Cover of the first edition of Space Hulk
Space Hulk is a two-player board game by Games Workshop, first released in 1989. The game is set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe and draws a certain degree of inspiration from the Alien movies. In the game, a "Space Hulk" is a mass of ancient, derelict starships, asteroids, and other assorted space debris, which a group of Space Marine Terminators is sent to investigate. One player takes the role of these Terminators, while the other player controls the Genestealers, an aggressive alien species who have made their home aboard the Hulk.
A third edition of Space Hulk was released by Games Workshop on September 5, 2009.
In Warhammer 40,000, the term "space hulk" is used to refer to any massive derelict space ship. Due to the shifting, immaterial nature of the Warp, an otherworldly realm through which ships may travel between the stars far quicker than through real space, some space hulks are jumbled and twisted agglomerations of multiple vessels lost to the Warp throughout centuries and millennia. Space hulks may house more than just Genestealers; other threats aboard can include human followers of the dark gods of Chaos, nightmarish Warp Daemons, and Orks who use space hulks as their "standard" method of interstellar travel.
The game is set on a board made up of various board sections which represent corridors and rooms and which can be freely arranged and locked together like a jigsaw puzzle to represent the interior of derelict space ships. One player controls the Space Marines, and the other player controls the Genestealers.
The game is notable for its hidden play mechanics, from which it derives much of its playability and tension. The actual number of Genestealers in play is hidden from the Marine player, because the Genestealers come into play as "blips" which can represent: 1-3 creatures (or 0-6 in the Deathwing and Genestealer expansions) in the 1st edition; 0-6 creatures in the 2nd edition; and 1-3 creatures in the 3rd edition. On the other hand, the Marine player has a number of "command points" available each turn which are only revealed to the Genestealer player after they are used up. (In the second edition, the extra points were not hidden from the Genestealer player.)
In the basic versions of the game, playing as the Genestealers can be very straightforward; so simple, in fact, that Space Hulk is playable as a solo game, when playing as the Space Marines against the Genestealers. Playing as the Space Marines on the other hand can be engaging and tactically challenging, partly because the Space Marines player is constrained by a time limit for his or her turn. To overcome this shortfall, players are encouraged to play each game twice, swapping between roles. The fairly fast play time (around half an hour per game), driven by the Space Marines time limitation, makes this a reasonable solution. The expansion packs for the First edition add human-genestealer hybrids, which can carry weapons and equipment, to the Genestealer player's forces, adding more depth to the Genestealer side.
The first edition of Space Hulk was released in May 1989.
The first edition was further expanded with additional scenarios and rules in articles in the magazines White Dwarf and Citadel Journal. The early articles from White Dwarf were collected and published as two separate expansion packs, and most of the later articles from White Dwarf were collected and published as a book:
- Deathwing, a box set, released in 1990 and focused on the Deathwing Company (First Company) of the Dark Angels Space Marines chapter, which is notable among the Imperium as the only First Company to be composed solely of Terminators. Among other things the expansion pack also featured rules for the Space Marine player to play the game solo, and rules for additional Space Marine weapons, Space Marine Librarians, new features, and included additional board sections.
- Genestealer, a box set, was released in 1990 and introduced the Genestealer Cult which includes Genestealer Hybrids, the Magus, and the Patriarch. This greatly expanded the tactical possibilities for the Genestealer player. Among other things the expansion pack also featured rules for an elaborate system of psychic combat, and included additional board sections.
- Space Hulk Campaigns, a hardback book, was released in 1991 and later reprinted as a paperback (1993). It contained much of the material published in White Dwarf, including rules for Traitor Terminators, and rules for Space Marines in Power Armour, and included additional board sections.
The second edition of Space Hulk was released in April 1996. This edition featured revamped board artwork and models. It featured two identical plastic five-man Terminator squads with standard weaponry and assorted genestealers.
The 2nd edition significantly simplified the rules compared to those of the 1st edition, and it offered less opportunity for expansion, due to the specific dice used by the rules. A critical change was made to the Command Point system, no longer allowing them to be used in the enemy turn, altering the strategic complexity of the game. The rules for the flamer were also changed, and the difference between the standard weapons and the area effect flamer was reduced.
Although the 2nd edition had no expansion packs, additional scenarios and board sections were released in the magazine White Dwarf, such as "Fangs of Fenris" which involves Wolf Guard Terminators of the Space Wolves Space Marines Chapter, and "Defilement of Honour" which involves rules for air ducts: a new kind of board section which allows Genestealers to move off the main board and back onto it from one place to another place.
As Games Workshop no longer supported the 1st or 2nd editions of Space Hulk, the company published suggestions as to how the game could be reenacted using the Kill-Team rules found in the 4th edition of the Warhammer 40,000 rulebook.
