Sep 22, 2011

Space Hulk and the joys of murdering Tyranids

I have been forming a pretty wild theory (which belongs to me and is mine) recently and it more or less goes a bit like this: The deepening of the economic crisis will lead to increased socialization, that will in turn lead to an increase in the popularity of board gaming; even more so if the required board games have already been bought. And, uhm, that's about it I suppose. Besides, that was the theorem I went on and empirically (successfully too) tested last night with the help of Space Hulk.

Interestingly it wasn't the second edition of the game I cracked open and hauled over to a friend's place; it was the third and latest version of Space Hulk. The one Games Workshop cunningly released in limited numbers. The same game I hadn't played since 2009 even though I most definitely enjoyed it. Actually, I was most impressed by it, but apparently was the only one in the Lair that appreciated it. The kind lady was mostly indifferent to its many charms and exquisite production values.

Now, as I was emphatically reminded yesterday, Space Hulk comes in a particularly impressive, big, heavy and beautiful box, that's filled to the brim with miniatures, dice, tiles, rulebooks, counters, an hourglass and everything one might need to play. And though I did remember that them Space Marines and Tyranids (nasty Alien-like nasties) were some of the best Warhammer 40,000 miniatures ever, I had completely forgotten just how fantastic the game tiles were in all their embossed, beautifully painted, dark glory. Well, apparently, they still are and everything looks excellent to the point that the table we set up to play, impressively made the good ladies present take notice. I mean, really, who could have the willpower to resist the evolved aesthetics of everyone's favourite totalitarian sci-fi army?

Not that the bugs look much worse of course...

Anyway. That's enough with the fanboy drooling and gawking at tiny plastic skulls. Time to completely ignore the quality of the rule- and mission books too, and briefly describe how the thing plays. Well, Space Hulk is a two-players only game in which one player controls the Space Marine and the other the Genestealers side, each taking turns to move on the board and performing actions like opening doors, shooting, attacking the close combat way, moving artifacts, burning rooms, reloading weapons and further things of the sort, while trying to achieve each mission's objectives. Interestingly the game does come with 12 built-in  missions - every single one of them featuring new objectives, weapons, miniatures, special rules, board layouts and even a bit of backstory (fluff, I believe some would call it) to help with the atmosphere. Every game usually takes around 60 minutes.

Gameplay-wise though, what really stands out are the action-points mechanics (they should be familiar to people who have enjoyed turn-based strategic games like X-Com or Laser Squad) and the fact that Space Marines only see the aliens as blips on a radar, up to the point they come face-to-face with them and their true numbers are revealed. As each of these blips could conceal up to three Genestealers, things can get both strategic and very tense indeed. Oh, and good poker players will definitely be at an advantage here...

Thankfully, neither me nor the friend I played Space Hulk with are terribly good at card games, yet I must admit we really enjoyed the game in its initial simplicity, apparent balance and revealed depth. After finishing the first mission we were both craving for more and coming up with strategic principles and tactical responses. Yes, it was this good.

Closing bit: This article might have felt like a review, which it partly is, but sadly it's a review of something you can't easily buy unless you head off to places like eBay. On the other hand you can get a very good idea of how Space Hulk plays and what it looks like over at the Games Workshop and Board Game Geek sites. And you can always play the excellent and freeware Alien Assault on your PC; it's the closest you will ever get to a digital version of the game and a fantastic strategic offering in its own right.

Related @ Gnome's Lair:


  1. I would be quite pleased to see a renaissance of sorts of board gaming as a result of the economic crisis, but could an increased socialization also result in more multiplayer casual games in social media sites such as Facebook, either instead of or as a parallel development?

  2. Well, yes, of course, but it seems to me that everybody tends to gather in friends' houses (instead of say going out for a drink) and this would be the perfect board gaming habitat. Then again a popularity boom in social board-like games seems very plausible indeed.

  3. Shouldn't that be Genestealers, and not Tyranids?

    At least that's what they were called in my old first edition copy of the game that I bought back in 1990! Sadly I sold it a few years back (for a good price mind) - happy memories of playing Space Hulk in in my early pre-alcohol teens ;)

  4. You are indeed correct dear James. The rules do speak of Genestealers, but them Genestealers are a Tyranid sub-species. See how sad I can be? And to think I found out all about them Games Workshop games in my early 20s; thus way after them drinking years has commenced.

    Oh and no worries about selling your copy. When you get down here, we'll have a game or two :)

  5. A most eye-droppingly gorgeous collection dear Gnome.

    roll camera! following this most elegant theory of yours, which is yours! and having shed a tear or two over your most excellent youtube link..

    would it be correct to say that without a Government led manufacturing drive, that a post economic meltdown will lead to a destabilised society?

