Last week saw the release of a boardgame conversion to the iPhone of the game Neuroshima Hex, a post apocalyptic turn based tactical combat game. The easy to use interface, along with the copious amounts of polish in terms of presentation make this game shines as a prime example of how to do boardgame conversions for the handhelds.
The playfield consists of a rather confined Hex shaped area, built up from smaller individual hexes into a combat zone. Essentially, you place your HQ on the board, then you field unit tiles and combine their attacks and special powers in an arrangement to knock out your opponents units. During the placement round you only have a choice of three tiles at any time, out of these you have to discard one of them before you play.
Placing the Hex tiles involve spatial placement of their melee attack and ranged attack markers (so a limited number of edges of the hex represent these forward facing actions). Consequently, the remaining hex sides of the tile represent the vulnerable rear of these troops. You can spin the tiles to orient them in the direction you need to mount your offence, and also to protect your rear from enemy attacks. There are also support tiles that boost attack and defence ratings, but again their effect is only present in certain directions.
You lay your tiles in rounds, until one side or the other lays an action tile that initiates battle and forces a resolution. during which all tiles that will make an attack follow it through (in waves of initiative), and losses are removed from the play area.
Play continues until one of the HQ’s is defeated, or the one of the players runs out of tiles. HQ’s are quite strong with 20 HP, but they also hit back at enemies in close proximity. Some action tiles allow you to rotate/move or knock back your opponents tiles, giving some room for satisfying spoiler tactics on your enemy’s formations.
I think the strength of the game lies in playable differences between the four factions, The Hegemony (gangs), The Outpost (guerrillas), Borgo (mutants) and The Moloch (rebelled machines). Learning a faction and its unit’s abilities is key to structuring your tactical attacks, and adds a level of depth and replayability as you master one and move onto the others. Such a simple mechanic of laying and rotating tiles, seems almost too basic, but the chains of attacks, defense and boosts coupled with the initiative layer sequencing the action, really does lead to quite complex resolutions playing out when a battle tile is laid. I think its the uncertainty of the resolution that adds a element of tension, like planning a sequence of events in your mind over time, and then waiting to see how the enemies placement spoils and affects it. Frustration and satisfaction in equal measure, tipping either way with a lot of anticipation.
The art style is very appealing, although I think the depiction of the attacks whilst being simple and very visual does mask a lot of the charm of the art. The battles roll out logically and the attackers and defenders in each engagement are screened from the background to focus your attention, the tiles even bump up against each other simulating melee attacks or a line of fire jumps across the tiles for ranged attacks.
At the moment the game can be played solitaire or as a pass-around (hotseat) local game, but multiplayer is in the planning. I enjoy solitaire games with a challenge, that can be played in quick short bursts, and Neuroshima Hex fulfills this requirement. Next to Dungeon Solitaire, this has to be one of my favourite iPhone games.
If you want a in depth explanation of the game and its mechanics, I suggest you take a look at this review by Castelli (its actually reviewing the boardgame, but all the concepts are identical to the iPhone conversion):
Looking forward to expansions and multiplayer capability in the future. I just wish more boardgames were converted to the handheld platform with solitaire AI to play against.