Mar 3, 2006

Board Game Review: 'Space Hulk 2nd edition'

Space Hulk 2nd edition is apparently the 2nd edition of the 1st edition Space Hulk, which was published by the massive miniature making 500lb gorilla, usually referred to as Games Workshop. Thus, the setting of the game is none other than the dark, sci-fi and quite gothic 41st millennium. A time of war, theocracy, aliens and incomprehensible gods, war, famine, war preparations, battles, war and 80s music. And as war seems to feature quite heavily in the imagined year 40,000, a war inspired game shouldn'’t come as a surprise to anyone. The fact that humanity of the distant future is struggling under the boot of a rotting vegetable-Emperor, is quite irrelevant to Space Hulk 2nd edition being a war-themed board game and not a wargame. The Alien, Aliens etc craze that raged throughout the late 70s and 80s should explain the overall feeling/aesthetics of the board game, that are glorified in the following picture (directly scanned from the rulebook):

Silliness aside, the Warhammer 40000 universe, Space Hulk's setting, is a very rich in detail and well-portrayed world. An unholy bastard of a fantasy and sci-fi setting it may be, but also one of the better gaming worlds around. Space Hulk 2nd edition (Space Hulk henceforth) is accordingly one of the better board games around. Perhaps the best I'’ve ever played, and one I can'’t recommend enough. It might be difficult to track, but at least it's easier to find than the really obscure first edition, and it will not cost you a fortune. When it was released, some 10 years ago, it was actually great value for money. You bought an -almost- huge box that contained:

- a 36 page full-color rulebook
- a 52 page full-color mission book
- 10 Space Marine Terminator plastic miniatures of the usual Games Workshop quality
- 20 Genestealer plastic miniatures
- dozens of high quality counters
- almost 100 beautifully illustrated board sections
- 7 dice

Space Hulk'’s game mechanics are rather simple, but extremely atmospheric and varied (that'’s what a 52 page long mission book is good for). Each player (in this two-player game) controls either the tough-as-nails and hip as anything from the 80s Space Marine Terminators, or the Giger-esque, fast and numerous Genestealers. After sides are picked, the players battle it out using the missions (and dice and miniatures) provided, over the modular cardboard terrain, that represents the narrow corridors of an ancient and derelict spaceship. The rules are simple, simpler than the first editions'’ (no stopwatch, just actions/time units per turn for example), but really interesting and appropriate. For example: the Terminators player can'’t see the Genestealers models, but only blips on his radar, represented by small counters his opponent places and moves over the board. Each counter can stand for either one, more or even none of the aliens; this of course can only be revealed when the Space Marines establish eye contact with the blip. Pure genius and a prime example of how atmospheric Space Hulk is.

In typical board game review fashion let me also inform you, that each game (match?) lasts for about an hour. In not-so-typical fashion I'’ll let you know a small fact: Space Hulk has been successfully ported to video game format. Take a look here. This video game even had a PC and console FPS sequel. Fancy, that.

Oh, and concerning my grading of Space Hulk, I guess ...

that's a (nine and a half) out of (ten).

Related Gnome's Lair articles: Class Struggle and Zombies!!! Board Game reviews, Museum Monday #3, Freedom to Board Games

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  1. Great review. I had the game Space Hulk: Vengeance of the Blood Angels on the Sega Saturn. The whole Gothic/futuristic setting really appeals to me, the atmosphere of the whole Space Hulk 'thing' is right up my street. However, I'm not really into board games at all, or the Games Workshop (although I've been in to a branch just to marvel at the intricatly detailed models on display). I didnt really get too far into the videogame because it was really difficult and I wasnt really sure what I was meant to do - it involved positioning your 'troops' on a little map display, but the genestealers would always dodge my gun fire and then pop up in my face and kill me! I think I exchanged it after only a few goes.

  2. Thanks a lot mate... And as far as the SH video games are concerned, be sure that the first one was the good one. And it was really really good, avoiding the sloppy fps-tactics mixups...

    Just a question though..did VOTBA look good on the Saturn?

  3. It looked OK - not stunning though. It was a bit pixellated, but when the genestealers popped up in your face, the in game sprites were replaced with a sort of video clip so it looked quite impressive for the time. looked about average for the era and the frame rate was infinatley better than the Saturn version of DOOM.

  4. I've heard of the Playstation version of this game, but I've never tried it. As for the board game, besides being not too interested in board games themselves, I would have no one else to play it with since no one I know is even midly interested in board games. It still looks interesting though.

  5. It really is interesting... And it really feels a bit like Fallout or XCOM but on a board.

  6. I played 40K a bit when I was younger, I had (still have) a decent Eldar army. I stopped cos it was too expensive and videogames were taking over me by then.

    I don't really get Space Hulk; to me Warhammer is all about massive battles- as big as you can get, with tanks, dreadnoughts, big assualt squads flying around the place, Orc hordes, Imperial Guard armour phalanxes, psykers battling etc. Also having like a real battlefield with scenery and stuff to hide behind and bunkers to melta-bomb etc. Seems a bit lame to play it in little corridors.

  7. It really isn't lame, but you are right in that it has nothing to do with warhammer 40k... It's a totally different scale and not a wargame, but a board game. And you can still create scenery if you feel like it..

  8. Space Hulk Rules!

    though I've only played it once as written, I've used the tiles and figures countless times in Sci Fi games.

  9. They are of the highest qulity, really, but so is the game :)

  10. Try SpaceHulk-SP, a fan-made version if you want to play on PC (single player). You can download it from Sourceforge or from the Underdogs here

  11. Thanks a ton! Great find! Seems like a solid and frankly brilliant time sink...

  12. This and the first edition of the Space Hulk game still gets used by myself and my friends.

    Every so often we go and update the models so they are the latest and way better looking versions.

    But it is still a great way to spend an evening with friends. A few beers and a couple of games will fill an evening nicely. And you wont rot your brain watching tv doing it!

    Check out all the fan created expansions online, there are multiple armies, and all sorts of different board tiles to get and use.

  13. You're more than correct. Space Hulk is still a fantastic game and going for newer better minis wouldn't be such a bad idea either. Then again, painting them would definitely need a few hours... tsk.

    Thanks for the tip on them new unofficial expansions. I'll check them out. Oh, and an impressive design job you've been doing...