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Space Hulk: Tactics

Posted by GG Goblin On October - 23 - 2018

Take down the alien menace, or just eat the Space Marines.

The gaming world is packed full of Games Workshop based games, and sadly the majority of them are just not that good. However, in recent months there seems to have been an increase of at least halfway decent games, so maybe things are taking a turn for the better. Of all the Games Workshop licenses that have become video games, perhaps the most often attempted is that from the tabletop board game Space Hulk. Over the years, various developers have tried to move Space Hulk from the table to the screen, with a variety of different approaches pretty much universally ending up in disappointment. Now we have the latest attempt from Cyanide Studios, offering a tactical turn-based vision of the board game, and in keeping with the current trend, it is actually pretty good. Let’s look at Space Hulk: Tactics.

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What could be better than wandering a derelict mass of floating space debris and shooting blood thirsty aliens? Well, just maybe taking the role of those blood thirsty aliens and ripping to pieces the very soldiers that have been sent to wipe you out, for starters. Whether you are a die-hard Space Marine or an all tooth and claw alien, Space Hulk: Tactics has you covered.

In the grim, dark future of Warhammer 40,000, discarded and broken spaceships float around and often crash into other derelict ships, creating massive space structures known as Space Hulks. The problem is that these Space Hulks can often be a breeding ground for unsavoury alien types, and the most unsavoury of these are the Genestealers, creatures that seem to have been born of every alien-based horror movie ever made. Obviously, these creatures cannot be left to cause trouble, and so the Emperor’s finest, the Space Marines, are sent in to clean them out. Taking a step beyond the normal Space Marines, these unyielding warriors are equipped with famed Terminator armour, making them more like walking tanks than anything else.

In Space Hulk: Tactics, players will take a team of up to five Space Marines from the Blood Angel chapter into one of these Space Hulks to run various missions and fight against the Genestealers. The missions could be as simple as destroying a certain number of aliens, or getting to a certain place, and time limits will keep the player on their toes. On the flip side of the coin, players will take a bunch of Genestealers, with more constantly becoming available, and be tasked with simply making life as difficult as possible for the Space Marines. See, something for everyone.

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The great news is that each faction plays very differently to the other. The Space Marines are slow, like really slow. Players will use action points during their turn for every action that a Space Marine makes, and that includes changing the direction they are facing. However, Space Marines happen to have access to some pretty impressive weaponry, making their ranged combat as deadly as melee.

The Genestealers on the other hand, have speed and agility on their side. Without any ranged combat options, it is all about getting up close and scratchy as a Genestealer player, and the advantage of both number and more action points means that Genestealers can move a great distance, and for every one that gets cut down, there will always be another to take its place. The two campaigns will take very different tactics to work through, especially when you take into account how much of the game is based on the roll of a dice.

But players get to see that dice in action. Space Hulk: Tactics brings most of its rules from the board game, and the fact that players can see the results of the dice on screen shows just how random things can be. This means players will have to take chance into account with their tactics, understanding that even with an 80% chance of hitting, sometimes it just won’t. The Space Marines especially, with only as many as five units in the game, need to play more cautiously, making the Space Marine campaign more slow and steady than the Genestealers. Playing defensively, players can try to cover all points of approach and set their Marines into Overwatch, having them shoot at the first sign of movement. Of course, this just means that the Genestealers will have to find other approaches, or sacrifice some units and hope for a touch of luck.

Adding further tactical options to the game, players are also presented with a selection of cards at the start of each turn. These cards can be played and give various buffs to units on the screen, or they can be discarded in exchange for more action points for the Space Marines, or more units for the Genestealers. This certainly gives the player a chance to tip the balance of luck in their favour.

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The maps across which these encounters are played all fit in with the idea of derelict spaceships, with plenty of dark, claustrophobic corridors in styles that feel like they come from different races. May hat goes off to Cyanide Studios for creating a tense atmosphere in the game, which is only made more tense by viewing the game through the first person, as opposed to the more usual isometric view. It also has to be said that the unit models are exceptional, resulting in a very nicely polished game.

There is a map editor allowing players to create their own scenarios. It is not the most advanced editor, but it allows for the created maps to be shared with others, and so there will be a never ending stream of new content for those who really invest in the game. There is also a huge amount of Warhammer 40,000 lore in the game, so 40k fans will have plenty to get their teeth into, even if those new to the war-filled future may struggle to keep up.

There are some problems with Space Hulk: Tactics though. The AI can be inconsistent, at times being far cleverer than it has any right to be, and at other times being just plain stupid. The there is the fact that, despite differently themed areas, the maps often feel very similar. And, of course, the whole random side of dice rolling can lead to frustration.

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Space Hulk: Tactics is a very solid game that remains faithful to the original board game while also throwing something new into the mix. The slower campaign of the Space Marines contrasts well with the speedy Genestealers, and while there is a high difficulty level and a huge amount of luck involved, the game does feel fair. For the turn-based strategy fans, and those who actually play the board game, there is a lot to like here. However, it all feels a little too niche for the mass market. If you have heard of the Space Hulk board game, then Space Hulk: Tactics is probably the game for you.




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