Sunday, October 14, 2007

Ouch (Nexus Ops, Ingenious, Clue: The Great Museum Caper, Jungle Speed + Expansion)

This post is quite late. The evening in question is Wednesday, September 28th (I wasn't around this week. From the emails, it's possible there was no gaming at all in my absence)

I chose to play the new games I received at the recent math trade (Nexus Ops, Ingenious and Jungle Speed + Expansion), along with one I received at the previous one (Clue: The Great Museum Caper).

Nexus Ops

Nexus Ops is a game from Avalon Hill's recent attempt to make a comeback in boardgaming. While the line in general didn't see much success (or so I hear), Nexus Ops was one of only two games to get any sort of positive recognition (the other was Vegas Showdown). Billed as a sort of "Risk done right", I thought it might fill a niche in my collection.

The concept is a little forced: It's the future and a new planet has been discovered which seems to be rich in Rubium. Each player represents a corporation which wants to mine the planet for all it's worth. To this end, it sends in soldiers and enlists creatures on the planet to help. In practice, it's an excuse to get a bunch of armies together and fight.

The board consists of a number of hexogonal tiles, layed in a circular pattern just like Settlers of Catan, except that the center is an elevated platform. Each player has a base at one edge where units are deployed. After the initial setup, the game consists purely of deploying units, fighting and collecting income based on the mines the player controls at the end of a turn. It sounds simple, and it is, but the designers have slipped in there a few nice ideas which make this game work where others might have failed:

1) The victory condition is acheiving 12 victory points. Victory points are almost exclusively gained by winning battles. This small decision ensures that the game keeps moving and never results in turtling.

2) Players gain secret missions at the end of every turn. These are normally to win a battle in a certain place, with a certain unit or under certain conditions. Players will normally alter their play to attempt to satisfy the conditions, which allows the game to feel a little less repetitive than it otherwise would.

3) If a player wins a battle, he/she is allowed to play mission cards to gain victory points. However, if this occurs the losing player gets to draw an "energize" card, which will grant him an advantage in the future (such as rolling additional dice, destroying units, etc). This is a nice, simple way to keep losing players in the running.

4) The creatures seem well balanced. The expensive ones are worth more, due to the powers they get and their superior ability in battle. Still, they are risky because a well coordinated attack by several smaller units. Even with lots of money, it's never obvious which units a player should buy.

I had fun with Nexus Ops. Though the overall visual impression of the game is ridiculously tacky, the component quality is generally quite good (the only excpetion would be the cardboard center obelisk, which seems too cheap for the rest of the game). The brightly coloured creatures are kinda cool, though in a few instances they could have been better differentiated.

I think it will do just fine in my collection... there for those sessions were I just want to beat stuff up.

Session Report

Not knowing how to play the game, I opened with just 2 units... a soldier and a rock spider. I discovered another rock spider but was unable to man any of my starting mines (leaving me with little income for the next turn). Having observed the weakness of my opening move, the other players purchased more cheaper units and spread out while keeping people behind to generate income. A few turns in, things were looking grim. Shemp, Luch and Kozure had lots of units on the board... my only saving grace was that I managed to get 2 rock spiders on the monolith and enjoyed the energize card bonus for many rounds before the others got fed up with exploring the board and purchasing reinforcements. Kozure started moving into my home base and I could do very little to fight back (Kozure was the USSR of this game, with nearly half the board under his control). Luch was taking the lion's share of the VPs by succesfully battling Shemp and Kozure. My stash of cards was difficult to use because I had so few units, but I managed to focus on a few easy battles and accumulated a pretty good score considering. Shemp couldn't roll a winning die to save his life, and Kozure wasn't fighting very much at all which meant his VP total didn't really reflect his dominance of so much territory.

Entering what was our last round, Luch and I were both in a position to potentially win on our turns. Difference was, I needed to get lucky, and he was so strong that it was almost inconceivable that he would'nt win.

He did.


Ingenious is a kind of variant on dominos which also reminds me of Blokus for it's relative simplicity. There's not much to it (you place a tile which has two symbols on it and score points according to how well it matches with what's already on the board) but the Tigris and Euphrates style scoring and the fact that it plays well with 2, 3 or 4 players make it a much better game in my opinion (I also like Blokus, but the base set only really plays well with 4).

I think everyone liked it, but to be fair I mostly got this one to play with non-gamers at home.

Clue: The Great Museum Caper

This was a game I picked up at the last math trade. When we played it, it seemed like fun but I couldn't understand how it was possible for the thief to win. I almost traded it away at this math trade because the box is SO big, and the game seemed SO unbalanced, that I figured it wouldn't get much play. Having failed to trade it, I figured I'd give it another shot.

The balance seemed even worse than before. Utterly impossible, in fact. I've checked BGG, I can't see anything we are doing wrong. I'm guessing that 2-3 players would work better, but I'm not sure I'll ever find out...

(oh, and Shemp said at the end of the game that he couldn't decide whether he would rate this above or below Lord of the Rings: Sauron. Considering how much he hates that game, I was quite surprised. Sure, it's not working very well...but it's not a game that stands out enough that it would even occur to me that it would be worthy of hating. And this from a guy who likes Scotland Yard, so I thought he might really go for this)

Back to the trade pile.

Jungle Speed + Expansion

Not much to say, except that if you've ever played this before and thought that it made your head hurt... you ain't seen nothing yet. The new cards provided are not all new patterns. They are further variations on the existing ones! There are subtle changes which are not easy to process, and the whole thing is very headache inducing.

I LOVE it.

(note: I don't recommend playing with the full deck with 4 people. Our game did end (I won), but it could have gone on for a long time. )


  1. Yeah, I didn't hate the Clue thing, but it's pretty clearly pointless, which is my big problem w/ the Sauron thingy, too. Neither of them feel like actual games, so they both get crappy ratings. Upon reflection, I think the Clue thing here goes lower, just because it doesn't really have decent production values or atmosphere, either. BUT I still hate the Sauron thing way, way more. There isn't enough substance in this Clue thing to actaully hate it, you know?

  2. Thanks for clearing that up, Shemp. I couldn't quite fathom how an innocent Clue themed game could inspire the levels of hatred implied by your comments. I'll sleep better now.

    Oh, and LOTR: Sauron is a great game.