Our usual group of four had a 'no-show' this week (the usual offender - you know who you are!) so it was just as well I had decided to bring along Nexus Ops. We've always found this works well with 3 the major difference from 4p being that the initial 'jockeying for position' goes on a *tiny* bit longer! I've always maintained this is a pretty bloody game, in that there is little point in hanging around. This doesn't make the strategy side of the game any worse than a standard area-control game, just different!
This week I was a bit late arriving so instead of playing our usual variant of 15 VPs we elected to go for the 'standard' objective of 12. As it turns out, we could easily have gone with the longer game and still have time for 3 rounds of cribbage at the end of the evening! As fans of this one will know, because there is a considerable advantage in going first, the starting 'cash' increases for later players. Thus the 1st player gets 8 rubium to start with which to purchase their initial army and subsequent players get 11, 14 and 17 respectively. We've always found this balances things out pretty well.
Alan started and pushed out exploring leaving one of his home mines unoccupied. I've always used this tactic when starting just to get on terms with new hexes. Ralph was next, splashing out on a relatively expensive rock strider (or 'spider' as we call them) straight out of the blocks. He got lucky with finding another one in his first round of exploration so already his army was looking pretty formidable. I had the dubious honour of going last with the most cash to spend, got a single strider and bulked up with enough
cannon fodder humans to explore the maximum number of new hexes (4) *and* leave all my home mines occupied and thus producing at the end of the turn.
With any game that has dice-based combat, there will always be times when lady luck turns her back on you for a while. So it was that Alan failed to win a single battle for his first 3 turns that actually involved any combat! However, one should always be wary of someone in this position in Nexus Ops as they tend to come back at you like a wounded bear! This is because of another game balancing feature whereby 'losing defenders' get a consolation prize of an 'Energize' card. Alan had managed to amass a fair number of these and only 3 VPs while Ralph and I kept beating him up for our own VPs and only standing off against each other. At this point I had 8 and Ralph had 7. Then came the crucial turn - Alan had played a 'scattered rubium' card that gave him a bunch of extra cash so he could field a pretty good army that turn. This, coupled with an impressive array of battle-based Energize cards and some well-chosen battles meant that he was able to rack up no less than 6 VPs in a single turn! Last to first in one fell swoop and the race was on!
From that point, Ralph and I were playing catch-up. We tried to stall the inevitable - Ralph even had some success with pinching one of my home bases but Alan's war machine rolled on and the final scores went up a couple turns later. Alan - 12, Ralph - 10, me - 9.
As a postscript, I tentatively suggested that it might be fun to go up to the UK Games Expo at the end of May, not really expecting a positive response given everyone's family commitments. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised when both thought it sounded good so I'll be back next week with a bunch of details and hopefully we'll be planning the weekend away!