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.
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.