Review by Tim Gay
Do you enjoy happy little games where you raise cute, little pets, peacefully explore the land for beautiful gems, get along with your neighbors, have them over for a lovely steak dinner…..AND THEN CRUSH THEM ALL INTO OBLIVION?!?!
Wait…what? Well…that escalated quickly.
Nexus Ops is a game for people that want none of that friendly business and all of the CRUSHING INTO OBLIVION business. That’s right folks. Nexus Ops is the aggressive game of stripping a moon of its precious energy resources at all costs and may God have mercy on the souls of anyone who attempts to get in your way.
Let’s just say you won’t be hanging out with your opponents at the neighborhood picnic anytime soon.
Nexus Ops is at it’s core a 4X game boiled down to its most simplest form. This 2-4 player game from designer Charlie Catino all takes place on a tiny moon, which is definitely not big enough for the 2-4 of us. What’s a 4X game, you say? Oh man! It’s usually something quite awesome and Nexus Ops is no exception. A 4X game centers around the four X’s (eXplore, eXploit, eXpand and eXterminate….and go heavy on the eXterminate with this puppy.) And you do all the X’s throughout the course of a Nexus Ops game all in the span of about an hour or so.
When the game begins, players are given a certain amount of Rubium, the precious energy source that the game revolves around. Think of Rubium as your money that you use to raise a hoard of beasties, which you command across the land. Every player has access to the same beasties and is only limited by how much money or rubium they have. Well…how do you get more money? With mining beasties, of course! eXplore the surrounding landscape, sucking it dry like the greedy, power hungry, raging, bloated ticks that you must become in order to win the game of Nexus Ops.
Seriously. You gotta be mean.
Mining the land for Rubium will supply the funds to eXpand your vast army of Rock Striders, Lava Leapers, Rubium Dragons, Fungoids, Crystallines and even lowly humans.
I thought you said this game was mean? Sounds like you are just going around peacefully exploring and doing a little mining!
Patience, young padawans, for what you have in Nexus Ops is a game that rewards you for being the most efficient killing machine you can be. eXterminate, my friends…er…I mean your friends. eXterminate your friends. If you go out, attack other beasties and manage to win (and survive the battle) then you gain a victory point. You can enter into as many battles as you want to in one turn. Win a few battles in a single turn and you are well on your way to victory, which is simply the first player to achieve 12 victory points. Combat is done through dice so there is a great deal of luck; however, you can mitigate that luck through various power up cards that you can acquire through eXploiting the center Monolith space or losing battles (which is a great catch up mechanic for such a fast paced game).
“So you just go around bashing each other all willy nilly until you get 12 points? That sounds really cool but I think it’s missing something.” This is actually a quote from the designer’s brain when he was working on the game (not really). But, it does bring up a good point. Game needs a little extra sauce….well, that comes in the form of the genius addition of secret mission cards. These are cards kept hidden from your opponents that stipulate special things that can be accomplished to score more points. These cards range from using a specific beastie in a battle, doing specific things in a battle, having multiple battles (did I mention that the game loves battles?), occupying more of different types of spaces, etc. You are given one of these cards at the end of each of your turns, so your strategy will constantly be morphing. This not only keeps the game interesting, but it opens up room for some brilliant comebacks. I’ve scored six points once in a single turn just for doing a couple things. It took several turns of setting up that mega swing. It also eliminates players from banding up against someone since you will typically take the path of least resistance to achieve these goals.
Now…this is my first review so I wanted to take a moment to introduce my super, awesome, new board game rating method.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the FRACK! method. That’s right. Battlestar Galactica fans rejoice!
R= Replayability? or do I see myself taking this off the shelf often?
A= Affordability? or is it a good value?
C= Cool components?
K= Keep it?
!= *excited heavy breathing*
So lets put Nexus Ops through the FRACK! test.
1)FUN? Oh yes! Everything is so intuitive from the combat to the economy to the secret missions. I’ve taught this to many people and we always play it more than once in a sitting. If amassing an army of beasties and watching your friends cry as their Rubium Dragon dies to a measly Fungoid sounds like a good time to you, then you really have found a perfect game.
2) REPLAYABILITY? Heck yeah! The board setup is completely random. The secret missions are completely random. The dice rolls are completely random. It’s like Random Ops.
3) AFFORDABLE? This game is usually around the $50 or less price tag. Sometimes even cheaper. Snatch it up if you can though as it seems to go between printings often.
4) COOL COMPONENTS? I own the Fantasy Flight version of the game and the little beastie miniatures are cool. You won’t be able to resist playing with them. The cards and board tiles are absolutely stunning; however, when you assemble the board it does look a bit like a Willy Wonka acid trip. It’s got a nice old school charm to it though.
5) KEEP IT? This is one of the most played games in my collection since it is so easy to play and teach. I can play it with almost anyone and every game is just a joyful celebration of dice chucking, face smashing fun! This one will easily stay in my collection. BUY IT! BUY IT NOW!