The future is a dark and terrible place full of forces bent on bringing lawlessness and destruction to the universe. For some there is a terrible plan behind this malevolence, for others it is a matter of instinct. At the core of this, Humanity sits under the rule of an Emperor whose life is only maintained by a monumental machine that surrounds and nourishes him. He commands a fanatical force of Space Marines, who defend the Human cause, bonded into menacing armour and armed to the teeth.
This is the world of Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader1 - flagship genre for a whole line of hobby products by Games Workshop. Seeking to expand its audience as wide as possible, Games Workshop joined forces with Milton Bradley2 to release simplified versions of their wargames as boardgames for all the family. One of these was Space Crusade, a game of battling Space Marines and terrible aliens.
Derelict ships, of both familiar and alien design, are drifting from the outer edges of the galaxy into Human Space. Powerless and silent, these hulks appear to be nothing more than space garbage, but they hide a darker secret. The forces of Chaos and the terrible Tyranid Hive are seeking to invade the realms of Humanity under a cloak of secrecy.
Faced with this situation, Space Marines have been dispatched to find out what lies aboard these ships and eliminate any threat. What they find aboard the ships are:
Orks and Gretchins which are goblin-like races that follow in the wake of the taint of Chaos. (The futuristic versions of plain old Orcs and Goblins.)
Reprogrammed Androids which have been perverted to the cause of lawlessness.
Genestealers are horrific, bio-engineered aliens who are the foot soldiers of the Tyranid Hive.
Chaos Marines are the soldiers of Humanity who have been lured from the true path by the promise of dark rewards.
Dreadnaughts, massive machines of destruction constructed by the Chaos masters.
The mission is to destroy or be destroyed, serving the Emperor and fighting for the purity of Humanity.
One to three players control the forces of Humanity, while another player handles the forces of Chaos and disorder aboard the derelict space ship.
There are a plethora of components:
- 50 detailed Citadel Miniatures
- 32 Blip Tokens
- 12 Rank Badges
- Six Honour badges
- One alien control panel
- 24 doors with bases
- Six special combat dice
- Three Marine reference charts
- 32 Reinforcement counters
- One Primary Mission token
- One Secondary Mission token
- Four mark of Chaos
- Four piece game board with walls
- Three Marine docking boards, with airlocks
- Three commander scanners with adjustable slides
- 64 full colour playing cards
- 24 page Mission Manual, with 12 missions
The four game boards allow different board configurations to be set up, attached by walls and plastic edge holders. Player controlled forces access the board from the edges where airlock boards are attached. These are access and exit points, so for the Chaos player these are prime targets.
Scanners and Reference Cards
Three command scanners - pieces of card in plastic bases with peg holes and sliding plastic gauges - allow the Marine players to keep track of their resources. The Chaos player has a control panel that lists the forces available and their abilities, including movement rate and the number of weapon dice used for attacks. The Marine players also have reference charts which give information regarding the dice used for their heavy weapons.
The dice have faces that indicate a hit or a miss and the number of dice that can be rolled is determined by the weapon effectiveness. There are white and red dice with a varied number of 'hit' and 'miss' faces, the bigger and more destructive weapons, like Missile Launchers and Plasma Cannons, getting more dice and more reds.
Blips and Reinforcements
The blip and reinforcement tokens all represent the different alien forces that can be utilised aboard the ship. They allow the alien player to keep the nature of forces deployed secret until the last moment, when the marines confront them face-to-face, which may just be too late.
Missions and Campaigns
The Mission Book contains a set of ideas for play providing different force configurations and missions that need to be achieved by the players involved, both Marine and Chaos. These scenarios can be run either as one-off efforts or as an ongoing campaign. Where more than one objective exists within a mission Tokens - both primary and secondary - are awarded to the players that achieved them. In a campaign, Rank and Honour markers are used to show advancement in the abilities among the forces involved and provide certain bonuses to those awarded.
The highlight of the game is definitely the miniatures. While they are plastic, drifting from the days when miniatures were made from lead3 of one form or another, Games Workshop's talents in creating fine detail is incredible. Every miniature is impressive, whether painted or unpainted straight from the box, and it's not unknown for them to be sold separately by collectors. Well-painted examples of these miniatures have sold for as much as the original game in total, or more.
As with any good idea the temptation to offer sequels and support materials to garner extra income was difficult to resist for everyone involved with Space Crusade.
After the release of the core game, Milton Bradley followed up with Operation: Dreadnaught, and an Eldar pack. The former included mounted heavy weaponry for the Marines and more Dreadnaughts and Androids for the Chaos player. The latter included the Eldar - the Games Workshop equivalent of a futuristic Elf - along with their various weapons, forces and Dreadnaught-like machines.
Again, the production quality in these miniatures was superb and the boxes also included additional rules and board pieces to allow the game to be expanded for both the casual and the campaign player alike. The success of the original game and the expansions that followed undoubtedly swelled the numbers of customers headed towards the doors of the local Games Workshop.
Advanced Space Crusade
Games Workshop itself followed the game with an 'Advanced' version, introducing Scout marines and the terrible Tyranid menace themselves - massive aliens armed with bio-engineered weaponry who travelled in biological ships. The game had a different set of rules, intended to appeal to those players of the original game who were seeking to go to the next level and added greater variety and complexity to their crusades. To some degree this version provided a bridge, through its complexity, to another 'Marines in a big ship' game by Games Workshop called Space Hulk.
To take the license even further MB, sold the rights to make computer games based on Space Crusade to Gremlin Graphics Software Ltd. The game was released in early 1992 on virtually every system available at the time - Atari ST, IBM PC, Amiga, Spectrum, Commodore and Amstrad - and provided a faithful conversion of the boardgame. The board could be viewed in 2D or 3D views4. The 3D view included slightly cute representations of all of the game pieces with some minor special effects for the weapon attacks.
The two primary advantages of computerising the game were that you could play the game without having any friends around to assist and you could save at almost any time. This meant that you could play anytime, with the limited computer intelligence of the game filling in for the opposition, and could effectively pack the game away and come back later, something impossible with the standard board-bound version of the game.