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Friday, August 19, 2011

Neuroshima Hex! iPad and iPhone Game Review

An operation and subsequent lay off from work has meant I have had time to do some things I don't normally get time to do. I have watched a lot of movies that everyone else has seen and I haven't; I have made a serious dent in ripping my DVD collection onto iTunes and I have played games on my iPad.

My son enjoys a good game of Monopoly, so we downloaded and played that for a bit. The same publisher also did Risk, which I have loved since a kid, so a few hours were spent playing that. Then iTunes Genius recommended Neuroshima Hex! and the recovery days have flown by.

So what is it? It's a turn-based board game of the world domination genre set in a post-apocalyptic future world of war machines, mutants and mankind locked in a battle for land and resources. As always with these things, he who survives and destroys his opponents wins the game.

There are six armies to choose (four come with the game, and two are available via an in-game purchase). Each has it's own strengths and weaknesses, and your preferences will be based on how you like to play.

I have to say it is much more complex than the likes of Risk, and the phrase "Read The Manual" is very relevant for this game. I'll try and summarise the basics here.

Each player starts with a HQ that has 20 hit points. The goal of the game is to either destroy your enemy's HQ, or take less damage during the game than them. The game takes place on a hexagonal board, which you can see pictured below:

Each player also starts with 35 "tiles" that are split into several types:

  • HQ - The Headquarters that must be defended whilst you attack your opponents.
  • Board Tile Unit - the armies of your campaign. These attack opponents tiles on the board.
  • Board Tile Modules - give your Unit tiles special abilities, such as increasing attack strength or Initiative (more on this later)
  • Instant Action Tiles - provides an instant hit, such as destroying an enemy tile or allowing you to move one of your own to another hex

Each player gets dealt three tiles, of which he must discard one. Two are then used and either placed on the board (if they are Board Tiles) or used as an Instant Action. Players take it is turn to place or use tiles until one of two things occurs; the board is full or a player uses a Battle Instant Action. The battle stage begins, and this is where Initiatives are used.

Each piece has a number marked on them and this is the turn in which they act - the higher the number the earlier in the battle you act and so you get the jump on your enemies by destroying their pieces before they destroy yours. So using a module to increase your Initiative or decrease your enemies is a good tactic.

Different units have different abilities. They can shoot in multiple directions or multiple times (or both!), or use a net to disable an enemy or have armour to defend against attacks. Generally the more powerful a piece, the lower it's Initiative, and this adds an interesting dynamic to the strategy.

Let Battle Commence!
Up to four players can play in a game (either human or AI), but only on the iOS device - although the publishers are promising Internet play at a future stage. There is integration with Game Center, and there are plenty of trophies to aim for.

The game itself is incredibly addictive. There is a steep learning curve, though, and I advise reading the manual included in the game from start to finish (it doesn't take long), studying the armies catalogue and then plunging in for a two player game against the AI on Easy level.

This tutorial from the publishers will give you a good overview of how it works:

It doesn't matter which army you choose to start with, I found my early successes came with the Outpost, but play a few games and see how you get on.

Some people are recommending playing the puzzle version of the game, Neuroshima Hex Puzzle,  to learn it better, but I haven't played that (saving it for a long plane journey) so I can't say one way of the other. I enjoyed the learning curve, and am still finding new ways to set up units against different enemies.

There is an element of luck, getting the right tiles at the right time, but that doesn't overly affect the gameplay as you may have to battle back from a bad start, which is a challenge in it's own way.

With the addition of Internet play, and new expansion packs promised, this is a bargain for £2.99 considering the board game retails at closer to £40 and you have to work out all the attacks and defenses yourself - which can be pretty complex! The two new armies (£1.49 each) add new dimensions, and are worth a purchase when you have mastered the four provided.

Find out more by visiting the publisher's website:

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