Nexus


Published by Cheapass Games, designed by James Ernest.

This "Hip Pocket" card game cost me 3.50 from a specialist games shop. It is for 2-4 players, each of which will need about twenty counters in their colour. The rules say that a game lasts about twenty minutes, and I don't think that this is far wrong.

Years ago I played one of the first ever Cheapass games, called The Very Clever Pipe Game. Though I liked it a bit, I felt that there were only two strategies. One was to make my own pipe network simpler so that I might finish it and score points, and the other was to complicate my opponent's network so that he might have trouble finishing it. Nexus is a similar game in that players place down cards that have on them junctions and lines reaching to their edges, and the lines link up with lines on other cards to create a network, and a network can be completed if all its lines lead to end-nodes. In Nexus, however, there are very many strategies.

Another game I own is Carcassonne. This is a very popular full-price full-length game in which players place down very nicely produced full-colour tiles to build up a landscape. In Carcassonne, a player may elect to place one of his markers on the tile he has just placed down. In Nexus, he is free to place one marker on any node on the board. This makes the decision of where to place the marker a very interesting and difficult one, and many tactics become possible.

Nexus is like a cross between Carcassonne and The Very Clever Pipe Game, and in many ways is better than both. It has the element of trying to finish networks which is the core of TVCPG, and it has the element of placing down counters to claim parts of the board from Carcassonne. It is quicker than both games, and has at least as much skill to it as either. It makes no attempt to simulate anything, but instead has a clean abstract style.

Each turn, a player takes a card and plays it down anywhere on the board where it will fit, and then places down one of his coloured markers. The networks have nodes, and the more lines that connect to a node, the more it is worth. The way to claim a network ("nexus") is to have counters of your colour in it. Another player might try to steal a nexus off you by placing his counters in it as well. For example, you might have a counter on a node with two lines connecting to it, so you have two points in that nexus. A rival player might place one of his counters on another node of the nexus that is worth three points. He now owns the nexus, and when it is complete, he will score the points for it. The very simple, clever, and game-balancing element is that a nexus is only worth in points the value of the nodes that have no counters on them. In other words, the more a player invests counters in a nexus, the more likely he is to score the points for it when it is finished, but the fewer points it will be worth.

Just as in The Very Clever Pipe Game, a tactic is to add value to an opposition-owned nexus by adding cards to it, in order to make it harder to finish and score. However, the best cards for this purpose are ones with high-value nodes. These make the nexus very difficult to finish, but also make it worth more.

Every time I have played this game, it has gone down very well, and I get lots of requests to play it again. Every turn a player has, he has at least a few good options of where to place his card and dozens of options for his counter placement, many of which will be tempting for different reasons.

Another problem with The Very Clever Pipe Game, was that the three-player version of it was a bit awkward. Not only was it difficult to get a grip on how to play it, but it was also unbalanced, as one player had a different way of playing from the other two. Nexus has no such problem, and is equally good for two, three, or four players.

This game is cheap, fast, simple to learn and difficult to master. There is a little luck in what cards a player picks up, but mostly the winner is decided by skill. From me it comes very highly recommended.



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