Normally, we reserve the game reviews on LivingDice for brand new games. However, there is a new “re-launch” that I think everyone should know about. Smirk & Dagger Games (you most likely know them from Cutthroat Caverns fame) has relaunched their HEX HEX card game. HEX HEX was originally released in 2003. A couple years later it was revised and enhanced as HEX HEX 1.5 and there was an expansion (that could be played as a stand-alone) called HEX HEX NEXT. In 2009, the core game sold out, and was left out of stock for a little over a year.
But, you can’t keep a good thing down. HEX HEX has again been reborn as HEX HEX XL. This new base set takes the best of HEX HEX 1.5 and HEX HEX NEXT and creates a new extremely fun group/party game. In addition to the 150 card core game, there are also two new game variant/expansions included; “HEXED” and “HEXEN STIX.”
The gameplay of HEX HEX XL is extremely easy. If you have played hot potato before, you know the basic concept already. The game starts with a player hexing another player. Each player has a hand of cards that can somehow alter that hex. Mostly bouncing it back, or diverting it to your left or right. There are also more advanced cards that can duplicate hexes, make them more powerful, and other nasty things. The hex (or hexes) keep bouncing around until a player doesn’t have any more cards that can help them divert the attack. Then that person looses points, and the last person to pass it to them gains points (called “voice” in-game). And that’s basically it. You play a predetermined number of rounds and the highest score wins.
The variant games are as easy to pick up. Where HEX HEX has a flavor of hot potato, HEXEN STIX has a flavor of musical chairs. There are wooden sticks (some white, some black) that are placed out on the playing surface and special cards mixed into the deck. There is also a new draw pile specifically for HEXEN STIX. When someone plays a special card, everyone grabs for the wooden sticks. There is always 1 less stick than players, so someone always is stick-less. However, this isn’t always bad. After all the sticks are picked up, a card is flipped from the special deck that says what happens to each player. There is something listed for the white stick holder, black stick holder, and/or non-stick holder. And you never know who is going to get screwed in the deal!
VEXED is the second variant in HEX HEX XL. Now it is time to mix in a little Simon Says. In VEXED there is a separate deck set up, each of these cards has a new rule (curse) to the game. And these are not just mechanical rules, there are curses were you can’t speak at all, or one where you have to always thank the player that gives you a hex. In this variant, when the hex resolves at the end of the round, that player (or players) are under the curse of whatever the card says for the following round. If you break the curse rules, and another player catches you, expect a nasty price to pay!
HEX HEX XL was my first exposure to this game, so I can not comment on how the game differs from earlier versions (if it does at all). However, I can comment on the game as it is now. And it is a heck of a lot of fun. If you are a fan of the stab-your-friend-in-the-back games such as Munchkin or Cutthroat Caverns, you will certainly like this game. Though it is a lot more fast paced, and easier to pick-up and run with, even with players that never played before, then other games in the genre.
The top reason that this game will stay in on my game shelf is its ability to cross the family threshold. I am always looking for those games that a true gamer can play with the family and not be utterly bored. This game is easy to pick up, non-threatening to non-gamers, and an all-in-all hoot to play. I played with my gamer circle and my family and both loved it.
HEX HEX XL is for 3 to 6 players and runs around a half an hour per game. Therefore, it fits another important niche. It’s a great game to play while waiting for all your friends to show up for the big game. And that isn’t to take anything away from this game. You can easily (and probably will) have HEX HEX XL as the highlight of a game night. However, you can’t take away those complex multi-hour games from us hard-core strategy gamers. And having a fun and quick game like this on hand means that you can warm up the brain cells by playing a round or two while waiting for everyone to show up.
HEX HEX XL is in stores now for $37.95.
A special thanks to Curt Covert who introduced me to this game at GTS last year and provided a copy of the game for this review. The nice graphics are those found on the Smirk & Dagger website (except for the obvious one taken from my last play session).