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Tabletop Game / Space Hulk

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Space Hulk is a Board Game by Games Workshop, currently in its third edition.

In the Warhammer 40,000 universe, space is very much an ocean, complete with ghost ships drifting silently through the void. These ships, known as Space Hulks, are both prized and feared by the Imperium of Mankind: prized, because their ancient holds often contain artifacts of lost technology and relics of the long-forgotten past; and feared, for their dark and twisting corridors often hide unseen threats and lurking horrors. Among the greatest of these horrors are the Genestealers, the vanguard organisms for the Tyranid Hive Fleets. While each Genestealer is an alien killing machine with claws that can shred the toughest of personal armor like it was tissue paper, their true threat lies in their reproductive cycle, which transforms the victim into a willing pawn of the Genestealer as well as turning all their future children into Genestealer hybrids; suffice to say that even a single Genestealer, if left unchecked, can spell the doom of an entire world. Thus it falls to the Space Marines, humanity's greatest warriors, to board any Space Hulk that drifts into an inhabited system and cleanse it with shell, fire, and blade — or die trying.


The game draws heavy influence from the movie Aliens, with a small team of heavily-armed specialists attempting to accomplish their objectives while under attack from endless waves of killer alien bugs. Three editions of the game have been released; the most recent (a limited edition released in 2009 and re-released in 2014) focuses on the Blood Angels chapter of Space Marines and their efforts to cleanse the Space Hulk Sin of Damnation.

For The Chief Characters who appear in the Deathwing Expansion, refer to the Deathwing Section of The Dark Angels Character Sheet.

In 2010, Fantasy Flight Games released a card game remake of it called Death Angel.

Has five official video game adaptations released to date, one simply named Space Hulk that focuses on the Dark Angels, and Space Hulk: Vengeance of the Blood Angels which focuses on the eponymous Space Marine chapter; they differ from the board game by being in Real-Time with Pause. The third one, also entitled Space Hulk, was released on PC/MAC/iOS in 2013. Official Website Here. An expanded remake of the 2013 game entitled "Space Hulk: Ascension " was released in late 2014. Yet another adaptation, Space Hulk Tactics, was released in 2018, supplanting the two previous games and forcing them to be removed from sale.


A 2016 adaptation called Space Hulk: Deathwing, an FPS, was developed by Streum On Studio.

There is also a free game Alien Assault, which was previously a fan-made Space Hulk adaptation which was more faithful to the tabletop game, but the copyright conflict with Games Workshop forced the creator to change the setting. But the game is mod-friendly, and the fans very quickly converted it back into the Space Hulk game.

Has nothing to do with The Hulk In space! For that, see Planet Hulk. Or to his Multi-Armed and Dangerous alternate universe counterpart from the Space: Punisher series whose Fan Nickname is Space Hulk.

