Updated: Sep 28
With Hyperwars, Fabricio Leotti and Dice Coalition Games have come up with an adrenaline-rush game quite unlike any other. Played in real time and against a strict 5-minute timer, it's an area control game for 3-5 players where you are playing the cards in your hand to take actions that manipulate meeples and cubes to meet the scoring requirements of each of the districts in play.
Players all start with the same three basic cards that let you deploy a meeple from your supply to any district (or move meeples between districts), produce resource cubes (take from the general supply to your individual resource bag and draw cubes from your bag to place out in one of the districts where you have a meeple, or deliver resources by relocating them from one district to another. Once you play a card and take its action, you pass the card to the player to your right.
But there are no turns. Players are all playing cards, taking actions and passing cards simultaneously. That means if the player to your left is playing much faster than you then you'll build up a huge pile of cards. While that may offer you some benefit, players are penalised for the cards they have to hand when the timer runs out...
Conversely, you might think that a player who is taking actions notably faster than others will run out of cards. No. There's a central deck of cards and players can at any time draw from that facedown deck to add to the cards in play. The cards in this deck match the cards players all started with, except that when playing with all the rules and components they also allow players to spend cubes to buy an improvement or attack tile. These can affect end-game scoring of area control and penalty points.
Fabricio Leotti has commendably taken an incremental approach to the rules, so levels can be gradually added to the core game. This makes it easier to learn but it also allows players to find the level of challenge that they are collectively comfortable with. You might, for example, be playing with a group who find the addition of modifying improve and attack cards just too much to manage in what can be an already frenetic game where the clock is ticking and the everything is abruptly halted at the end of 5 minutes.
There are other real-time games out there but none quite like Hyperwars. For sure, it's by definition a filler-length game and you'll inevitably be principally focused on your own meeple and cube manipulation but you soon come to realise that you can have an effect on neighbouring players by denying them the cards they want. They can draw from the central deck but there's a risk they could lumber themselves with penalty points for being left with unplayed cards when the timer hits that 5-minute spot...
Scoring takes almost as long as the actual game play, especially once you introduce the modifying effects of the various improve and attack cards, but that's not a criticism: you'll need to wind down for a few minutes after the excitement and buzz of playing against the clock. You may even take the time to admire the artwork of Niklas Hook. We weren't bothered by the lack of a timer - there can't be many people who don't have timers on their phone - but we could've done with a scoring track on which to tot up players' points and penalties. That's a small gripe, however, for such a tight and intensive game. Definitely one to check out. Click here for to the Kickstarter campaign.
(Review by Selwyn Ward)