Sorry, Charlie - A Post Apocalyptic Ballet Of Carnage; A Look At Neuroshima Hex!

Sorry, Charlie - A Post Apocalyptic Ballet Of Carnage; A Look At Neuroshima Hex! Hot

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An abstract that stirs emotion and gets the blood pumping. 

Neuroshima Hex! is an odd game as it stands at a prominent crossing of thematic and abstract with its thumb stuck out waiting for Warren Oates to come along in his GTO and give it a ride. It’s decidedly an abstract game yet it also has a huge blanket of theme smothering the composition like a bristling coat on a majestic beast. The fact that it’s now lasted through three iterations and nearly ten years is testament to its durability and lasting character.

This is the same magnificent Neuroshima Hex! that people have been enjoying for years, dressed up in a new rhythm with some new texture via a slick graphic design overhaul. The tiles pop and the board is absolutely beautiful and atmospheric. This newest release also features a quality rules text that’s been cleaned up and even hosts a couple of new surprises. One of the best new elements of this release is the fantastic new three player mode where two players gang up on a single enemy. Play alternates back and forth between each side and the single player’s base possesses a greater degree of health, but the feel is much more interesting and satisfying than the previous free for all that was more problematic than enjoyable. There’s also a large number of solo puzzle cards that feature spicy little challenges requiring problem solving and efficient tile laying to conquer. They’re not meaty enough to justify purchase of the game solely for their inclusion, but they offer a really solid little diversion and additional value pad that is appreciated and worth noting.

Like many abstracts, the core engine is simple to assimilate but allows for a great deal of skill to develop over the long term through numerous plays. Players take turn placing hexagonal tiles setting up vantage points to perform melee attacks on adjacent enemies along specific faces or ranged attacks connecting with the first enemy upon a specific vector. The goal is to take out the opponent’s headquarters before he takes out yours and it’s a battle of attrition and control. The battleground is tight and congested and open dirt evaporates quickly.

One aspect that may prove troublesome for a select group is the nature of the random tile draw each round that results in a faction’s units entering play in an unknown order. Some turns you may really need a tough melee juggernaut to form a wall in front of your HQ but you draw a couple of instant effect tiles and a long range combatant. From the perspective of a thematic gamer this is good stuff as it provides for imprecise knowledge and does a great job in randomizing the experience so that no two games play out similarly. Poor draws are poor draws in the same way that a die may come up a one more often than a six and you can’t sweat it.

There are two key factors in this design that make up its identity and elevate its status – glorious asymmetry and a measured pace of extreme buildup to climax. The former takes shape with each player controlling a very distinct faction in the Neuroshima universe. You have robots, mutants, and partisans spread across four factions that each possess a definite flavor and technique. The setting is like a tasty mashup of Mad Max and Terminator with grit, passion and a bit of smirking fun. Each of the war bands feels very unique and plays quite differently, some embracing mostly melee combat and strength and others flexibility and movement. Mastering each faction in and of itself is a journey that will take dozens and dozens of plays and when one realizes there are numerous additional factions available for purchase the matchups and engagements begin to blossom as your imagination is teased relentlessly.

The pace is perhaps the greatest achievement and is responsible for the greatest defining aspect of the design. While players alternate taking turns placing units on the board, warriors do not attack until a battle tile is played or the battlefield fills up. When either of these occur conflict is triggered and all available units attack in a sequence determined by initiative order. Units attack simultaneously on their initiative number which counts down from three to zero. The quickest of the soldiers will unleash their fury early taking out enemies before they get to go. What this amounts to is a mental juggling of cause and effect as you have to constantly assess the board, figuring out which unit will wreak havoc cancelling other attacks and setting off chain reactions. It’s the most engaging and eloquent quality of play and it’s the source of tension, joy and fury.

The impact of this tempo is profound and not altogether subtle. Players bounce back and forth filling the sparse openings in a smooth yet vicious ballet to a seething and lively beat. The rapidly crowding board takes colorful shape as two composers fill in the void with notes of vigor and sophistication. They duel head to head in brazen challenge as the tempo rises and hearts threaten to leap from their perch. When the crescendo hits and the zenith dawns the resulting explosion of limb and cardboard is bombastic and full of bass like a symphony on edge, completely spent. The whole orchestra goes Borgo and tears each other limb from limb as the standing ovation begs for encore.

This is Neuroshima Hex!, a game that has the unfettering attitude of a Chipotle burrito yet the underlying nourishment of a hearty bowl of Panera vegetable soup. Part of me wants to give it a stiff upper lip for tricking me into enjoying an abstract and another part wants to take it out and buy it a couple rounds. That conflict and turmoil is put aside as soon as the board comes out and the militants hit the table. Massive mechanical robots roll across broken bodies and wasteland punks lay down heavy blankets of fire as my blood is pumping and mind is racing. This isn’t thematic or abstract. This is simply Neuroshima Hex!

