Ah, Hexes. The building blocks of the board game world. Without them we’d never have such beauties as Heroscape, Catan or Survive! I mean… We might, they just would use squares or something. That’s beside the point. Hexagons have been utilized in the board game world as a way to easily piece together boards and bits in an interesting and intuitive way. And in the instance of hexaGONE it’s also a fun way to add a pun to your abstract game title while also referencing the core components.
hexaGONE is published by 2 Handsome Games and plays from two to four players in about 30 minutes. It consists of a deck of cards, a fancy velvet bag and, you guessed it, a whole bunch of hexagons!
The goal of the game is to collect the most points by creating shapes to match one or more of the face up cards on the table. All tiles are placed into the bag and shaken up and each player takes three for their starting hand. The deck of cards are shuffled and set aside, and at the start of a player’s turn one card is flipped face up. Each time this is done the cards slide down, with the newest card staying closes to the deck. There can only ever be three cards showing, if a fourth is drawn, the card that has been out the longest is discarded. Each player starts the game with a hand of three hex tiles. On their turn, after flipping a sequence card, they can play either pass, recycling tiles in their hands for new ones from the bag, or they can play as many as they’d like. To play a hex tile they place it on the table. If there is already one or more hex tiles on the table, it must be placed with its side adjacent and touching the side of an existing tile. Alternatively, they can play a green action hex, which allows them to take one of a number of actions. The tiles themselves come in green (the only ones that aren’t actually placed on the board but instead are used and discarded), blue, white, and white “cracked”. A player can score points on their turn if they are able to successfully recreate a shape from one of the face up sequence cards with the tiles placed on the table. When a shape is created to match one of the cards, a player can claim the card. In doing so, all “cracked” tiles used to recreate the shape represented must be discarded. At the end of their turn, a player draws up to three new tiles, with their end turn hand max being six tiles. Once the bag runs out of tiles, the end game is triggered and each player (including the one that ended the game) gets one more complete turn. Whoever has the most points from collected sequence cards wins the game.
I always appreciate it when I can sit down to a game and have a pretty decent grasp on how it’s going to play with a cursory glance at the rulebook. What hexaGONE manages to accomplish is that, plus the addition of some unforeseen strategic depth. Deciding when to use some of the special green tokens, or to hold off from playing all of your hexes so that you have a larger hand for your next turn really makes you think. Your opponent(s) are looking for an opportunity to claim the sequence cards, and the more you give them to work with the easier that’s going to be. But you have to at least lay SOME groundwork in order to score a card. Timing is just as important as a keen eye. Which reminds me, having to find the types of patterns you’re looking for in a sea of hexagons gave me a headache in a better way than I’d hoped. It makes it all that important to be aware of your surroundings, because there’s more than one way to view the play area.
What hexaGONE is at its core is a few-frills abstract strategy game of tactical decisions and spatial awareness. Which is to say, it’s not a game that I’m particularly good at, but it’s one that I was able to understand how to play in a matter of minutes. With this particular genre of games, it’s the least that I can hope for. The concept of looking at a hand of tiles and trying to desperately make the right kind of shapes out of the colors and options available to you. I like that your options are just limited enough to avoid someone taking too long of a turn, but with the hexes offering a number of ways to build off of what’s on the table.
In a nutshell, hexaGONE is precisely what I expected it to be after reading the rulebook. Which is great! That is if you don’t mind a nice, breezy abstract game about placing hexagon tiles into particular shapes. It’s clean, it’s neat, and it’s the type of time killer that can be enjoyed with just about anyone.