The tabletop game contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Actually Four Mooks: Genestealers start out as "blip" counters that are actually between one and three individual genestealers.
  • Armor Is Useless: Played with: The Space Marines' huge, bulky, and ridiculously resilient Terminator Armor does absolutely diddly squat for them against Genestealer rending talons, but is absolutely essential in the dangerous environment of the Hulk itself where radiation leaks can fry even Space Marines in seconds.
  • The Atoner: Part of the Blood Angels' reason for trying to cleanse the Sin of Damnation is to regain the honor they lost when they spectacularly failed to cleanse another Space Hulk six hundred years ago.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: A frequent occurrence in the long, narrow corridors, where the Terminators can cover each other's back with overwatch fire, either to hold the line and deny the area to the genestealers or to slowly advance without being flanked.
  • The Captain: Sergeant Lorenzo and Sergeant Gideon. The Blood Angels' actual Captain, Raphael, serves as Mission Control.
  • Capture the Flag: A few missions have the Space Marines trying to recover some sort of device or artifact. Played with somewhat in that the Genestealers can't pick up the "flag," and so must resort to killing all the Space Marines.
  • Chainsaw Good: Brother Valencio has a chainsaw fist. It's very useful for carving through bulkheads.
  • Continuity Nod: The most recent Blood Angels codex has revealed that the original name of Mephiston, the chapter's Chief Librarian and all-around vampiric badass, was Calistarius. Hmm.... Notably, Calistarius canonically survives the assault on the Sin of Damnation, so they could definitely be the same person.
  • Critical Failure: A Space Marine's storm bolter has the potential to jam when fired on Overwatch. Brother Leon's assault cannon doesn't, as it's designed for sustained rapid fire; however, if he fires it for too long (IE, after having to reload it once already), there's a chance it will fail catastrophically and explode.
  • Do Not Run with a Gun: Averted for Terminators armed with storm bolters, who may fire and move as a single action. Their armor is designed to absorb recoil from small arms and stabilize weapons during motion, allowing them to maintain accuracy while displacing.
  • Drop the Hammer: Sergeant Gideon carries a massive thunder hammer. Combined with his storm shield, this makes him one of the handful of Space Marine characters able to match a Genestealer in close combat.
  • Dungeon Crawling: The game is essentially a science fiction equivalent of typical fantasy RPG adventures, seeing a small group of heroes venture into claustrophobic and partially ruined tunnels of a previous era to discover rare items, destroy dangerous monsters and other such missions.
  • Escort Mission: There are several missions where only one Space Marine (usually Brother Zael, who carries the heavy flamer) is capable of completing the mission objectives, so the other Marines have to ensure that he survives and makes it to the target. Thankfully, Escort Missions are a lot less difficult when the VIP is a) completely under your control, b) a Space Marine and sometimes c) equipped with a heavy flamer.
  • Fire-Breathing Weapon: Brother Zael is armed with a heavy flamer that allows him to fill entire rooms and corridors with fire. The weapon can prove critical for completing certain mission objectives.
  • Gatling Good: Brother Leon's assault cannon, capable of absolutely shredding incoming Genestealers.
  • Hold the Line: A few missions involve the Space Marines either surviving or keeping Genestealers out of a specific room for a certain amount of time: either until a specific number of turns have passed, or until the Space Marines have depleted the Genestealers' reserves.
  • Honor Before Reason: This is a Space Marine saga, after all.
