Space Hulk

Prepare to be shocked, Space Hulk is not a boardgame as we know it, is not historical and worst of all is made by Games Workshop. Failing that, it remains my most played GW game and is at least played on a square gridded board albeit with plastic figures. Anyone who has seen Aliens will recognise the villains of the game, stealers who stalk corridors and attack with vicious claws just like in the film. Our heroes are typical GW types, marines in terminator armour, protection of such bulk that they will have to go round to the goods entrance if they drop in for tea.

Scenarios are pretty basic, involving overkills of destruction especially of the stealers whose models are recycled from the dead pile to provide an endless supply of targets, not so the marines who are also likely to be refused life insurance. The broad plot of space ships appearing chock full of stealers which have to be boarded by marines to clean up doesn't cut. Regardless of what wealth you may find stuffed behind the dunny, it is not worth the death of numerous marines, why not blow up the whole shebang? Later GW rational sussed this and transferred stealers to attacking isolated stations and whole planets leaving the marines to save untold millions. In practice we set up the cardboard map sections according to the scenarios, marines and stealers usually entering at different edges. The marines may have to survive for a specified period of time, march across the map and out the other side, kill a set number of stealers or secure some object or area.

The sting in this is that marines have 4 action points, stealers 6. Moving 1 square costs 1 point, turning 90 degrees is 1 point for marines and free for stealers. Marines can fire or fire and move forwards for 1 point, roll 2D6, a 6 on either slices a stealer. Stealers cannot fire but are mean mothers in hand to hand (which costs another point), rolling 3 D6 to a marines 1, lowest dies. Figures can keep moving firing and attacking until they run out of points. The marine rolls 1 extra die yielding 1 to 6 action points to spend on any marine during his or the next stealer turn. Marines may also be put on overwatch (2 points) allowing them to fire each time a stealer makes an action in his line of sight but any doubles cause a jam (1 point to fix). Jams tend to bring stealers out of the woodwork.

The board is arranged as a series of corridors and rooms, providing a lot of dead space which neither player can see into. No hassle for the stealer who is all seeing but the marine player only sees stealer units as blips which turn into 1 to 3 stealers when spotted. Stealers can also hide behind the doors that cover the map but because the first action of a marine on seeing a door is to blow it up, it is usually marines that use doors to slow down stealers.

That's it you roll a lot of dice and have some fun, the marine moves are timed just to keep him on his toes. Figures cannot pass each other in the corridors, only in the rooms so set up is important. Most corridors are 1 square deep so marines move in single file with only the 1st and last marine being able to shoot. If the last marine turns around to do so he will slow up the line. Stealers gang up on single marines and hide around corners daring the marines to come past. Marines try to shoot stealers before they come within claw range, detaching marines to cover side corridors and parallel passageways (a favourite for stealer advances).

Alas this being a GW the questions of expansions crops up. The gamer is also encouraged to buy the metal figures. Although I made do with the plastic ones provided, spending some time and money painting them up adds a lot to the game. The basic marines and stealers are on the same sprue so are the same dark blue colour hindering differentiation. Entering a GW shop you will find not only Space Hulk but 2 more boxed expansions plus a hardback book all stacked in close proximity. Space Hulk itself is cheaper than most American games but add the lot together and we're talking some 65, exactly how much of this is needed for a good game? The basic game has only a limited selection of map sections, restricting how big an area that can be laid out and the permutations of same. Deathwing is recommended for extended playing, extra sections and rules for new marine weapons are included but note that the minatures are the same as those in Space Hulk. Some cutting and glueing is needed to convert the basic marines to the new commander, chain gun and assault types. Unfortunately the design-your-own system of Deathwing does not work. The other boxed expansion, Genestealer, contains new figures of marines and stealers with guns (who can fire back). The bulkof this box is a psychic attack system based on cards that bend the rules but can be countered by other cards. The system increases playing time, the psychic marines are very powerful but the new stealers can pull of some surprises such as teleporting behind marines. Save Genestealer for later. Simillarly Space Hulk campaigns adds new set ups but you will need the Genestealer boards and figures to play some of them.

Aliens

I noticed a retailer metaphorically wet himself at Northern MiIitaire after buying a copy of Aliens. Word is that Leading Edge have lost their licence and the game is now rather rare. Intruder is another Alien rip off, a Task Force pouch job. It is solitaire and allowed the Alien's abilities to vary between games. It is not worth looking out for, Voyage of the Pandora is of the same mould. I have played Space Crusade, owning 2 copies which I bought for the plastic pieces, far cheaper than the usual Games Workshop fare. I was not so impressed with combat. Why do commanders take 6 hits to kill, when other marines die on 1? Naturally the commanders charge in take a few shots then polish off the nasties, other marines stick to support roles. Space Crusade has been reduced to 10 by Virgin and Games Workshop so it must be on its way out.

"I read with interest that you play Space Hulk. I too own this game and do enjoy playing it although must admit not often. I prefer Leading Edge Games "Aliens" mainly because it is a direct film tie in, you get to play Hicks, Ripley etc! Its also a solitaire game and we've always had arguments about who is going to play the stealers in Space Hulk. Have you ever played Space Crusade? Long ago I borrowed a copy of the game from 1 of my work mates. It really is just a de-luxe version of Space Hulk with a slightly different combat system, nice Space Marines and a greater variety of aliens.