Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Designer Diary 8: Tyranids in Space Hulk: XT

First of all, I will address the concern regarding Tyranid creatures with biomorphs. One of the more involved processes in this project for me has been attempting to reconcile all of the various permutations of models and weapons that have appeared in 40K in the past five editions. Tyranids have been the most mutable (pun intended) of these by far. Before getting into that however, for the sake of an example I will be comparing a Hormagaunt to an Assault marine, since they both are fairly simple single wound melee models.

Since second edition, the absolute nastiest, most evolved Hormagaunts available have been in fourth and fifth editions, with the following stats and abilities.

4E WS 5, S 4, T 3, I 5, 2 attacks
5E WS 3, S 3, T 3, I 5, 2 attacks (with furious charge and poison attacks)

Similarly “upgraded” assault marines (i.e Vanguard Vetrans, Sword Brethern, Wolf Guard, Khorne Beserkers, Death Company) through the past several editions have had the following stats:

WS 4, S 4, T 4, I 4, 3 attacks (as well as ready access to abilities such as counter attack or furious assault)

While there are differences between these two model types, they don’t necessarily amount to that much of a difference in overall combat effectiveness. Assuming a straight-up melee, with no charges or modifiers to initiative, a 4E gaunt will cause an average of .66 wounds before armor saves, 5E gaunt .5, and an assault marine will retaliate with an average of 1 (vs. 4E gaunt) or 1.3 (vs. 5E gaunt) wounds. This is ignoring armor saves completely, which while not applicable in Space Hulk, count VERY strongly in 40K. So no, accounting for a “pimped out” Tyranid is not at all needed or balanced for a conversion to Space Hulk. In most cases I simply assume basic biomorph enhancements are already present for the sake of conversions.

With that being said, I have included some limited biomorphs in my action card set allowing for minor, unique upgrades to models (such as +1 AP, or the ability to leap), though this is more for the flavor rather than a representation of the actual, converted combat effectiveness. Bear in mind that even a Space Marine Captain merely nets +2 bonus in Space Hulk, though in 40K he would have WS 6, S 4, T 4, 3 Wounds, I 5 and 4 attacks even if only armed with two close combat weapons like a Hormagaunt or an Assault Marine.

So then, on to Tyranid models. First point of note is that in this project I am attempting to reconcile five editions worth of differing stats with each other, while maintaining a degree of accuracy and consistency between them in Space Hulk. So here are a few further clarifications.

-Genestealers are based on their First Edition counterparts. Of all the basic types of Tyranid models, Genestealers have undergone the greatest degree of change. However, since Space Hulk was originally designed during the early days of 40K, Genestealers were made to be a good representation of their 40K selves at the time. Since stealers being as nasty as they are is a core part of Space Hulk, this will remain unchanged.

-Other Tyranid models have varied over the years as well. However, the overall differences are much less than those present with Genestealers. In general, other models in various editions have remained consistent enough with themselves that no major change is needed with Space Hulk counterparts from one to another.

-The primary exception to the above is in weaponry. As editions have progressed, many weapons have been made available to other Tyranid models. As I show each individual model type here, I shall attempt to explain why they work as they do with various weapon options.

Next, a few basics about Tyranid and melee weaponry.

-Gaunt genus models (Hormagaunts and various forms of Termigaunt) count as any other model when unarmed, 1d6-2. Unless armed with a weapon-symbiote of some sort (which is essentially always), they count as unarmed.

-Warrior genus models (Warriors and Lictors) come naked with four claws, each counting as a melee weapon (in SH terms +4, so 1d6+2, converted to 2d6 since they are not trained melee specialists or character models). Circa Second Edition 40K, the only “weaponry” they could use would only take up the slots of two of these claws. However, their Attacks characteristic still reflected the fact that they were armed for close assault even without weapons.

-For more modern Warrior types, each pair of arms is allowed a set of weapons, rather than one weapon set and built-in melee weapons. Also, these weapons (scything talons, rending claws, boneswords and lash whips) were given some more differentiation.

