I love playing games, and enjoy the thousands of available games
without needing to design any of my own. I did work on one design, a
game in which players placed tiles down that attacked different
adjacent tiles. Lo, and behold - most of the ideas that I had for the
game are found in Neuroshima Hex (Portal, 2007 - Michal Oracz), so I
guess I can go back to playing other people's games. Neuorshima Hex
is based on a role-playing game based in a post-apocalyptic universe.
Normally I'm not a huge fan of this Mad Max type of future (so
depressing!), but the game was getting rave reviews, and I was
fascinated upon my first opening of the box. Besides, it won "Best
Polish Designer Game" in 2007! (to be fair, it's the only Polish game
I've ever heard of).
Neueroshima Hex is a tremendous innovation in board games, it's a real
breath of fresh air in an industry that often churns out imitation
after imitation. It's a game of strategic placement with a combat
theme - and the armies, while well balanced - are completely
asymmetrical. Games are tight and bloody, and while it's possible
that a game could possibly drag down into slow paralysis with overly
analytical folks - the game really feels like it moves at a quick clip.
The board is made up of nineteen hexagons that form one larger
hexagon. Each player chooses one of the four armies (the mechanical
Moloch, the mutant Borgo, the guerilla Outpost, and the gangs of the
Hegemony), and takes all the hexes of that army. Players take turns
placing their headquarter on one of the hexes, placing their other
thirty-four tiles in random face down piles. Players then begin to
take turns in a clockwise manner.
On the first turn, a player turns one tile face up in front of them,
and can either use it, save it, or discard it. The next player draws
two tiles with the same options, and every turn after that - a player
draws up to three tiles. At this point, a player MUST discard one
tile every turn, and may place and/or save the other two.
Tiles are of three different types, soldiers, modules, and action
tiles. Board tiles are different soldiers in the players armies, and
have different stats indicated on them. First of all, the soldier has
an initiative value from "0" to "3". Soldiers also may have melee
and/or ranged attacks emanating from one or more of their six sides.
Most attacks have a value of one, although some are stronger with a
value of "2" or "3". Soldiers normally have one wound, while some
have a toughness value of one or two, which adds to their hit points.
A few soldiers have mobility, which allows them to move one space on
the board, and others have nets - which allow them to disable
adjacnent opponents. A few have armor on one or more of their
different sides, allowing them to decrease attacks on that side by
one. Soldiers are placed on the board in any empty spot that the
Module tiles can never move - but rather are placed on the board -
affecting any soldier that is adjacent to one of their connection
symbols. Modules can increase the strength of ranged or melee
attacks, increase initiative, heal wounds (and then discarded), etc.
A few modules even effect enemy units, decreasing their value.
Action tiles allow the player to take a specific action.
- Move tiles allow a player to move a soldier to an adjacent spot,
rotating it to any facing.
- Push Back tiles allow a unit to push an adjacent soldier one space away.
- Sniper tiles simply inflict one wound on any enemy unit on the board.
- Grenade tiles destroy an enemy unit completely - but only on a hex
adjacent to your headquarter.
- Air Strikes hit one target hex and all seven adjacent tiles with one
When a player plays a "Battle" tile, or if the board is completely
filled up, a battle occurs. Each battle takes place using several
phases. In the first phase, the highest level initiative soldiers on
the board simultaneously take actions - damaging any soldiers next to
them with melee and/or shooting others with ranged attacks. Killed
soldiers are removed from the board, even if they haven't taken an
action yet. The next phase then occurs, until the "0" initiative units
have taken actions. If a soldier attacks the enemy HQ, the player
marks the wounds on a hit track.
If one player draws their last tile, all players finish their turns,
and one final battle begins. The player who has more toughness points
left is the winner! However, if anyone's HQ is damaged beyond the 20
hit points it starts with, then that player loses the game instantly.
Some comments on the game...
- Components: The large square box easily holds the piles of
hexagon tokens and board (some complain that the components are too
low quality for the price of the game, but I'm not so sure). The
tokens are thick - each army marked with a different color and symbol
on one side; and blank tiles included if a player loses a hex. Small
tokens are included for players who have characters with more than one
toughness but are wounded. Having a track around the outer edges of
the board is an interesting way to keep track of HQ wounds (no victory
points here!), and the board is quite good looking - showing a
brightly lit pile of trash in the middle of some jungle. Action
tokens and symbols on the soldiers are very simple and easy to figure
out - although perhaps a small reference card would have been nice.
- Rules: I can't say that I'm a huge fan of the rulebook. It's
full of flavor - with a story about the future in the beginning (note:
strong language), but explains the game in a slightly disjointed way.
