March 8, 2006

Clash of the Alien Rubium Miners

by Susan Rozmiarek

Our oldest son Kevin injured his ankle at a track meet, destroying our weekend plans which involved watching him playing soccer and going to the Austin Nature Center and on a little hike afterwards. This turn of events had a silver lining though, in that we were able to get loads of chores around the house done with some time left over to play a game. We chose one of the unplayed games on our shelves, Nexus Ops. Unfortunately, we couldn’t talk Shea into playing although he did provide us with up-to-the minute Academy Award updates.

Nexus Ops
When you open the Nexus Ops box, your nose is immediately assaulted by a strong chemical odor emanating from the figures that come with game. Despite the smell, these are pretty neat translucent minis of men and alien monsters in bright neon colors. I swear though, I expected us all to be “high” by the end the game. P-yew!

The game is a light, territorial wargame battling over rubium mines on a moon of a distant planet. At the start players explore the moon, flipping up chits on the hexes as they enter them, possibly revealing mines and free alien units to place on the board. Controlling the mines is important because they get you income to buy more units, but the game is won by earning 12 victory points from achieving secret missions and for winning battles over single hex spaces on the board. The secret missions include a variety of things like winning a battle with a certain type of unit surviving or controlling the most hexes of a particular terrain type, etc. You add a new secret mission card to your hand every turn, so you always have several to choose from. A neat thing balancing mechanism in the game is the Energize cards which can do all kinds of nice things when played – put a free unit on the board, add to die rolls, add extra movement to units, etc. The loser of a battle gets to draw one and you can also get them by controlling the central Monolith on the board. Combat is simple with creatures attacking in a certain order and with various chances of hitting, creating some important decisions when trying to set yourself up for success. The result is a game with LOTS of conflict and dice rolling because aggression is the only way to get victory points. Because of the short term nature of the secret missions, you often start battles that don’t seem to make sense for the long term, but actually may achieve a short term goal that gets you victory points.

I felt pretty unlucky at the start because I couldn’t discover any mines and was very cash-strapped the entire game. I was able to place several free Rock Striders and take control of the Monolith which I held for at least half of the game before being booted out by Ed’s fat Lava Leapers. Those Energize cards were the only thing that kept me in the game. Kevin and Ed both raked in big bucks every turn and built up good-sized armies. Kevin bought a few Rubium Dragons early which he mostly used to annoy Ed and to keep me from entering his territory. My poor men got tired of being on the receiving end of their bad breath. After having an early lead, I gradually fell behind. However, there was a big surprise ending. With both Ed and Kevin one turn from winning, Kevin fumbled a key die roll and lost a battle that would have won him the game. It was now my turn and I managed to come from behind and get four victory points thanks to some nice Energize cards and lucky die rolls. I had been trying to set myself up for this but I didn’t think I’d get the chance. We were all pretty stunned when I managed it. Talk about a close and balanced game! Anyway, it was (fairly) fast, furious and fun and I’d happily play it again.

Ed, Kevin and Susan play a nice "friendly" family game of Nexus Ops.

Ed's poor humans provide a tasty snack for Kevin's Rock Striders.

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at March 8, 2006 2:03 PM

Post a comment

This page viewed times since March 8, 2006.

E-mail Ed Rozmiarek with questions or problems concerning this page.

Copyright © 2006, Ed & Susan Rozmiarek.
No portion of this website may be reproduced or copied without the consent of Ed or Susan Rozmiarek.