Monday, October 6, 2014

Review: SPACE HULK - Mission Files

Santa Cruz Warhammer Product Review:
Space Hulk - Mission Files
Bringer of Sorrow- Duty and Honor - Return to Kalidus

With the recent re-release of Space Hulk, GW has released three Space Hulk expansions for the Dark Angels, Ultramarines, and Space Wolves. Let’s take a look at what you get in a Mission File and what the differences between the three are. 

The files are available in the iBooks store and they each retail for 15.99USD. You’ll need an ipad or other product that can handle the iBook format, which is an initial hurdle to entry to a lot of us; but the sting is slightly lessened, as the iBook format choice is not completely arbitrary (with the inclusion of an interactive mission status display). The missions also utilize the new space hulk tiles included in the 2014 version of Space Hulk so you’ll need those (or you can craft your own as the missions show what you need and how big it needs to be).

-Shared content-
To begin let’s start with what the files have in common (Nearly half of their content is identical word-for-word),  then examine what sets them apart from each other. Each file has an introduction and a bit of the Space Hulk story, each a page in length. Each Expansion also provides three missions to play, that can be played stand-alone or as a linked campaign. Also included is a reference section and an interactive mission status display. Then rules unique to the chapter are listed, along with a bit of background on the chapter and their Terminators. Finally, there is a section on creating your own space hulk missions.

This is the layout for the digital Mission Status Display

The Interactive mission display is a nice touch for the expansions, turning your device into something more than a rulebook during the game. With all of the bits you need to track (reloads/ammo, psi/command points, and a three minute turn timer). However they did the bare minimum for the display, as you’ll need to track your other heavy weapon ammo (cyclone, heavy plasma, etc.) using the flamer included with the basic template or record it by hand. It seems a little lazy that the same expansion that gives you the rules to use a new heavy weapon, can’t support it in it’s own mission status display. 

An excerpt from the creating your own missions section.

The ‘creating your own missions’ section is a bit of a mixed bag, ranging from sections that basically admit that you’re going to have to test & feel it out to get it right, to charts to help you determine mission and victory conditions (spoiler alert: they involve the same things that you were doing in basic space hulk like recovering the CAT, kill ratios, etc.).  On the other hand, there are a bunch of really useful charts also included like point values for various terminators (for you to create your custom force with) that will correspond to a recommended genestealer starting presence/spawn rate.

Overall I like both of these sections, but they really only achieve the minimum. They would have been a lot better if each expansion had a mission status display and rules tailored to creating space hulk missions for the chapter that was featured, instead of a word-for-word copy and paste of these sections.

Moving on to what differentiates the expansions let’s take a look at the story and missions included in each.

The Space Hulk pros

The Bringer of  Sorrow takes place above the hive world Corinthe as they face a tendril of hive fleet Moloch. Just when things look like they can’t get any worse, they do when the space hulk bringer of sorrow translates into the system. Knowing that the system is doomed without help, calls for aid are made and the Dark Angles strike cruiser Vengeful Blade responds. Knowing that they lack the resources to battle both threats head on, the Deathwing contingent is dispatched on a daring mission to overload the still functioning plasma reactor of an ancient grand cruiser within the hulk, while the Vengeful blade moves to intercept the hive fleet.

I think this is the only Space Hulk image in existence where every single genestealer in-frame is about to get shot.

Mission I requires the Deathwing to deploy a CAT to gather data to plot a path to the plasma reactor. The normal CAT fun ensues and victory is achieved by getting the cat and a marine through one of the exit points of the map. In mission II the CAT is acting normally (i.e. has gone completely haywire) and needs to be recovered for a manual data download. Victory is achieved by securing the CAT which enters from a random point, but if the marines failed mission I the genestealers will have a greater say on which point the CAT enters the map from. Mission III places the marines in a race to the plasma reactor’s controls, with less marines to do the job with if they failed mission II. On turns 3, 6, &9 the genestealer will be able to generate new breach points on the map to keep things lively.

The Codex Astartes does not support this boarding action

Duty and Honor finds us back on Ultramar where “the most famous and respected of all space marine chapters” are super-pumped to get some payback for the Tyranids coming and wrecking house in the Ultramar system. Earlier in our story, every Ultrasmurf that didn’t draw the short straw, had jumped onto their cruisers and headed out of system to kill Tyranids in the Forian crusade. When the Space Hulk ‘Hunter of the void’ shows up near Ultramar, there’s only one ship: “the will of the emperor” lead by Commander Troilus [sic] to stop the threat.   

