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Subject: [Voice of Experience] Space Hulk: The Game, The Legend, The Legacy rss

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Rob Bradley
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Let me start off by saying that this review is not unbiased. Although I am generally an impartial gamer, Space Hulk has had its hooks in me for over 20 years. It is the perfect game that accomplished everything it was set out to do. When I drink from it, it tastes like the sweat from the breasts of a thousand naked angels. If you say the game has faults, I name you heretic. Or more likely, you just haven't yet been exposed to its marvelous splendor.

Let me warn you right now. This is not a short review. Heck, review is even a stretch for what I have written here. In fact, this beast numbers over 7000 words so go get a cup of coffee and then buckle up.

Part I: The Game


How do you describe perfection? How do you critique something that you love? I have struggled for quite a while here trying to come up with how I feel. Space Hulk has the thing that other games wish they had. When critics review rock bands or albums, they talk about 'it'. Space Hulk has 'it'. 'it' is the juicy nail-biting choices, the fun, the tension. ‘It’ is hard to define, but I knew it the minute I laid eyes on Space Hulk for the first time, and ‘it’ is still there 23 years later.

It is one player, as the Marines vs. the other player, as the genestealers. The setting: Huge hulking space ships that have been lost for millennium in the warp and have dropped into normal space and now threaten civilized space. These warp tainted ships, are normally void of life expect for the occasional hulk where a genestealer brood has caught a ride.

The Space Marines are genetically engineered super soldiers that "are superhuman warriors with the strength of ten men, the bravery of twenty men, and the experience of a hundred." They undergo extensive modification through surgical implants of things like a second heart and a multi-lung. I won't go into any more detail; but let us say, these things make space marines tough to kill. The Marines in Space Hulk are the top one percent of the Space Marines, they where special terminator armor that is twice as tough as standard Space Marine armor. It is these, the baddest of the baddest-assed marines that are given the task to cleanse space hulk's from the taint of the genestealer.

Why are the terminators called in when a space hulk is infested with genestealers? Well, it's because genestealers are bad mother fuckers. Their razor claws tear through plasteel armor like a katana through wet toilet paper. Their stealth and unparalleled speed make them tough targets and the hardened chitinous carapace shrugs off explosive projectiles and adamantine blades like a rock thrown at an Israeli tank.

It is elite-est of the elite vs. the worst the galaxy can spit out. It is:

MAN VERSUS ALIEN IN DESPERATE BATTLE

Here is a short mechanical overview for the uninitiated. Space Hulk is an action point (AP) game, each model gets a certain number of AP's to spend on its turn. Marines get 4, genestealers get 6. Marines can use action points to move, shoot, open doors, and go into overwatch. Overwatch, you may have heard of it, we'll talk more later. Due to their bulky armor, marines are limited in movement , such as the inability to move sideways. Genestealers are fast. Not only do they get more AP's, they can turn for free, making them very maneuverable.

Marines can shoot, they fire the best weapons the emperor has created and they are good at it. To shoot, the marine roll 2d6 and hit on a 6. That seems pretty easy except the dice are never added, it is the single highest roll that counts, if they miss, they can shoot again with a +1 sustained fire bonus as long as the marine is stationary.

Genestealers are very good in hand to hand combat, and even with the exceptional y strong terminator armor, it is like oysters on the half shell for a genestealer lunch. During close assault, the marine player has a chance, they roll 1d6, the genestealer rolls 3d6, once again dice are not added, it is the single highest roll.

The marine player also gets a random number of command points that are like extra AP's for the marine player, these command points can be spent on the marine turn or on the genestealer turn if the marine sees movement.

The marine player has one more tool in his arsenal. Overwatch adds the ability to shoot during the genestealer turn. For a quick 2 AP's the marine can enter overwatch, while in overwatch the marine will shoot at any genestealer that takes an action in its firing arc. Oh how glorious it is to be a marine, shoot shoot and more shooting. The genestealer doesn’t have a chance! And that one genestealer in front of you probably doesn't. But there are more behind that one and even more behind those. In fact, in most missions the genestealers just keep coming. ..and while you are in overwatch, you aren't moving far, and you aren't completing the mission objectives and the genestealers are amassing and you better get moving before you get overwhelmed. ...oh and did I mention a marines weapon can jam while in overwatch. Anytime the marine fires his storm bolter in overwatch, his gun jams when he rolls doubles.

But wait there is more, the marine player is on the clock, a timer is started on his turn and the marine payer has to plan and execute his move in a mere couple minutes. Genestealers are breathing down your neck, your best mate brother Vecchio has his entrails hanging out and you have to piece back together this mission in less than 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Better get planning partner.

The genestealer has a few tactical options, the genestealers usually enter the map as 'blips' these blips are a representation of 1 to 3 genestealers as seen on the heads up display of the terminator armor. The genestealer player can convert these blips when tactically advantageous into genestealer models. Generally each turn the genestealer player will randomly draw these blips out of a cup at the start of his turn. Keeping the marine player guessing at how many genestealers are under that blip is a strategy often used to coy, scare, and intimidate many a marine player.

There is of course more, there is a sergeant and there is a flamer marine, these provide some additional strategic options available to the marine player. The missions provide ample replayability. I have played several of the missions hundreds of times and I still learn new strategies and see something new almost every time.

I have been speaking generally about Space Hulk; Let us look at the specific games:

Space Hulk(1989)- Where it all started.
Expanded by:
Space Hulk: Deathwing Expansion(1990)
Space Hulk: Genestealer Expansion(1990)
Space Hulk Campaigns(1991)
White Dwarf articles:
114 Pitfall: Space Hulk mission
115 Command Units: weapons for Space Hulk
116 Delaying Action: scenario for Space Hulk
117 Close Assault: close combat weapons & army list for Space Hulk
120 Rules for Assault, Tactical and Devastator Squads in SH
121 Traitor Terminators: rules for Marine vs Marine in SH
122 Traitor Terminators: more stuff for SH
126 Genestealer: quick look at artwork and models
133 Genestealer Invasion: missions for SH
135 Genestealer Invasion Part 2: for SH
137 The Last Stand: a SH campaign
138 Necromunda: SH campaign
142 Question & Answer: for SH
144 Questions & Answers: for SH
147 Wolf Lair: Campaign for SH
149 Strike Deep: campaign for SH
152 Space Hulk: preview of the computer game
158 Return to Kalidus: SH scenario

Space Hulk

The 26 page rulebook was full of artwork and examples. It was truly one of the best written rulebooks available at the time. The rules were clear, crisp concise and easy to digestn learn, and teach.