-Scything talons in 40K have counted as a pair of melee weapons (+1 attack). More recently, the bonus attack has been incorporated directly into the profile of each creature, and instead scything talons allow a player to re-roll any to-hit rolls of 1 in melee. While slightly better than a regular close combat weapon (+1 to melee in Space Hulk), this is nowhere near as potent as a power weapon (+2 in Space Hulk). Therefore, a model armed with scything talons in Space Hulk counts as having two melee weapons. So, the above naked Warrior model equipped with four scything talons would have +4 to melee just as with a set of basic claws, giving him a 2d6 melee attack. To reiterate a previous point, while they do confer a bonus in 40K, the statistical difference is small enough to not make an effect in Space Hulk.

-Rending Claws in Third Edition 40K counted on a to-hit roll of 6 as a power weapon that automatically inflicts a wound. Since most models so armed have a high WS will often hit on a 4+, this means approximately 25% of melee hits count as a power weapon with an auto wound (whereas the other attacks wound 50-66% of the time). In Fourth and Fifth editions, this ability was changed to counting as a power weapon on a to-wound roll of 6. As with scything talons, while this is a noticeable ability in 40K, both versions of rending claws are less powerful than a Power Weapon, and so confer a +1 bonus to melee in Space Hulk. This also means that both basic/regular 40K Tyranid weapons are equivalent, which is simple and concise.

-Boneswords have varied from the rough equivalent of a Power Sword to that of a Force Weapon. As such, for the purposes of Space Hulk, they count as a Power Sword, granting a +2 in melee and a parry to any model armed with one or more. Note that only one parry is allowed even with a pair of Boneswords: Only certain special character models have the ability to parry more than once, as it is not only a ridiculously powerful ability but slows down gameplay.

-Lash whips have varied from granting bonus attack out of melee order, to lessening the number of attacks an opposing model has, to lowering the opponent’s initiative value. All of these are decidedly more potent than a simple melee attack, and as such a lash whip confers a +2 bonus in melee in Space Hulk.

-Genestealer Claws are a separate item from rending claws in terms of Space Hulk. As mentioned above, the Genestealers in First Edition that were the bases for Genestealers in Space Hulk were decidedly more potent than they are now. In addition to being stronger, quicker and having more attacks than a Tyranid Warrior decked out for melee, their attacks had an inherent negative modifier to armor save. Having once been the nightmare of even the most elite melee troops in 40K, Genestealer Claws are in a category of their own for Tyranid bio-weapons, counting the same as a pair of Lighting Claws (+3 melee each). The only other “regular” Tyranid model to employ claws of this sort are Lictors, since they also have high Strength and attack values and are bred for similar sorts of melee situations.

With these parameters set forth for weapons, here are some of the various Tyranid model types explained.

-Termigaunts variations armed with a Fleshborer, Devourer, Spike Rifle or Strangle Web have 1d6-2 in melee. Both of their arms are taken by a ranged weapon, so they have no modifier.

-Gaunts with Spinefists (aka. Spinegaunts) roll 1d6-1 in melee, since a set of Spinefists will count as being armed with a pistol (yes there are two separate arms, but they are still one weapon system. They are simply more useful in melee since they are smaller than other weapon-symbiotes).

-Hormagaunts are armed with two scything talons, each granting a +1 melee combat modifier. This brings them up to a grand total of 1d6.

-Genestealers, as previously discussed, are uniquely evolved with a pair of Genestealer Claws (+3 each). This brings their total to 1d6+4, which converts to 3d6 since they are neither characters not elite, trained melee specialists.

-Lictors have two Genestealer-equivalent claws (+3 each) and a pair of scything talons (+1 each). This gives them a 3d6+2 attack, since they are long-range infiltration and melee experts.

-Warrior broods armed with a ranged weapon (Deathspitter, Venom Cannon etc.) and a pair of claws, rending claws or scything talons would have a +2 bonus, bringing them to a total of 1d6 in melee.

-Warriors armed with a ranged weapon and a pair of Boneswords (+2 each) would roll 2d6 in melee. Note that this particular combination has only become available as of Fifth Edition 40K.

-Warriors armed with two pairs of scything talons/rending claws (+1 each) would roll 2d6 in melee. Note, this would also apply to the Ravenor sub-genus.

-Warriors with a pair of boneswords or a Bonesword and Lash Whip (+2 each) with a set of claws/rending claws/scything talons (+1 each) would have 1d6+4, which again converts to a 3d6. They would also be allowed to parry one attack.

Rippers are not present individually in Space Hulk: XT, since they are always employed as a swarm. Since swarms require differing rules and are not relevant to a discussion about single models in melee, I have not included them here.

