AS OF THIS MORNING (15 MARCH), my local county health department is reporting 10 ‘presumptive positive’ cases of COVID-19. The school district has already shut down thru 10 April and many events are cancelled to encourage ‘social distancing.’
In the RockyMountainNavy household, we have dealt with COVID-19 since Mrs. RMN returned from Korea right as the epidemic was breaking out there. She laid low for 14 days not because of self-isolation but because others avoided her (the worst ‘racists’ are often from one’s own race). Now there is panic in the wider community (why are people hoarding toilet paper?) and much is being cancelled. One aspect of social distancing we are practicing is to distance ourselves from social media. Frankly, its all doom and gloom with lots of disinformation. In a practical response this means that wargames and boardgames are hitting the gaming table more often.
With the long holiday weekend here in the States, the RockyMountainNavy Boys asked for another game night. The Middle RMN Boy was the first to nominate a game so we went with his proposal: Nexus Ops.We had played Nexus Ops just a few weeks back and I wrote about my reservations. Tonight, I think the Middle RMN Boy made the right choice of game; we wanted a shorter game with easier rules – in ways a sorta “middle-length filler” experience.
We played the three-player version again. Little RMN got lucky and got many mines near his home base while I ended up with many fewer. Seeing my disadvantage, I jumped out early and grabbed the Monolith and started collecting Energizer Cards. Meanwhile, Middle RMN slowly built up an impressive force. Little RMN and I sparred over the Monolith, and I held on for awhile but at the cost of several Energizer Cards. Eventually, attrition took its toll and I lost the Monolith, forcing me to go totally defensive.
Little RMN was ahead of me, 7 VP to 3VP with Middle RMN at 0 VP. The Red Horde of Middle RM started its inexorable trek towards the Monolith and assured victory.
And then something incredible happened.
Litle RMN had a Rubium Dragon on the Monolith. Just as the Red Horde was going to attack the Dragon jumped…into the Middle RMN home base. Winning the battle, Little RMN laid down two Secret Mission cards for 5 VP…and the win.
I can’t be mad at his victory for he used the Dragon’s asymmetrical capability at exactly the right time and in exactly the right manner. Middle RMN was stunned. I was worried that he might explode, but after a few moments he “got it” that Little RMN had taken a high-risk chance – that worked – and got the victory.
This is the second game of Nexus Ops where the Middle RMN Boy ended up in last place. I was a bit worried that he might be getting turned off to the game. But I needn’t worry for after he accepted the loss to his brother he showed us all the Secret Mission cards he had ready. Suffice it to say that given one or no more than two more turns he probably would of swept us both away and easily secured the victory.
This game has raised my personal respect for Nexus Ops a bit for tonight we found some narrative in the gameplay. I don’t think its going to change my BGG Rating (6.0 or solidly in my average) but it will make it more likely to land on the table again given the right conditions.
The RockyMountainNavy Saturday Family Game Night series continued this week with Nexus Ops. I have the original Avalon Hill Games, Inc. version from 2005. This game is good, but showing its age. In it’s day it probably seemed innovative enough; by today’s standards its a bit stale but still makes for a good light, family wargame.
The players each lead a corporation exploring a strange planet. Each corporation is trying to explore the planet, gaining the most income from mines while buying units to fight and control areas. Victory Points are scored for winning battles or completing Secret Missions. The first player/corporation to 12 VP wins. Each player/corporation has the same player mat with identical cost and capabilities. The only difference is the starting money; starting earlier means less initial income. The middle of the board is an area known as the Monolith; only certain units can enter this space and possession gives the owner two (2) Energizer Cards (special abilities for reinforcement, movement, or combat) each turn.
We played a three-player game with Little RMN starting off, Middle RMN second, and myself third. Play initially was slow as all three corporations explored the board. Little RMN jumped out and took the Monolith, only to be ejected by me. I took full advantage of my Secret Mission cards and laid down many, but most were only one VP making my march toward victory slow. Little RMN eventually caught on and started playing his Secret Mission cards, and was quickly catching up as his were of the two and three VP-each variety. Middle RMN was accumulating money and making both of us worried. Eventually, Little RMN and I clashed over the Monolith and mines along our exploration boundaries, but I was unable to devote my full attention to him because I was worried about the storm that might come at me from the other direction. Eventually, my slow but steady strategy worked and I made my 12 VP on a few fortunate plays of Secret Mission cards just ahead of Little RMN sweeping me away, and just as the Middle RMN was making a giant purchase of killer units that surely would of swept me away too!
After the game we talked about the game mechanics. We all agreed that it was very simple with little variety. Sure, the board will be different each time, and the Exploration chits vary, and going first starts with less money, but the corporations themselves are symmetrical with no difference other than the color of the bits. After playing games like Scythe or 1775 – Rebellion recently this symmetry was very…vanilla. This doesn’t make Nexus Ops a bad game – just not as interesting as more recent designs.
Nexus Ops will stay in the Saturday Game Night series rotation, but I don’t expect it to be played that often. Maybe when we are looking for a quick game on a short game night or if we introduce new players it may land on the table.