The board game

Space crusade the board game, like hero quest, was aimed squarely at young kiddies, and came with lots and lots of gimmicky plastic things. There was an injection moulded 'control panel', with plastic sliders moving up and down cardboard inserts to keep track of the commander's life total (a number between 1 and 6) and plastic pegs to show which weapons have targeters (cramming all the functionality of a pen and paper into something larger than a vhs).Every possible alien has to be represented by a 'blip', every door has a little cardboard cut out, meaning there are hundreds of the little cardboard things to lose. Everything is represented by a miniature, and the marines and dreadnought have changable weapons. I guarantee you won't be able to fit it back in the box again...

Each of the three chapters had slightly different choices of wargear, making the blood angels better at close combat, and the imperial fists better at shooting. As ever, the ultramarines are the boring chapter. There can be up to three heavy weapon marines, but they move more slowly than the rest, and can end up being left behind. The commander, for some reason, has six times the hit points of a marine or alien, twice as many as the dreadnought, and with the right wargear can kill the dreadnought in close combat... Guess the boss get all the cool toys...

There were two expansions for Space Crusade, with new, more interesting bits of board, and a small mission pamphlet. Mission: Dreadnought, which came with even bigger dreadnoughts (with longer legs, and four weapons), and lots of groovy marine weapons, including a movable artillary piece. Eldar Invasion was much less interesting, containing squads of eldar, which could be used instead of marines.

Space crusade had interesting funny dice - each entity has an armour value, and each weapon rolls a number of these dice added together. While the deice are square, the faces have odd values:

White dice (for basic weapons): 0,0,1,1,2,2
Red dice (for heavy weapons): 0,1,1,2,2,3

The computer game

The Gremlin game needs an older machine to run - on too fast a machine, it seems to run perfectly, except that the maximum duration the 'fire gun' button can be pressed for gets shorter and shorter. You can play it on a pentium if you can tap a mouse really quickly. The gameplay is almost identical to the board game, including the funny dice (now represented by 7-segment displays). The scanner, however, now scans everything up to a certain distance from the commander (far too complicated for a board game), and blips move at the speed of the creature they represent, so their contents can be inferred (you can trust the computer not to cheat). For some reason, the genestealers have been taken out, and replaced by a daft-looking 'soulsucker'. The doors now take up a square of their own, rather than sitting on the boundary between squares, so aliens can be squished in them!1 . There are a some really innovative missions in the computer game, including one where the marines must blow a hole in the side of the ship, and run away from the encroaching vacuum, and a deathmatch level that sees the marines infected with a deadly virus, to which there is only enough antidote for one squad... The computer game was also released on the atari ST and amiga, and running it under emulation would probably be your best bet on a modern computer - the PC version was a conversion of the amiga one anyway, so you won't be missing much.

Though both are pretty enjoyable, I'd recommend the computer game over the board game, simply beacause of the faff involved in setting the board game up (and the difficulty involved in finding one with all the bits in this day and age).

A bit of trivia - The back of the box has children playing space crusade in a dark, industrial setting, complete with futuristic 'computer displays' in the background. These 'computer displays' are actually amstrad CPC 464s displaying their bootup prompt...

1 - The dreadnought has a 2x2 square footprint, so it could get stuck in a doorway even in the boardgame, but there is a rule forbidding it from ending a turn in this situation