Ever watched the movie Aliens and thought “Hey that looks like fun!”? Well, have I got the tabletop game for you!
In Space Hulk, you control either the gnarly xeno critters or the power-armored Space Marines. The Space Marines have various missions they need to achieve, from mere survival through to recovering and retrieving a robot.
In Warhammer 40,000, a “space hulk” is any massive derelict space ship. Space hulks are often agglomerations of multiple ships, fused together by the magical influence of the Warp, a kind of hyperspace.
Just like in Aliens, the claustrophobic feeling of being trapped on a spaceship along with dangerous predators is very real, especially when you take the time to paint up the miniatures.
Rather than the Xenomorph from the Alien franchise, your enemy are the Tyranid Genestealers.
The Tyranids are described as a nomadic society of aliens which originated from beyond the Milky Way Galaxy and arrived on its periphery with the intent of consuming all life and biomass within. All individual Tyranid creatures are mildly telepathic and form a highly intelligent Hive Mind. There are numerous Tyranid forms, each one bio-engineered by the Hive Mind to serve a specific purpose. Tyranid technology is biological in nature, made up of living components termed biomorphs which fulfill similar roles to the technologies used by other races in Warhammer 40,000.
The aliens are represented both by detailed and characterful plastic minis, and also green “Blip” tokens, to represent the scanner blips detecting the creatures sneaking around behind closed doors.
Yes, there are doors that open and close, or can be blown apart if the mood takes you!
Scenery is depicted by modular thick cardboard tiles that interlock like jigsaw pieces, with the doors standing up. All the tiles are highly detailed and colourful.
While the Tyranids have speed and agility on their side, the Space Marine Terminators have various weapons at their disposal.
One, for example, is equipped with a flamethrower which can engulf and entire room in fire. Another has a massive gun with 20 shots per reload, but it does have a downside that rather than have the unfortunate risk of jamming like other Space Marines weapons, this guy explodes!
Terminator pieces, therefore, are at their best with ranged combat. In fact, they are squishy in melee. The Genestealers on the other hand only have close combat, they can’t perform ranged attacks at all and use their sheer numbers and speed to overwhelm the Marines.
Other than the excellent atmosphere, another thing that makes this game an excellent gateway game to get your friends into more tabletop fun is the short game time and simple game mechanics. It is so quick and easy to learn, and yet the scenarios and variations in models feel quite different enough that an extended session it won’t get boring.
Gameplay: Gunning down a tsunami of alien flesh-eaters never gets old!
It is a testament to the game design that this set of rules has been praised by fans since it was first released way back in 1989, to the point where modern players often buy the game on ebay or recreate it using modern proxies.
Players select each of their minis in turn to activate and the control the chosen character through a system of action points. Terminators get 4 action points, while a Genestealer piece being faster has 6 action points.
The Terminator player also has a variable number of command points randomly and secretly selected by picking up a token on the start of each turn. Command points may be used to replace or supplement action points, to unjam a gun, move the Terminator pieces, or set the character on overwatch.
While the mechanics of playing each side of the game is quite different, players are encouraged to play each mission twice, swapping between playing with Terminators and playing with Genestealers.
If you are going to look for a set for your own game group, or yourself, look for a box from 2009 onwards (the third or fourth edition) in my opinion for the best miniatures, board pieces and rules. Mine is the 2014 edition and I feel like it has the best quality printed parts and pieces, though my set didn’t come with any miniatures.