The Missions and background book only had 6 missions. Six beautiful missions with great variability. A full 16 of the 30 pages are art and background on the marines and the genestealers.

It still boggles my mind how six missions could garner so much replayability. But they did and still do.

It started with perfection. MAN VERSUS ALIEN IN DESPERATE BATTLE. The rules are simple, the gameplay complex, the tension immense. The players struggled over each decision and held their breath during each roll of the die. There was no need for expansions. No need for a second edition. No living rulebook, no need for errata. It started at the top.

However, that didn’t stop us. The fans clamored for more. And although the game was heavily supported by Games Workshop's White Dwarf magazine by a full 18 articles which offered new missions and options. Still the fans wanted more.


Along came Space Hulk: Deathwing Expansion(1990). It had everything that a growing Space Hulk fan could want or need. More weapons, more marines, and a campaign! There is more. The 62 page rulebook contains rules for pitfalls and ladders for two level missions. Other map elements like crates, rubble and bulkheads were added. It provided a force list so the marine player could customize his squads to meet the demands of the mission. The six missions could be linked in a campaign encouraging longer sessions. And if these 6 missions weren't enough, they provided a random mission generator and to top it off, they provided excellent solo rules which could be used in conjunction with the random mission generator AND a campaign. Yes, you heard right, you could play an entire campaign of linked randomly generated missions, and you could do it all solo.

All in all, it turned heads. The marine player got new toys, the assault cannon was introduced, the captain showed up and that bad ass brought a wrist mounted grenade launcher to accompany his power sword. A Librarian with a force axe joined the party. Close assault marines were brought in. The Lightning claw and the Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield terminators, were all the genestealer could handle in a fist fight. What did the genestealer get? Nothing. Not a damn thing. Did they need it? No. They are already tough as nails and rough as eating a sandpaper and glass sandwich.


Space Hulk: Genestealer Expansion (1990): The infestation strikes back. Genestealer hybrids are introduced. Genestealers impregnate their DNA into host organisms and the result is a 'Hybrid' which is a mutant half genestealer/half human. These hybrids can wield a variety of weapons, which are introduced in this expansion such as a missile launcher, autocannon, bolter, laspistol, and the feared Conversion Beamer. If you think the genestealer forces firing back at you is a game changer, you haven't seen nothin’ yet. Genestealer also introduced Psyker rules; which is basically magic in the 40K universe. Now your Space Marine Psykers (called Librarians) can battle with Genestealer hybrid Psykers. I enjoy playing Genestealer; but it feels like GW ‘jumped the shark' with this expansion. And truth be told, the brilliant fast action that Space Hulk is known for was lost in Genestealer. Not only did game play get muddled, the quick playing action point system just doesn't work as well when both sides can shoot. All of this came with a measly two missions. Yes two. GW gave me 30 pages of Psyker rules and two missions.

A couple cool things Genestealer introduced were some nice wide corridors. With all of this shooting and the equivalent of lightning bolts flying around, it needed the space. Included with the new blip set were blips that were lettered A-J, instead of the standard 1, 2, and 3. These blips opened the door to a massive array of custom force opportunities. I used these in dozens of ways to introduce things from other Tyranids to Space Orks to Space Hulk.


Space Hulk Campaigns(1991) was a compilation of the White Dwarf articles on Space Hulk but it was compiled nicely with a good reference for the new rules and is the only place that has a complete weapons list. It contained 5 full campaigns with a total of 26 missions. Cool things 'introduced' were traitor terminators and space marines in power armor. New weapons were things like the bolter and flamer, which are both half as effective as there terminator level counterparts (the Storm Bolter and Heavy Flamer); but are the standard weapon of the Space Marine. However, they had a heavy weapons of their own, the missile launcher, which had your choice of warhead, a crack missile (for hard targets) or a plasma missile (for area of effect). Space Marines also had grenades in an assortment of flavors.

This campaign book is as close to a must have for a Space Hulk Connoisseur as a copy of First edition. It is the crown that sits atop the throne.

Space Hulk (second edition)(1996) - Messing with perfection

Expanded by:
White Dwarf articles
196 Space Hulk: A look at the new edition of SH
197 Defilement of Honor: three new missions for SH
199 Bringer of Sorrow: three mission campaign for SH using Deathwing
200 Fangs of Fenris: three mission campaign for SH using the Space Wolves
201 Duty and Honor: three mission campaign for SH using Ultramarines
203 The Fate of the Sword of Halcyon: five mission scenario for SH using Blood Angels
207 ...And That'll Be Corkin'!: a look at a 4" tall piece of SH/Necro terrain


I hadn't even known about Space Hulk when it was first released; but was lucky enough to buy a used copy. So when the second edition was announced, I was first in line. This new edition had some notable rules changes most notably; they switched out standard dice for custom 'shooting' dice. (yes, they are just for shooting). The flamer rules, which some found obtuse, where completely rewritten. The blip mix (which was only 1's, 2's, & 3's in the original) was changed to 0-6!
The models were updated to a more modern Terminator, while the genestealer models were relatively untouched. The new artwork was bright and shiny, quite a change from the dreary, dark artwork on the original.

The custom dice, although functional, meant you couldn't use any of the variety of weapons from the Deathwing or Genestealer expansions. The shiny new artwork clashed with the existing tile artwork making large custom maps appear gaudy and cluttered. All in all, second edition stifled the player’s ability to make and play custom missions. Simply put it was un-cool and was the start of my eventual cooling toward GW.

