Six-sided Warfare: A Neuroshima Hex Review


How do you describe a game like Neuroshima Hex? It’s a Euro-style tile-laying game but with guns? It’s a miniatures skirmish game without dice or miniatures? It’s a collectible card game played on a board? It’s post-apocalyptic asymmetrical chess? Neuroshima Hex is all these things and it’s absolutely awesome!

Neuroshima Hex’s is a tile based battle game grounded in the Neuroshima role-playing game. In this bleak vision of the future the USA has been left devastated after a crippling war against the AI. Now the country is overrun by various factions of mutants, robots and surviving humans. It’s a setting rich in various and unusual faction and Neuroshima Hex draws on those factions to supply four unique and asynchronous armies to play with.

The aim of Neuroshima Hex is simple; each player has a base unit that is placed on a hex grid map, the first player to destroy their enemy’s base is the winner. Play is made up of randomly selecting three unit tiles from a pool. The first difficult tactical decision presents itself here as you have to discard one of these tiles immediately. Tiles are made from three broad types. Units are your basic troops and can provide close or ranged attacks. Some units also have shields to protect against gunfire or nets that disable neighbouring units. The second tile type is a module; these add bonuses such as increased damage to connected units. The last are instant action tiles. These are not placed on the grid but are instead played for immediate effect. Having to choose what to discard is always tricky as all tiles are useful in some form and you have to decide which tile is least useful. Next you play your tiles onto the battlefield, slowly building up a complex network of destruction.

The tension starts to increase as turns pass by and the battlefield keeps building and building in complexity. It feels like an old west stand-off where everyone is keeping an eye out for the first itch of a trigger finger. It all kicks off when either a player uses a battle instant action tile or the board completely fills with units. The effect is like throwing a ping pong ball into a room full of set mouse traps. Units take effect in initiative order systematically shooting, hacking and causing mayhem. If you’ve planned carefully your units come out on top and you cause maximum damage to your opponents’ base while minimising damage to your own. What’s more likely to happen is that your careful plans unravel as either a unit or buff you forgot about cuts a hole in your defence or a plucky attack from your opponent hits home. There’s so much complexity, especially with a full board, that there’s always an affect or unit that takes you surprise. It’s what makes the battle resolutions so much fun but it is also the biggest problem with the game. Resolving the combat can be very complicated as you have to keep track of initiative values and try and remember which units affected last round. It’s easy to forget about something and then there is an inevitable back track. This process almost always feels like absolute carnage, it’s a very rewarding and equally frustrating experience that the battle section often removes half of the units on the battlefield.

Neuroshima Hex is a game that always feels unbalanced, you always feel like the opposition has better units than you or they are getting their better units into the game quicker but it’s a credit to the developers that this is actually a very well balanced game. True it falls to the same preys as collectible card games, where the luck of the draw has an effect on when you get the units. Collectible card games typically balance this but having a very short game length so you can pack in two or three games in an hour. Neuroshima Hex however is a little longer but you can still have a game in less than 45 minutes. Each of the four armies has very different play styles and different strengths and weaknesses. Using these to your advantage will take some learning but each faction includes a crib sheet that not only explains what all the units do but also includes tactical advice on how to get the best out of your faction.

Neuroshima Hex successfully steals great concepts from other media but then mixes them into a very unique game. Players of collectible card game and miniature war games will see the condensed elements of their favourite game type but might be disappointed at the lack of customisation available. However Neuroshima Hex is a board game and as such is designed to play out of the box subsequently each faction is a carefully balanced set of units and tinkering with these in any way could seriously damage the balance of the game. Neuroshima Hex is a brilliant strategic board game that tests your tactical abilities and how you can adapt. The rules can get a bit awkward during battle resolution but elsewhere are very straightforward. It’s a rapid strategy game with just enough randomness to keep you on your toes. Overall it’s a great game that you’ll be coming back to time and again.
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