Self portrait of Commander Troilus 

Mission I has Commander Troll and his terminators making entry to the hulk to try and shut down the ion shields that were preventing accurate scans of the core of the hulk. The mission requires accessing a cogitator terminal then moving two marines off board, with the genestealers getting new breach entry points on turn 4 & 8. With the Ion shielding deactivated the true scope of the infestation is revealed and the only option is to destroy the hulk before it reaches Ultramar. In Mission II the ultramarines must advance to an access shaft and drop explosive charges to trigger an explosive chain reaction that will tear the hulk apart. The marines win by making it to the drop point , but the genestealers get a broodlord reinforcement on a variable turn mid-game that will make survival difficult. The resulting explosions shift the structure of the hulk and the marines must race to a turbo-lift to reach a secondary extraction point before they are crushed or ejected into the void. This is my favorite mission of all of the expansions, the marines must advance to the turbo lift to escape; but starting mid game you begin to remove map tiles as the hulk explodes and vents to the void (there are even special void rules for sections attached but not separated by a bulkhead!). 

So in summary, the heroes must send a small force to shut down the shields, and then drop explosives down a shaft, which causes the whole place to slowly blow up as they try to get out… yup, I liked Empire too.

I'm pretty sure these guys would rather be posing in the middle of a snow storm rather than a space hulk.

Return to Kalidus follows the Wolf Guard as they board the Scion of Darkness in a surgical strike to deactivate the Shields that protect the Hulk and prevent Teleportation. In a refreshing twist, the fleet will actually be able to bombard the Space Hulk and destroy it once the sheilds are down. 

We had to leave the wolves, but we brought the Frost Axe

In Mission I the wolf guard must reach the console that will activate localized power, activating turbo-lifts that will take them deeper into the hulk to reach their objective: the shield generatorium. The marines make entry via boarding torpedoes that land in random areas, then, win by activating the console on the other side of the map. Mission II has the wolves progressing to the now active turbo-lifts, but if mission one was successful the genestealer starting numbers are reduced. There’s a further twist with two lifts: one will jam and the other will be the operational lift determined randomly once a wolf presses the button on the elevator. The wolves that make it to the lift and escape are recorded for inclusion in Mission III. The final mission starts with only the survivors from mission II (if you’re playing as a campaign) with the possibility of remaining marines arriving later in the game or being killed in the lift before they arrive. If the marine player lost Mission II then a new squad is deployed but the delay means more genestealers. The marines win by deactivating the three shield control consoles, minor victory for deactivating two.

-Chapter specific rules-

The expansions all offer some new rules for weaponry and armor.
-The Ultramarine expansion comes with rules for the Cyclone missile launcher Terminator.

-The Space Wolf Expansion includes rules for the Frost Axe, and Wolf Guard Pack Leader (equipment options for the frost axe, lightning claws, power sword, and thunder hammer).

-Finally, The Dark Angel Expansion includes rules for the Cyclone missile launcher, Plasma Cannon, Apothecary with Narthecium, Banner Bearer with Revered Banner, Deathwing Champion with the Halberd of Caliban, Knight Master with the flail of the Unforgiven, and a Deathwing Knight with the mace of absolution.

As you can see from the list of what’s included, not all of these expansions are created equally. It’s wonderful that they took the time to create rules for every variant of the Deathwing, on the other hand it’s really a shame that they couldn’t be bothered to think of some character or loadout (or anything unique. You can get the same Cyclone rules from the DA expansion) to attach to the Ultramarines to fill their roster out in some way.


So should you buy the expansions? Well, If you already have an ipad (it’s a shame that they don’t sell this content in another format. The mission screen is nice, but I don't think it was worth limiting the audience like they have by going ibook-exclusive) I would recommend the Dark Angels Expansion as your first purchase. If you’re on a budget you can skip the other two and create custom rules for your chapter of choice using the wealth of examples that the DA expansion gives you.

The Space Wolf expansion has a unique piece of wargear, and the Ultramarine expansion has the escape from the disintegrating-hulk mission, which I really enjoyed; but it’s hard to justify the price for such a small amount of unique content in the other expansions.

Deathwing. The reigning champ of Space Hulk expansions since 1990.

Mike M (cornumortem)

No comments:

Post a Comment