There was some good in second edition. They could have just reprinted the 6 missions from first editions, well; they did just that, but also included a clean dozen more missions in two full campaigns. The afore mentioned flamer rules were updated to allow for more control of the flame. Some liked it some hated it. I actually used a combination of the two for a while.


The white Dwarf articles all added some good stuff. They were all fun and interesting missions. Defilement of Honor contained ducts that only the genestealer player could use. Bringer of Sorrow and contained a few new and interestingly shaped rooms. Duty and Honor brought us the large Gantry room tile.

All in all, it was a worthy effort. And if it would have been introduced first, it may have garnered much praise and respect. But each change that was made was like tearing a hole in perfection.

Space Hulk (third edition)(2009) - The treatment it deserves


Expanded by: NOTHING

The beautiful 3rd edition appears to be a labor of love. Beautifully sculpted models. Every marine and almost every genestealer is unique. It included sculpted props like the dead space marine, artefact and the C.A.T. The tiles are glorious to behold, the art is dark and brooding, the tiles are debossed with 3D imprints that give a great sense of depth.

The rules are a return to the original, with plenty of Deathwing thrown in. The terminator player gets the standard storm bolters and flamer, but included are also an assault cannon and both close assault marines. The overwatch rules got beefed up with the addition of guard, which is analogous to overwatch for close assault.

The six original missions are back once again reprinted with almost no changes. Six other missions are also included, but disappointingly, these are also reprinted missions from various sources. The names may have changed, but you can’t fool someone who has played all the old missions dozens of times can easily tell that Mission VII: The Artefact is the same as the Deathwing Mission II: The ship’s log.

All that said, this is it, there doesn’t need to be more. This takes what was perfect and combines other bits of perfect and sticks it all into a gorgeous package. It pretends 2nd edition never existed. It honors all that is glorious with Space Hulk and doesn’t apologize for it. For all of GW's faults, this one they got right. I would die happy if nothing else was ever officially released for Space Hulk ever again.

Part II: The Legend

There are a lot of games out there that owe Space Hulk. Some owe Space Hulk in name; some owe Space Hulk in concept and style of play. Most of these are soft knock-offs from competitors trying to cash in, others are great companies in their own right trying to appeal to the Space Hulk Connoisseur, even GW has tried to ride the wave of success that is Space Hulk, and then still others are paying homage to the game that started it all.

Here is my (non-comprehensive) list of Games that owe lineage. In preparing for this article, I have played almost every game on this list in the last 3 weeks.



Aliens(1989)


First there was Aliens. Not the boardgame, the movie. Before I get all high and mighty and start to list the games that owe Space Hulk, we must first pay homage to the movie Aliens which is an obvious influence to Space Hulk. The Genestealer was first introduced in Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader in 1987. The Movie Aliens debuted in 1986. Space Hulk came out in 1989. Interestingly enough, the Aliens Boardgame by Leading Edge came out in 1989 as well. The Aliens boardgame is a tactical re-enactment of the high action parts of the movie. Each of these scenarios take place on a printed mapsheet, and, as in the movie, the colonial marines are trying to escape with their lives. A single d10 is used for all combat. Each scenario has some unique rules, but for the most part each turn aliens move, new aliens appear randomly on the map, aliens attack, then the marines move. This was supported by: Aliens Expansion

How is it Similar: Very fast aliens with no ranged attack trying to eat squishy slow marines that can shoot ranged weapons.
What it does better: It conveys the feel of the movie quite well. Aliens can drop out of ducts right on top of marines and carry them away. It is a better solo than Space Hulk as the aliens have rules to follow for attack and movement with no decision making leaving the player to control the marines.
Where does It fail: Although it recreates scenes in the movie quite well, those are the only scenarios available. It can be quite random which does offer some replayability but overall can leave you frustrated. The aliens dropping on the map randomly can mean an easy time if they drop in nice kill zones for the marines or it could be a nightmare when they drop right in top of your marines.

Space Crusade 1990, Advanced Space Crusade1990, Ultra Marines1991, Tyranid Attack1992

These are all by Games Workshop and are all (as is Space Hulk) part of the Warhammer 40K mythos. They all, in some respect, owe their linage to Space Hulk. After the success of Space Hulk in 1989, these were all released in the following three years.

How is it Similar: I have grouped them here as they are all similar in regards to miniatures combating on a modular board. Ultra Marines in fact, used the same tiles.
What it does better: Not much. There are some aspects to some of these that may be better. Space Crusade, Advanced Space Crusade, and Tyranid Attack offer other races for much increased variety. Space Crusade was successful enough to spawn a couple expansions: Space Crusade: Mission Dreadnought, & Space Crusade: Eldar Attack
Where does it fail: None of them were able to capture the gripping feel of Space Hulk, although Advanced Space Crusade fans will tell you differently. Space Hulk is a simple game; but most of these are even simpler. The failure, was GW's lack of foresight into their customers’ needs. They saw Space Hulk as a simpler extension of 40K and BAM! it was a hit, so how can we go wrong with releasing a whole smattering of even simpler games?


Blood Berets1993, Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel1993, Fury of the Clansmen 1994.


Mutant Chronicles may have been the biggest competitor of GW back in the Early 90's and these games were a reflection of that. In fact, I don’t think it's a coincidence that the best of this bunch is called "Siege of the Citadel" considering that Citadel Miniatures was the modeling arm of Games Workshop. Of these three games, I have only played Siege of the Citadel, so all of my experiences are based on that. In Mutant Chronicles, Huge Megacorporation's rule the solar system in a post-apocalyptic future. A Citadel was found on the mythical 10th planet, and when the explorers "Broke the Seal" a race of powerful mutants called the Dark Legion broke through to ravage known space. These games represent the struggle. Siege of the Citadel, is a 3-5 player game. The teams of Doomtroopers are not just fighting against the Mutant hoard, these teams are from competing corporations and want all the glory for themselves. So in a 5 player game, there are 4 Doomtrooper players and a Dark Legion player. The Dark Legion player is trying to kill everyone and the Doomtrooper players are trying to kill just the Dark Legion. Promotion points and credits are earned by the Doomtroopers for killing mutants. These are used to Rank up and to buy better weapons and armor. Each player has a tray to track the wounds, rank, and promotion points.

