I’ve been interested in Hexpanse since I first laid my eyes on Korona Games’ Kickstarter project for the game. Here was a game that claimed to be an abstract strategy game, but looked to be oozing with a sci-fi theme. I immediately wrote to Korona asking if they’d be interested in letting me preview the game. A few weeks later a prototype arrived on my doorstep.
Let me just take an aside here to say this wasn’t your normal Kickstarter prototype. The prototype version of Hexpanse I received is very high quality. Much higher than anything I would have expected. Is it good enough to sell on store shelves? No, but it’s close!
At first glance, there’s a lot of cards, tokens, board, etc… that it seemed a bit daunting. I was expecting a rule book chock full text and a game that would take almost as long to setup as it did to play. The picture below shows you what a full compliment of four players would look like set up.
Hexpanse layout with a full compliment of players
The rulebook, while 18 pages long, really only contains about 4-5 pages of actual, illustrated rules. The rest is icon reference and a full reference to every card in the game. The actual meat of the game is surprisingly easy to learn, and setting up the game is actually pretty quick.
Each player takes control of a Faction, its Warlord, units, and optionally a Minor Faction’s units. The goal of Hexpanse is to get your units on the board in a way that matches the pattern on a Mission Card drawn during the setup of the game. You can also win by annihilating the other players’ Warlords, but that’s a much rarer occurrence.
The game immediately takes off as players race to get units on the board, prevent opponent units from getting into formation, trying to earn enough money to buys Action Cards and Mercenaries from the Market, and actually using those cards to help achieve the ultimate goal of matching the Mission’s pattern. Each Warlord also has its own special action that can be performed, while Minor Faction units each have their own special actions as well.
Each player’s turn consists of 3 phases:
- Income Phase - Replenishing currency by the number of their income level.
- Action Phase - Taking 2 actions from the following list:
- Place a Unit
- Move a Unit back to Reserve
- Move a unit from Recovery to Reserve
- Play an Action Card
- Activate a Mercenary Card
- Gain 1 currency
- Increase Income Level by paying the next level’s number + 1
- Play one of three Warlord Actions (once per turn)
- Heal Warlord by 1
- Move Warlord to an adjacent space
- Use your Warlord’s special ability
- Market Phase
The game immediately ends when a player completes the Mission or there are no other Warlords on the board.
Like I said early, Hexpanse moves fast, lasting only 30-45 minutes. Every action taken is agonizing as there are at least 3-4 other actions you’ll be wanting to take at the same time. Your choices matter very much, and one wrong move could easily spend the end of the game for you.
I really enjoyed Hexpanse and I can’t say I thought I would after digging through the box. The game turned out to be much simpler to learn, and quicker to setup than I initially thought. There’s also a surprising amount of depth considering the simplicity of the rules and the short length of the actual play time. My only complaint is the player-elimination aspect of the game. If a player’s Warlord is eliminated early, that means that player is immediately out of the game. It’s only a small concern, as it’s not that easy to take a player out while still racing to get your units in order.
In the end, Hexpance is a clever strategy game with an excellent price tag ($45.) While the Kickstarter campaign is over, you can still late pledge to make sure you receive of copy of the game.
A Hexpanse prototype was provided free for this preview by Korona Games.