    • The campaign backstory is a shining example; Honor is literally the only reason the Blood Angels set foot on the Sin of Damnation the second time. The entire Blood Angels chapter had been deployed to cleanse a space hulk, and their crushing defeat pushed them to the brink of extinction. Later fluff makes it clear that Astartes protocol demands that they avoid full-strength deployments, for that very reason, unless a chapter's existence happens to be at stake.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Frequently in older editions it could boil down to getting lucky with what was hiding under the Blip counters, especially in the frequently hideously difficult missions where the Marines had to shut bulkhead doors right in front of the board's spawn points.
  • More Dakka: A Marine on Overwatch can fire any time a Genestealer moves or performs an action in his line of sight, which can add up to dozens of times a turn if he's guarding a critical choke point. The drawback to this is that such rapid fire can cause his weapon to jam.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Everyone, for simplicity's sake, though some characters have ways of making that one hit point harder to remove.
  • Powered Armor: The Space Marines' Tactical Dreadnought Armor (for all the good it does them).
  • Power Fist: The majority of the Space Marines are armed with these. Unfortunately for them, a huge, cumbersome armored gauntlet capable of punching a hole in a tank really isn't the best weapon for swatting a fragile, fast-moving space bug that can rip your helmeted head clean-off your shoulders faster than you can blink.
  • Psychic Powers: Lexicanium Calistarius, the Blood Angels' Librarian.
  • Psychic Radar: The original edition of Space Hulk had expansion packs which introduced Librarians; Space Marines with Psychic Powers. One of these powers was the handy 'Scan,' which allowed the Terminator player to reveal a blip of his choice, representing the Librarian using his telepathy to detect the presence of Genestealers.
  • Random Number God: It doesn't matter how good your tactics are, or how inept your opponent is, as with all tabletop games everything is ultimate in the hands of the dice. One untimely Storm Bolter jam, or one roll of 1 to hit with your flamer, can completely sink your entire plan in a single shot.
  • Rocket-Tag Gameplay: What combat ultimately comes down to; Terminators can mow down the melee-only Genestealers in waves at range as long as their luck with the dice holds, but both Genestealers and Terminators are a One-Hit-Point Wonder, and as soon as a Genestealer reaches melee with any Terminator who isn't equipped with a melee weapon (and preferably On Guard too) then 9 times out of 10 that Terminator is as dead as Horus, since Genestealers roll 3 dice vs a Terminator's 1 in the melee roll-off.
  • Sensor Suspense: This is a game mechanic, being heavily inspired by the Alien series. Genestealers initially appear to the Space Marine player only as scanner "blips", each of which can conceal a variable number of the aliens (or possibly none at all). The number is only revealed when within sight of a Marine or when the Genestealer player decides to do so, whichever occurs first.
  • Timed Mission:
    • First Edition Space Hulk gave the Space Marine player a time limit of two minutes per turn, in an attempt to simulate the stressful and frantic nature of trying to clear out a bug-infested ghost ship; having a surviving Sergeant on the board upped this to three minutes, in addition to his other abilities. Second Edition dropped the mechanic, while Third Edition sort of plays it both ways: the timer is back, but it doesn't directly affect and is not affected by any other game mechanic, so it can easily be dropped if the players agree.
    • Incidentally, because of the timer, "Overwatch" and "On Guard", it's generally accepted that a Space Marine player is going to make most (if not all) of their die rolls in the Genestealer player's turn.
  • We Have Reserves:
    • The Blood Angels force on the Sin of Damnation numbers approximately 80 marines. Conservative estimates place the Genestealer population of the Hulk at around forty thousand.
    • Mechanically speaking, this is often necessary for the Genestealer player to win. A single Space Marine in a tight corridor can easily Hold the Line... right up until his bolter jams from being used to cut down too many targets thrown at him in a single turn and the Genestealers overwhelm him before he can clear it. All the other Genestealers throwing themselves at him just serve to over strain his firearm.
  • Zerg Rush: The Genestealers' primary tactic.