How it is Similar: Modular tiles and dicey combat abound. Humans vs. alien, but this time they shoot back. Doomtroopers are the analog of the Space Marine Terminators.
What it does better: Damage system for the heroes, quest based missions within a campaign. Characters actually level up and get better after each mission. Equipment can be bought to tailor your troops to your liking. A half dozen or so baddies add variety.
Where does it Fail: Can anything out-theme Space Hulk? Well this gives it a run, there has actually been a Mutant Chronicle movie! (For those that haven't seen it the exclamation point was in jest.) However, there must be a million words printed in a thousand books about the Warhammer universe. So no, nothing comes close to the mythology of Space Hulk. Multi-Player, just doesn't feel right These tactical games are mano-a-mano, me vs. you. Biggest Balls win. Multi-player just doesn't work that well in this environment. In Seige of the Citadel, there is too much randomness. Random turn order, random event cards, random Doomtrooper cards, etc. It all add up to a cement mixer where the players decisions don’t matter as much due to the chaotic nature of the game.

Legions of Steel(1992)

After Mutant Chronicles, this gem by Global Games was probably the most successful knock-off in the 90's. The reasons are this game stands on its own as a great game and a great game system. It was popular enough to be released in two versions (with and without miniatures) and it even spawned a second edition. It was expanded by: Legions of Steel Advanced Rules, Legions of Steel Alien Source Book, Legions of Steel Scenario Pack 1, Legions of Steel Junction Point: Campaign Pack 1 and a slew of miniatures.
Legions of Steel is a battle of United Nations of Earth (UNE) Commandos vs. a terminator-like Machine hoard. The scenarios play out on modular tiles as the forces battle back and forth. The expansion materials added more scenarios, more tiles, more rule options, more models, and even added a couple of new alien races. These were all supported by a line of miniatures.

How it is similar: Legions of Steel is always compared to Space Hulk. In appearances it looks the most similar to Space Hulk than any of the other games listed. Commando's vs. Machines in gripping combat on a modular board. Has an action point , command point, and overwatch mechanic similar to Space Hulk.
What it does better: It has been said that if Space Hulk were Checkers, Legions of Steel would be Chess. And for the most part this is true. LoS adds some great tactical options, like grenades, running, kneeling, snap fire around corners, incline turns, suppression, cover fire, oh my. I revel in the options and from a tactical point of view, there is none better.
Where does it fail: Damn the complexity. There is a marker for the state of each miniature. Fired, Cover -1, Suppression, kneeling, etc. You have to track command point and grenade usage, roll for initiative, etc. This complexity isn't so cool when you have to bookkeep. A scenario of Space Hulk can take 15 minutes, try getting three turns of LoS in for that.

Last Frontier: The Vesuvius Incident(1993)

This is one of the few games in this list I haven’t actually played. It is on my short list and I eagerly await the reprint. Here’s a blurb form the description:
It Seemed Like a Simple Mission...
Join the UN Colonial Marine Corps in this exciting solitaire game from FMG! Take command of a team of 12 heavily armed Marines as they board a crippled lab ship in a decaying orbit. Rescue the surviving crew, but beware of malevolent alien intruders, escaped lab animals, berserk robots and a sabotaged defense system. Work fast - the controls are smashed and the ship is plummeting towards a fiery end in the atmosphere below. The action is exciting and unpredictable from the minute you dock until the last shuttle blasts out!
Can you make it back alive from the Last Frontier?

How it is similar: Marines vs. Aliens on a troubles space ship. If the theme isn’t exactly like SPaec Hulk it ‘feels’ just like it.
What it does better: It’s a better solo than Space Hulk. Lots of random events that aren’t limited to aliens popping out of the walls.
Where does it fail: Lot’s of rules complexity, average artwork, counters instead of models.

Dark Horizon: Escape (1996), Dark Horizon: Notice of Termination (1997)



Space Hulk meets Cyberpunk in a dark alley and out pops Dark Horizon. Back in the mid-90's, hair bands abound and R. Talsorian's Cyberpunk and Fasa's Shadowrun were hot commodities. What could be better than meshing the hottest RPG trends with the awesome-ness of Space Hulk? I can imagine the designers were thinking just that when they ventured to create this game. It had warts out of the box; but that doesn't prevent it from showing its age. It is chocked full of tables. Tables for close combat, tables for damage, tables for fire modifiers, hit location. There is even a table for Cyber-mod failures. The impulse system for action points breaks the action down to a smaller increments so, instead of your move, my mover, both players get to stay engaged. Each turn is broken down into 15 impulses where characters can generally perform action on some of those impulses in initiative order. I am not sure how the stand alone expansion got printed, it offers more of the same plus some new weapons including grenades and other charges.

How is it similar: Modular board, action point system, this time its Cyberpunks vs. MegaCorp guards.
What it does better: Various player powers, lots of variety in weapons and armor, Each character has a card to updates status and reference.
Where does it fail: Well, frankly, this is a pretty low, budget, amateur effort. The art is horrendous, the layout and rules are not concise. The tile connection system is certainly unique; but that doesn't make it good. It takes too long to connect the pieces to make the map. The game uses chits to mark such things as weapons and armor, this is fine, but the text on those chits does not match the text in the book. For instance, it took me a while to find the laser spray pistol chit, b/c the marker simply says LSP. The Double barrel shotgun is the 2-Barrel shotgun, the Bat, is the baton. Am I being picky?

