Vie for control of a war-torn, post-apocalyptic world. Use your armies, composed of human and/or machine forces, to dominate the landscape, food, and other resources with this quick, strategy-heavy game. Neuroshima Hex combines the tactics of a classic 50’s or 60’s war game with the speed and accessibility of an abstract game like Chess.
We’ll get back to the wasteland in a bit but first, let’s go over some technical details.
The Fiddly Bits
Designer: Michal Oracz
Publisher: IELLO, Z-Man Games, and Heidelberger Spieleverlag
Date Released: 2006
Number of Players: 2-4
Age Range: 12 and up (10 and up on the box)
Setup Time: less than 5 minutes
Play Time: less than 30 minutes
Variable Player Powers
Players select a faction. Each faction has its own advantages/disadvantages and headquarters. On their first turn, players must play their faction’s headquarters tile. Your headquarters has 20 health or hit points and if you reduce your opponent(s) headquarters to zero, you win.
Example of a faction’s headquarters
After each player has played their headquarters, players take turns and on their turn, players draw at random from their faction’s pool of tiles. There are two main types of tiles: instant actions and board tiles.
The most common board tile is a unit. Here are some examples.
You’ll notice that some of the tiles have long and skinny triangles (ranged attacks) and others have short and squat triangles (close-range attacks). Most of these examples have both. Ranged attacks deal one damage to the first enemy tile in the triangle’s direction, while close-range attacks deal one damage to an enemy tile adjacent to the triangle’s direction.
The numbers denote initiative. When battle begins, tiles with a higher number attack before tiles with a lower number. In the case of this one ranged unit, it attacks twice: once when the two-speed units attack and again when the one speed units attack.
If you have more than one triangle on a side, you attack that many times on the tile’s initiative number, so this guy attacks once for a ranged attack and once for a close-range attack on the three speed units’ turn.
Fast unit with both ranged and close-range attacks
The plus in the lower-left-hand corner of this tile means that it has more than one hit point of damage it can take before it gets discarded. It also has attacks going in more than one direction.
And this curious fellow has two mesh triangles pointed in different directions with no number at all. The nets (mesh triangles) nullify an enemy tile’s attack, so no damage for you.
You’ll want to place your tiles in a way that they can deal damage to your opponent, while protecting your own HQ. But fortunately, unit tiles aren’t the only ones at your disposal.
Instant action tiles can do things like push one of your opponent’s tiles away from your HQ.
Or move one of your tiles to an adjacent, empty space.
With those quick introductions of tiles out of the way, let’s get to combat. Players place their tiles on the board, trying to get the best use of their units, until the board is full or a player plays a battle tile.
Resolve combat by initiative number and then play continues until one player’s HQ is left standing or if someone runs out of tiles. If the latter occurs, one final battle ensues, and the player with the healthiest HQ wins.
I like this game (a lot), but that wasn’t always the case. You need to take your lumps, and as you get better as a player, the game gets more fun.
Neuroshima Hex sounds simple—in theory. The reality is that there are so many strategies to win the game that I’ve seen even the most self-assured gamer take minutes, lost in analysis paralysis (the condition in a tabletop game where you don’t know which play to make, which looks like a computer loading screen on a human face). Try as you might, you can’t predict all of the triggers that can happen during a battle, once the board gets more than half full.
A Neuroshima Hex board that’s half full
This triggers that, that triggers this and so forth.
What’s worse is that you like your units and how you placed them and you want to keep them, but a battle’s mayhem will usually wipe out everything you built up in the game up to that point. That makes the game interesting for countless plays.
I wouldn’t suggest a seasoned veteran of Neuroshima Hex to teach a rookie how to play the game. The rook will get their butt handed to them. Instead, download the free app for your smart device and play a few rounds with the computer and you can curse at it as much as you want. I don’t know how many times I’ve restarted a duel.
The game’s short playtime allows for multiple plays. You can learn the basics of the game in no time but it takes a long time to master. I highly recommend Neuroshima Hex if you’d like a streamlined war game (like the classic World War II and Civil War games of the 50’s and 60’s) or if you want a beefed up gamer’s Chess.
I’ve found that Neuroshima Hex plays best with two players. More players than that rewards turtling (players building up strong defenses, so they won’t lose their pieces).
Neuroshima Hex is a great title that delivers a lot of game and strategy in a small amount of time and space.
Here’s a link to download this fun game: http://www.neuroshimahex.com/