The original Neuroshima Hex! is a Polish tactical board game based on the Neuroshima role-playing game, which draws inspiration from post-apocalyptic titles such as Mad Max, Fallout and Terminator. The role-playing game is available only in Polish, so unless you’re a Polish-speaking, tabletop RPG buff, you will be forgiven if Neuroshima Hex! for iPhone is the first you’ve heard of the franchise.
Neuroshima Hex is played on a hexagonal board. Each player periodically draws from a deck of hexagonal cards called “tiles.” Tiles symbolize different types of military units, or special actions that may be played on the board. Annotations on the tiles denote the combat strength and initiative of each unit. Each player has one special tile called HQ (headquarters), which is placed on the board at the beginning of play. Each round the player chooses which tile(s) to play from their hand, where to place the tile on the board, and which orientation the tile should have, as most units may act upon adjacent tiles in a limited number of directions.
With several exceptions for special action cards, units do not act when placed on the board. Periodically a tile is played that initiates combat. At that time, military units act in sequence according to their initiative rating; cards are removed from the bored according to the outcome of combat between pairs of nearby opposing cards, and each player’s HQ takes damage from attacking units. The game is concluded either when all tiles from the deck have been exhausted, or when a player’s HQ has been completely destroyed. If all headquarters remain intact, then winner is the player whose HQ has suffered the least amount of damage.
And that is a very lite summary of a very complicated game. Luckily, the game provides a full orientation via video tutorial and a comprehensive reference section, without which players would surely be lost. There is definitely a learning curve to Neuroshima Hex, and it’s not a game most players will be able to come to terms with on their first play, or even their second. But the curve is not insurmountable, and given time Neuroshima Hex can be very rewarding. Just don’t go into the game expecting a casual game of Monopoly or UNO; Neuroshima Hex is more in the neighborhood of Settlers of Catan, and maybe still a bit more complex than that.
In which the scene is set:
The world Neuroshima Hex is that of a post-apocalypse world torn apart by a war between humans and machines. The remains of humanity took shelter in the ruines of cities and organized in small communities, gangs and armies. Conflicts between such groups are not uncommon and the reasons of such are numerous: territory, food or equipment.
What is more, the ruined cities are constantly patrolled by machines sent from the north, where a vast cybernetic entity, call MOLOCH, appeared. Great wastelands that surround what was left of the greatest cities are home to another enemy — BORGO — a charismatic leader who controls an army of gruesome mutants. One of the last hopes of humanity is the OUTPOST, a perfectly organized army which wages a guerilla war against MOLOCH. Nevertheless, most human settlements, including the HEGEMONY, are not concerned with war until it comes banging at their door. Such is the world of Neuroshima.
Players choose to take on the role of one of four factions — the MOLOCH, the BORGO, the OUTPOST or the HEGEMONY — each of which has its own unique tile-set, or army. Also, the HQ of each faction confers different benefits upon adjacent allied units, making the player’s choice of faction a strategic decision, and not simply one of aesthetics.
Presentation: As board games go, Neuroshima Hex! has great atmosphere. Everything — including the tiles, the game board, the interface windows and buttons — feels post-apocalyptic. Even the music and sound effects are suitably moody. The game goes for the gritty wasteland aesthetic and pretty well nails it. The only aspect of the presentation that I find questionable is the use of the Indiana Jones font for the game’s text.
Strategy: Benefiting from its roots in tabletop role-playing games, Neuroshima Hex is a very strategic title that should appeal more to hardcore board game players, and less to casual players who favor games like Scrabble or Monopoly.
Diversity: Four unique armies with headquarters granting different strategic benefits help to keep the game interesting.
No Achievements or Scoreboards: Sadly, Neuroshima Hex keeps no record of your previous games. There are no scoreboards and no achievements, leaving the game short on goals and with little single-player replay value. Your only goal is to defeat the AI, and once you’ve done that there is little reason to return to the game’s single-player mode. The value of the single-player mode could be easily extended with the inclusion of achievements.
Neuroshima Hex! should appeal to fans of tabletop role-playing games, or those looking for a board game experience heavy on strategy and apart from the norm. It’s a great game that may not appeal to all players, but will definitely strike a chord with plenty.