The videogames contain examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Bomb: Acid Maw Genestealers in Ascension explode when killed, with a good chance of killing everything adjacent to them.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Some of the maps in Vengeance of the Blood Angels feature ceiling-mounted ventilation shafts which are unaccessible to the Terminators but by which the Genestealers can freely move around, possibly bypassing the corridors covered by your team mates and attacking you from a direction where you don't expect them. The good news is that those shafts do show up on your scanner and you can see the Genestealers moving inside them, so if you observe your displays, you may get a forewarning before sudden attack.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • In Alien Assault the moves you really don't want to activate by misclicking (Thunder Hammer/Heavy Flamer self-destruct, Autocannon half-of-ammo consuming full-auto) are activated by holding their icon for a few seconds.
    • Back when it still carried the Space Hulk name, it was an "Are you sure? Yes/No" dialogue box.
    • The 2013 game has a generous 'undo' button, where the campaign player may undo any action (even death) as long as they haven't yet ended their turn or swapped from the marine who moved. This heavily eases the random luck of dice rolls right into 'undo scumming' territory, allowing you to maximize the effectiveness of each Action Point during your turn.
    • If you're playing Normal difficulty in Ascension dead Terminators are replaced with Terminators of the same level. Their attribute points are NOT randomized and you get to re-spend them however you like.
  • Artificial Brilliance: You can clearly see what happens with the computing power that has been spared on graphics in Space Hulk and Vengeance of the Blood Angels. Genestealers are very intelligent, able to perform coordinated attacks, hide behind corners, always try to avoid attacking Terminators head-on and instead try to get close to them from behind, exploit weak spots in your tactics by choosing to go through corridors that you failed to cover with your men first and if you do have all them covered, they will gather into larger groups and try to power through — using any niches and separate corridors on their way in order to find a cover against your fire.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Your squadmates in both the first video game and Vengeance of the Blood Angels are generally competent when computer-controlled (i.e. not controlled by you manually), but not very reliable at times. In 1993 Space Hulk, they tend to forget that they've got guns and fail to open fire at incoming Genestealer until it is too late. In VotBA they are better in that regard and will even turn around when an enemy tries to attack them from their flank or from behind, but they have a nasty and persistent habit of shooting from their storm bolters in rapid-fire bursts, which is the easiest and quickest way to jam them — and they do, a lot (don't even think of playing a Drinking Game and taking a swig each and every time one of your Terminators screams "my bolter is jammed!"; you will die).
  • Degraded Boss: The Broodlord was a single boss monster in the board game; he acts the same in the 2013 game, but quirks in the genestealer spawning system let you summon a second one if he's placed on the map during setup. The Space Wolf expansion ups the ante by putting THREE Broodlords in maps 2 and 3, and the same quirky system means the computer will spawn a fourth right away. Ascension degrades them to simple Elite Mooks.
  • Evil Laugh: In Vengeance of the Blood Angels, when you are in close proximity of Magus or Patriarch (who have psychic abilities and are the only enemies with actual voice lines) the telepathic messages they send you consist mostly of this, intertwined with taunts and threats of your impending death.
  • Guide Dang It!: You get very little explanation about how Equipment works in Ascension. For example, Servo Skulls "scan for enemy lifeforms"... and it's up to you to use it and find out for yourself what it actually does and indeed how to use it in the first place.For the record 
  • Monster Closet: The first video game adaptation sometimes features Genestealers popping out of the walls - usually either right behind one of your Marines or 1-2 spaces in front of him, with little to no time to fire. No sooner do you hear "Ambush!" then you hear the death scream of the unfortunate Marine. The player is warned of levels with these sneak attacks during the mission briefing.
  • P.O.V. Cam: The first Space Hulk has five screens in the first person mode: a large, primary one for the Marine currently under your direct control, and four smaller ones for the rest of your team. You have to switch between the two sets when there are two teams present. The 2013 game plays from overhead view like the tabletop, but puts a grainy point of view frame in one corner of the screen, capturing the image from the pict-recorder mounted over each Terminator's over-built collar.
  • Random Number God: The 2013 game is a very strict adaptation of the tabletop rules, right down to rolling digital "dice" to determine results of actions and command points. Like the tabletop, this can make the game brutally Nintendo Hard, often to Luck-Based Mission degrees. However the aforementioned Undo option can drastically mitigate this.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Alien Assault reused some tracks from Battlefield 1942.
  • Real-Time with Pause: The first Space Hulk game and Vengeance of the Blood Angels both played out in real time and had the "freeze" option which had limited duration (that regenerated when not used), but effectively paused the game and allowed you to think over you situation and issue orders to your squad on tactical map.
  • Snowy Screen of Death: The 1993 Space Hulk video game, in truly Aliens-esque fashion, allowed you to see what is going on with other team members (those you are not manually controlling at the moment) via four smaller screens showing images from their built-in cameras. If one of your Terminators got killed, his image was replaced by static.
  • Video Game Flamethrowers Suck: Completely averted by the Heavy Flamer in the 2013 game: the only "standard" weapon capable of striking multiple foes with a single shot, it can spread down side halls/around corners/throughout rooms, and has the highest hit-chance of any Space Marine ability by virtue of flooding the entire area. It also continues to burn throughout the following turn for the Genestealers, allowing for a tactical withdrawal (or, preferably, the arrival of reinforcements). The only downsides are relatively short range (a "mere" five to six squares, and then spreading an additional five squares past that), it can't be used to Overwatch, and the fact that you can only fire six shots in a mission. Then again, few missions where you have the Heavy Flamer are designed to last more than six rounds, and filling a tunnel with fire is usually better than overwatch.
  • Who Forgot The Lights?: Ascension makes the map almost pitch-black with no "tactical grid" like the 2013 release had. You're only allowed to see the squares that are on fire (or about to be on fire), covered by an Overwatch field-of-vision cone, or that you are actively trying to walk to. And maybe a couple squares of dark grey in the next room, if you're lucky. Walking into a room turns on a light or two, but it doesn't help much. Doors can be highlighted by holding your mouse over them, but only if you can actually find them.