20 Years ago, Space Hulk made its first debut. For the first time, players got to recreate the claustrophobic ship battles between Space Marines and GeneStealers. It didn't take long for this Warhammer 40K spin-Off to gain a following. Games Workshop released a second edition with highly revised rules, but except for a few bonus scenarios, players primarily drove support for this game. Earlier this year, rumors began circulating about a new Space Hulk edition, and in August, GW confirmed the imminent release. Only several weeks after the release, it can be already be difficult to find a copy, but if one can be found, don't pass it up. Games Workshop has produced another game which is easily a game of year competitor.
Space Hulk is designed to be a two player game, but since its highly customizable, all sorts of crazy scenarios can be produced. Normally, one player commands a squad or two of Space Marines wearing Terminator Battle Armor and the other player commands the limitless swarm of Genestealers. Aside from producing an enjoyable game, Space Hulk also captures the feel of the Sci-Fi Horror Genre. The Space Marines tread carefully through the hallways while Genestealers attack from all sides looking for cracks in the Space Marine Flanks.
Unlike just about everything GW touches, Space Hulk has really simple rules. The main rulebook clocks in at only 23 pages and most pages have large full color diagrams. Even though rules are simple, strategy and tactics are not. Unlike large battles of 40K, Space Hulk does not slow down because of rules issues. Each race also has a very distinct and challenging play style.
The Space Marines move slow and purposeful. Its all about setting up fields and fire and protecting the flanks. While the Terminator guns destroy the Genestealers at range, very few of the Marines can stand toe to toe with a Genestealer. Due to their limited number, playing as the Space Marines can be very unforgiving and the loss of even two marines can be devastating.
While the standard Storm bolter carried by most Terminators is powerful enough, the special weapons really add strategic options to the game. The Assault Cannon is a massive chain gun that just mows down any GeneStealer attempting a charge. The Heavy Flamer not only torches a room but acts a temporary barrier against enemies. A Librarian with several psychic powers can really help the Space Marine player get out of a jam by blocking paths and clearing rooms.
As a general rule, don't get too attached to your Tyranids. They will die in droves aboard Space Hulks. Even in a small battle, expect to lose around 50 Genestealers. That being said, don't being afraid to send wave after wave of Genestealers into Space Marine lines. A lot of the Tyranid strategy revolves around using Genestealers as meat shields to drain ammunition and jam weapons.
Component quality is truly excellent. I know that I have said this about other games, but I think that Space Hulk has some of the best figures ever made. I'm not just talking in terms of figure quality, but also about the poses of the figures as well. Genestealers are ripping out of the floor and crawling down bulk heads. Space Marines have weapons drawn and ready and even one is carrying the dismembered head and spine of a Genestealer. Being a GW game, assembly and painting is required for the figures, but assembly of Space hulk is not any more difficult than a typical GW starter set. The tokens and board look great and are really clear in their purpose.
Space Hulk is simply an amazing game to play. While it lacks any campaign component, the modular board allows players to create an unlimited number of board configurations for all sorts of different missions. It would be nice to see future expansions to add things like Dreadnoughts, Carnifexes, and Orks, but the simple combat system allows for easy custom additions. If you either like 40K or Sci-Fi Horror Movies, do not pass this game up.