, you’ll be surprised at how good a job of it this game does.
Sometimes it can feel a bit repetitive: move, shoot, equip, reload, move, shoot, etc. However, I feel like this is the kind of game you come back to bit by bit to enjoy the next step of the campaign or have a quick PvP match. It’s not the kind of game that you’ll want to sit there and play through the entire campaign in one go (and you can’t, because Squad members have cool down timers for taking them into battle with your main character unless you pay gold to reset it). I particularly enjoy the card evolution and crafting system, which really scratches that “upgrade-cycle itch”.
It’s definitely possible to play this game as a free-to-play player, but you might find the grind a bit slower than you’re willing to put into it to be rewarded with new content to see and play with. However, the missions do give out a fair amount of gold to work with and they’ve recently focused on increasing the PvP payouts to be a bit better than they were before, so it’s definitely viable to play without putting money into the game if you wish.
Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf is a great little tactical combat game made even better by a fantastic setting and great art, animation and sound design. If you’re at all interested in the 40k universe, but also if you aren’t, definitely check this one out. You will be pleasantly surprised by how polished an experience it is.
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