Gargoyles are also not present, since flying units in the confines of a Hulk would be useless.


Monday, June 25, 2012

A little breather

Taking a day off to give myself more time to finish consolidating info my explanation for Tyranids in Space Hulk. Tune back in on Wednesday, same bat-time, same bat-channel.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Designer Diary 7: Expanded Melee in Space Hulk: XT

This Wednesday, I broke down melee combat in Space Hulk, explaining why it functions in the manner it does. Earlier today, we looked at armor in Space Hulk and how it plays into melee combat. Now we delve even further, this time looking at how to incorporate new models into the mix.

To recap, a few basic rules and assertions:
-All models roll 1d6-2 in melee, modified by weapons and model seniority (sergeant, hero, etc.)
-As melee modifiers increase, they are traded in for new dice with a lower modifier (1d6+2 = 2d6, 2d6+2 = 3d6).
-Trained melee specialists and characters will most often roll fewer dice with higher modifiers, whereas non-specialist models with a comparable attack bonus will roll more dice with lower modifiers (i.e., a Terminator with Lightning Claws rolls 2d6+2 vs a Genestealer’s 3d6).
-A model’s Toughness vs. ranged attacks is determined by its armour, and in some extreme cases influenced by its speed and agility.

With this, nearly all models from Space Hulk are covered. What remains are the fun, complicated ones, as well as adding in new critters. Firstly, the Patriarch!

The Patriarch (or Broodlord in Third Edition) is the great big daddy ‘stealer. The first Genestealer to land on a planet begins the cycle of infestation, and as the Genestealer cult grows he becomes older, wiser, and more and more powerful psychically. In melee combat the Genestealer Patriarch rolls a whopping 4d6+3! Keeping in mind the basic framework that we have already laid down, how does this work?

Several new factors apply here. Firstly, a brood will only ever have a single Patriarch at any given time, so the Patriarch is one-of-a-kind. This makes him a Unique Character, conferring a +3 in melee (regular models are +0, squad leaders +1, and normal characters +2). Secondly, a Patriarch is not only an old and experienced fighter, but an exceedingly strong one. Rather than simply having extra hands as on a regular Purestrain Genestealer, his extra limbs are themselves lethal weapons due to his size and general orneriness. This adds in one last important rule, which will come in handy in shortly when I dive into Tyranid models. A model only counts melee bonuses normally for two weapons: however, up to two more melee weapons may each add a further +1 bonus. Therefore a Broodlord or Patriarch counts as having two Genestealer Claws (+3 bonus each) and two extra melee weapons (+1 bonus each). Coupled with the +3 bonus for being a unique character and the 1d6-2 all models start with, this brings his total to 1d6+9. Let’s see how this works on the melee chart.

Melee Modifiers
1d6+2 OR 2d6
1d6+3 OR 2d6+1
1d6+4 OR 2d6+2 OR 3d6
1d6+5 OR 2d6+3 OR 3d6+1
1d6+6 OR 2d6+4 OR 3d6+2 OR 4d6
1d6+7 OR 2d6+5 OR 3d6+3 OR 4d6+1
1d6+8 OR 2d6+6 OR 3d6+4 OR 4d6+2 OR 5d6
1d6+9 OR 2d6+7 OR 3d6+5 OR 4d6+3 OR 5d6+1

Now, since the Patriarch/Broodlord is a unique character (+3 bonus), we want him to be adding as close to +3 as possible with the dice he’s rolling (like a Marine Captain (character, +2) rolling 1d6+2 instead of 2d6). This higher modifier accounts for the fact that sometimes a lesser model just can’t hope to match his might and ferocity. Looking at the row of +9, you can see that 4d6+3 then works out perfectly. So, we now have ourselves a Broodlord. What’s next? Next is an example to tie everything together, followed by bugs!

For this example, I’m going to show the process behind statting a Dark Eldar Incubus for Space Hulk: XT. Firstly, let’s look at how his armor will affect gameplay.

An Incubus in 40K is fairly well armored, possessing a save equal to that of a Tactical Marine (3+). He is less tough, but with a slightly higher initiative. This puts him firmly between Unarmored (Toughness 4) and Very Heavily Armored (Toughness 6), and firmly in the realm of Armored models (Toughness 5, the middle). While slightly faster than a normal human, an Incubus possesses none of the superhuman agility present in a Genestealer, and will still be slowed down slightly by his armor. This means that an Incubus will have the normal 4 Action Points and Medium Movement, i.e. the same movement chart that a Tactical Marine uses.

