We explore the other (mostly) human sides, fighting for existence (and sometimes progress) in the blasted world of Neuroshima Hex
[Note: I slightly updated part I, because I realized that I had written it from more of an insider perspective and hadn’t listed out all of the tiles that I was talking about. So, I added a complete list for each faction, which is something I’ll continue here and in part III.]
Here’s where we’ll talk about the other (mostly) human factions that inhabit the world of Neuroshima Hex, struggling against the machine power of Moloch and each other as they compete for the few remaining resources or even try to resurrect the world that has been devastated.
Vegas: 8 warriors (Mercenary x2, Bodyguard x2, Marksman x2, Guard x2); 7 modules (Agitator x3, Scout x2, Saboteur, Medic); 2 foundation (Mines); 17 actions (Battle x5, Move x3, Push Back x3, Rotation x3, Castling x2, Sniper)
As many people are aware of today, Vegas is kind of a world unto itself. In the post-apocalyptic world, they’ve combined some elements of the old regime (corporations and rackets) with the popular theme running through the city since its inception: Money talks. Vegas has the fewest warriors of any faction outside the weird ones (Dancer and Mephisto) at 8 and two of those can’t attack, leaving them with 4 ranged and 2 melee units. They do have an average number of modules, though, and what makes up for that dearth of fighters is what three of those modules and the HQ can do: take over enemy units. When either the HQ or an Agitator module are touching the opposition in that special place, the enemy unit acts for Vegas. This is stronger than nets or other units like Outpost’s Scoper. Given that those control units can also rotate whatever they capture when it first occurs, they’re able to quite easily turn poor positions into positive ones, such as taking over a raised Anomaly and using its attack to cut my double digit lead down to a draw. Yeah. That happens...
This aspect explains many other tiles in the Vegas faction, like the Guards to protect those Agitators and the Mines to prevent others from deploying to disrupt a Vegas formation and the Rotation tiles to put the HQ/Agitators in the right position to take advantage of the enemy. Including Castling and Sniper, Vegas has 19 action tiles; more than anyone else but Dancer. That generally means that Vegas plays slowly, building formation(s) in one or more areas of the board and trying to close out games near the end, when key units of the enemy are under their sway and the jackpot is only seen at the end. I’ve found the key warrior units to often be the humble Marksman and Bodyguard, who do nothing exotic but are simply solid performers. However, simple Mines and Push Back actions can also be crucial. But the real standouts will almost always be someone else’s key units. If you get close to Vegas, you often stay in (with) Vegas.
New York: 16 warriors (Hammer x2, Steel Boxer x2, Sharpshooter x2, Cop x2, Spy-Shooter x2, Spy-Cleaner, Rocket Launcher, Shotgun, Shooter, Net Fighter, Pusher); 7 modules (Officer I x2, Officer II x2, Scout x2, Sergeant); 2 foundation (Mines); 9 actions (Battle x5, Move x2, Push Back, Sniper)
The other municipality that managed to carve out its own bubble is, of course, New York. The theme of the city is much like the Outpost: they’re determined to rebuild the past, have turned the remains of New York into a fortress, and are now venturing out to see how that fortress can be expanded. That’s kind of ironical, since their approach to the game is somewhat similar to Moloch, in that they’re all about powerful shooting in the form of the Rocket Launcher and the Shotgun, as well as the Sharpshooters with their namesake ability. Leave a New York shooting nest untroubled for too long and the next time a Battle tile rolls around, you will feel it. Even if you do manage to get some interference in play, use of the Sharpshooter ability, the redirection of the Rocket, and Sniper will mean that you can easily get picked apart.
What compounds this is the HQ’s ability to provide Toughness to anything gathered around it, which virtually demands shooting formations tight around the HQ; again, similar to Moloch. Furthermore, New York also borrowed some tips from Vegas with Mines and the converse of control, which is the Spy ability that lets them tap opponents’ modules for bonuses. The presence of the Officer modules only reinforces the torrent of power that can come not only from the powerful ranged attacks, but from specialist melee units like Cops (initiative 3), Steel Boxers (2 attacks), and Hammers (2 damage.) However, unlike Outpost, they lack mobility, with only 2 Move tiles, a Push Back, and the Pusher allowing them to disrupt opponent formations or change their own. Careful combination play is key to succeeding with New York. If you’re fast enough to slow them down and/or their draws are poor, they can be taken advantage of.
