Neuroshima Hex: Tile-Based Strategic Battles

Set in the post-apocalyptic world of Neuroshima, Neuroshima Hex is an iOS universal implementation of the successful Polish board game of the same name. Developed for iOS by Big Daddy’s Creations, it is a game of fairly simple rules that, once learned, make for quick strategic battles.

Each turn you draw from your selection of hex-shaped tiles (each one representing a unit type in your army) and place them strategically on the board. As the board fills, eventually a battle ensues and tiles are removed from the game in a process of elimination based on the capabilities of individual tiles, and how they influence one another. Confused yet? Don’t worry, it’ll all make sense after the break.

Overview

To begin, you simply select an army to play and you are given that army’s set of tiles. Players then, each in turn, place their HQ tile on the board in a position they think will be to their advantage. The final goal is to be the player whose HQ tile has taken the least amount of damage at game’s end, so this first move is quite possibly the most important choice of the game.

Pay very close attention, as things change quickly from turn to turn.

Pay very close attention, as things change quickly from turn to turn.

From there, each turn you draw three tiles from your set and must immediately discard one of them. This leaves you with two tiles a turn in general, and you place them in any open hexes you want. As each tile can have any of a variety of abilities, the strategy gets deep right away, and every move counts.

Gameplay

The army you choose will determine the exact composition of the tile set you get, but each army contains some basic troop types. Ranged attacks let you attack from afar; melee attacks only effect adjacent tiles, but often work in multiple directions; nets will trap opponents, effectively taking them out of the game, until the net tile is dealt with.

The rules are fairly simple, but the permutations are subtle and many.

The rules are fairly simple, but the permutations are subtle and many.

Some tiles, called “modules,” modify the tiles next to them, boosting their abilities. All the boosts are pretty basic in concept, but the ways in which they interact, from tile to tile, can get pretty complex, so you have to take care with every tile placed if you want to stand a chance.

Depth of Strategy

In addition to basic units and modules, each army has a handful of special tiles that let them mix things up. Snipers, grenades and air strikes each bring in some instant kill capabilities, while units like runners can move in turns after they have been placed. Every army also gets a handful of battle tiles, which lets you start the action early.

Battles can be started by playing a battle tile, or happen automatically when the entire board is filled.

Battles can be started by playing a battle tile, or happen automatically when the entire board is filled.

Each tile that can take an action in a battle will do so on a specific initiative phase, which can be boosted by your modules and reduced by your opponent’s. When a battle goes down the mechanic is a simple process of elimination, based on initiative, so this is a key factor in any strategy.

Play Options

They pretty much covered all the options when it comes to gameplay. You can play on a single device with up to four players (pass and play) or up to three AI. The option that really opens things up is the online multiplayer, as it will expose you to all the different styles of play out there and make you a better player for it.

Set it up for pass and play, vs AI or go online for endless opponents (with chat).

Set it up for pass and play, vs AI or go online for endless opponents (with chat).

The basic game comes with four armies to play with, which is plenty of variety to explore for the beginner and veteran alike. They have also introduced a number of in-app, purchasable expansion armies that bring in new tiles and abilities, and therefore new styles of play, too.

Learning Curve

Make no mistake, Neuroshima Hex is intended to, and can be, a very quick-play strategy game. But there are enough complexities involved that it can take a while before one really gets a feel for it, and the developers have not done a very good job in helping the new player learn the ropes.

The key is to learn what the symbols on the tiles mean, so you can instantly assess their values.

The key is to learn what the symbols on the tiles mean, so you can instantly assess their values.

There is a very simple tutorial overlay that you can use in your first game, and review whenever you like, but it only gives a very vague idea of how to play. There is an “info” mode, which allows you to read the abilities of any tile, but it is a bit inaccessible and effectively breaks the game flow when you use it.

Implementation

I have mixed feelings about some of the details of the implementation of Neuroshima Hex. On one hand, it works great as a simple interface of tile placements that seems perfect for a touch interface. But there are a number of little quirks that I think should be improved in order to make it really slick.

Making the “info” mode (mentioned above) more accessible would greatly reduce the learning curve. Also, the touch controls for rotating a hex before placement do not seem to respond consistently. Fortunately they have included a robust undo option, that will save the player from these seemingly unavoidable, accidental moves made.

Conclusions

The trick to this game is to learn to recognize the tiles, and therefore their capabilities, by the visual symbols on each. Until that comes together, the game is pretty slow to play. Once I started to get this aspect of the game down however, it quickly became addictive. The great blend of simple rule dynamics superimposed over one another makes for very intriguing strategic considerations.

Neuroshima Hex is definitely for people with a heavy strategic-gaming bent. At $4.99 it is a great deal, offering tons of game time, but only if you learn the game to the point where you can play it quickly. I recommend trying out the free version (Neuroshima Hex Lite) before you dive into the full, so you can see for yourself if this is your kind of thing.


Summary

A hex-based tile placing game of strategic, post-apocalyptic battles.

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