Designer: Emil Larson
Publisher: Sun Tzu Games
Year Published: 2021
No. of Players: 1 - 4
Playing Time: 60 - 120 min
Main mechanic / Theme: Cooperative, Tactical Combat, Action Queue, Sci-Fi, Campaign Game, Legacy Game
Here’s your chance to leave your legacy in the stars.
Disclaimer: Publisher provided a copy of the game for this review. To preface this review, I’ve played video games for years and Mass Effect is one of my all-time favorite games. And as always, I write through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion as a queer person of color.
From the outset, I sensed a strong sci-fi video game influence alla Mass Effect, Fallout, Halo, and Destiny. From the ability cooldowns to the space ninjas, it seems to adapt tropes from the digital onto the tabletop. As a title set in a larger IP, Burning Suns, there is lots of supplemental lore and world building to color the background. Even without the context, it is a broadly pleasing sci-fi world of tactical scrimishes, aliens, and light character building. I appreciate it defining itself as a medium-complex game and actually meaning it.
“Rogue Angels is a co-op sci-fi legacy game driven by character choices and a strong narrative with multiple paths, tactical combat with fluent turns and action management with asymmetric abilities. Set in the Burning Suns universe, you get the opportunity to become a hero and help save the galaxy through impactful choices for your characters and their legacies.”
—description from the designer
Gameplay and Mechanics:
The game is a cooperative tactical combat legacy game that makes it a point to catalog decisions and outcomes, win or lose. The roleplaying aspect is very light. The narrative sections come in between missions not unlike a cutscene. When you enter combat, the game incentivises the players to plan out moves according to abilities, location, and character attributes. There are occasional story moments mid-combat that influence the scenario, and non-combat objectives like hacking and points of interest. As the game goes on, your characters carry narrative choices as traits/attributes and your defeats as scars.
Theme, Artwork and Illustration, Graphic Design and Layout:
The mechanical skill in the artwork is top notch. Granted, at the time of this review, there are still a lot of assets in development. As art continues to come out, I would love to see different ethnicities, morphologies, and body types in at least the non-playable characters.
The graphic designs are still very early in development. The only graphics that were overtly disruptive were the dice icons. It was very confusing understanding just what exactly the results of our role granted us. This may have something to do with our disagreement about the dice mechanic in general, but a good graphic designer could probably smooth out that mechanic disconnect.
Tabletop United believes that diversity is a source of fun and happiness. Nurturing and celebrating our personal differences can lead to amazing gaming (and life) experiences.Therefore, TTU is putting renewed emphasis on inclusivity and accessibility by adding a section in each of our reviews written after April 2021. You’ll begin to see more reviews with this section as time goes on. The inclusivity and accessibility section will critique those issues and strengths of the subject in the review based upon the unique background of the reviewer. Each reviewer views the world through their own particular lens and has a wide and varied experience from which they will write and review.
In terms of diversity and inclusivity, I was happy to see different ethnic representations in the characters so far. Keeping in mind that the playable roster is mostly alien races, the humans are unlikely to be indicative of the diverse makeup of the area at large. As a trans person though, I’m disappointed to see even alien/android/cyborg characters still rigidly gendered for no apparent story relevent reason. I love sci-fi because I like to see wider cultural influences hinted in the naming of characters, weapons, items etc. In a cosmopolitan hub of misfits, I would have anticipated seeing more fictional alien lore in the depictions and descriptions of the world.
There are many well executed mechanics in Rogue Angels. My group especially liked the hacking and ability cooldown mechanics. The hacking mechanic was something really unique, and while it was confusingly abstract at first blush, the metaphor sunk in upon grasping the concept. The cooldown system was very easy to intuit and offered interesting spins when throwing sustained injuries into the mix. The difficulty levels of the missions were well balanced. I can see how one or two wrong moves could have left a teammate with scars. These close calls led to some pretty epic moments that were memorable.
Mechanically speaking, the game is well designed and the integration of all the varied mechanics mesh well together. If you like cooperative combat puzzles, this title is right up your alley. It is structured similarly to Gloomhaven at about the same complexity weight, though just in different ways. If you have video game background knowledge, it should give you a leg up on the learning curve. I appreciate the game introducing mechanics in stages, as not to overwhelm the players. The art is pleasing to look at and I anticipate that the physical components are going to be very impressive on the table. The shelf appeal is definitely there.
The game was a fun exercise, but unfortunately the weakest aspect was the story/world. To preface this part of the review, I was told that the dialogue is rough at this stage and would be refined by the author of his book series. With that in mind, I wished there was a story hook in between missions; something to leave you curious and wanting more. From a flavor perspective, my group didn’t find anything spicy to latch onto. We desperately wanted something interesting in either the writing style, plot, or characters that pulled us back for more, but unfortunately the story felt bland and generic. I’m sure there’s a rich universe in there, because whole novels were written in this setting. Hopefully that gets fleshed out significantly in the final stage of development.
Rogue Angels is a solid game made by someone who feels like an experienced designer filling a niche between board gamers and video gamers. I'm interested in seeing how the designer puts the icing on top of an otherwise pleasing cake.