Steel Police: 12 warriors (Judge x3, Pacifier x2, Riot Policeman x2, Wardog x2, Bandog, Predator, Executioner); 14 modules (Officer x3, Sergeant x3, Scout x2, Saboteur x2, Medic x2, Steroids Dispenser, Net of Steel Launcher); 8 actions (Battle x5, Move, Push Back, Terror)
The SP are the Judge Dredd equivalent of the Hex world; law and order fanatics that take those principles to extremes. Like most fanatic groups, their numbers are small, with only 12 warriors to use. However, they have the second-most modules in the game, tied with Sand Runners and behind only Mephisto (which is kind of a special case.) Those modules include 3 Sergeants (extra attack), which gives them an Outpost level of lethality in a lot of battles. It also includes 3 Officers for the majority of shooting units that make up their ranks. And, similarly to Outpost, Steel Police would prefer to get into a shooting war with you, given the Armor present on multiple units. That way, they can take advantage of Reflection on their Judges (to rebound your shots) and still disrupt opposing formations by dropping in replacements for Pacifiers and dropping the Executioner in on his own.
That drop troop ability coincides rather nicely with the HQ’s Steel Net ability (hence, the name) and is why opponents can sometimes feel like the SP are OP. Few other armies can simply draw into a tile that changes the look of the map and adds another friendly unit, simultaneously. Most of the time, those effects are limited to action tiles like Air Strike or Grenade and don't bring a body with them. But a couple things to keep in mind are that 1. The HQ ability requires the HQ to take damage to use it. No other HQ suffers from that drawback in this game of often very narrow margins. 2. If the Net lands on a unit and that unit doesn’t die, then the HQ basically has no ability. I’ve won a couple games against the SP by simply protecting the unit that’s being netted and, thus, removing any advantage that an HQ would normally provide to its faction. Plus, despite the healthy dose of units, SP has few action tiles and almost no mobility at all. When they set up, they’re set up and not much is going to change without the sacrifice of a Pacifier or drawing the Executioner. That said, in the right hands, the Steel Police can be quite the terror of the board (and a properly timed Terror can be important if you don't draw into warriors when you need them), especially if you can take advantage of the Riot Policeman Push Back action every turn, to keep distance between you and your targets.
Uranopolis: 16 warriors (Mechanic x3, Inferno x4, Guard x2, Electro Net Fighter x2, Bulldozer, Drill, Hammerhead, Ravager, Mercenary); 9 modules (Combat Generator x2, Transport x2, Acceleration Generator, Medic, Doubler, Gauss Transformer, Wastes); 9 actions (Battle x4, Move, Push Back x3, Ray)
A uranium mining camp who’ve decided to protect their space with their massive machinery, the engineers of Uranopolis are one of the most interesting armies in the game. If you can unlock the puzzle of their deployment, their power is almost unmatched. But if you’re hindered by not drawing a Power Supply provider when you need it, you have a lot of dead weight on the board. With 16 warriors and 9 modules, you’re not lacking for bodies to play. The question is whether those bodies will do anything once you do play them. With that in mind, your crucial (i.e. beyond ‘key’) unit will almost always be the Mechanics, since they not only provide power in two directions, but also have Mobility, which the rest of the army largely lacks (only 1 Move tile but two Transport modules (that also provide power)) and, when push comes to crushing skulls, are also a decent melee warrior with 2 initiative. Of course, your HQ also provides power, which could tempt you into doing the Moloch thing and setting up on one side of the board. But, given that your melee units are every bit as powerful as your shooting units, you’d be denying yourself a lot of opportunities, so placing at least one row forward may be in your best interest.
