Skip to main content

Mega "Space Hulk" Game

I bought the first edition of Space Hulk in 1989 when I worked at a comics and games store in Huber Heights, Ohio just outside of Dayton. We played it a fair bit, and it quickly became and has remained one of my all-time favorite board games. I even painted a few of the miniatures. Alas, a couple of years later I parted with my copy, giving it to a dear childhood friend who had done me a good turn when I was in a jam. Parting with Space Hulk coincided with lots of life changes, including becoming more serious about my classes in college, joining the college newspaper as the Entertainment Editor (writing weekly movie and album reviews, covering campus plays and student photography exhibitions, etc.), and finding myself in some serious romantic relationships. I had a full plate, and all gaming ground to a halt for years afterward.

The second edition (1996) of Space Hulk came and went out of print without making even a blip on my radar, testament to how little connected I was to gaming in the 1990s. A fit of nostalgia prompted me to track down an unopened copy on eBay in the early 2000s, and I got a handful of games in, but not being plugged into any local gaming community, I couldn't find another player as excited about the game as me. In fact, the few friends I did have at the time who gamed were in the thrall of a budding euro game fixation, and Space Hulk is anything but that (thank god!).

When nearly 15 years later Games Workshop finally decided to bring the game back into print in 2009 with a third edition (and reinstating the timer mechanic!), it was a reflexive purchase. A strong motivating factor for buying another set was a hope with seeds planted at the very beginning of most every Space Hulk fan's fantasies: the idea of linking boxed sets together to create a huge multiplayer version of the game. In the end, the new edition's tiles had all been redesigned, making for a less-than-ideal aesthetic marriage of the two editions. But the dream of a sprawling multiplayer Space Hulk game has deep roots, and wouldn't be abandoned lightly.

The Internet proved others had done it, and you can find tantalizing images online from conventions and elsewhere of eight and ten players sitting around a table in a massive Space Hulk game. It seems a complete inevitability that, when I formed my monthly game group, the Second Saturday Scrum Club, a few months ago with my friend Jared as a charter member, the long-held fantasy was fated to materialize on our game table.

Everything started to snowball during the long rides Jared and I took back and forth to Havre de Grace, Maryland a couple of weeks back to attend the two-day Barrage convention (recap). Just the month before the Scrum Club had a playtest of the dungeon crawl game I've been refining on and off for a few months, and Jared was inspired to see if there was a way to adapt the "room feature" cards from my game to Space Hulk. We pleasantly whiled away the hours in the car and at lunches that weekend brainstorming all sorts of ideas and rules for what could be found in various rooms that players enter on the map. It also helped that at Barrage we found a really great deal on a painted Space Hulk set and also bought fistfuls of painted genestealer models, putting the idea of a large-scale game closer in reach.

Then Jared went off and did the hard work of thinking through a scenario, building a giant map with all of the various board pieces that would eventually fill up the entirety of my 38" x 94" dining room table, and coming up with various ideas for how player's could build their own units of Space Marines (not to mention all of the furious painting of models Jared has been doing for a couple of weeks). It was an impressive feat, and our near-daily exchanges about the game made me excited and proud to see what he was pulling together. I helped where I could, offering feedback or asking probing questions, usually about the cards, a wholly new mechanic for Space Hulk. I gave the card text a copy edit, laid them out, and printed the two decks up for our game, one for "inner" rooms and one for "outer" rooms on the game map.

I designed these cards to be laser printed on perforated sheets of Avery business cards (10 cards to a sheet).

I was also a little concerned about how, with this many players, folks were going to be able to keep track of what their individual marines could do, how much ammo they still had remaining, etc., so at the last minute I threw together a half-sheet unit roster with the rules on how each weapon worked in the game. 

The shooting/close assault tables were excised from the excellent quick-reference sheet created by The Esoteric Order of Gamers, who have made a number of such sheets for other games.

Finally, the second Saturday of February was upon us, and it was time to put this game on. It took three full Space Hulk sets to piece this all together. In attendance were charter Scrummers John Sears, Walt O'Hara, Francesco Nesci, Jared, and myself with special guests, Garrett O'Hara, Matt Sahr, and Steve Braun (who folks may remember from my posts on Historicon and Barrage). Jared and I played the genestealers, while everyone else made their own units of Space Marines.