Next up, we have weapons. Some Incubi (models from different editions) will possesses different wargear, but the model being explored here is a 3rd-4th edition Incubus from my model collection. He has a Tormentor Helm (helmet-mounted pistol) and a Punisher Power Axe (a two-handed power axe). In combat terms, this means that he will have a Laspistol equivalent for ranged attacks (1d6+0 damage, range 12, +1 to melee) and a Power Weapon for melee (+2). Now, in 40K the Punisher grants the wielder a +1 to his strength in melee on account of being two-handed. This is a small enough modifier to not be taken into account in Space Hulk, as an Incubus with a +1 strength power weapon strikes just as hard as a Marine with a Power Axe (strength 4). So in total, Incubi will have 1d6+1 in melee (1d6-2 base, +1 for pistol, +2 for power axe). A stat card for an Incubus (circa 3rd edition wargear) would look something like this:

Now that we have explored the process I use for models, it’s time to jump in with some of the really fun ones. For Rob, we have: Tyranids!

For a melee Tyranid Warrior, a base of 1d6-2 melee like everyone. Two Boneswords (i.e. Power Swords) each grant +2, and two more generic claws grant +1 each. This brings the model up to a net of 1d6+4, which converts to 3d6, with a parry.

A ranged Warrior with a Deathspitter (which you likely have from the same unit box) would be 1d6-2 base, +2 for two generic claws. This brings him to only a 1d6 melee, but he also has a Deathspitter for ranged attacks.

A Hormagaunt has just two basic melee weapons, bringing it to a 1d6. However, some strains of the Gaunt genus (including Hormagaunts) have the leap ability, allowing them to jump 2 squares forward for 2 AP once a turn. This is an excellent way to hop past enemies on overwatch for a flanking maneuver.

Some Tyranids are highly customizable, with various weapon options and bio-morphs available. However, as mentioned with the Incubus above gaining +1 strength from his Punisher, many of these bio-morphs will not confer any actual bonus in Space Hulk: XT. A +1 to strength or initiative in 40K changes little enough overall to not make the cut for modifying stats in Space Hulk.


Coming on Monday: New Models and Ranged Weapons in Space Hulk: XT

Friday, June 22, 2012

Designer Diary 6: Armour in Space Hulk: XT

On Wednesday, I broached the topic of Melee in Space Hulk, breaking down published materiel for analysis. Later today I will be posting further musings on this matter, including how new models will be incorporated in Space Hulk: XT. First though, one other very important factor must be addressed: Armour.
In Space Hulk, armor is not applied in any way to melee. Instead, it applies to ranged combat, affects movement and AP, and in some cases will confer other special abilities (for example, Terminators may move and fire with an Assault Cannon or similar weapons too cumbersome for other infantry to do so).

There are only 3 existing armor classes in published Space Hulk material. In terms of Space Hulk: XT, these are classified as Toughness. Firstly, Genestealer Hybrids and Brood Brothers have a Toughness of 4, representing that they are either unarmoured or lightly armoured. Next, Power-armoured Space Marines have a toughness of 5, representing their greater than human resilience and highly advanced armor. Finally, Terminators are toughness 6, as they are not only tough, but encased in some of the most advanced armour in the known galaxy. Purestrain Genestealers are also toughness 6 models, due not just to their armour or toughness, but also to their incredible speed in the confines of a Space Hulk.

Within the existing rules structure of Space Hulk, these models are all equivalent in melee (assuming equivalent weaponry). Models wearing less armor are assumed to have increased mobility in melee and a greater chance to bring a weapon to bear, balancing out their effectiveness. The primary difference here is weaponry. For example, a regular Terminator \ equipped with a Storm Bolter and Power Glove has high toughness, a good ranged attack and 1d6 for melee. An Assault Marine with a standard loadout would have a Chainsword and Bolt Pistol. This means he would have lower Toughness from his armor (albeit slightly improved maneuverability) and a much weaker, shorter-ranged shooting attack, though he would still roll 1d6 in melee.