    (points microphone at Gnome...)

  6. Aye. That and worse could happen, but I can personally guarantee progress AND stability.

    (bangs hand on podium)

    (puts mic back in place)

    That's why I say: Me for Monarch!

  7. (microphoneless, elderly reverts to notebook and short hand...)

    ..rumour is rife mr.Gnome that said Monarchy, would in fact be of the Socialist type, can we assume that Space Hulk would be available in every household in your kingdom... well at least for those that escaped the inevitable pogrom?

  8. Yes of course. Everyone in the remaining 65% of the total population will have full access to two (2) board games of choice. Provided none of them is Monopoly that is, in which case we might need slightly bigger gulaks.

  9. Ahh yes, I have spent many hours with Space Crusade, but never this!

    Should rectify that I think.

  10. Hmmm... Space Crusade, eh? Never played the analog version you know... Now, that's an idea!

    1. Never played Space Crusade?! You've missed out my friend! The advantage over Space Hulk is that it allows four players.

      I think Space Hulk is probably the better all-round game though (I only played 2nd edition rules though) but even so, I would recommend getting Space Crusade.

      A friend has just recently converted it to the Halo universe, so we've been playing Halo Crusade. Kill the Flood!

    2. Time to hit eBay then, eh?

      Guess I'll trust your judgement and have a look. Thanks for dropping by!

  11. (Chief whadda want me to do, we've only a minute left of live broadcast...ask him what!??.. but...alright..yes I love my job..)

    ahem!.. mr.Gnome.. one of our viewers would like to know where you got your hat!?

  12. I was hoping you'd ask me this crucial quation. It's been handcraft by an old one-eyed worker; she worked on it for 12 weeks. We will of course support small industries.

  13. ..excellent, well vieweres remember you heard it here first, that's it from me, now back to the studio...

    are we off air? good right wrap it up lads..

    ..thanks Gnome :) sorry about the hat question, but what a simply brilliant answer,

    am that one eyed worker.. she single by any chance? or sisters perchance?

  14. Well, she does have a one-legged sister, but I hear she's not a party member and our policy on non-members is very strict. Then again, so is our policy on parties; one per week is mandatory :)

  15. One legged eh!...these cut backs are pervasive...

    but of course, what am I thinking, your perfectly correct party member only...

    (touches his Medal of Gnomarchy...)

    Κόμμα για πάντα!!!

  16. How'd you do that?

    (stands in awe of Elderly's multilingualism)

    Wooow you're good. You'll go far in the party.

  17. yah that, just an much improved Google Translate

    (Stand to attenton saluting his leader)

    Έκαψα τα χείλη μου σε κάποιο καυτό sambucca

  18. The new Google Translate does indeed work wonders when combined with a healthy dose of surrealism!

  19. ?! i'll try that again apologies

    (stand to attention saluting his leader)

    Νομίζεις ελληνική μου είναι άσχημα νέα, οι αγελάδες έχουν σπάσει μέσα από το φράχτη και πάλι και τρώγονται όλα τα Aardvark

  20. (shivers)

    No. Please no.

  21. what?

    (looks around at the stampeding cows heading toward the hapless duo...)

    ...oh oh!!!

  22. And we'll also have to save them aardvarks. We owe it to the dictionaries!

  23. really they've got the AA, hold on..

    (presses pause on the cow stamped remote... checks dictionary...)

    nope your right, we've got to save the Aardvarks as well.... It is a far far better thing I do......

    (presses play...)

    ...Save the Aardvarks....!!!

  24. (and these being comments on a Warhammer 40k post, lest we forget)

    And purge the heretics!

    Kill the xenos!

    For the Emperor!

    And the Aardvarks!

  25. Indeed I had forgotten the hallowed ground,

    (pauses the cow stampede again...)

    We better make a list, or we're going to forget someone

    So, we have to save the xenos, the Emperor, the Aardvarks, purge the heretics and avoid the gut ripping hooves of the stampeding cows!? don't think we've bitten off a little too much this time?

  26. I'm afraid you are correct. And slightly confused, but that's okay.

    I suppose we could start by avoiding the cows and singing to the aardvarks. Then we'll take a break. A tea break.

  27. :) I like the way you think, I'll get my guitar, don't let anyone near that remote while I'm gone.. back in a mo...

  28. (sits and waits)

    (better yet, sits and drinks Penny-royal tea)