Sorry, Charlie - A Post Apocalyptic Ballet Of Carnage; A Look At Neuroshima Hex! There Will Be Games
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Posted: 13 May 2015 08:05 by stoic #202327
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Nice review! I like to wallow in the grittiness that is the post-apocalyptic world of Neuroshima Hex. The IOS digital adaption is incredible and it almost eclipses the board game version--the IOS version is just as good for face-to-face battles to the death. My favorite faction is Steel Police.

I heard that they're finally going to translate the Neuroshima RPG materials into English. The timing is excellent because of the new Max Max: Fury Road movie release. Anyone know any more about that?
Posted: 13 May 2015 08:07 by charlest #202328
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I see they've started posting info on the Portal games site about the RPG, particularly backstory snippets. I haven't been into RPGs in years but it seems like an interesting world.

Despite owning the 2.5 version of Neuroshima Hex! a few years ago and now the 3.0, I've never played with an expansion faction. I'm going to be doing a mini-review of the new Uranopolis but Steel Police and Doomsday Machine look stellar.
Posted: 13 May 2015 09:07 by hotseatgames #202340
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It's been my favorite game since I first played it, and it still is. I've got a nearly complete set of 2.0. The one thing I've never gotten a straight answer on.... are the 3.0 tiles the same size? Also, are they the cheap thin stock used in the more recent army expansions, or the nice thick stock of the original armies?
Posted: 13 May 2015 09:10 by charlest #202341
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Ah, I can't answer that as I don't know anyone else who has a copy and haven't played any version besides 3.0 in years so I can't recall.

I do think people have said that 3.0 is fully compatible with previous versions, so they should be the same size. I know the graphic design changed as the old version has the black borders and the icons are slightly different. I didn't think I'd like the borderless tiles but they do look clean.
Posted: 13 May 2015 09:34 by Josh Look #202344
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Man oh man, do I love NH! I have the 2nd edition and it's one of the few games I can comfortably say that I've played the hell out of. The four factions in the base game play so completely differently from each other, there's a tremendous amount of design space to explore with such a small footprint and price point. What's makes it more impressive is that it's such a clean design. Nothing impresses me more than a game that provides this much depth and play while maintaining a small investment rules-wise. When fully realized, less will always be more, and I can guarantee that it will see the table far more often than even the best wargame, Euro flavor of the week, or FFG card fest.

I'm glad I got as much play out of my copy as I did before the iOS version came out. Before anyone chimes in with claims of preferring the tabletop version, let me stop you. Not this time, you're wrong. I might add that as much as Iove NH, I might prefer Theseus. I think I need to break that one back out.
Posted: 13 May 2015 11:34 by repoman #202369
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Josh Look wrote:
Nothing impresses me more than a game that provides this much depth and play while maintaining a small investment rules-wise. When fully realized, less will always be more, and I can guarantee that it will see the table far more often than even the best wargame, Euro flavor of the week, or FFG card fest

Well this statement is wrong. Wrong in its premises. Wrong in its execution. Wrong in its conclusions.

Not saying NH isn't a good game. It is. However to claim that less will always be more in games is in no way true. Fully realized or no, there is a depth, immersion, and personal investment in weightier games that things like NH cannot touch.

This is particularly so on the war gaming side of things. Will it see more plays than the best wargame? Perhaps, but in no way will it see more table time. Nor dare I say will it compete with a card fest such as Netrunner in either times played or table time.

Games such as NH tend to see, in my experience, a burst of repeated plays initially followed by burnout. In essence, it is a pure abstract game (albeit with asymmetrical play) and as such gains no hold upon the imagination. That results in a finite lifespan of interest.
Posted: 13 May 2015 11:58 by Josh Look #202373
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repoman wrote:
Josh Look wrote:
Nothing impresses me more than a game that provides this much depth and play while maintaining a small investment rules-wise. When fully realized, less will always be more, and I can guarantee that it will see the table far more often than even the best wargame, Euro flavor of the week, or FFG card fest

Well this statement is wrong. Wrong in its premises. Wrong in its execution. Wrong in its conclusions.

Not saying NH isn't a good game. It is. However to claim that less will always be more in games is in no way true. Fully realized or no, there is a depth, immersion, and personal investment in weightier games that things like NH cannot touch.

This is particularly so on the war gaming side of things. Will it see more plays than the best wargame? Perhaps, but in no way will it see more table time. Nor dare I say will it compete with a card fest such as Netrunner in either times played or table time.

Games such as NH tend to see, in my experience, a burst of repeated plays initially followed by burnout. In essence, it is a pure abstract game (albeit with asymmetrical play) and as such gains no hold upon the imagination. That results in a finite lifespan of interest.