On August 17, 2009 an official re-release of the Space Hulk board game was confirmed and listed for pre-order on the Games Workshop web site, to be released on 5 September 2009. The mail order stocks sold out three days before release, and most Games Workshop retail outlets were sold out within a week of release. Games Workshop announced no plans to reprint the game as it was intended to be a limited release.
The models for the 3rd edition were new sculpts and designed specifically for Space Hulk, instead of being shared with the sets for the tabletop game Warhammer 40,000. Advancements in sculpting and moulding have allowed Games Workshop's Alex Hedström to add a greater level of detail to the figures. Each of the twelve models representing Terminators has a distinct appearance, such as Brother Omnio being shown consulting a scanner mounted in his Power Fist. The Genestealers are shown in varied poses, with one bursting up from the floor and another climbing down from the wall. The card counters and the board sections of the game have been made using new debossing techniques which can apply shallow depressions into the cardboard. These board sections are additionally much thicker and heavier than the previous stock. The Games Workshop studio and box art represents the Blood Angels Space Marine Chapter.
The rules were modernised to some extent, but were largely similar to those of the 1st edition. One critical rule change was that a Marine jamming his weapon on overwatch does not lose the overwatch status. Also, a new rule, allowing a Marine to go on guard (essentially a Close Combat version of overwatch), was added.
In 2010, Fantasy Flight Games released an official card game derivative of the board game called Space Hulk: Death Angel — The Card Game. The game is for 1 to 6 players and uses a special die. Four expansion packs has since followed the initial release of the main game:
- Death Angel: Mission Pack 1 Expansion
- Death Angel: Space Marine Pack 1 Expansion
- Death Angel: Tyranid Enemy Pack
- Death Angel: Deathwing Space Marine Pack
Several video games were released based on the franchise:
- Space Hulk is a video game for PC and for Amiga. It was released in 1993 by Electronic Arts.
- Space Hulk: Vengeance of the Blood Angels is a video game for PC, and for the PlayStation, Sega Saturn and 3DO consoles. It was released in 1995 and in 1996 also by Electronic Arts.
- In 2005, a mobile phone version of the Space Hulk boardgame was released. This game replicated the board game's play mechanics and allowed play as either Space Marines or Genestealers.
- On the 10th of December 2012 Games Workshop announced an upcoming release of Space Hulk in Fall 2013 by Copenhagen based game developer Full Control ApS. Space Hulk was released on August 15, 2013 and received mixed reviews, holding a rating of 59 (out of 100, based on 4 reviews) on review aggregator Metacritic.
In 2008, a small group of hobbyists released a PC conversion of the board game, along with assorted scenarios, for free over the Internet. However, within a month the game was removed from the developers' site. They noted that the web download traffic was creating problems, and that Games Workshop were threatening legal action due to THQ's current ownership of the Warhammer 40,000 video game license. According to the development team, their attempts to negotiate for the release of the game with THQ were refused, resulting in the game being rebranded under the name "Alien Assault". A fan-made game called NetHulk is currently available as freeware. It allows two players to compete head-to-head over an internet or LAN connection, or in a hotseat mode. The game's rules do not strictly adhere to the board game, but are a hybrid of the first and second editions. QSpacehulk is another fan-made freeware available which strictly follows the rules of the second edition.
Reception and impact
Space Hulk won the Origins Award for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Boardgame of 1989. Its first expansion, Deathwing, won Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Boardgame of 1990.
Space Hulk was one of the first introductions of Genestealers, and although subsequent games have included them as part of the overall Tyranid army, a force composed purely of Genestealers can still be fielded as a sub-type of the Tyranid army, in what is known as a Genestealer cult.
Space Marines Terminators were originally only used in Space Hulk-type scenarios and not the open battlefield, but in response to high demand, rules were added for their deployment in conventional Warhammer 40,000 battles.
- UK White Dwarf WD113 05/1989
- UK White Dwarf WD196 04/1996
- UK White Dwarf WD197 05/1996
- "Space Hulk Kill-team rules". Games Workshop. Retrieved 2008-04-29.
- UK White Dwarf WD257 09/2009
- "Space Hulk Update". Games Workshop. Retrieved 2009-09-03.
- "Space Hulk". Games Workshop. Retrieved 2009-08-17.
- "Failure is Not an Option". Fantasy Flight Games. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
- "Space Hulk". GameSpot. Retrieved 2007-03-08.
- "Space Hulk computer game announcement".
- "Space Hulk (PC)". Retrieved 2013-08-21.
- "Space Hulk". Teardown. Retrieved 2008-03-10.
- "Rebranding of TDSH". Teardown. Retrieved 2009-08-08.
- Space Hulk Rules. Games Workshop. 1989. ISBN 1-869893-69-7. - included in the game box
- Deathwing Rules & Missions. Games Workshop. 1990. - included in the expansion box
- Genestealer Rules and Missions. Games Workshop. 1990. - included in the expansion box
- Space Hulk Campaigns (softback ed.). Games Workshop. 1993. ISBN 1-872372-65-1.