Thursday, June 7, 2012

Nexus Ops

I finally got to play Nexus Ops.  This game has a story for me because of how I got it.

Quite a few years ago (like 2006 or something) I was visiting my Mother in North Bay and I popped into the local game store to check out what boardgames they had.  Catan was really hitting it's stride, Fantasy Flight was ramping things up, Hasbro was mining the Avalon Hill catalogue and trying to push a small number of gamer games and Mayfair was rolling out train games and some other stuff, but this was before you saw too too much on the shelves except old stock, Warhammer, and Magic cards.  It was also before I had much in the way of disposable income so I was pretty picky about what I would buy.  I did however go in with the intention of buying something.  I didn't buy Nexus Ops, I picked up Kids of Catan because my kids were tiny and this looked like something we could play.  Wow that was a mistake - Kids of Catan sucked donkey balls.  As for Nexus Ops, I picked up the box and looked it over and thought about buying it, but I didn't.  I found out later that it was actually quite well reviewed and I kicked myself for not grabbing it.  I really wanted a quick light fighting game to pull out and it seemed like a perfect fit.  Problem was that it was out of print now and I couldn't find it anywhere.

Cut away to last year - and I found myself back in that store and looking at that same copy of Nexus Ops.  I think the guy game me 10% off because it was so dusty.  I snatched that puppy up and skipped out of the store.  I read the rules and it sounded cool and I put it on one of the lower shelves and waited for a chance to pull it out.  It's funny because a couple times I have found a copy of a game that was out of print only to find that it was being reprinted - I spent many years looking for SPI DragonQuest, and the minute I found a copy TSR bought it and reprinted it.  Conversely I was ecstatic when Avalon Hill reprinted Machiavelli and the week after I got the reprint, I found a copy of the original at Value Village (it was in excellent shape and $3!).

Well last weekend I finally got to play Nexus Ops and I I have to say I enjoyed it.

You start with 4 corporations (represented as player boards and pieces in different colours) and a modular hex based game board which you build randomly each game.  You also place hidden resource marker on each tile. Each player gets a starting area with some mines on it and some cash (rubium) to buy units.  The mines you control give you more rubium at the end of your turn, but only if you have units working them.  The grunts are cheap (2-3 rubuim) and come in three types, humans, fungoids and crystaloids (or something).  They aren't great at fighting, however they get bonuses in their home terrains, and are the only units that can work mines.  There are also bigger more expensive units like rock striders that can move further over rocks, lava leapers who can jump out of lava pools, and 12 point rubium dragons that have a ranged breath attack and hit on a 2+.  You move out and explore and get more mines.  Combat is interesting because you each type of creature on both sides attack in order (strongest to weakest) and they only attacks once - so your dragons attack and you remove casualties, then the lizards and so on, until you get to the humans.  Humans only hit on a 6 (six sided dice) and it's tempting to take them off as casualties in the early rounds and save your big guys, but then you'd get less rolls later on in the combat round.  There are also energize(?) cards you can play to give combat bonuses or extra combat rounds or otherwise mess with things.  Certainly it's based on random dice rolls but there is some strategy to be had here in addition to the luck.  Also because you only run through the combat sequence once, combats are more persistent and if you didn't wipe out the enemy forces this turn,  players can retreat or reinforce their positions on their turns.

You play to get 12 victory points and you get a point for every combat victory.  You also get victory points for completing secret missions, and so you might enter combat just to kill a couple humans or to win a combat in a lava pit.  This works great and the game doesn't drag on and there are secret motivations in play  aside from simple 'resource holding' to make things interesting.  You might have all the mines to power a vast war machine but if someone tricks you into loosing a rubium dragon so that they can get a 3 victory point secret objective - they can take the game.  Turtling up around your mines is not a wining strategy.

There's also a bug monolith in the centre of the board and whoever holds it gets two energize cards on their turn - which is a nice perk so it's one big king of the hill going on there.

So Nexus Ops is a great game, light but fun, and it has a good story for me too.  I'm glad to see it's being reprinted by Fantasy Flight (although I don't know if they are keeping the dayglo black light-ready colour scheme) and also curious to see if they produce a two player expansion for it.  I think it might remain a good game with more a couple players (although it might drag a bit it seems to be light enough to overcome that problem).

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