Space Hulk is not only a very different type of battlefield than you will find in Warhammer 40K: it is also a very different, and much more brutally realistic, viewpoint of combat. In 40K, a Space Marine Captain might have invulnerable saves and multiple wounds sufficient to take a pounding from an anti-tank weapon squad and keep on kicking ass. That same Captain in Space Hulk, while still nasty and hardcore, must now worry about a single lucky shot from a Laspistol taking him out of action.

Both 40K and Space Hulk have many similar models, and as I am attempting to show through this blog even more elements from the 40K universe can fully work within Space Hulk. While linked, however, they both remain entirely unique, separate games.


Special Edition Double Blog Post Day! Come back later today for more on Melee.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Designer Diary 5: Melee Combat in Space Hulk: XT

Ah, melee. The sweet sound of Terminator armor crunching and tearing beneath the claws of eager young Genestealers. What is it, though, that makes hand-to-hand combat in Space Hulk work? What makes it tick? How can it be expanded to include more models from the 40K universe in a consistent and fun manner?

First off, a few basic parameters:
-All models in Space Hulk begin with a 1d6-2 melee attack.
-Close assault score is modified by weapons used.
-Close assault score is further modified by a model’s seniority (squad leader, hero, etc.)

This may seem slightly off to those of you who are new to the Space Hulk extended rules set from First Edition. However, here are a few examples to help make sense of things.
-Genestealer Hybrids/Brood Brothers have a close assault factor of 1d6-2, modified by weapons.
-Power-armoured Tactical Marines have a close assault factor of 1d6-2, Sergeants 1d6-1.
-A Hybrid armed with a Power Sword gains +2 to melee, for a net of 1d6.
-Therefore, a Tactical Marine Sergeant with a Power Sword would also gain +2 to melee, for a net of 1d6+1. This is the same as a Terminator Sergeant with a Power Sword.

Any 40K players out there are probably twitching right now reading this, mumbling things like “armour saves” and “terminator honors, plus one attack.” This brings a rather profound basic element of gameplay to the fore: Space Hulk is not directly analogous to 40K. Sure, Terminator armour confers an amazing saving throw in 40K while a brood brother wouldn’t even get a save against a Power Fist. However, Space Hulk isn’t about open battlefields: it’s about fighting in tight, tense, claustrophobic hallways, so close that you can spit on the enemy. What one model loses in heavy armor it will make up for with mobility and a better ability to take cover. The only real time armor comes into play in Space Hulk is when shooting.

In close assault in 40K, a huge number of factors have to be taken into account. Weapon Skill (yours and the opponents), Strength, Toughness, Initiative, Attacks, Wounds, Armour Save and weapon types all have their place. Abstracting this to Space Hulk’s single opposed die roll does make for some differences, but remember that this is a very specific type of battlefield. Any vets out there will tell you that modern warfare, room clearing MOUT-style is rather different than the battlefields of WWII.

So now we have established the first set of basics for close combat. How then do things like Lightning Claws (2d6+2) and Purestrain Genestealers (3d6) fit into the picture? The existing progression of modifiers for melee looks something like this:

-1d6-2: model with basic weapon
-1d6-1: model with pistol or close combat weapon
-1d6: model with power weapons OR two pistols/close combat weapons
-1d6+1: model with power weapon and pistol/close combat weapon
-1d6+2: model with Thunder Hammer/Storm Shield
-2d6+2: model with lightning claws
-3d6: Purestrain Genestealer

This information gives us plenty to work with. Several elements stand out here. Firstly, specialized, trained close combat models have bonuses to their die rolls regardless of the number of dice rolled (Hammer/Shield at 1d6+2 and Claws at 2d6+2). Secondly, only models with more than one weapon roll more than one die, assuming they have a high enough overall modifier (Claws at 2d6+2 and Purestrains at 3d6). With this in mind, I have here for your viewing pleasure a reverse-engineered list of melee weapon modifiers.

Weapon Name             CC Modifier
Pistol or CCW                       1
Power Weapon                     2
Lightning Claw (each)           3
Thunder Hammer                  3
Storm Shield                          1

Now, apply this to a model’s base of 1d6-2. If a model’s bonus goes above certain thresholds, it will need to roll more dice with a lower bonus as shown below. Again, bear in mind that specialized, trained models will have a higher bonus rather than extra dice, and only models with more than one weapon will roll extra dice.

