Review: Neuroshima Hex (iPhone)

Posted by James (admin) on September 26th, 2010

I was interested in Neuroshima Hex when it was released at Spiel a few years ago.  However, I didn’t get a chance to play it then, or since, so I was pleased to see it released on iPhone so I could finally give it a go.

Neuroshima Hex is a 2-4 player combat game using hex tiles on a relatively small hex grid.  Each turn, players draw 3 random tiles, discards 1 and play the other 2 tiles.  Some tiles have immediate effects, like grenades and push-backs, so aren’t placed on the board; however, the majority are units which do get placed on the board.  Some units can attack enemies (ranged and melee) and icons on the tiles edges show in which directions they will attack – the player chooses which direction they face when placing them.  Some other units boost the performance of some neighbouring units.

Combat (battle) only occurs when a player plays a Battle tile whichc are part of each army’s tile set, so you need to decide whether to use the opportunities to attack.  A battle also occues when all the tiles have been placed, and if the board is full.  Each tile has a number on it showing when it will act when battle does occur – the higher numbers act first so timing can be everything to winning a fight.  Most tiles are removed after receiving damage but some can ignore some or take multiple hits before being killed.  In fact, many tiles have extra abilities (shown via icons) such as being able to move (as most tiles do not move once placed), use of a net (which stops the targetted tile from attacking) and so on.  Each set of different colour tiles is an army and each army has their own mixture of units and abilities.

The goal of the game is to destroy the enemy’s HQ before they destroy yours, or to have the least damaged HQ when all the tiles have been used.  The HQ is a tile with 20 hit points but it also fights back against any neighbouring enemy tiles too.

The game plays quickly and offers lots of decision making.  Placing a maximum of 2 tiles each turn means you have lots of things to accomplish but not enough actions to fulfil many of them – so you need to make decisions every turn.   This can be difficult when you don’t know which tiles you’ll have next turn; however, like Carcassonne, having a limited amount of tiles to play each turn does speed up play.  (After several games, I’m interested to know if having a hand of 5 tiles rather than 3 (still discarding 1 and playing 2 each turn) would give players more tactical options as they could plan ahead a bit.)

Having each army contain different units means there can be different gameplay strategies depending on the mixture of armies being used.  I think it would have been cool if the iPhone game allowed players to even play the same army as other players against one another (rather than all have to be different) – as this would be easy to achieve with a digital version of the game.

As light warfare goes, there’s definitely some good tactical play although luck does play its part in the draw of the tiles.

The game plays very smoothly and fast too.  The animation of the screens and dragging-dropping-and-rotating the tiles is very smooth and the graphics are really rich, which makes it easy to see the tile icons.  You can zoom in on the tiles to some extent too but I haven’t found it necessary and have been happy with viewing the whole board on a single screen.

I would have liked to have seen some sort of progression mode (i.e. a series of battles which get steadily harder, or even some tile/unit placement puzzles), like I do in most iPhone board game, as these add variety and incentive to replay games.  However, that would increase the development time and cost and, therefore, price.

The only key complaints I have are a few minor user-interface issues.  They’re not ugly or game spoiling, but a few changes could have made things even more accessible and faster flowing, especially for gamers who are new to Neuroshima Hex.  For example, to look up a units abilities during a game, you have to go through 4 or 5 screens and then back through them to the game.  It would have been much easier if there was a button to access the unit help on the main game screen, or if each tile had a help link (visible when needed).  Also, the info on the different units defaults to the blue army every time which is mildly frustrating when you’re playing a non-blue army.

One other item is that the 3 tiles you use during your turn are displayed so that they obscure the bottom of the game board.  They can be moved out of sight, but it’s a bit frustrating as you want to view your tiles and the whole board at the same time when deciding which tile to discard.  I think the tiles in your hand could have been displayed at the side of the screen so there wasn’t an overlap.

The animation on the menus is nice – with the different choices flying in from the left – but this does get a bit annoying after a few uses because you have to wait for it on every time.  This and the points above are probably less noticeable once you know the game’s units and rules better and they certainly won’t stop me playing the game.

The only multiplayer option is ‘hot seat’ play (multiple human players passing one iPhone around) which up to 4 players can play.  Not having online multiplayer is fine by me as I’ll mainly play it solo; however, I would have liked a turn-based online mode (i.e. players not needing to be simultaneously online).  I can’t comment too much on the AI as I’m only playing on easy at the moment and haven’t really got a feel for it yet.  So far though, it has offered me a challenge.

Neuroshima Hex on the iPhone is a quick playing, well executed, tactical wargame with involving decisions.  At £1.79, it definitely feels like value for money.


[Played single human player versus 1, 2 and 3 AI]

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Neuroshima Hex - Big Daddy's Creations For iPhone (reviewed)
Neuroshima Hex - Big Daddy's Creations For iPad

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