6 Jan 2014
First Time Playing: Nexus Ops
My initial thought when seeing this game was that the set-up reminded me a bit of Eclipse. Of course it plays faster, is less complex and have far superior playing pieces (they glow - at least the version I played came with those pieces). And while I'm no Star Wars fan, one of the playing pieces was quickly nicknamed Jabba the Hut (guess which one). In Nexus Ops we play for dominance over space, mining resources, waging battles against one another, the whole time trying to fulfil secret missions in order to score bonus points.
During your turn in this game, you may spend your money to summon creatures to work for you. There are six different kinds; Humans, Fungoids, Crystallines, Rocks Striders, Lava Leapers and Rubium Dragons. Each come with different costs and abilities. The first three are the only races who can work the mines, while the other three have more advantages in movement and battle, also the stronger races attack first when engaging in battles. Not to mention they are the only ones that can enter the monolith base, which earn the player controlling it Energize cards every turn (which gives the player advantages in either battles or regular gameplay).
Once the player has placed the new creatures on their home base, they may move any of their existing pieces to explore and/or conquer more land. Once this is done, the player will wage battles on any tiles where theirs and another player's pieces are both in. If the player win this battle they earn a point (unless they have a secret mission card that says otherwise), and the losing player gets an Energize card. Then the player collects their earnings from the mines they are in control of (meaning no other player have pieces on that mine, and the player has a race stationed on it that has the ability to work it), and finally, the player draws a new secret mission card before the turn passes to the next player.
I have to say that I had a far better first time experience with this game than I did Eclipse. One of the contributing factors was that I had far better luck with my dice rolls this time around - ironically the player who played the colour I had in Eclipse had the same abysmal dice rolls as I did - so perhaps the colour green is just cursed in these types of games... who knows? Secondly, I felt I got the game pretty early on, which always helps. I was the first player out to acquire the strongest race (the dragon) and I managed to build up a pretty decent army thanks to good mining income. Thirdly, while this didn't apply to me until a bit further into the game - I really liked that the game's battle is evened out by awarding the losing player an Energize card. It gives players the chance to catch up.
I wouldn't say the game is ideal for newcomers, but it's not all that hard to learn, either. I'd say it's a good transitional game into the heavier stuff. You don't have a lot of resources to keep track of, just money (unlike plenty of other games in this genre). The six races' cost, abilities, strength and battle order are written out on a chart in front of you. And the cards are easy enough to understand.