This is one of my favorite factions, not only for the big splashes you can make in battles, almost regardless of formation (your most numerous warrior is the Inferno (4 of them) with a double ranged attack and Toughness), but for the tricks you can execute against reinforced positions of the enemy; with the Gauss Transformer turning a regular ranged attack into the awesome Gauss attack; with the Wastes module making your opponent take even more damage than the huge amount you already dish out; and with the Ravager wiping out a whole wing of their formation. And, of course, with one of the little thematic touches that all of the factions have: your only warrior other than the Mechanics that doesn’t need or provide power being a Mercenary. However, aside from the power issues, Uranopolis also has a low number of Battle tiles (4), which means that your opponent is often more likely to dictate timing on any engagements. Proper use of Ray can occasionally clear space for you while you’re waiting to bring down the irradiated hammer.
Iron Gang: 18 warriors (Lumberjack x5, Biker x4, Fanatic x3, Mountain x3, Ranged Net Fighter x3); 5 modules (Officer x4, Boss); 11 actions (Battle/Order x9, Double Move x2)
The Iron Gang are, if anything, even closer to the Mad Max-style image than Hegemony, since the IG actually have bikers, as well as the usual assortment of spikes and cobbled-together armor. The clouds of dust, the rumble of engines, the feeling of impending doom; that’s the Iron Gang all over. They’re also one of the more unusual factions in the game, since they simultaneously have the most warriors (18) and the fewest modules (4), which suits their mobile, swarm attack theme. Furthermore, all of their action tiles are unique to them, since every Move is a Double Move and every Battle tile is also an Order tile, which lets them fight a regular battle or activate the ‘Hidden’ features on their warriors, the most common of which is the Chain attack, which lets them deal out wounds outside of a fight. So, just like Uranopolis, deployment can have extra emphasis for Iron Gang, since they have no (normal) ranged units, which means they’d like to be aggressive and maximize their Chain wounds to break down enemy positions. They’re aided in this by the Bikers’ Mobility being doubled (i.e. can move twice) but, like factions similar to Borgo, you’d still probably find the advantage in placing your HQ centrally, since it also Chains and you’ll have more opportunity to take advantage of it. Chain is not Gauss, so you’ll only be inflicting one wound, but it does so outside of Battle, which means that you can more easily set up conditions for when you do use an Order tile as a Battle tile. The fact that it can be used against Foundation tiles, like Mines, is just a bonus.
Outside of the Bikers, one of the key units for IG will often be Fanatics, since they can be placed in forward locations to Chain, have high Initiative, and their self-destruction affects HQs (very rare in the game for an area attack.) Mountains are also often important to the faction for similar reasons, given their durability, option to Chain, and the significant damage they can deal out while often ignoring ranged attempts to pick them off (and having to take two hits to get rid of them, as well.) But one of the best units in the entire game has to be the Ranged Net Fighter. As those of you who’ve played know, nets are quite good. The downside is that your net fighter is usually trapped in the same position as its target. Not these guys. Not only can they lob a net on any unit that they’re facing (not just the first one), but they can Rotate every turn to do it again and their nets stay on the unit in question until the end of the next fight. On top of that, they can act like a Medic for any unit on the board and, even if they’re removed, the net stays (until the end of the next fight.) Oh, and they have Armor, too. They're just a brilliant unit. One thing to keep in mind is that the nets can only be activated with an Order tile, so you have to space out your nets and your chains, like any properly dressed ganger.
Mississippi: 13 warriors (Guard x4, Mutant x3, Poisoner x2, Shadow x2, Hitman, Net Fighter); 10 modules (Boiler x3, Paralysis x2, Mutation x2, Medic x2, Zone); 1 foundation (Toxic Bomb); 10 action (Battle x4, Move x3, Push Back, Transposition, Smokescreen)
As we begin to reach the edges of humanity, where else do we go but the deep South? Mississippi, like New York (a phrase you may never read again in any other context), is a combo faction. They don’t dish out huge amounts of damage, but if they’re able to set up the right combination of tiles, they can slowly drain the life out of the opponent. Almost like they’ve been poisoned (segue…) As one of the two factions in the game that use Venom, Mississippi has the same goal in every game that Neojungle has: Poison the HQ! At that point, the HQ is going to be taking damage at the start of every battle, no matter who starts it, which is a huge advantage. As they’re on the lower end of the warrior scale, with only 13, Mississippi has to make their attacks count. One really effective way of doing that is with the Boiler modules, which make every attack by that unit an envenomed one. But keeping their few units in play is also important, which is the task of the HQ’s Push Back ability and the Mutation modules, which can keep a unit alive (and stay in existence themselves) to an almost ridiculous degree.