For example, the board has a ton of extra hexes on it (for future
play - with five or more players, or scenarios), and it doesn't
mention this until the end of the rules - which can be confusing. I
do enjoy that each army has a complete list of their units, with
detailed explanations of each - but again, this is something that
would have been nice on reference cards. The game takes a bit to
explain - especially to people who haven't played games with phased
battles before, but the simple and easy-to-understand symbols will
- Armies: One of my favorite aspects of the game is how each of
the four armies have a completely different feel. These aren't
identical armies with small differences - there is a thematic
difference in all four armies. The Moloch are strong units that can
produce some devastating attacks, and have the ability to force
enemies away, so that they can use their superior range. The Borgo
have strong melee units, with a few real heavy hitters - including
some nasty net fighters that not only disable the opponent, but hit
them three times also. The Outpost has the most mobile army, with
weaker units, but units that can hopefully move around and snipe the
opponent. The Hegemony is a slower army, but can convert their strong
melee attacks to ranged attacks, and use their net fighters to slow
the enemy. The Hegemony is perhaps the most balanced army, but I
would be hard pressed to tell you which army is the best - they seem
tremendously balanced. I tend to favor the Moloch army, because I
like powerful range - but the board is small enough that perhaps this
isn't the super advantage you might think.
- Fighting: There are no random factors in combat, and the small
board promotes bloody war. Because of the lack of randomness, the
game has the possibility of feeling a bit abstract. I do think that
the excellent artwork and different feel of how units work helps
offset this - but I can't ever escape the strategic feel of the game.
Fortunately, randomness does occur in the drawing of the tiles, and a
player must quickly learn to never depend on a specific unit - since
it might not come into play until the very beginning. Close combat
seems to have an advantage in the game, but ranged units can shoot
through friendly forces - allowing players to set up a nice defensive
position on the board. Players must utilize their modules to boost
their units, because it's tempting to depend on a powerful figure -
like the Armored Hunter that Moloch has - with a combat attack from
all six sides and armor on two of them. While this seems powerful, a
combo of smaller units can easily take it off the board. In practice,
I've very rarely seen one player completely destroy another's army,
but losing just a few more units - or even worse, leaving your HQ
completely exposed - can be instant downfall.
- Tiles: The mechanic of draw, then discard one tile is
interesting. Players will often discard battle tiles when they think
it won't favor them, but sometimes players are presented with three
tiles that they desperately want to use, but can only put out two of
them. Some of the action tiles are quite a bit stronger than others
(Grenade), but this is offset by iniative and special abilities of
units. I'm still impressed at the amazing variety among the armies,
and their stats back up what I imagine the picture to be doing.
- Time and Players: The game seems designed to be played with two
players - and indeed, that may be the way I enjoy it the most (or with
four players; two teams). The more players, the much more crowded the
board is, and the longer the game lasts. Games aren't too long -
lasting around an hour to ninety minutes, and there is a high level of
immersion the entire time. However, one player who tends to analyize
every conceivable spot and rotation to place each tile can bring a
game to a screeching halt. Most of the time, if players play fairly
quickly, the game will move at a brisk clip; and I would simply
recommend avoiding those prone to "analysis paralysis", unless both
players enjoy this.
- Fun Factor: There is enough theme from the rulebook, army
composition, and artwork to make this game quite enjoyable - with
players role-playing a bit and cheering when a big thug from the
opponents takes a fall. Since much of the battle is evident ahead of
time, thanks to the clear order of battles, not everything is a shock
- but a player never knows exactly when a battle is going to occur, so
to wait to put the bigger troops on the board is likely not a good
strategy. For me, the fun of the game comes form the very diverse
armies and how they interact on the board. I'm not normally a fan of
these nauseating post-Apocalyptic universes, but this one is
interesting - if only because of the all out war that has occurred.
It's done in a slightly cartoonish style, with larger than life heroes
and villains, but it's entertaining to play - and tremendously
satisfying when a player manages to set up a combo that punches a nice
hole in the enemy lines. More armies are on the horizon (I think
another has been released at the time of this review), and future
scenarios promise interesting things to come in the future for the game.
But I think what I enjoy best about Neuroshima Hex is how the game
seems to flow so well, yet plays differently every time. You can talk
all you want how Chess is a game which simulates war - but all I see
are giant wooden horses and castles. Here in Neuroshima Hex, we have
a game that threatens to follow the same abstract lines, but manages
to rise above that with a compelling theme and tremendous diversity.
If anything, it's a game unlike anything I've played before, and
manages to condense fierce warfare to a small area and time frame.
Originality drew me to the game - fun keeps me playing it.
"Real men play board games"