(this is guest post by Michal Oracz)
The Neuroshima Hex factions are asymmetrical. They vary in terms of: mobility and attack strength, initiative, toughness, potential for clearing enemy units from the board, ability to control the board, ability to get out of trouble, possible combos or with the abilities allowing to blackmail the enemy and force him to declare Battle when the board is full and when it’s beneficial to us.
They also vary when it comes to how easy they are to learn and play, using their maximum potential. At the beginning some of them seem to be too easy, others too hard. They become equal only in the hands of experienced players.
When we sum up the statistics of both the experienced and the beginning players we will discover something not surprising at all: an army easier to master is the one that has more wins in this statistic. The problem vanishes in the long-term summaries of games because players are beginners for a lot shorter than they are veterans.
Borgo definitely bears the palm when it comes to terrifying players.
„I’m surprised Borgo’s balance wasn’t corrected in 3.0. Everybody knows Borgo is too strong and it’s a mistake of the Hex’s designers”.
I guarantee that never, in any upcoming edition will we change even a single tile in Borgo’s army. This faction is just the way it should be, it’s not even slightly too strong. It’s not too weak either – such voices can also be occasionally heard from players who have uncovered all of Borgo’s weaknesses and they feel overconfident.
What’s crucial in grasping both weak and strong sides of Borgo was included in the game manual:
Borgo is incredibly fast and can clear the whole board. It can cause a lot of wounds to enemy’s Headquarters when it gets close enough.
Meanwhile it is very weak at breaking through the protective wall around the Headquarters and the most effective attacks (Net-Fighter) are carried out by units that are rather defenseless, that need additional protection.
That’s exactly it.
This is where the truth about Borgo and its Achilles’s heel is. However, knowing this secret won’t change Borgo into a set of thirty-five useless pieces of cardboard. It’s still a fully functional, strong army.
So what should Borgo’s opponent know to feel he steps into the ring as an equal?
Let’s put things in order.
First of all Borgo’s Headquarter will most likely be placed at the middle of the board, which will give Borgo the six terrifying, hasted fields around it. This is when the knowledge of the less obvious Hex tactics comes in handy. See the tokens have more uses than just attacking or building combos, they can also be used to block certain crucial fields on the board. Should we flood these six fields with our own units we would rob Borgo of its haste.
Secondly if we cover all three fields in front of our own Headquarters, hidden in a corner of the board, and will NEVER trigger Battle in this game, Borgo probably won’t be able to get past to our HQ and won’t inflict any wounds. When Borgo activates Battle, it will at most remove some of the units defending our HQ, of course we will replace them just after this Battle in our own turn with new ones. Borgo’s only chance for scoring a hit on our covered HQ is a situation when a faster Borgo’s unit kills one of our defenders and in the next initiative turn Borgo’s Assassin shoots through the newly made gap. However Assassin’s initiative is 3 so the unit that takes down the cover must have an initiative of 4 or more and the shooter must be perfectly placed. Oh, and of course the shooter will only score a single wound on our HQ.
Nonetheless Borgo’s shooters, there are only two of them, are our number one target on the black list of Borgo’s units for elimination.
A Grenade can also make a hole in our wall, there is very little we can do against the instant tokens.
It’s time for a little digression concerning the Battles. It pays to remember that playing Hex often reminds a contest of nerves – it’s a game of forcing your opponent to invoke Battle. When the board is full the one who invokes the Battle pays a dire price: it’s always opponents turn afterwards and it is the opponent who gets to be the first to fill all the best strategic fields on the game board (for example resupply the defensive wall around the HQ or set up an effective attack). The one who possesses the potential assets to win this contest of nerves will often force his opponent to declare Battle and therefore gain the initiative. Such assets can be: a Bomb, a Sniper, a Grenade, a Net-Fighter, a Blocker, a Scout, a unit with armor, Movement or Push waiting in hand, all this depends on the situation on the board that led to an impasse.
Usually one of the players has the advantage – has more points or at least will have more points after resolving the Battle. You can be sure that this player won’t rush to declare Battle. The rule is simple. If both players will delay in this situation, the one with the advantage will simply win when one of the players will run out of tokens to use. So in most cases the situation looks like this: when the board if filled and only one empty field remains, the player who has the advantage won’t declare Battle and will only discard tokens in order to quicken the end of the game, meanwhile the player with a disadvantage delays with declaring Battle waiting for the token that will be a game changer for the upcoming Battle (like the earlier mentioned Sniper or Bomb). The winning player delays and risks; the losing player counts for a miracle and fearfully counts the time remaining until the end of the game.
Playing against Borgo, should you have at least a few points of advantage, cover your HQ and never declare Battle.
Third, thanks to its speed Borgo can, with time, take control over the board – meaning, after each Battle more of his units stay on board. We must remember about it. If there only is a chance to strike the unprotected back of the units controlling the board (such as the hasted Mutant or Claws) you have to go for it. Same goes to the possibility of a blow for a blow exchange if we have tough units at hand, so they will take out Borgo’s units even if they have lower initiative during the Battle.
Should you have at least a few points of advantage and your HQ covered, Borgo’s control over the game board is no biggie. You just have to last until the end of the game, just like a soccer team carefully defending a not-impressive but sufficient 1:0 score.
Oh and please remember that nothing clears the board like Moloch’s Bomb dropped on Borgo’s HQ.
Fourth thing, the Net-Fighter. It’s Borgo’s most dangerous unit – we can never make this fatal mistake and simply assume that the opponent won’t draw him next turn. Protecting our HQ, we can never allow ourselves to be so careless and leave an empty field near our HQ without even few quick-shooting unit’s targeting it from the neighboring fields. Placing our tokens we must assume that Borgo’s Net-Fighter will be set up there, paralyzing our HQ and dealing three wounds every Battle and possibly until the end of the game.
Summing up: don’t fall for the Net-Fighter trick, cover the hasted fields, gain few points of advantage, cover your HQ, never declare Battle, eliminate Borgo’s shooters. These are just the basics because the tactical and even strategic secrets of Hex are numerous.
Simple? Not at all. Borgo is a hard opponent even if we know its weak sides. It’s hard as any army in the hands of an experienced player.
However it’s high time to grow out of the fear of the blue color.
PS. In one of the upcoming episodes I’ll look into a similar case concerning Theseus, to be more precise concerning the Fire, a terrifying card of the Marines faction. Similarly, with pleasure, I’ll tell you more about other terrifying tiles from Hex, for example about the Outpost’s Mobile Armor or the Moloch’s Bomb – and about other strong and weak sides that you’ll be better of knowing about 😉
PPS. Thanks for all the propositions for the name of the Theseus’ robot faction! For now we are calling it Bots, it worth to say that during the polishing phase the army broke into two completely different factions: the first being the cunning and greedy A.I., which does whatever it wants to the Station, second being the heavy, armored, crushing machines that will roll over anybody like a tank. Both factions are being developed simultaneously (for now) but soon one of them will send the other to the waiting room, we will see which one it will be 😉