That’s especially handy with one of the best warriors in the faction, which are the Shadows. Shadows are slow, but can target any enemy in play. Hook them up to a Boiler and they’re damaging and poisoning any enemy in play, including the HQ. I’ve had opponents concede midway through the game from a couple hits from a Boilered Shadow, which meant their HQ would be taking 2 points of damage in every battle. It’s devastating, so they’re first on the list for your opponent to remove. Their attempts to do so will potentially allow you to make greater use of your other modules, like Paralysis and Zone. Reducing your opponent to initiative 0 or making it so they can’t attack at all goes a long way toward preserving your already fairly swift attackers, like Mutants and Guards. But keep in mind that Mississippi is usually a faction for the long-term. My Shadow horror story notwithstanding, the nature of Venom makes it so that you’ll usually be setting up to not commit a ton of damage in battles that alter the state of the board, but moreso in the direction of chipping in damage here and there so that the totals come out in your favor at the end. Toxic Bomb, another area attack that can affect HQs, is a mild exception to that. Mississippi’s action tiles are bent in that direction, as well, since you only have 4 Battles, but still can create special moments with Transposition (He just appeared out of the swamp mist!) and Smokescreen.
Sand Runners: 13 warriors (Optimist x3, Hammer x3, Vulture x2, Secateur x2, Field Medics x2, Trigger); 14 modules (Scout (Optimist) x3, Medic (Field Medics) x2, Mirage x2, Officer I x2, Chieftain x2, Caravan x2, Officer II); 2 foundation (Quicksands); 10 actions (Battle/Sandstorm x5, Move x3, Push Back x2)
Again, barely within the constraints of the human condition, the newly-released Sand Runners were the first warriors sent by the human race to fight Moloch. Now, they’ve returned from the wastelands. They arrive as one of the more unusual factions in the game, not least because they combine warriors and modules like Dancer does, but also because their HQ is double-sided. We’ve all been in that situation where we know that the next Battle tile is going to unleash 2 or 3 hits on our HQ before it can remove the pesky enemies around it. The Sand Runners HQ can at least take care of one of the largest threats with its more aggressive side and, hopefully, prevent being shot in the ass with its Armor. But the key to both the faction’s function and its theme are the 5 Battle/Sandstorm tiles. When the Sand Runners begin a fight, they can place a Sandstorm on any space. That space blocks line of sight, consequently protects any unit that may have been in that space, and prevents said unit from participating. It reduces the 19-hex board to 18. This can be done to protect one’s own units or to remove one that’s going to be a real problem. This action provides a remarkable range of tactical options when a battle is initiated by the Sand Runners.
And tactical options seem to be what the faction is all about, from flipping the HQ to deciding when and how to use the Field Medics, who are below average melee warriors (0 initiative but tri-directional attack), but also are Medic modules. Similarly, the wonderfully-named Optimists are decent melee units (initiative 3 but only one direction), while also being Scout modules. Ever have those moments when a warrior or module was an auto-discard because either one doesn’t suit the situation you’re trying to address or plan for? Now you can auto-keep one of these and get the benefits of both. They’re a largely melee-oriented force, but all of their ranged units use double attacks, either combined with melee or all ranged, so there is some advantage to be gained from fighting from distance. Given the Sand Runners' overall low initiative, I think the Optimists will turn out to be highly-prized units for them and, with their Chieftain modules (extra attack), create a real threat from shooters like the Secateurs. Sand Runners also use a foundation tile called Quicksands, At first glance, it appears to be a lesser version of the Mines that Vegas and New York use, since the Quicksands don’t activate until the beginning of a battle. However, they can be moved anytime a Sandstorm is initiated and, unlike Mines, Sand Runners units aren’t affected by them, which allows for, again, options both in battle and in deployment. There’s a lot left to be explored with the new faction, but those are my initial impressions from a couple games.
Next time: The mechs and the weird stuff and some final thoughts.