To boldly go where… no games has gone before? Nah, the 4X genre (eXpand, eXplore, eXploit and eXterminate) has a fairly long history in boardgames, going from the originator of the genre, Stellar Conquest and later to Twilight Imperium to more recent faves like Eclipse, Space Empire 4X and now Hegemonic (yes, I know I’m missing a bunch and yes, I also know that 4X games are not only space games, although to me it feels like they have to be).
What makes 4x games so fascinating? I really believe that they are, in many ways, the ultimate expression of a game, be they boardgames or video games (and there are some great 4X video games out there). After all, there aren’t many games that let you shape an entire civilization, from birth to, perhaps unfortunately, death. The main issue I have with them is that they all seem to follow a specific pattern, one that might have been forged by one of the best computer games, namely Master of Orion. Does Hegemonic fall in this trap? Let’s find out, shall we.
For a lot of people, 4X games (eXploit, eXplore, eXpand and eXterminate) are the ultimate games since they give the players the ultimate power: go around and grow, not just a character or a business, but an entire civilization, defining how they expand as they discover the lands around them, how their technology grow and ultimately, who they are as a people.
In this week’s Time Lapse Replay, we’ll be looking at Hegemonic (Oliver Riley) published by Minion Games, a 4X games in which 2 to 6 players attempt to colonize and take control of the various galaxies that make up the universe.
In Hegemonic, while the players are nominally space empires fighting against each other, they are in fact fighting to establish area majority in as many Galaxies (a grouping of 5 hexes delineated by a red border) as possible. Thus, it’s not really about how many territories you have bases in, but rather in which territories that matter in the end. To do this, they will create Industrial, Diplomatic and Military networks which all have their strengths and weaknesses. Unlike other 4X games, each of the different networks can be used to attack or takeover any other type of network, with no network being intrinsically better than any other type. For example, it is completely feasible to use an Industrial network to take over a Military network. It’s all about how the networks are developed.
This is a very low luck game, with a good amount of negotiation and trying to figure out what the other players are holding/will be playing. While the length of time needed for a full game can be a little on the long side (roughly 30 to 45 minutes per player), at the same time there is enough player interaction that the game flies by, with very little downtime. There are so many cool/new ideas in how the game works (the very basic way the networks work, the idea of player actions based on a hand of cards that always come back, etc) that it is almost a must play for anyone who is interested in seeing how new ideas can bring a breath of fresh air to a genre that has been stagnant.
In this time lapse replay, we can see the Yellow empire spread out quite nicely at the start of the game, grabbing an early lead that it never lets go. The game was called with one full turn to go, with the Yellow player being over 20 point ahead of 2nd place, since we figured that we could not possibly catch up. The game took about 3hr, with set up included. All the players knew how to play, but still needed a little refresher every once in a while.
I like this game quite a bit. While it’s not quite a 4X or at least the 4X I was really looking for, it is still a very strong game with some unique aspects that merit exploration. Watch for my review of it in the next blog post.