Zombies! Everywhere in the board gaming hobby there are zombie themed games popping up. While the trend may have cooled off recently, today we are taking a look at the Death Breath army expansion for Neuroshima Hex (review).
Neuroshima Hex is one of the best abstract strategy games and it deserves all the praise that continues to be heaped upon it. But how exactly does a zombie-themed army work in this universe and is it any fun to play?
The Death Breath army has a unique feel compared to the existing armies as there are quite a few new mechanisms added. Most importantly, when any of your units are killed, they go into a zombie pool. Your HQ has the ability to return units from your zombie pool to the battlefield after a battle. Many of your units have additional strength of initiative highlighted in green that activate only when they are returned in zombie form.
Additionally, some units have a charge ability that allows them to move into the space occupied by an opposing unit they defeat. This is extremely useful for units that activate in multiple initiatives as they can wipe out a whole line of enemies if things go your way.
Game Experience with the Expansion:
Although there aren’t many additional rules, Death Breath took a handful of plays to really get my head wrapped around how it should work. The units are generally underpowered, especially before becoming zombie versions of themselves. There aren’t any ranged attacks in your army either, as zombies don’t use guns. It makes for a bit of a slow build up.
Thematically, this seems to work out great. Death Breath feels like an unending hoard of zombies slowly inching their way toward you. With the occasional crazy charging zombie that can really wreck some havoc. But you have to suicide yourself into some less than ideal fights to get to the point where you can start coming back stronger.
The Death Breath units make up for lack of power with resilience. Even when this army started clicking for me and I was more successful, I still don’t love how the games play out. I felt like some of the early decisions I tried were to position my units just to get them killed, even if they weren’t able to take an enemy unit out with them. They also activate on fairly low initiatives, making it sometimes difficult to take out enemies before they wipe out all of your units. And you can only revive zombies in spaces where you have killed an enemy, so it requires not only your unit dying but taking some opponents with you.
There aren’t any super-cool new units with rocket launchers that you get excited to draw. All of the tiles have pretty standard attacks, making them easy to learn but losing some of the “cool” factor we’ve seen in other expansions.
As I find to often be the case with Neuroshima Hex armies, there are certain matchups that seem really difficult. Playing Death Breath against Steel Police can be a real pain when your HQ is netted and can no longer return units from the dead. It’s also not particularly fun to play against Moloch as both armies are similarly colored and it’s frustratingly difficult to tell them apart.
Once you get a good feel for Death Breath, it can be a lot of fun to play. It plays out as a bit more of a strategic army than most as you have to plan to lose guys to be able to bring them back. Adding strategy without adding a bunch of rules overhead is great and I think Death Breath is a good army expansion for people to start with that have enjoyed the Neuroshima Hex base game.
That said, it isn’t my favorite army to play. I love the tactics involved in Neuroshima Hex and it feels like Death Breath loses a bit of that by asking you to just toss guys onto the board just to watch them get wiped out. If you like the zombie theme and the idea of slowly crawling toward your opponent, Death Breath is worth a look.
• Slow build up and loses some of the early tension
• No real stand out new units or abilities