Lost Patrol2000



Lost Patrol feels like a solo version of Space Hulk. In fact, it has some small similarities to the solo rules found in Deathwing. It is a 2 player game; but it is very easy (and quite entertaining) to play solo.
On some jungle world a squad of 5 Space Marine scouts out on Patrol get lost. Yup, that's it. There are lurker tokens that can move around the jungle and await in ambush while the scouts try to find their way back to their dropship. It feels like one of those games you can't win. You simply cannot shoot enough of these lurkers to offset the amount that can be added every turn.
How is it similar: Space marines vs. an overwhelming hoard of toothy aliens on a modular board.
What it does better: It is lighter and quicker. I can see myself pulling this out while watching a baseball game and it would be quite comfortable. It sets up in a snap and you can play a game in 7 minutes.
Where does it fail: It simply doesn’t have the depth. Even though the board is modular and grows as the scouts explore, there is really not much replayability. Some plays you get hosed, sometimes you get lucky; but not much changes and after a few plays, it ultimately turns out flat.


Hybrid(2003)


Oh, Rackham, how we all wish you could have gotten out of your own way. Back in the early 00’s, Rackham represented a hope. It was the hope that someone was finally going to take on GW. They launched a few beautifully produced games. The models for Confrontation and then later, AT-43 were gorgeous. If only they would have spent some time designing the game systems. If only they would have hired competent rules writers. If only…. But that was not the case. These games were all a mess and Hybrid was no different. I here there is a decent game in here, but I haven’t been able to get through the rules. Each time I pick up the rule book I get frustrated and throw it back into the box. Beautifully produced, great idea, poor execution, poorly written rules, and ultimately poorly supported by a doomed company. It did have one expansion: Hybrid Expansion 1: Nemesis
How is it similar: Humans vs. Monsters on a modular board in this skirmish action game.
What it does better: It oozes with theme. In fact, Rackham focused so hard on that they forgot every other aspect of the game
Where does it fail: Horrible rules. They are not just poorly written, they don’t even use the same dialect as the rest of the known world. You don’t have Line of Sight, you have Angle of vision. Are you kidding me? When you activate a figure, there are 24 action modes to choose from. Yes, 24. Do you know why phone numbers are 7 digits long? That’s because that is right in the wheelhouse for typical human short term memory. Now multiply that times 3+ and you have the number of action choices in Hybrid. You may have noticed I have no logged plays of Hybrid and that is because I only log completed plays and I have yet to get through a whole session of this before putting it back on the shelf.

Doom: The Boardgame(2004)

Kevin Wilson cleverly devised a board game that represents an analog version of the classic computer game. It is basically a multi-player FPS of marines vs. demons that have escaped through a Hellgate on Mars. One player plays the demons, and one or more players represent the marines. The marines get decked out with special abilities and find new weapons and ammo in creates along the way. When a hero dies, he (like the computer game) simply respawns eliminating player elimination. The game is more dungeon Crawl than tactical combat. Doom: The Boardgame was expanded by the originally named: Doom: The Boardgame Expansion Set

How it is similar: Marines shooting fast creepy things on a modular board.
What it does better: Marines are more individual, have skills and abilities that are unique. The marines get better as they find more and better weapons. The baddies are extremely varied and different tactics are needed for each type. Multiplayer, heroes re-spawn.
Where does it fail: These options are great and all; but this isn't the personal bloodfest I was looking for. It is a dungeon crawl at heart and its feet are cemented firmly in that camp. In fact, Kevin Wilson tweaked this system into Descent: Journeys in the Dark.

Incursion(2009)


So replace Space Marines fighting Aliens with American Commandos in diesel powered armor vs. Mutant Nazi Zombies. Incursion brings a card play mechanic to the tactical skirmish genre, and it does it pretty well. I’ve only played a few times and Incursion has a lot to offer. This game is supported by Grindhouse Games with the Incursion: SNAFU and a slew of pewter models.

How is it similar: Mission based two player skirmish game of good vs. evil. Slow plodding marines with guns vs. a Nazi hoard. Uses command points and even has an overwatch mechanic.
What it does better: The art is superb. It uses a card drawing and card based effects giving it a modern, card driven feel. The card play adds great amount of tactical diversity.
Where does it fail: This is a good game but it isn’t Space Hulk. The rules are pretty seamless but the tactical complexity does lead to much longer turns. There is almost no way to play this solo. The game only comes with cardboard, models are sold separately.

Claustrophobia(2009)


Claustrophobia is more of a dungeon crawl than a skirmish game; but the comparisons are inevitable, most of the reviews mention Space Hulk by name, and even the ones that don’t, Space Hulk is never far from the topic. The theme is quite different from anything else I’ve seen in this genre. A redeemer and a few condemned warriors are sent into ancient catacombs to stem the tide of demons and the spawn of hell. The game has many innovations that create a tense and engaging atmosphere. It has both event and equipment cards that can be found or drawn, there is a cool dice management aspect to both the human and the demon player. It has been expanded by: Claustrophobia: De Profundis
How is it similar: Troglodytes are the equivalent of the genestealer, spawning continuously to harass the human player. This is a two player bloody dicefest and although the rules and gameplay are almost completely different than Space Hulk, the game elicits a similar feel.
What it does better: Pre-painted miniatures. GW makes a ton of money on getting gamers into their hobby, the hobby includes painting models. I for one love the pre-painted miniatures as they look great and are a huge time saver. The dice management aspect is pretty neat. It plays quicker than Space Hulk and it isn’t bogged down with counting squares, line of sight, or even model facing.
Where does it fail: The game is tense and offers great amounts of engaging gameplay, but it misses the boat if you are looking for great tactical play. You lose clarity when these things are abstracted.

Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game (2010)

Uh oh. FFG is going to 'F' with my game. MY game. That was my first thoughts when I heard Space Hulk was going to get the FFG treatment as a card game. I was not enthused, which was not enough to stop me from buying a copy the instant it was released at GenCon.
As a Co-Op this game works pretty well, the dichotomous action cards work well and the player really do need to helkp each other and plan well in order to be successful. It has enough difficulty to add just he right amount of tension. As your marines get torn apart, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay alive...much like the board game. Kudos. This was supported by some mini-expansions: Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game – Mission Pack 1, Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game: Space Marine Pack 1, Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game: Tyranid Enemy Pack, & Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game – Deathwing Space Marine Pack.