Melee Modifiers
1d6+2 OR 2d6
1d6+3 OR 2d6+1
1d6+4 OR 2d6+2 OR 3d6

So, a base model (1d6-2) with a Thunder Hammer (+3) and Storm Shield (+1) will have a net melee modifier of 1d6+2. This could be converted to 2d6, but since it is a melee specialist with only one weapon it instead goes with the 1d6+2 option.

A model (1d6-2) armed with two Lightning Claws (+3/+3) would net 1d6+4 in melee. This is converted over to 2d6+2, since the model has two melee weapons but is elite.

Counting a Genestealer’s Rending Claws as being the same as a pair of Lightning Claws, we again have 1d6-2+3+3, for a total of 1d6+4. Since a Genestealer has multiple attacks but is not trained (just ferocious), this is converted to the highest number of dice possible without giving it a positive modifier. In this case, we end up with 3d6.

As you can see, this design for close combat modifiers fits existing models perfectly well as long as a bit of logic and certain rules are applied. How well does it stand up to expanding the game into Space Hulk: XT, though?

Tune in this Friday to find out, as I explore new models in close combat and special rules for melee weapons.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Designer Diary 4: What to view as (Assault) Cannon in Space Hulk: XT?

Before delving into melee, I feel I must first touch on another topic: what parts of Space Hulk do I view as core elements of the game? Now, while I will be going more in depth in the near future looking at each of the previous editions and many of the supplements, for the time I will summarize it here, so that I may get back to the discussion of close assault on Wednesday.

First Edition Space Hulk was masterfully done, and elegant in its simplicity. Death Wing added more variety by way of missions and Space Marine weapons without really adding difficulty. Finally, Genestealer added Hybrids, which brought an interesting new element to the game, but also helped to balance it. However, the expanded psychic rules introduced slowed down and muddied gameplay.

First Edition extras from White Dwarf generally ended up in new expansions, and in general were high quality. The real exception here was the campaign in WD 158, which made Space Wolf terminators somehow more badass than all others, giving them 5 AP and +1 to melee. Reminds me of a time when a certain 40K race got entirely eaten by Tyranids because of favoritism and internal politicking…

First Edition articles appearing in the Citadel Journal were another matter. These were obviously playtested sparingly, and written more for the sake of having content then expanding the game in a balanced manner. While some interesting elements were added, the fact that anything remotely resembling point values or a way to use these new models in the game regularly were not included again showcased this rather well.

Second Edition took a simple but effective game and dummed it down for marketing purposes. White Dwarf supplements attempting to re-introduce Deathwing weapons in Second Edition is a perfect example of how poorly this worked. A number of nifty new missions were added throughout its lifespan, however, as well as the simple yet clever rules for using air ducts.

Third Edition in many ways went back to the classic rules of First Edition. Some simple changes were made that were not necessary but made the game simpler for new Marine players, such as jamming/unjamming on overwatch, sustained fire, and line of sight. Other minor tweaks were also made for no apparent reason that interfered with using the full rules set of First Edition, such as Guard and the rules for wounding a Broodlord. However, while most of the changes made were either unneeded or unbalancing, the updated take on psychic rules was decidedly well done, even if only used by the Space Marines.

So, in summary, I view (in general) the following elements as being the core foundation of Space Hulk: XT.
First Edition, Deathwing, Genestealer (minus the psychic cards) and the majority of White Dwarf content, as well as a rare few selected elements from Citadel Journal (such as the effect of using a power axe).
Second Edition Terminator models, because they’re easy to make stop-motion movies with.
The basic elements presented in Third Edition for psychic rules (which I have already put a good deal of work into expanding, as seen by the Hellfire card below).

As I stated, I will be addressing each Edition separately and in greater depth in the future. However, if you have any questions or comments about my brief synopsis above, please feel free to ask and I shall elaborate further.


Wednesday: Melee combat. No, for real this time!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Designer Diary: Dealing Damage in Space Hulk: XT

The first element of Space Hulk that drew my attention to its need of a revision was dealing combat damage. Admittedly, it is not difficult to remember that a Storm Bolter achieves a kill on a 6, the Assault Cannon on a 5+, and the Heavy Flamer on a 2+. In any edition, as far as the basic game is concerned, combat is relatively simple and straightforward. This very quickly becomes more convoluted as extra rules and expansions are added, however.