I don't think I've ever read a more incorrect collection words in my life (then again, I don't go to news websites so...)

Flailing through rules sucks. I'm done with that. Immerision is only possible when the rules fade into the background.
Posted: 13 May 2015 12:02 by ThirstyMan #202375
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Josh, I can only say that your comment on immersion is utter bollocks. You have no idea what you are talking about because you don't play enough games, above the level of Barbie Toys, in order to make a judgement.

Also, you are a dick.

Are there lots of NH cons then? I must have missed that.
Posted: 13 May 2015 12:19 by Josh Look #202376
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Holy shit, both of you.

Enjoy your rulebooks. It's the most you'll ever see of most of the games you buy.

PS- Jeff started the talk of immersion. I don't give a fuck.
Posted: 13 May 2015 12:21 by Shellhead #202377
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I haven't tried Neuroshima Hex. The theme is right up my alley, but the implementation sounds more abstract than what I want from a game.

In terms of rules weight, I gravitate towards the heavy end of the middle, like maybe a 3.5 on BGG's weight scale. When the rules are minimal, the game tends to seem too simple and abstract. But a big rulebook can completely drag a game down for me. I've played Twilight Imperium several times now, and while I've enjoyed each game, I often felt a bit overwhelmed by the complexity. Chrome rules can bring a theme to life, but too many chrome rules can kill the fun.
Posted: 13 May 2015 12:30 by ThirstyMan #202379
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Josh, I'm only messing with you (except for the bit about you being a dick).

This comment is from you or your doppelganger?
<<Immerision is only possible when the rules fade into the background. >>

It really isn't the chrome that causes a game to drag, it's the inefficiency of the rulebook.

BSG doesn't really have a lot of chrome, in the base game, but it is a bitch trying to find stuff in the rulebook. PoG is similar, lots of flicking through pages of rules to find the particular one you want until you become familiar with the system. ASL is far better structured and fully indexed so, although more chrome, there really isn't much interruption of play. This is what makes it a very effective and addictive sandbox game.
Posted: 13 May 2015 12:44 by stoic #202381
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I also wanted to add that this was a poetic description of Neuroshima Hex and quite appropriate: A Post Apocalyptic Ballet Of Carnage.
Posted: 13 May 2015 12:47 by scissors #202382
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I had Neuroshima Hex 2.5 (which includes Alabama and the Mad Bomber and some such stuff). Before that I had first edition with the Doomsday faction (which is actually knd of a boring faction). I had a lot of the cool new expansions and Mississippi 3.0. i dislike the board in 3.0 but don't mind the depiction of the units, although I prefer the simpler earlier style. i owned 3.0 for about a week at one point but sold it. the lack of the simple black borders is bullshit. the new Zman dropped the ball with 3.0 graphically incl. the fugly cover. Nowhere as cool as the post-apoc versions that preceded it. Anyone can see that. Get the Portal version if you can.

NH played great and we played it a lot but I can confirm Repo's burnout assessment. We got over it, then it was just a box full of hex chips and I sold the whole thing off in a flash - and don't regret it. Why? iOS.

I love NH but the iOS version is better and faster for this kind of a game. And for it's worth, while it has great possibilities the cardboard version doesn't bitchslap every other game ever made.
Posted: 13 May 2015 12:52 by hotseatgames #202383
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Also, Hegemony for life!
Posted: 13 May 2015 13:03 by charlest #202384
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Scissors - The Portal and Z-Man versions of 3.0 are identical except the Portal version does not have Doomsday Machine. Also, I'm not sure if Z-Man had the solo cards.

Graphically, they're identical.
Posted: 13 May 2015 14:11 by scissors #202388
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Sorry, to clarify I meant the 2.5 version which i think Portal was still offering not too long ago but perhaps that has now changed and maybe 3.0 is all you can get new now. Edit: yep, just checked their pages and it seems to be 3.0 as far as the main game is concerned. Shit, maybe I made a mistake in selling this puppy ;)

If you mean the puzzle cards, Zman had them. Never tried them, tho.
Posted: 13 May 2015 14:27 by DukeofChutney #202389
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I had 3.0 for a while (eventually traded it as i always do) and loved it. 3.0 tiles are slightly thicker than the 2.0 ones i've seen but are the same size otherwise. I liked playing Doomsday and Steel Police alot.
Posted: 14 May 2015 08:07 by Mad Dog #202408
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Love the game, but I'm selling my copy because I play the iOS version so much. I played the boxed version twice this year and it felt tedious both times in comparison to playing on my phone. If the iOS version didn't exist this would be on the forever shelf.
Posted: 21 May 2015 09:53 by charlest #202785
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Yeah, I've actually come to avoid playing iOS versions of games I'd like to play face to face to avoid spoiling it. Stone Age and Dominion really kind of hurt the cardboard versions for me.