Neuroshima Hex 3.0 Review

Neuroshima Hex 3.0 game in play

Though Neuroshima Hex has been around for quite some time, I finally was able to explore the game in the latest edition - Neuroshima Hex 3.0.

Before I get into the main review, I wanted to address what has changed in the new version.  Having not been totally familiar with the old version, I may be a touch off; but here are the things I am aware of: there are solo puzzles, there is a new faction, and the art is different.   The solo puzzles are a nice way of exploring the game and honing your skills.  However, having played several of them, I found that the setup time took longer than actually solving the puzzle, so they may be something that you try without bothering to set the pieces up on the board.  New factions are obviously a plus, and I found the new faction (Doomsday Machine), to have a very unique style of gameplay.  I think that if you played the previous versions, you will definitely appreciate this being included.  Finally, there is new art.  Based on what I have read, the new art makes it unappealing to mix in the previously released expansions - I believe that you can, but the art style is different enough that they don't feel like they "fit".

Now then, for those of you that are new to Neuroshima Hex, let's review the game!  In Neuroshima Hex, each player selects an army and attempts to raze his opponent's base.  Each turn you draw three hex tiles, discard one, and either play or keep each of the other two.  There are three types of tiles to play - units, modules, and actions ("instants").  Units and modules go out on the board and can cause different effects - attacking in melee, at range, improving other units, trapping opponents, etc.  However, none of these units will perform any of these actions until a battle is performed.  Alternately, the action tiles do various "one and done" things - they can start a battle, move a unit, attack a single unit, or push back an opponent.  Whenever a battle occurs (either from one player using a battle action or the board being filled), casualties are determined in initiative order - with the higher initiatives attacking before the lower ones, and with all units within the same initiative attacking at the same time.  Play continues in this manner of placing units and battling until one player's HQ has been destroyed, or until one player runs out of tiles - at which point the player with the healthiest HQ is the winner!

board closeup for new Neuroshima Hex game
Four-player death match
The first pro that I have for Neuroshima Hex is that I really like the skirmish system that it implements.  Is that cheating?  Essentially, this first pro is "I like how the game works," as the skirmish system is the game (just using more eloquent terms).  It all works very well - there is a nice tension about when a battle will occur.  Essentially, at the end of most of your turns you feel like you are positioned well and wish a battle would immediately begin.  Yet, by the start of your next turn, you feel (sometimes justifiably) like you are going to get obliterated.  And, whoever does finally start the battle will generally be using one of their two tiles in order to trigger the event, which means they will not be able to position their armies as much as they would like.  Everything fits very well together, and the flow and balance of the game make it great for anyone that enjoys skirmish-style games.

The next pro that I have for Neuroshima Hex is the initiative system.  Much of the positioning of units is centered around this.  A great example of this is when one player has a very strong unit positioned to attack his opponent's base.  Yet, that strong unit will quite likely have a low initiative - and so his opponent may be able to destroy the unit before it would be able to attack, assuming he can play a higher initiative unit.  Which then can be countered with an even higher initiative unit.  The fact that the units' attacks are staggered makes the placement of units much more important and is a brilliant facet of the game.

The third pro that I will list for this game is that I like that the bases all attack in melee.  Specifically, each of the bases has an initiative of zero and performs a melee attack in every direction (though it cannot damage another HQ).  This minor element of the game is helpful in two ways: it prevents the board from stagnating, and it also helps avoid one player running away with a victory.  It prevents the board from stagnating by killing units - specifically units that are directly helping a player win.  Regardless of whether a player positions a different unit to kill those tiles, they will be destroyed by the headquarters, thus clearing space on the board for players to place the next wave of reinforcements.  It also helps avoid a runaway leader by removing the units that are most directly helping a player to win.  For example, if I have a unit dealing three points of melee damage to my opponents base, and the base doesn't attack him, all I have to do is protect that unit and I will probably win.  However, since the base itself attacks, my strategy will have to change as my units die and as I draw new units.

two player example of new Neuroshima Hex game
Two-player game where blue has the advantage
The last pro that I will mention for Neuroshima Hex is that I enjoy the differences of the armies.  There are five armies included in the game, and each of those armies plays differently.  Some of them have really neat ranged powers, others are major melee attackers.  Some armies have an advantage by attacking repeatedly with the same units, and others use area affects to attack.  One of my favorite elements in games is when each player has a completely unique (yet balanced) way of playing, as it adds tons of depth to the game.  Neuroshima Hex is an amazing example of this, and I think that designers should desire to achieve this aspect in their games.

Though there is a lot to like in Neuroshima Hex, there is at least one element of the game that can be frustrating.  My primary con is that the game can swing drastically based on the luck of the draw.  This problem is most apparent after a battle.  Often, after a battle, one player (or team) will have an advantage - such as being the only team with units on the board!  This is generally the team that initiated the battle, as you wouldn't want to start a battle that you are not going to win.  Fortunately, the game balances itself by allowing the other player (or team) to take their turn immediately after the battle - thus the weaker team can immediately reinforce!  Yet, if they draw a combination of modules and action tiles (if you draw all actions, you can discard and redraw), they will not be able to improve their position.  And, the next player might be able to improve his position while triggering another altercation.  I have seen this occur in multiple games that I have played, and it generally means that the player at a disadvantage will not recover.

Overall, I give Neuroshima Hex 3.0 a 9.0/10.  If you are looking for a tactical skirmish game, this is probably the one that you should try first.  It is not for everybody (as some people have no interest in skirmish games), but after trying it, I understand why it has been published and re-published, and why so many people enjoy this game.

If Neuroshima Hex sounds interesting, you might also want to check out 51st State: The New Era, Summoner Wars, and Star Wars: The Card Game.

I would like to thank Z-Man Games for providing me with a review copy of Neuroshima Hex 3.0.


  1. Nice review, Josh.

    I've never played the original, but it's been on my radar. As my son get's older, I think skirmish games would be fun to play with him. We played some Heroscape at our Extra Life event and he really enjoyed it, but needed more tactical practice.

    So this one is definitely on my list to check out. It seems to offer some nice asymmetrical tactical skirmish play without having to plunk down a lot of money for miniatures.

    Hopefully I'll get a chance to play it soon.

  2. Thanks for the review. I was looking for differences with the original one, but so far I can only see component differences. I wonder how this works with existing expansions.

  3. Well, Josh, I picked it up. I've punched the units and I'm reading the rulebook. Thanks for the great review. I think it finally gave me the plush to pick it up when some Christmas money came my way.

    My son is already asking about it, so it should hit the table soon.

    Also, the Android, and I assume iOS, version of the game is a lot of fun. I much prefer the new art and graphic design of the 3.0 version of the game compared to the original art style that appears in the electronic version. However, the game play is really great.