The core of Space Hulk first edition was designed around Genestealers, Terminators and Terminator Sergeants. Basic rules, and done, with no need for messing around. This worked admirably well, forming a core of simple gameplay that powered a smooth, squad-based tactical game. But then came new weapons… and new units for them to shoot at. Soon, this handful of numbers grew and expanded into page-long spreadsheets that had to be updated on a regular basis with every addition of new rules or weapons. To top this off, some of these official spreadsheets had editing errors. What had once been perfectly adequate groundwork for Space Hulk’s combat no longer fit the needs of the game as it should have.

This may sound familiar to you. Any old D&D players out there? Here’s a hint: THAC0. It worked perfectly well for a time, back when armor went from light (10) to heavy (0). As D&D grew, more items were added, and soon you had to deal with heavy, magical armor that went all the way down to -10. While there is nothing wrong with having to subtract a negative modifier from a die roll, it is not needed, either. All it did was make the game a bit more cumbersome. And so, with a slight update, Armor Class became an entirely positive number, that simply went up with enhancement. Same odds to hit, easy to convert from one to the other, but much more sensible for the direction the game had taken.

This is essentially what I have done in Space Hulk: XT for ranged combat. In first edition, you would need to view a chart to see that a Storm Bolter needs to roll a 6 to kill a Terminator, a 5 for a Tactical Marine, and a 4 to kill a Genestealer Hybrid. Every weapon you wanted to fire would be similar to this process. Instead of this, in Space Hulk: XT every model is assigned a Toughness value. When attempting to shoot a model, you will roll dice as determined by your weapon, add any modifiers, and compare it against the target’s toughness. Should you equal or exceed this value, you have scored a successful hit. So firing a Storm Bolter (2d6 attack, +0 damage) you would need to equal or beat a Terminator’s Toughness of 6, a Tac Marine’s 5, or a Hybrid’s 4. This means that the core gameplay will remain unchanged: the terminology applied just gets simpler.

Very few values do not fit within this altered rules structure. What few do not are weapons seldom used, or against targets that only rarely make an appearance (i.e. extremely specific things like an Autocannon fired against a marine at a range of 12 squares or less). As a tradeoff for these few differences that affect gameplay only slightly, the addition of new weapons and units becomes much simpler. Rather than adding a new unit and having to decide how each different weapon will affect it, one may simply assign an appropriate Toughness value based on the weapons already present in the game.

In summary: instead of looking at a chart to determine how a certain weapon will affect a certain model (on a Tuesday, if the sun is out, and you are wearing blue), you roll a die, add your weapon’s damage, and compare it to the target’s toughness. And done!


Coming on Monday: the conundrum of melee combat.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Designer Diary: Action Cards in Space Hulk: XT

Many games over the years have utilized some form of Action/Event/Fog of War deck to simulate the vagaries of chance on the battlefield. These have appeared in Space Hulk style games as far back as Space Crusade, up to the more modern Claustrophobia and Incursion board games. A number of table-top wargames have also begun to include similar mechanics. While not something everybody enjoys, many players do take enjoyment in the extra level of randomness and uncertainty provided. As such, one of the first elements I wanted to build into Space Hulk: XT was an optional action card deck.

Easier said than done.

There is one notable issue with most games that use action cards that made translation to Space Hulk rather more difficult than I first had imagined. Most games that include action cards of any sort are in fact driven by their inclusion, not simply enhanced. Although Incursion draws very, very heavily from Space Hulk for its core rules, anyone who has played more than a few games will be able to tell you that the back-and-forth interplay between cards is an enormous part of gameplay. This is not in and of itself a bad thing: however, I wanted to layer an additional level on to Space Hulk, not add in a new element that completely controlled the outcome of the game.

Thus, I was faced with a conundrum. The only real reference material available to me from similar games sported a power curve much more dramatic than what I was seeking. So, I began with simple conversions from similar games, and very quickly pared down to elements that were less drastic.

As an example, cards with effects like “Target model is immediately shot by an auto-defense turret, 1d6 +0 damage” went right out. In mission #1, Suicide Mission, playing this card gives the Genestealer player one chance in six to win the mission outright. No matter how well the Marine player maneuvers, no matter how lucky he is up to that point, one simple card could very well end the game. This goes against the feel that Space Hulk’s well-crafted gameplay evokes: tight, tense, claustrophobic, and always balancing on a knife’s edge of victory and defeat. But removing many of the cards to preserve game balance brought up another question: how much should a single, lucky card draw affect the game?

