Your Skeptical Friend: Hey man. What are you up to this weekend?
You: Oh, nothing much. You know. (pause) Actually, there's this thing on Fridays. . .
YSF: Yeah, what's that?
You: Its sort of like a club. A few of us get together, hang out, and sort of *cough* *cough*
You: We play games.
YSF: Games? Like lawn darts and water polo?
You: Not exactly . . .
Now there's a familiar scenario. Drawing a potential new member into the esoteric order of your Friday night Gaming Group can make you feel a bit like the Kool-aid vendor in Jonestown. So, if you (like me) have one of those Middle-to-Heavyweight groups who prefer meaty, complex or heavily thematic games, it can be tricky to introduce the potential initiate to the wonderful world of farting boxes and new-card smell.
This review is less an in-depth analysis of this simple game and more a look at why this is handy for
tricking enticing those folk-on-the-fence into joining your weekend sessions.
Herein lies the rub: How do you get newbies to appreciate this cornucopia of sweet geekitude without the explody head factor?
For my snobbish group, Hex Hex and Hex Hex Next are the answers.
Hex Hex Next is a standalone game by Smirk and Dagger that can be played all by itself or used to enhance Hex Hex (for maximum deck size and less reshuffling. . . viva variety!).
HHN is a game for 3-6 players (we play with no less than four) with a simple premise and very intuitive mechanics, with the added benefits of being fun, fast, high-energy and (bestest of all) easy to teach.
What you Get:
In the sturdy and highly portable little box, there are: 94 playing cards, six "voice" cards (point trackers) with six glass beads for keeping score, and 14 Hex tokens (6 standard, 8 "enhanced").
Quick and Dirty Summation:
Hex Hex Next is a self-described game of hot potato. First, everyone is dealt a hand of five cards from the freshly shuffled deck. Each round, the First Caster (who rotates clockwise at round's end) hurls a standard Hex token at someone (I hex Bob) who uses a card or cards from his hand to deflect, reflect or otherwise negate the hex. Eventually, someone runs out of options and is Hexed, and loses a number of voice correspondent to the power of the Hex when it "goes off." Unaugmented Hexes take take you down only one Voice. All players redraw to a full hand (there is no discarding!) and the next round begins with the First Caster marker moving one seat clockwise (left). After a preset number of rounds, whomever has the most voice makes a rule, after the fashion of many ill-fated drinking games. Rules can be anything that does not affect the basic nature of the game, such as "all players passing the hex do so with their right hand only" or "you must refer to me hereafter as "My Lord and Master," and players can be penalized for breaking them.
Then the game continues with said rules in play. It ends Whenever (according to my group.)
What will Newbies appreciate about this game?
HHN is, firstly, fun. It's a good time to fling Hexes at each other, exact small vengeances and generally watch the chaos unfold. It's a highly social game. HHN's many cards offer varying options, without being confusing. New Gamers will respond favorably to this kind of thing.
HHN is simple. This is a pretty darn basic stimulus-response sort of deal. Are you being Hexed? Get rid of it. Can you shaft someone who played you last turn? DO it. Everything you need to know is right there on your cards, without hieroglyphic mystery symbols to wade through. Newbies typically embrace this kind of accessibility, especially when surrounded by your Arkham Horror or Puerto Rico boxes and veteran Gamer friends.
HHN is fast. Gameplay will generally take around forty minutes (after the painless expository monologue concerning the rules) and this time really zips by thanks to HHN's rapid-fire gameplay. Initiates will likely be warmed up and primed for something a bit meatier, with no signs of "midnight burnout."
This game is great for beginners, or as filler. It is fairly chaotic and luck-driven, as your cards are cards you've drawn, with no chance for mulligans or trades. You just can't know when a Hex is coming your way. There is some pretty basic hand-management, but no real long-term strategy and certainly no Cooperation. I count these as *positives* when they are viewed in the context of a Gateway Game. However, for these same reasons, HHN is best taken in small doses. My group uses it only for those oft-mentioned newbs. If you never have anyone to convert (a situation of which I disapprove. I mean, come on man, do your part!) and your group tends toward the heavier stuff, look elsewhere. But if you need a great filler or one of those games you can teach while drunk, this is a real gem at a decent price. We play ours at least twice a month.