Some thoughts on Space Hulk game mechanics

Image from Games Workshop

We all start the same way
We started playing the game just like everyone else, you use the rules as they are right out of the box. It doesn't take long to figure out how to "game" the game and use the rules to your advantage though.

If you're the Marine player first, it takes about half a turn before you realize the error of your way and want to do something different. It's only natural that you discover the ins and outs either through getting killed playing or reading about it online from others.

Eventually you start looking for more in the game. You start trying new rules, new combinations... whatever it takes as the Marine player so you're not getting wiped off the board in 30 seconds flat. You start trying anything to capture that initial feeling when you first started playing (and more importantly stay alive long enough to get out of the boarding torpedo). And that's when the potential for problems start.

Where the problems start
My friend and I went through the same thing. After a couple games, you learn the "smart moves" if you will for each side. What corner you should stay behind if you're the Genestealer player or just how far you need to be away so you can't be assaulted in close combat next turn if you're the Marine player. And the game changes for you at that point.

You realize you've learned how to "game" the game. It doesn't take long... it's a simple game. But that is the absolute beauty in it. It is truly simple. It is a simple game that captures so much in those few rules. Think about it... the game accounts for different movement speeds, weapon malfunctions, limited ammunition, brutal hand to hand combat... the list goes on and on. But it is simple.

The beauty lies in its simplicity
The game is limited in a number of ways. But we often forget that it's designed that way. The rules are deliberately simple. The game mechanics, while not perfect, are simple and often designed to capture the feeling of something more than that actual effect. The heavy flamer is a perfect example... it's one we'll visit in an upcoming article as it has given us the biggest trouble to date.

And here is where I think most of us make the problem worse.
We start adding complex rules and complex game mechanics to a SIMPLE game. And there are lots of reasons for doing this. Maybe it's all we know, maybe we think it will help, maybe we want it to be more like game XYZ. Whatever the reason may be. Sometimes we're even successful to a degree. That's a debate for another day, but the real challenge facing most of us who start to modify Space Hulk (or any game for that matter really) is how and or what do we add or subtract from it to remove the ability to "game the game" and still maintain that initial feeling to the game. I can say that my friend and I have been working towards removing the ability to "game the game" and make Space Hulk all the more enjoyable when we play.

How we keep a simple game simple
And so we set out to make Space Hulk play how we want it to. We've worked hard to maintain the simplicity of the game and rules. It's a lot harder to do than I thought it would be. There is a beauty to the speed and ease at which Space Hulk plays and that can be lost in a second when you start changing things. We've made some mistakes along the way and we've made some improvements that we really like as well through trial and error.

Next time I'll go over the guiding principles behind when/how/why we make changes. Believe it or not, we have come up with guidelines for how we make rules changes. Who would have thought you needed rules for making rules.