Way back when I talked about Unity Games, I mentioned that one of the two games I really dug while there was Neuroshima Hex. Sure enough, a couple weeks afterwards when a game order got put in, that one was the only game I bought.
So what’s it like? Honestly, it’s hard to describe it, as it’s not like a lot of other games. The postapocalyptic artwork and theme make it look like a wargame or possibly Ameritrash action game, but it plays more like an abstract strategy game more than anything else.
There’s this board made up of hexes (and for the regular game you use only a seemingly tiny portion of it) and each player controls an army. The armies have four types of hexes: units, modules, commands, and the Headquarters. The HQ is what you need to protect; if it gets shot 20 times, you’re out of the game. Winner at the end is whoever’s HQ is least damaged. Your units are working towards the goal of making sure everyone else’s HQ gets messed up. Modules help enhance your units, and commands let you mess with the situation a little.
So far, yes, sounds like a wargame. Except: when you place your hexes, they generally don’t move. And in fact, they don’t do anything until a battle starts, at which point all hell breaks loose.
If the board fills up or someone plays a “Battle” command hex, then all these weirdos start shooting at and punching each other. You got ranged and melee attacks, nets that immobilize their targets, armor, toughness, and so forth. It seems like it would be chaotic, but it’s actually not too tough to figure out who lives and who, more likely, dies. (Do not get too attached to your units. They will die early and often.) This usually results in carnage galore and clears out the board for more! This goes on until someone runs out of hexes, at which point you have one last bloodbath.
There are four different armies, and you can play with 2, 3, or 4 players, and the latter you can play as teams. The armies are not identical, and there’s talk that they’re unbalanced, but there’s ALWAYS talk like that. I’ve lost with all 4 now. (Incidentally, the American version from Z-Man games comes with 4 additional “Mercenary” tiles as well as the “Mad Bomber”, in case your games aren’t splodey enough.)
I’ve played it several times now with lots of folks and they’re welcome to correct me if I’m wrong, but I think everyone’s enjoyed it. I personally think 3 players is optimal. It teaches pretty quickly and easily, and a game lasts about 30-45 minutes. (Warning, though, if you have a guy in your group who wants to analyze every possible outcome on the board before placing each tile, you can double that time.)
There is one expansion available for it at the moment, but on BGG there are a lot of scenarios and variants to keep you going if you get tired of the main game. I haven’t, so I can’t say much about them.
It’s a lot of fun, and so unlike my other games, I don’t see getting tired of it anytime soon. It’s a strategy game that still allows for a lot of trash-talking, grudge-bearing, stupid-move-making, and double-crossing.
Neuroshima Hex was designed by Michal Oracz and is available from Z-Man Games. (Incidentally, the odd name comes from the fact that it’s based in the world of an RPG called “Neuroshima”.)