Space Hulk 4th Edition. This is a little break from the norm for what you might expect to see on this site, but it’s a grail game of mine that I was able to pick up last year on the new release. In Space Hulk, you take on the roll of the Space Marine Terminators, sent to recover valuable technology, lore and treasures or the vicious Genestealers that have made the Space hulks their home. A Two Player tactical dungeon crawler with factions that play wildly differently, it’s fast, furious and fun as all get out. I spent a long time painting the miniatures in the game which are of the standard that I’ve come to expect from GW. Finally I was able to get it to the table after I had everything painted and here’s what you can come to expect:
Space Hulk is wildly expensive, it’s just over $120. That being said, the box is literally chock full of goodies. The game’s miniatures would cost you almost 70% of that if bought individually anyways. That’s not really an excuse, but GW products are just really expensive. The other components in this game are great though. These boards are easily the thickest cardboard I’ve ever seen in a game for tiles like these. They’re glossy, have great sci-fi artwork on them and are also textured, which adds nothing to the game play other than just being really cool.
I chose to include pictures of the ‘suicide mission’ scenario from the book, because it’s typically the first one that a lot of people play so it doesn’t really have all that many spoilers in it from a story standpoint. I didn’t want to spoil the story for myself, but I flicked through the campaign book and this was the smallest mission in there from what I could tell with only a cursory glance. The set up was kind of a bear, even though I have an organizer insert which is excellent and I would highly recommend. Like any dungeon crawl tile game, just know that this is a factor. That being said there’s so much in the box with regards to tiles and board there’s really an infinite configuration of maps you could make for the longevity and replay factor.
The models are top quality. They’re not quite as crisp as the full 40K minis that come in a million pieces, and some of the molding only looks normal from certain angles, but you mostly won’t notice that just playing the game. You can tell from the pictures that the the game looks great on the table. I spent an age painting the minis, and the Terminators aren’t even finished, but even unpainted the game still looks great on the table. The Terminators are a red plastic and the Genestealers are a dark blue. There’s some assembly required but it’s very basic and you could do it all without any glue because they’re kind of snap-together-minis.
Fire at will!
The game is about killing each other. It’s a dice chucking trash fest, and that’s awesome. There’s some great levels of tactical deployment that the Marines can employ to maximize their defensive firing, but really it boils down to getting guys in Over Watch in key places. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! Each of the Terminators is armed with various guns, heavy weapons, or melee weapons. You’ll be employing all of your tactical prowess in order to bring these weapons to bear on the Genestealers effectively. A typical bolt gun rolls 2d6. If either die shows 6, then it’s a hit. Simple. Melee combat is very bad for the Terminators. A Genestealer rolls 3d6 and a normal Terminator rolls 1d6. The highest dice face wins. Melee weapons can give you a re-roll or a +1 modifier but you’ll be doing your utmost to avoid it altogether.
Where Space Hulk delivers more than your average dungeon crawl is the asymmetry of the sides. The game models the lightening fast reflexes and natural hunting prowess of the Genestealers by giving the Terminator player a time limit on which to complete their turn. As soon as their turn starts, a 3 minute egg timer starts. After the 3 minutes are up, they can no longer act. That might not seem too bad, but when you have 8 or 9 models and you have to micro manage their fields of fire, facing and special abilities and weapons it can get a little bit overwhelming. This is all done through an allocation of action points each Terminator has, plus a secret amount of bonus command points. That sense of rushing and dread really makes playing them fun. If you don’t get everything done that you need to it can leave you exposed which really gives the feeling of being surprise attacked.
As the games and maps get larger and more complex there starts to be some really fun things for the Genestealers to do with regards to positioning, flanking, and using pincer moves to trap the grim Blood Angels Terminators. Their forces consist of blips – think of the sensor blips on the Colonial Marines’ weapons from the movie Aliens. Each blip counter has a hidden number, that when revealed dictates the number of Genestealer models that will get placed. You can get into some really fun bluffs as you flank with some really powerful counters and feint with lower numbered ones to trick the Terminators to redeploying their heavy weapons into lopsided formations. Once revealed it’s a race to get the models into melee.
Overwatch, like I said before, is your best friend as a Terminator player. This allows you to roll an attack every square a Genestealer (in range and line of sight) moves in to. So if you aim down a corridor you’re odds on to get a good number of rolls to try and kill. That’s really the name of the game as the Terminators: funneling the Genestealers into kill zones and picking them off as they charge you. Genestealers move one model at a time, so you can pick one off as it charges, then as the next one does so you get to do it all over again. Just don’t roll doubles on your 2d6 else your gun jams and you’re done! Seriously, if your gun jams you’ll probably die!
And you will, but resetting a scenario is easy. Games can swing on a dime with all the dice rolling, but understand that this really isn’t the most serious game of all time. It’s fun. That’s the most important part for me. Did I enjoy myself in a losing effort? The answer is a resounding yes.
All in all, I have a total blast playing this game. It’s frenetic, bloody and just awesome. You get a massive amount in the box, that’s all premium quality. You’ll need a little elbow grease to get it all together, but it’s really attractive once on the table. The scenarios aren’t necessarily all balanced but they don’t pretend to be. This really gives me the feel of Warhammer 40K without having to spend $600 on a single army, and needing 4 hours to play a game. The lore in the books is rich and the setting is a really fun one.
Pick this up if you want a fast paced, dice chucking sci-fi dungeon crawl!