Space Hulk

Space Hulk - Space Marine Terminator with heavy flamer
Space Hulk – Space Marine Terminator with heavy flamer

I got the gorgeous 20th anniversary release of the Games Workshop classic Space Hulk. The first edition was a huge influence on my life-long interest in gaming, along with the one book I miss more than any other – Rogue Trader. I have now played five games of it and have to wonder why GW ever let it go out of print.

The rules are reset to their original format, although with the addition of the extra rules for new weapons and units (librarians, assault cannons, and so forth). Also from the first edition returns the hourglass, used to measure how much time the Space Marine player has to make his moves. I was worried whether the rules would hold up after all this time and plenty of evolution in board gaming. They hold up, going as far as making me wonder why did we let our games get as complex as they are these days. It may be a simple game, but it has plenty of depth and just the right amount of tactical thinking and risk. Games tend to be full of very close calls and epic moments of heroism and desperation, often just a single turn apart.

The rules are a curious mix of survival horror themed action gaming and unforgiving tactical thinking. The models can’t bypass each other on the tight corridors of the Space Hulk and the Terminators are so clumsy that turning around takes up half of their turn. Often you’ll need to knowingly leave your side or rear open to receive a bigger threat, or willingly sacrifice a Terminator to make way for the more important members of the squad. On the alien Genestealer player’s side, time is not a factor aside from usually playing into his claws. The Genestealer tactics are straightforward, but no less exciting for it. Playing as the Marines could be seen as the “hard” or “veteran” mode compared to the relatively easygoing Stealers, who have both numbers and time on their side.

The components are the best quality I’ve seen to date, absolutely wiping the floor with the competition. The cardboard is very heavy, debossed in a cool way to highlight details. The miniatures are some of the best I’ve seen in any context, although their artistic ambition sometimes gets in the way of actually playing the game, when the miniatures fall over each other in the heat of battle, with the Space Marine player sweating under his time limit. A few counters (which there are plenty of spares of, mind) have lost their topmost layer, being the actual printed information. It’s nothing a dab of glue won’t fix.

It’s still some of the most intense, short games (under an hour) you can find. The two-player setup can get old – at the office it would be nice to be able to play three or four way games – but on the other hand it really keeps things pure and simple, heightening the tension. It was an expensive game at 80€/$100, but a game purchase I am more happy with than anything else I can think of. Especially considering that the same amount of Space Marine Terminators alone would set you back more than the cover price for the whole box, if bought separately.






6 responses to “Space Hulk”

  1. Kai Avatar

    What sort of paint scheme will you use for your terminators?

  2. Joonas Laakso Avatar
    Joonas Laakso

    I’m going for the classic Blood Angel look, as demonstrated on the box and the photo on display with this post. I do miss my Blood Angels.

  3. Arentol Avatar

    I am pretty sure that the main reason it is out of print, and stays that way aside from this edition, is because of exactly what you said….

    “The components are the best quality I’ve seen to date, absolutely wiping the floor with the competition. […] Especially considering that the same amount of Space Marine Terminators
    alone would set you back more than the cover price for the whole box,
    if bought separately.”

    To make the game properly AND make a reasonable profit, they would probably have to charge $150 or more. At that price point they can only sell it to those who have played it before, loved it, and don’t have a friend that already has it… Which won’t be many people since the only way they will have played it is if a friend has it. Catch 22.

    3-player games are easy enough. Two players control the marines, one squad each, and they each get a full timer (optionally they get three timers, one for planning, then they take one timer turns during which they can’t talk (or can, up to you). Theother player plays the genestealers. This can actually be REALLY fun to play because of the added tension of relying on another person to backup your moves properly.4-player is harder, and a little less enjoyable. Marines are done same as for 3-player while on the genestealer side each player takes every other blip, and each spawn point is assigned to one player or the other.

    Of course if you have two copies of the game (one a friends presumably) you can always make larger maps that will work better for four people, with more marines on each side, and more genestealers to control (just keep your parts separate somehow, maybe with a clear “middle” down which everything is split.

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  5. Kai Avatar

    We tried a three-way game last night, but didn’t bother with giving the marines extra time. Instead, both players controlled their squads individually, trading short staccato questions about using Command Points. It actually worked well, and the tension was high. Things really ended up being close calls, even though it was kind of two minds versus one (hive-mind).

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