When your opponent plays a flawless game

Written by Ron Saikowski, November 26th, 2017

All Space Hulk missions are hard, most are harder. As the Marine player, to even accomplish the most beginner level mission requires a dash of luck, a bit of gambling and a strategic mind built like a steel trap. That and a willingness to sacrifice every Marine for the good of the Emperor. If you have all of that in just the right mix at just the right time, you may just pull a victory from the jaws of defeat.

And that's exactly what my friend did the other day playing Space Hulk. We've been working through a series of custom missions for the past year and had the final mission pretty much ironed out. We'd established a good board layout, a fairly balanced ratio of Marines to Genestealer reinforcements and worked through a few oddball situations that had come up during play.

Taking less than the recommended Marine squad
Since we often switch sides and play both forces a number of times before we consider a mission "done," it's not uncommon for the Marine player to make subtle adjustments to the squad to see how the mission plays with the slight changes. It's usually smaller things like adding or dropping a Chanfist or kitting out your Sergeant with a Thunderhammer and Storm Shield instead of the standard Power Sword ad Storm Bolter. It's never anything big, just small changes.

In this case, the final mission in the campaign called for 4 Marines and a Librarian who was to replace the squad Sergeant. Even though we've changed the rules for our Librarians in our games, they are still quite powerful and can easily sway the mission in favor of the Marine player right from the beginning. For this mission, the Marine player needed that Librarian too... the Genestealer player could call in the Broodlord as one of his reinforcements. Without the Librarian, the Marine player gets completely destroyed when that monster reaches the squad. We knew this about the mission, we'd already tried it.

So what does my friend do?
He decides to opt out of using the Librarian and replace him with a Chaplain. We made custom rules for Chaplains and they're not too shabby in close combat, but they're no Librarian by any stretch of the imagination. As the Genestealer player, I happily agreed to let him make the change and decided I would help show him the error of his ways in short time.

Playing a flawless game
And then he proceeded to play a flawless game. It doesn't take long when play testing missions to figure out the "best" plan of attack for the mission starting from the initial squad line-up to how best to move through specific choke points on the board, but that's never a guarantee that you'll win as the Marine player.

He went with the optimal route for the mission and played the game perfectly. He pushed his Marines forward when he could and held his ground when he needed to. He made the best of his Command Points every turn knowing when to speed up and when to slow down based on what he came up with for the turn.

Not having a Librarian never affected him. 
And I didn't cut him an ounce of slack either. I deployed the Broodlord in the best place to inflict the most damage on the squad as quickly as possible. The only damage I manged to inflict as the Genestealer player was to kill his Chaplain. Even that was not an easy task, I had throw a number of Genestealers at him to wear him down before finally getting a lucky roll and overpowering him.

Even that was too little too late, my friend already had the remainder of his Marine squad in position to continue the press forward to the objective and it took him no time at all to finish the game.

What's the take away here?
There was no gloating, no showboating or bragging. There was no need, his game said it all. I threw everything I had at him as the Genestealer player and he made short work of it all. Short of flipping the game table in a fit of desperation scattering the pieces everywhere across the room, there was nothing I could do to prevent him from achieving what could easily be considered a comfortable Marine victory.

Even though we may know the "optimal" squad load out for a mission or we know the "best" way we should move through the corridors and choke points as the Marine player... sometimes it pays off to stray from the beaten path and try something new. Challenge yourself. Try something you wouldn't normally do.

Worst case scenario it just reinforces what you already know... that it wasn't going to work and was a bad idea to begin with. But there's always that chance that you stumble onto something else, something not seen before... a new strategy or a tactic that you can keep and use in future games. I'm willing to bet your game will almost always improve if you take those chances.

In my friend's case, taking the chance paid off in spades.

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IMAGE: My friend's Chaplain holds his ground unflinchingly.
KEYWORDS: Space Hulk, Chaplain, gaming