How it is similar: Get your space Marines to survive the onslaught of the genestealer hoard.
What it does better: Beautiful artwork somehow brings the marines to life, somehow even better than the board game.
Where does it fail: Space Hulk is a two player game. This is playacting.

Space Hulk In my Pocket (2010?)

[pictures not added for legal reasons]

This game and all associated files and content was removed from the database. I am not going to get into an IP debate, but let us agree that the world would be poorer if not for Space Hulk in my Pocket. It is a fun light little game and yes, it did take massive liberties with its content; but I don't care much about that. It offers a neat little dungeon crawly experience in a few minutes using my favorite game as a backdrop.

How is it similar: Same mythos, Same marines, heck even the same derelict spaceship. It's mission based and has a modular board with a Space Marine Terminator roaming the hallways.
What it does better: It's free if you can find the files (don't ask me please). It fits in your pocket.
Where does it fail: really not many choices: flip some tiles and maybe win, maybe lose. It lacks the tension that makes Space Hulk great.

Earth Reborn(2010)

On the surface you may say that Earth Reborn doesn’t much resemble Space Hulk. But I would argue that Earth Reborn wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for Space Hulk. I remember looking through a fan made mission list and came across a mission called: “IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NEST A New Space Hulk Mission by Christophe Boelinger” Yes, the same Christophe Boelinger who designed Earth Reborn. And now let us look at the similarities. A 2 player skirmish game played on a modular board. Dice rolling for ranged combat and melee. A built-in system for interrupting your opponent’s actions. Sure, it’s wildly different in its mechanisms, damage accumulation, its brilliant order token mechanic, and dozens of other options; but also similar enough for a friend to recommend it to me simply because I was a Space Hulk fanatic.

How is it similar: Modular board, 2 player skirmish game. Great backstory.
What it does better: There is a lot to like in Earth Reborn, and truthfully I haven’t given it enough respect yet. I still owe it a bunch of plays. There are buckets of theme along with the dice, but I really love the order tile mechanic. Not being able to count your opponents range and to Hit numbers provides a fog of war that these types of game shave never had before and removes the number crunching AP from the game completely.
Where does it fail: There are a mess of rules, it takes awhile to set-up (and breakdown), and it is much more complex. I would say it is not nearly as easy to get into as Space Hulk.

Forlorn: Hope(2010)



Just read the tagline; “Forlorn: Hope is a game of tactical combat between a squad of human Space Marines and a nearly unlimited horde of vicious alien Xenos aboard the claustrophobic space station, Hope.” I can’t put into words how obvious of a rip this is. That didn’t stop me from wanting it , it’s probably the reason I bought the dang thing.

How is it similar: "…Space Marines and a nearly unlimited horde of vicious Xenos aboard…”
What it does better: The rules are dead simple and well laid out in numbered format for easy reference. The components are nothing special but the art is decent. It plays different enough from Space Hulk to warrant on occasional play. Supports solo rules right ot of the box, or in this case baggie.
Where does it fail: Ultimately it falls well short, not enough replayability, not enough variation in missions, not engaging or tense enough gameplay.

We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface on other formats. For example, the excellent Alien Assault by Teardown is a dead ringer for Space Hulk. But this article has already gone on for far too long and we haven’t even gotten to Part III yet. Speaking of…

Part III: The Legacy


There were a dozen or so fan sites dedicated to the Space Hulk experience. These sites are littered with scores of fan created missions and content. There is a massive unofficial rules tome you may find by digging called the “Space Hulk Bible” it contains all known first edition rules including everything GW has printed on the matter.

I would credit sites like:
Expanding the Hulk: http://homepages.ihug.com.au/~tezzajw/index.htm
Enter the Hulk: http://spacehulk.barsoom.cc/ressurected/eth/enter2.html

For keeping the effort alive even though GW legal has shut most sites down. Well they haven’t shut sites down; they’ve threatened legal action if they didn’t remove certain content and most have gotten fed up and went away.

There is still a ton of really cool community support of Space Hulk and even more since the release of 3rd edition.

The wonderful Space Hulk 3E tileset found here: http://www.warseer.com/forums/showthread.php?217976-Space-Hu... can be used to create custom missions and campaigns.
Many of these can be found right here on BGG, for example: Custom Mission: Pressure & Crux Terminatus Project - Part I: Harbinger of Despair Campaign
When looking for custom missions, don’t be shocked if you find a page like this: N/A The great GW purge removed most of these files from BGG; but don’t be dismayed. Google is your friend and there is a whole world of custom maps, missions, rules, and campaigns.

There is also a good amount of 3rd party support for Space Hulk.
Manufacturers such as:

Litko http://www.litko.net/
Hirst Arts http://www.hirstarts.com/
Creative Gamescapes http://www.creativegamescapes.dreamhosters.com/?p=49
Battlefoam http://us.battlefoam.com/

My Hirst Arts set


A Terminator captain I painted

These all provide some really cool upgrades to your Space Hulk Gaming experience. The amount of mods, customization and ‘pimping’ of this game is unparalleled. Just take a gander at the image folders for any of the Space Hulk games and you will find scores of custom terrain, missions, and unbelievably painted miniatures.

Most games are a passing fancy. You play them, maybe get exited, buy it play some more but then eventually move on to something else, something new and exciting, some other intriguing game. Space Hulk hasn’t been like that. It never was, and I believe it never will be. I remember playing this solo in my apartment in college and thinking I would be playing Space Hulk in a nursing home someday. Well, I’m not in a nursing home, but that was over 15 years ago and I still play Space Hulk, and to this day I still feel the same about it…and even today I can still see myself breaking this out in 35 years in a nursing home. Maybe one of you can join me.


Edit: format issues.
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W M
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What a great compilation of the various games and resources! Thanks.
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The information presented is simply... gorgeous! Marvelous work!
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Mike Wene
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Truly impressive article. Thanks for sharing!
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Nice! I can appreciate all of the hard work that went into this "review" and it's nice to see a fellow Space Hulk fan.