My answer is this: A lucky card draw should in general affect a situation no more than a lucky Command Point draw, or a lucky die roll, or luck blip draw.

With this in mind, the cards being used (that had already undergone many tweaks and revisions by this point) were scrutinized again. This is done in a number of different ways. For example, the fairly straightforward “Lucky Shot” card allows for a chance to roll a die again and use the higher of the two results. This card is available to both players, and is no more powerful than a lucky roll in the first place.

In a similar fashion, the Marine-based order card “Watch Your Sector!” allows a model to go on overwatch if legally allowed to do so. While this may be surprising if used and timed correctly, it is in and of itself not all that different from drawing a few extra CP.

Many of the cards, however, do diverge somewhat from this fairly simple extrapolation. The Genestealer card “Acid Blood” places a hole in the ground where a ‘stealer was just killed. Again, not game breaking (and in some situations, not even all that relevant), but placed in the right area in the right missions it can certainly make a Marine player sweat.

Finally, some of the cards included allow for some unique circumstances that shake up a mission, but in such a way as to remain balanced. “Unknown Lifeforms” allows you to swap three Purestrain Genestealers for a Broodlord, but requires that you do so as a blip enters the board. This allows for a large, powerful siege-breaker of a model, but gives the Marine player time to prep for its arrival. (Note this is not the third edition Broodlord, however. The shooting and melee rules for that one are silly, and will be discussed more at a later date. Think 1st edition Patriarch or so.)

Action cards are not something that a player can build a game-winning strategy around just by drawing, but they are something to help you on your way if you’re lucky and clever enough.

Coming on Friday: combat and dealing damage in Space Hulk: XT.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Designer Diary: Overview of Space Hulk: XT

The purpose of this series of blog posts (Designer Diaries) is to give the world a look into the thought process behind my works. Over the years, there have been three official permutations of the Space Hulk board game. In addition to this, a number of added rules have been included in magazines, and numerous fan-made variants have also been made public. Several similar games have also been published by other companies.

Space Hulk: XT is my attempt to sort through all of the extra (and in some cases, highly conflicting) rules, charts, tables, units, weapons and missions that have appeared over more than two decades of Space Hulk. Ideally, the finished product will take what is best from the various versions of the game and update it to modern gameplay standards without modifying the core of gameplay any more than is necessary. Therein, however, resides the problem.

What are the “best” elements from each version of Space Hulk? If I simply make a cut-and-paste Frankenstein’s monster of a game based on what I deem to be “best,” there is little incentive for other players to view Space Hulk: XT as any more than another random variant. My goal, then, is not only to show what elements I have chosen to work with, but why I am doing so. Some game elements I find unnecessarily cumbersome, others simply do not seem to fit within the desired balance of the game. As such, many of these elements will not be included. It is my hope that by showing the thought process behind these decisions, I will be better able to convince others of the validity of the points I am attempting to make, and the gameplay experience that I am attempting to craft.

Coming this Wednesday: action card/fog of war decks in Space Hulk: XT.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Back in the saddle again!

After a rather sudden change in jobs late last year, I found myself in the awkward position of not really being able to post "fan" created game content of my own online. I essentially was required to live with no presence on the internet for others to see. However, now that that chapter of life has resolved itself, I am stepping back into my old shoes and beginning down this path of excitement and adventure once more. Thus, I offer my sincerest apologies for the delay in content, but can assure you all that things are about to transform. And then roll out.

Schedule for upcoming weeks:

First and foremost, Space Hulk XT. The Action Card decks, tokens and rules will all be properly formatted into snappy-looking .pdfs with new graphics. Then they will be hosted in a manner which makes downloading them much simpler than having to jump through fileshare hoops.

Following closely on the heels of the updated Action Card sets, I will begin posting previews of the updated XT Stat Cards for Marines and 'Stealers.

As the updated rules structure progresses (which includes the Stat Cards), be on the lookout for a series of Designer Diary posts explaining not only what I am building, but why I am doing it the way that I have chosen to do so.



"I'm finding my back to sanity again, though I don't really know what I'm gonna do when I get there."