A long time ago, probably in some part of my far, far, away memory… i used to play a lot of Space Hulk. The very first edition (with it’s expansions).
I tried the second edition once, when it was released. (The second edition was just the equivalent of the first edition box, without it’s expansions and an awful change to the flame thrower weapon. It’s the worst Space Hulk out there. So i’ll skip it… from the rest of this post).
Now i played this 3rd “ultimate” edition.
The conclusion to all these playing:
“If you are a boardgamer first, miniature painter and/or collector second… this third edition is definitely NOT the best Space Hulk made. 1st edition still reigns supreme by a somewhat large margin.”
Thing is, the rules of Space Hulk have barely changed over the three editions. One or two mostly minor things here and there, change the components and there you go… a new Space Hulk.
Space Hulk, first edition, came with a standard box set. Then a campaign expansion book filled with new missions, a box set “deathwing” that added to the marines and slightly to the genestealer and a second box set “genestealer”, that added to the genestealers and a little to the marines.
But then, where does that leave the third edition, gameplay-wise? For the components, sure the board is of a very high-quality. But it’s just too large. Unless you have a big table, some scenarios may not fit your dinning table. For all that i can remember, Space Hulk 1st did not have such large rooms and corridors. I may be wrong on that point though… been over 15 years since i last played the 1st edition.
The minis are sure pretty to look at, but they sure are a problem playing the game. Some Genestealer are too big for their space. The minis themselves keep overlapping each other and it’s a problem. Take a genestealer mini from the board and you may have to untangle it from nearby minis. A problem the 1st edition had… but to a much MUCH lesser extent.
They added the “guard” option. Which i personally find pretty useless (probably because i learned to play Space-Hulk without it being available). They also added thhe broodlord mini, which i don’t really like as it’s mostly just plain old luck over tactics that can defeat him.
They also corrected some scenarios that were too hard for one or the other of the factions to win.
(edited next paragraph to mention comparison with expansions included to avoid confusion)
Now if we compare first – with expansions – and third editions together… it becomes clear the 3rd is the lesser version. Third edition brings together the 1st edition base game, half of “DeathWing” and about 1/10 of “Genestealer”.
– Gone are the “ambush” blips. Blips that could appear almost anywhere on the map (even behind the marines), but had 2 chances out of three of being “false signals”. They were a great way to bring uncertainty to the marine player. They were left out of this edition.
– Gone are the ability to “seal” genestealer entrances.
– Gone is the system to generate a random level.
– Gone is the system for solo-play.
– Gone are the exceptional 4, 5 and 6 genestealer blips.
– Gone are the Genestealer hybrids.
– Gone are all the various psychic powers from “Genestealer”. Only the librarian, in a reduced form, is present.
– Gone is the mission variety of the campaign book.
– Gone are the large corridor tiles (corridors with a width of more than one square).
Outside these missing things, it’s 95% the exact same game.
This meaning that if you have the first edition with it’s expansions… DON’T go expecting a new version of the game you love. At least not in the sense that Fantasy Flight remakes old games, like Twilight Imperium 3rd and Arkham Horror, which vary greatly from their old version.
Now, i agree that most of the things that have been omitted in the third edition were clearly not the best part of Space Hulk. The random dungeon generator created most of the time awful dungeon designs. The solo rules were barely “ok”. The psychic powers could destroy any carefully laid plan for both the marines and genestealers based solely on the luck of a card draw with a specific psychic power (looking at you dreaded Vortex card).
Still they were nice options that are currently missed from this old player.
I don’t see Games Worksop expanding this third edition to present the components of Genestealer anytime soon. I also don’t see them providing the missing components to make DeathWing complete either (ambush blips and Genestealer entrance sealing – although for the later, anything could do to mark a sealed entrance).
For an old Space Hulk veteran, this edition is sort of a let-down. The new elements (guard option and the broodlord) do NOT warrant the price tag. The components are sure nice to look at, but they are not the most functional pieces of gaming around. I’d take the new marines, but with the old Genestealers anyday (may even have to find a box of old Genestealers minis for Warhammer 40k to replace them – if i’m ever this fanatic over this game).
Still, if you never played Space Hulk and don’t have the patience or money to find a complete Space Hulk 1st (with expansions) on EBAY, this edition is nice enough to provide you with the Hulk experience, if you’re not too bothered by the publishers business practice (i just had to mention it didn’t I?)