I also agree with just about everything you had to say about the other games mentioned but I am a bit suprised that you were so loving of the third edition, especially after your comments about the second edition.

If you don't own or don't want to spring the money for the original and all of it's expansions, then I can see the third as a great edition. I am glad I own it, just for all of the love that went into the production of this game. Embossed, full colored boards, chits and board pieces thick enough to use as a cutting board (although I wouldn't recommend it)and beautifully sculpted minis the like of which I don't know if it had ever been seen in a boardgame before.

I paid $100 for this and I paid a $100 for Fleet Captains, guess which one I felt I got rooked on.

BUT they messed with the rules in the 3rd even more than the 2nd to the point where the balance is (IMHO) scewed a little to far to the marines favor. If you have a Librarian and a flamer on the team they can just block entry areas until they march to their objective and Force Barrier doesn't even need line of sight. 10 turns is a lot.

Some of the scenarios are as good as the 1st edition even with the new rules but some are just broken. I liked the addition of the broodlord and appreciate their trying to revamp it for a new audience. I feel that it's great that GW made it available to the masses again and it's a good game but it's not the masterpiece that 1st edition was.

On a side note, have you played any of the video game versions and what did you think. I had a friend who bought the original DOS version when it came out and it was cool, especially those opening sequences but man!, the 3DO kicked some major butt.

I bought a 3DO just to own this game, that computer generated stealer spinning in place was a sight to behold. I just sat there staring at the beauty of it. Those first missions as a grunt were a blast, first person perspective blowing away stealers, watching heads arms and legs go flying and coating the walls with genestealer blood was euphoric.

It even had hybrids, chaos marines and a patriarch, awesome didn't do it justice. Of course it's quite dated by todays standards but for the day, what a blast.
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Bryce K. Nielsen
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Holy crap, what an article! And I've only just skimmed it, I'll need to go back and reread it in detail when I have more time. Kudos on the work, love the inclusion of similar games, also love how it makes it feel like Space Hulk is to boardgames what Tolkien is to fantasy novels.

Excellent work.

-shnar
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Impressive article. Thank you.
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HarryFlashmanKBE wrote:
I'll be bringing my copy to that nursing home, and we can set up a monster-sized campaign mission arrrh

 


Where do I sign up for this special nursing home?
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Quite possibly the most thorough and informative review I've ever read. Lots of games I've never heard of that now have my interest! Awesome game! Great job!
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Thanks all who have given kind words. I have been toying with the idea of comparing these tile based skirmish games for a while now and theis wonderful voices of experience contest had finally given me the motivation to do so.

jphien wrote:
BUT they messed with the rules in the 3rd even more than the 2nd to the point where the balance is (IMHO) scewed a little to far to the marines favor. If you have a Librarian and a flamer on the team they can just block entry areas until they march to their objective and Force Barrier doesn't even need line of sight. 10 turns is a lot.


You are right the Librarian is powerful; but it was in Deathwing as well. In Deathwing, the Librarian could use force points to supplement his roll AFTER the result was tallied, so you could spend exactly the right amount of force points to beat a 'stealer in HtH. The marines did get wicked powerful with some of those rules changes; but the genestealer also got some help, for example, in mission 1(Suicide Mission), the genestealers now get 2 blips per turn instead of 1.

jphien wrote:
Some of the scenarios are as good as the 1st edition even with the new rules but some are just broken. I liked the addition of the broodlord and appreciate their trying to revamp it for a new audience. I feel that it's great that GW made it available to the masses again and it's a good game but it's not the masterpiece that 1st edition was.


Agreed, I wish they would have put as much time in on the rules and scenarios as the tiles and miniatures. I may end up playing first edition rules with these tiles and miniatures; but I do like the guard rule, I like the Thunder hammer and Storm shield rules; but the broodlord and Librarian are a little overpowered. I think they are both fun to play and try new things with though.

jphien wrote:
On a side note, have you played any of the video game versions and what did you think. I had a friend who bought the original DOS version when it came out and it was cool, especially those opening sequences but man!, the 3DO kicked some major butt.


I played the DOS game, it was fun but didn;'t get intot it that much. I never had a 3DO. The closest implementation has got to be the Alien Assault I mentioned.

jphien wrote:
It even had hybrids, chaos marines and a patriarch, awesome didn't do it justice. Of course it's quite dated by todays standards but for the day, what a blast.


I had all of this in metal; so I stuck with the tabletop version. I guess I prefer the game in analog
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Pablo Schulman
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This is not a review. This is a labour of love.
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THE DEFINITIVE SPACEHULK EXPOSE

Sir you are to be congratulated. That was a supreme effort. thumbsupthumbsupthumbsup
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Snowman wrote:
THE DEFINITIVE SPACEHULK EXPOSE


I was going to title this article "The complete Space Hulk" but I thought better of it as I know of at least a half a dozen other people that are more knowledgeable about Space Hulk than I.

Part II feels like it should be a geeklist; there are already a couple geeklists similar to it in concept; but nothing in this format.

Another thing I was stunned, by is Space Hulk 1st, 2nd, and 3rd edition are not "linked forums" and I do not know how to fix. Someone with more "geeddo smarts" will have to advise. So I am sure there are those that subscribe to Space Hulk 3rd, that have not seen this article. I think I will go and cross-post now.
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I actually bought Space Hulk: Death Angel The Card Game based on this review (I already own two copies of 3rd ed and two travel editions of the same).
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talusproteus wrote:
I actually bought Space Hulk: Death Angel The Card Game based on this review (I already own two copies of 3rd ed and two travel editions of the same).


When I said "brings the marines to life, somehow even better than the board game" I have been thinking about this more. In most of these games, I don't get attached to the protagonist as much as I do in the card game. I think it is because the marines are all named, and that somehow makes them more real. I remember playing in a Legions of Steel game at Gencon where the guy running the game (Steve Gibson) had painted names on the bases of the figures and whenever one died, he would pick up the figure and role play a little death monologue. Not only was it quite entertaining, the next time I sacrificed a commando to save the rest of the squad; I thought about 'Pvt. Ramirez' and the unenviable position I had placed him in.
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talusproteus wrote:
I actually bought Space Hulk: Death Angel The Card Game based on this review (I already own two copies of 3rd ed and two travel editions of the same).


