Monday 27 July 2015

Space Hulk - After Action Report

Yesterday (a dreary Sunday afternoon if ever there was one) I was fortunate enough to be invited for a painting session with my gaming buddies. I arrived to a scene of utter carnage; apparently they assumed I was the messiest painter ever and had covered the entire floor of their living room in newspaper! After a brief double take and my patented quizzical stare I manfully got on with painting some more Night Lords. Good progress was made by all involved but as the evening drew in I was getting antsy (and hungry!) so we duly broke out the Space Hulk and ordered lashings of Chinese food.

Space Hulk is a game I've struggled with in the past. Try to play it with a hardcore wargamer and they'll complain that it's too simple. Try it with a casual board gamer on the other hand and they complain that it's too much like a war game! Regardless, it's a game I have a soft spot for and so I've continued attempting to foist it upon anyone who will even remotely entertain the idea. For this game we played as a group of five, three playing the Blood Angels and two playing the Genestealers. I chose the exterminate mission simply because I hadn't played it before.

The Exterminate map - Scary!
In this mission, the five Blood Angels begin play scattered across the map. Their objective is to either block the Genestealer entry points by standing near them; or to kill all of the Genestealers. The Genestealer objective is simple, kill all the Blood Angels! The Blood Angels have the deadly Assault Cannon and are led by the utterly useless Sergeant Gideon.

The game started with a bit of confusion as I failed to tell the Blood Angels players that they could win the mission by killing all of the Genestealers (sorry guys!) This caused some aimless shuffling by several of the Terminators as they wandered up and down corridors. Sergeant Gideon was particularly impressive as he walked round and around the same room, opening and closing the doors as he went. Needless to say, the Blood Angels command point totals were dismal at this stage (he was probably distracted by all the doors.)

After a few turns some of the blips began to reach the Terminators and the game began in earnest. I took command of the Genestealers coming from the South entry areas and Keith took the North. Facing off against an Assault Cannon on overwatch was always going to be messy and I took heavy casualties as I attempted to rush the southern rooms. I did however manage a lucky kill as a Stormbolter jammed and one of the Terminators was brought down. Keith played a much more stealthy hand and moved his blips through the tunnels to the far North causing a lot of backtracking and overwatching from the Blood Angels.

As we moved into the mid-game I finally accepted that I was going to have to try to force a reload from the Assault Cannon. I duly expended my Genestealers only to have the Assault Cannon retreat into the central area just out of reach. How frustrating! Meanwhile, the Terminators to the North were attempting a retreat towards the central area and Keith managed to kill one of them with a well timed rush.

The last few turns saw two terminators hunkered down in the central room and Sergeant Gideon bravely hiding behind them retreating down a dead-end corridor. Once again, we realised that the newly reloaded Assault Cannon was only going to be silenced by throwing bodies at it, so I attempted another mad rush. Slowly the ammo counter dropped and the bodies of Genestealers piled up. We were starting to get low on bodies and I was considering running away and forcing a draw. Finally there was only one round left in the chamber, a stray Genestealer rounded the corner, the dice were rolled and came up a four, a four and a four! The Assault Cannon had exploded! Instantly killing the wielder and slaying the Terminator standing next to him! All that remained was for the last seven Genestealers to kill Gideon (now firmly wedged in the dead end) and the day would be ours!

Grimly seeing his fate, Gideon was put on Guard and awaited the final rush. Come and get it alien scum! Expecting an easy victory, Keith and I hurled the Genestalers forward only to have the first few crushed by Gideon's mighty hammer, this wasn't going to plan at all! This must have emboldened the Blood Angels players and they sent Gideon forward, hammer swinging away, and squished a couple more precious Genestealers. This forced us into an interesting position; it was the final turn of the game. If Gideon killed the last three Genestealers the the game would end in a Space Marine victory. On the other hand we could just run away from him and force a draw. We decided to go for broke and so the final combat of the game began. I've fictionalised it below for your amusement.

Sergeant Gideon strode forwards over the broken bodies of his foes. He was already bleeding from several wounds; the vicious strength of the Genestealers proving more than a match for his indomitable armour. Ahead he could make out the ruin left from the malfunction of the squad's assault cannon. Brother Leon had died a hero, expending every round with pinpoint accuracy and reaping a fearsome tally of alien lives before his weapon betrayed him. As Gideon approached the mouth of the corridor he was greeted by alien eyes glittering in the blackness. Raising his battered shield he charged forwards. The Genestealer pounced, its six clawed limbs propelling it forwards with inhuman speed. The thing hammered into Gideon's shield knocking him backwards whilst clawing madly at the edges of the shield. With brute strength, Gideon slammed his arm sideways into the wall, trapping the Genestealer beneath his shield and ruthlessly crushing it. Too late he noticed the other two Genestealers creeping out of the darkness; his enhanced senses only just saved him as he flinched backwards from the grasping talons. One of them ripped through his ceramite pauldron tearing the flesh and muscle beneath. Gideon roared with righteous anger, swinging his hammer and smashing the Genestealer into the deck. It disintegrated messily, alien ichor painting the walls in a sickening spray. The last Genestealer lashed out with its claws, tearing the hammer from Gideon's grip along with most of his hand. He gasped in pain, even his genhanced body unable to mask it. The momentary distraction was all the Genestealer needed; it raked his head and torso with powerful blows, crushing armour and rending flesh. Gideon's world was suddenly nothing but flashes of light and ringing tinnitus. He tried to rise, to strike with his weapons, when had he fallen to the floor? Above him he could see the rictus grin of a Genstealer as it opened it's fanged maw to reveal a glistening ovipositor.........

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