Click any photo to enlarge.

Jared in pre-game set up on my dining room table. " does this map fit together again?!?"

Three sets of Space Hulk, one massive map that stretches about 38x90 inches.

"I am the lord of Space Hulk! To know me is to know true fear!"

Creating their unit lists before the game begins.
John Sears: "My squad. These poor blokes are doomed." (photo: John Sears)
The whole gang (except for me taking the photo). (standing: Jared; clockwise from top: Garrett, Walt, Steve, Francesco, Matt, and John)

Genestealer creeping up on a Space Marine. 

Jared explaining the effects of one of the room cards that was just drawn.

These marines drew the "Breach" card, which creates another genestealer spawn point in the middle of this room. Watch your back, Marines!

(left to right: Walt, Joe, Matt, John) (photo: Walt)

Genestealers about to race around that corridor corner in the hopes of taking the Space Marine from behind.

Walt feeling devious.

One of the room cards in the foreground. This one introduces an unexpected Chaos Marine hunkered down in this room. He goes on the hunt for the nearest model regardless of side!

While there was carnage all around, I think only one unit suffered a total party kill. Pretty remarkable for a game of Space Hulk!

Concluding Thoughts

I had a great time, and I think others did, too. It was literally a decades-long desire that got satisfied by last night's game, which isn't something you get to say often. I know Jared wants to run this at a convention sometime, and this was a good opportunity for him to learn what does and doesn't work in a game of this scale and with the new mechanics (like the cards).

One thing that was clear from the onset is that unless everybody sitting at the table is a veteran Space Hulk player, the three-minute time limit for the Space Marine's turn is an unrealistic burden. It does change the feel of the game to dispense with the timer, but with six Space Marine players, some of whom had never played the game before, it was going to be too onerous to expect them to complete all of their moves in three minutes. We started without the timer with the hope that after everyone got the swing of things we'd introduce it into the game in a later round, but it never got to a point where that was realistic. The Space Marines ended up winning, and at least partially because they had plenty of time to coordinate their moves to maximum benefit.

In the end, though, it didn't matter who won or lost because it was a great time hanging out with good people playing a game on a scale that few Space Hulk players have ever been able to. I think Jared will easily incorporate the lessons from the playtest and concoct a massive Space Hulk convention game that folks will be eager to play and then recount to their friends years afterward.

But wait, there's more!

One of the Scrummers, Walt, has his own blog, Third Point of Singularity, to which he posted a review of our game. You should definitely check it out for another perspective on our mega Space Hulk game!


  1. Replies
    1. Just pieced together who this is...Thanks, Tam!

  2. Do you have a pdf of the room cards that you'd be willing to share?

    1. Jared understandably wants to play test them some more and have a chance to use them in some convention games he wants run before they’re released out in the wild. But when they’re ready for broader sharing, I’ll post an update and link here.

    2. Got it. Be sure to put something on TMP or Lead Adventure when you post them too.

  3. Did any of the combined Walt/Garrett team make it out alive, or were they eliminated from the game when we had to leave early?

  4. As a follow up, Walt published a link to his own great write up of our game. Check it out at his blog, Third Point of Singularity:


Post a Comment

Well-thumbed posts

"Nighted" Evening of Lovecraftian Role Playing

I have a talented friend named Ash who, as a game master, is a big proponent of incorporating life-sized props and some evocative theatricality into the role playing games she creates. 

Last year we played in a scenario Ash concocted titled "Nighted" that I think used a simplified version of the Call of Cthulhu role playing game as the undergirding rules. She made a special GM screen that was adorned on the player side with pictures of the house and grounds we were exploring in the game. She prepared a slew of photographs to be handed out, as well as props like scrolls that got progressively more legible the more sanity we were willing to sacrifice in scrutinizing them. There were actual copies of books by the likes of Nietzsche with annotations and marginalia that offered clues. The lights in the room were connected to a remote control so that she could instantly dim them if certain events happened while exploring the game's house. 