... travel editions?!?

-shnar
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shnar wrote:
... travel editions?!?

-shnar


I am not sure if this is the same thing that Justin is talking about but I have seen a couple homebrew 'travel editions' that were made using Warhammer Epic 40,000 scale miniatures. I think the squares were like 10mm or something crazy like that. It took up less than 1/4 of the table space as the original.
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shnar wrote:
talusproteus wrote:
I actually bought Space Hulk: Death Angel The Card Game based on this review (I already own two copies of 3rd ed and two travel editions of the same).


... travel editions?!?

-shnar


Yeah! I've got one with painted/customized epic minis (metal with magnetic bases) and the board bits are printed on to magnetic cardstock (I bought it off a guy on ebay--the whole thing can be slapped on to a small whiteboard and played on the go).

I also have one scaled to 15mm which I've been building myself. I built the board and bits using MS publisher, pictures from the 3rd edition tile set, some label paper, and some thick cardstock. I couldn't find any marines or genestealers in 15mm, though, so a few days ago I finally broke down and decided to get a bit creative; basically, my 15mm version will be an Aliens vs. Predator retheme (the pieces should arrive in a week or two).

Genestealers become Aliens:
http://khurasanminiatures.tripod.com/ttc901.jpg
http://khurasanminiatures.tripod.com/ttc903.jpg
Brood Lord becomes Hive King:
http://khurasanminiatures.tripod.com/ttc905.jpg

SH marines were swapped for sci-fi human marines (working in coordination with the predators):
http://khurasanminiatures.tripod.com/end300.jpg

Sgt. Lorenzo is replaced by Predator 1:
http://khurasanminiatures.tripod.com/pla5.jpg
Sgt. Gideon is replaced by Predator 2:
http://khurasanminiatures.tripod.com/pla5a.jpg
Librarian is replaced by Predator 3 (I've justified his psychic powers as being high-tech weaponry...which isn't hard to fathom):
http://khurasanminiatures.tripod.com/pla5b.jpg

The other unique marines (assault cannon, lightning claws, flame thrower, and chainfist w/stormbolter) are variations on these robot baddies (using different arm combinations): http://khurasanminiatures.tripod.com/ttc1602.jpg

The whole thing fits into my 7 Wonders: Leaders box...but there isn't any room for the minis. I'll have to store them in some altoids tins or something. shake
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Thanks for, not only this great article, but also for introducing this game to me all those years ago. Well done sir!!
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talusproteus wrote:
shnar wrote:
talusproteus wrote:
I actually bought Space Hulk: Death Angel The Card Game based on this review (I already own two copies of 3rd ed and two travel editions of the same).


... travel editions?!?

-shnar


Yeah! I've got one with painted/customized epic minis (metal with magnetic bases) and the board bits are printed on to magnetic cardstock (I bought it off a guy on ebay--the whole thing can be slapped on to a small whiteboard and played on the go).

I also have one scaled to 15mm which I've been building myself. I built the board and bits using MS publisher, pictures from the 3rd edition tile set, some label paper, and some thick cardstock. I couldn't find any marines or genestealers in 15mm, though, so a few days ago I finally broke down and decided to get a bit creative; basically, my 15mm version will be an Aliens vs. Predator retheme (the pieces should arrive in a week or two).

Genestealers become Aliens:
http://khurasanminiatures.tripod.com/ttc901.jpg
http://khurasanminiatures.tripod.com/ttc903.jpg
Brood Lord becomes Hive King:
http://khurasanminiatures.tripod.com/ttc905.jpg

SH marines were swapped for sci-fi human marines (working in coordination with the predators):
http://khurasanminiatures.tripod.com/end300.jpg

Sgt. Lorenzo is replaced by Predator 1:
http://khurasanminiatures.tripod.com/pla5.jpg
Sgt. Gideon is replaced by Predator 2:
http://khurasanminiatures.tripod.com/pla5a.jpg
Librarian is replaced by Predator 3 (I've justified his psychic powers as being high-tech weaponry...which isn't hard to fathom):
http://khurasanminiatures.tripod.com/pla5b.jpg

The other unique marines (assault cannon, lightning claws, flame thrower, and chainfist w/stormbolter) are variations on these robot baddies (using different arm combinations): http://khurasanminiatures.tripod.com/ttc1602.jpg

The whole thing fits into my 7 Wonders: Leaders box...but there isn't any room for the minis. I'll have to store them in some altoids tins or something. shake


That is all kinds of coolness dripping in awesome sauce.
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Thanks! Remind me to post pictures when the minis arrive. laugh
 
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Oh, nice. Thought maybe it might have been something like this:



-shnar
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shnar wrote:
Oh, nice. Thought maybe it might have been something like this:



-shnar


Sort of like that. I don't use individual printed maps. Instead, I have tiny 3rd edition magnetized tiles WITH all the map expansions from Deathwing, Genestealer, and White Dwarf. Everything fits into a quart-sized ziplock baggie, and I have two regular altoid tins for the epic minis (stealers and marines in one and doors with magnetic bases in the second) and one mini altoids tin for the magnetized blips, which also fit into the baggie.

The one downside is that you need to carry a small metal board (which I have) or a whiteboard (which I also have) to be able to play on the go. It's definitely functional--and it's the only option if you want to play in a moving vehicle--but since Space Hulk is such an epic sort of game, I prefer having a wee bit more space to play on. Hence my reason for building the 15mm board: small enough to toss in a suitcase when I'm traveling, but large enough to feel like a genuine boardgame (and still fit on a small table).
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James McHugh
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Great post, I have to agree that it's one of the best I've read here!! Thanks for posting.
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one of the greatest reviews ever!!

thanks for all the info

now if I could just get some of those files for a travel edition, that would be great
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