What it is...
Hextris is a 2 or 3 player abstract strategy game using Icehouse pieces on a hexagonal grid. Players move their pieces around in an attempt to create groups of five of their pieces.
What you need...
To play Hextris, you will need a monochrome stash of Icehouse pieces per player. [Alternatively, this game could be adapted to using other game pieces provided each player has 3 distinct sets of 5 identical pieces]. You will also need a 3x3x3 hexagonal gameboard. Not to toot my own horn, but I created and uploaded a handsome printable gameboard which can be found in the games section.
How you play...
On a player's turn they can do one of two things:
1. Place one pyramid from their supply onto a vacant perimeter spot on the board.
2. Move one pyramid (in their color) according to one of the following movement rules:
- Large pyramids may move in a straight line any distance provided they are unobstructed
- Medium pyramids may move up to 2 spaces in a straight line, provided the spaces are unobstructed
- Small pyramids may move one space, provided the space is unobstructed.
- You may swap places with a pyramid adjacent to your pyramid, subject to these rules: A large pyramid may only swap with a medium, a medium only with a small, and a small only with a large.
When you move your pyramids such that they form a contiguous group of 5 pyramids, those 5 pyramids are removed from the gameboard and from play. You may never form a group of more than five pyramids. The first player to remove three groups of their pyramids, wins.
What I like...
This was my very first Icehouse game, so I may have difficulty viewing it objectively. That said, I believe this game holds up on its own merit. There are many interesting tactical opportunities and structures/patterns you come to learn. When I first played it, it seemed that in a two player game, the first player would always win. I've learned since, however, that the second player was simply not being aggressive enough. It's easy to get sucked into doing your own little groups without giving thought to how you can simultaneously screw up your opponent's opportunities -- however, it is critical for success that you do interfere. This game ends up usually playing in three waves, as players generally clear their groups of five within a move or two of each other. I think, in general, the three player version of this game is superior to the 2 player, as the board is more congested and you don't have to work as hard at "creating" player interaction.
What I'm concerned about...
While we were able to curb the 2-player first player bias through superior second player play, I suspect that at a tournament level, the first player would have a huge advantage. It's possible that this could be mitigated by the pie rule, but since there are only six possible starting moves, I'm not so sure. I also have some reservations about the piece-clearing aspect. Namely, I get the feeling that most of the games are decided in the last "phase". Admittedly, you can definitely, through strong play, gain a positional advantage going into the endgame.
Last thoughts and comments...
I really like this game, and believe it shines with three players -- a rarity among abstracts. I think it's a little easy for first time players to fall into the trap of non-conflict, but once you start to become familiar with some of the general tactical concepts (place-swapping and its restrictions is the lynchpin of this game), it becomes a great little aggressive puzzler. I'm not sure how big the possible gamespace is, but it's certainly plenty big for casual play.