The players all had to wear masks Ash h…

Water Terrain: Cheap and Easy

For a while now I've been contemplating a variety of ways of creating a large body of water on which to play out scenarios with miniatures. I can imagine scattering some islands about and having players sailing out to explore them, not too dissimilar from the games Steve Braun likes to put together for cons (see my recaps for Historicon 2017 and Barrage 2018). Part of my dilemma has been that my dining room table is narrow and long (3'x8'), which does not lend itself to investing in a heavy pre-printed mat that's going to awkwardly hang over the table's edges.

About a year ago I bought a dark blue tablecloth and some paints with the intent of trying to make an ocean/sea mat myself but timidity about my ability to pull that off pushed other projects ahead of it in the queue. In the meantime, I came across some nautical-themed plastic disposable party tablecloths on Amazon (here, while the link lasts). When they arrived a couple of months ago, they were a bit thinne…

Historicon 2018: Running My First Convention Game

Some readers may recall that I attended my first game convention, a late bloomer at 47 years old, by making the trek to Historicon 2017. It was a wonderful experience for me, and I left the weekend with a heady enthusiasm for this hobby I'd only recently discovered.

This year's Historicon marked another first for me: Crafting and running my own convention game.

Back in December I recruited some friends and new acquaintances I had connected with in the D.C. metro area to establish a monthly game group, the Second Saturday Scrum Club. Every month we meet in my dining room and somebody sets up a miniatures game for us to play. In late spring we gathered to try a new set of intriguing rules by Ganesha Games' Andrea Sfiligoi, Sellswords & Spellslingers. They were a hit with the group, and the next day Steve Braun offhandedly mentioned how perfect they would be for running a scenario based around Robert E. Howard's classic Conan yarn, "Beyond the Black River."

All Together Now: 'Sellswords & Spellslingers' and the Pleasures of Cooperative Gaming

I've always enjoyed a good competitive match as much as the next guy, whether it was sports in high school or video games (HALO, etc.) in my thirties. But regardless of the game, I've always been partial to team play, and the best cooperative games put all of the focus on succeeding as a team. That's one of the reasons I was enthusiastic about getting Andrea Sfiligoi's latest release, Sellswords & Spellslingers (Ganesha Games), on the table for this month's Second Saturday Scrum Club gathering.

Last year I had organized a Halloween game (recap) to beta-test Sfiligoi's Run From the Dead, which is built atop the same cooperative mechanics as Sellswords. I was surprised when I discovered these rules were re-skinned for the fantasy genre and released last December ahead of Run From the Dead. Hopefully, the zombie apocalypse version of the rules is not too far behind because I definitely think Run From the Dead is the best tabletop miniatures rule set I've …

NOVA Open: My Curious Excursion

As I've mentioned plenty of times since starting this blog, I'm new to the whole tabletop miniatures gaming hobby. I am having a blast, and it has become something of a consuming pastime, sometimes scarily crowding out my interest in other things that might have once captured my imagination and arrested my attention.

So it stands to follow then that I decided I should go today to check out the biggest miniatures gaming convention in the Washington, D.C. area, NOVA Open. I liked the backstory of how the convention started as a big BBQ in a local fella's backyard, drawing about 32 players for an afternoon of fun back in 2009. It smacked of just the kind of community-building inspirational success story that's hard not to like.

Unfortunately, that homegrown spirit and sense of fun wasn't in much evidence today as I roamed around the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City, Virginia (just across the Potomac River from D.C.).

The last time I was in that hotel for a conference wa…

Up the Black River Without a Paddle (Sellswords & Spellslingers)

Our most recent gathering of the Second Saturday Scrum Club (which meets once a month for friendly fights across my dining room table) was devoted to playtesting the scenarios for Sellswords & Spellslingers I plan on running at Historicon in July. After our earlier club game with this system, Steve Braun smartly observed how the game is almost perfectly tailored for running a scenario based on the Robert E. Howard's "Beyond the Black River" in which Conan and his companions spend nearly the entire story attempting to evade the rampaging  Pictish hordes in the wilderlands that the Aquilonian empire is struggling to colonize.

My aim is to run two linked scenarios based on the story in a four-hour time slot at Historicon. So as to avoid any spoilers for possible Historicon players, I'll discuss the scenario particulars after the convention. In the meantime, however, I'll share a number of pictures on the preparatory work I've been doing. I still have a fair…