There is something about games involving Space Marines that just immediately gets my attention. It’s probably because I love military sci-fi in general, and the Space Marines are the pinnacle of the sci-fi soldier. Genetically engineered to be bigger, badder, and a text book example of what you want in a fighter. Which means if you are trying to defend a set of reactors from a horde of angry Greenskins, you want the Terminators on your side.
Which brings us to today’s review of Space Marine Adventures: Rise of the Orks from Games Workshop. This base defense style game will have 1-5 players trying to defend a set of generators from waves of invading Orks. Can you survive the onslaught? Let’s find out.
Each player gets to control a unique Space Marine from Warhammer 40k lore. If playing with less than five people, some players will need to control multiple heroes. To play the game, each round plays out in a series of phases:
Ork Wave: Spawn several Orks based on the difficulty level of the game at randomly rolled spawn points
Terminator Action Phase: Each hero gets a move action and an attack action. Attacks are handled via a die roll with a hit killing the Ork token. Each Space Marine has a special ability that will allow them to break the rules in some way: extra attacks, area attacks, extra movement, etc…
If a Terminator moves onto a supply spot, they can discard the token and draw 2 supply cards and keep one. These are action cards that can be used for one-time abilities.
Ork Actions Phase: Any surviving Ork tokens move up to their speed and attack. Orks automatically hit if they are adjacent to a target. Either destroying a reactor or wounding a Terminator.
The game ends with a loss of all 6 power reactors are destroyed or if the grit tracker reaches zero (players lose a grit point when a Terminator gets knocked out). Players win when they destroy the last Ork token.
After several plays of Rise of the Orks, I’m comfortable saying that this one best fills the role of a family game. The rules are very light, with only the special abilities of the Terminators needing any kind of in-depth explanation. But with the simple move/attack action of each terminator (and the same for the Orks), I’m not sure there is enough meat on this bone to satisfy your gaming group for more than a couple of plays.
Outside of a handful of boss tokens, most of the Orks are the same—with the only difference being their attack/move/defense values. And with only one action per turn for each hero, it mostly boils down to move into range of as many Orks as possible and attack. While the game thankfully doesn’t overstay its welcome, it also can start to get a little repetitive by the end.
This is further compounded by the fact that most of the difficulty levels in the game are just too easy. Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love when games give players variable difficulty levels. Being able to customize a game for how hard I want it to be is fantastic—I wish more cooperative games offered that option. That being said, we played our first game on Novice and it was an absolute cakewalk. We didn’t lose a single grit or reactor and only historically bad rolls could have sunk us. It wasn’t until we started adding in bosses and playing at the top difficulty level that we really felt any kind of pressure.
When it comes to player scaling, I’m never really a fan of having to control multiple heroes. I always much prefer when a game balances the enemies based on the player count. However, I will admit that controlling multiple Terminators in Rise of the Orks isn’t too much of a challenge. The rules are simple enough, and with the turn order being static, it wasn’t much of a struggle when I had to control 3 heroes. So, I’m just giving a heads-up, if this kind of thing bothers you.
Finally, in the standard Games Workshop manner, the miniatures are absolutely fantastic. They do come unassembled, but they were easy to remove from the sprues and are push fit—no glue required. Once assembled, Games Workshop shows immediately why they are still at the top of the game for miniature quality. The figures look amazing and just beg to be painted.
If you are looking for a cooperative base defense style game to play with your family, I think Space Marine Adventures: Rise of the Orks makes an excellent choice. The game has very low downtime, the rules are easy to pick up, and the minis are a ton of fun to play with. But when it comes to playing with your gaming group, I think this one is going to wear out its welcome pretty quick. The gameplay is a bit too easy on the low end and overall, just too repetitive. After a couple of games you’ll have seen all Space Marine Adventures: Rise of the Orks has to offer. There’s just not enough meat on the bones for this game to keep gamers interested in the long haul.
Final Score: 3 Stars – A game that would work well to play with your young ones interested in the genre, but not enough variety to satisfy gamers with better options out there.
• Gameplay can get repetitive
• Too easy on anything other than the highest difficulty levels
• No player scaling
• Lacks variety during and game to game