Space Hulk reviewed: It’s like somebody made the Space Hulk board game into a video game

Space Hulk

By on August 22, 2013 at 11:54 am

If you’re one of those who thought 2011’s Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine was just an amusingly honest title for a game featuring a generic bald space fighting guy, you’ve probably never heard of Space Hulk. So when I start talking about Terminators fighting Genestealers, you’re probably picturing Arnold Schwarzenegger and Robert Patrick fighting off aliens who want to steal their pants. And while I’d be all over a game about Arnies battling alien hordes after their denims, Space Hulk is not that game.

Terminators are hulking, heavily-armoured one-man battle-suits, and Genestealers are slavering alien beasts who want to rip open that armour and feast on the fleshy space marine inside. Space Hulk is all about the claustrophobia of being in a bulky armoured suit in the cramped corridors of a derelict spaceship, with only an unreliable storm bolter or a heavy flamer with only half a tank left, between you and whatever’s out there in the darkness.

What Space Hulk is, to be more precise, is one of Games Workshop’s best-loved board games, one that’s had several incarnations and variations over the years, from the first edition in 1989, to 1990’s Space Crusade, which readers of a certain age will share my fond nostalgia for, to the scandalously limited run of the lavishly-produced third edition in 2009. It’s also been the subject of several video game adaptations, of which Full Control’s is the latest, and arguably the most faithful to its board game roots.

This is exactly where Space Hulk excels, translating the board game directly to the PC, using the latest third edition rules. Every die roll is made just as it would be on the tabletop, but you also get to see your Terminators stomping down the halls and duking it out, as no static model ever could. You’ll agonise over how to spend action points, put your Terminators on overwatch to wait for their impending doom, and watch the scanner blips representing who knows how many Genestealers move inexorably toward you. Almost all of the scenarios and missions from the board game are replicated here, each of them adding a new twist to the basic gameplay concepts. It’s a near-perfect recreation of the board game’s rules and systems.

Unfortunately, this is also exactly the problem. The thing is, Space Hulk is what board gamers would call a beer’n’pretzels game, a silly knockabout thing to play with your mates. This means there’s a whole lot of randomness. I mean a *lot*. Your Terminators will die, a lot, just from a bad roll. On the tabletop, where it’s you and a friend leaning over every die roll, and you’re hoping that last guy makes his shot, that’s fun! But when it’s just you and a random number generator, it loses its appeal entirely. It seems unfair, and mean, and arbitrary when you feel like you did everything right. And most of the die rolls are automated anyway.

This is Space Hulk, the board game, warts and all. And honestly, when you take away the social element, the game system alone really isn’t very satisfying or fun to play.

Good

  • It’s Space Hulk! It’s a perfect recreation of the board game!
  • It looks pretty great!

Bad

  • It’s Space Hulk. It’s a perfect recreation of the board game. But it can’t recreate the board game experience.

Space Hulk is available for $29.99 on Steam.

This review copy supplied by the publisher.

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7 comments (Leave your own)

I gotta say, i’ve been looking forward to this and it hasn’t disappointed. however, with no Veteran status or leveling or war gear upgrades and certainly no limit as to how many Space marines you can lose, after a while it kinda feels a little pointless.
I’m in love with the shoulder cam. I think there is a real call for this to be turned into a multi-player FPS that moves and feels like Mech warrior online so as to recreate the clunkiness of the space marines.

any ways… absolutely worth the price

 
Nasty Wet Smear

What was the name of the board game where the Space Marines boarded a Space Hulk and battled Orcs and Chaos and a Dreadnaught? Was it… Space Hulk? I don’t remember.

I remember it had awesome little plastic figures with interchangeable weapons.

 

nastywetsmear,

yeah you are thinking of Space Crusade

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Crusade

 

Space Crusade, a classic :D

 

This looks pretty worthwhile for the tablet, should tie me over until the XCOM expansion.

Any opinions on what someone unfamiliar with the board game will think of it? My only experience with Space Hulk is the old 90s PC game.

 

timmytim:
Space Crusade, a classic :D

< Has space crusade in original box [despite being often played over the years] on the shelf.

 

ooshp,

I honestly think it’s unsatisfyingly random and arbitrary as a video game. The randomness works on the tabletop, in a social environment, but it really doesn’t work well in a video game paradigm. You do need to learn the game, and plan your moves carefully, but at the end of the day, even if you do everything perfectly, the random element dominates, and you’ll still die a lot. And because the game has a linear progression through it’s campaign, you’ll end up replaying missions over and over until you luck into success. I only dimly remember the 90s PC game, but this certainly doesn’t have any of that game’s real-time elements. So if you’ve never played the board game, I honestly couldn’t recommend it.

 
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