In theory, it’s a duel between witches and warlocks, perhaps a battle to the death. In reality, it’s more like a food fight in Hogwarts. With just a handful of spells, a sadistic streak a mile wide, and a little bit of luck you might just survive your first round of Hex-Hex.
Hex-Hex is a round table card game designed by Curt Covert. (Talk about a fake name…) Like Uno and Lunch Money, it operates on players managing their hands and sabotaging other players but with a little Fluxx twist at the end. You play a coven of witches caught in a brawl that actually works more like a game of hot potato. Hex potato? Hot Hex? Er….whatever.
Anyway, the hexes you are throwing are scary enough that you actually spend most of the game passing them along and hoping they explode all over somebody else. You can strengthen or duplicate them if you’re feeling especially sadistic, but in the end your focus is protecting your “Voice”, not your life. Your Voice number represents your power and influence as a mage, meaning that these feuds are really just big cat fights over who gets to pick the coven’s new uniform.
But if fights were limited to the scale of the prize we wouldn’t have such delightful things as Junkyard Wars, beauty pageants, or the Gerry Springer Show, now would we? You’re witches, don’t let tolerance and good sense win! Use this opportunity to make the passive-aggressive cooks you call sisters EAT PIXIE DUST.
You have basic deflections at your disposal which send hexes either left, right, or across the table from you, as well as counter cards like dispel and nullification. But the most dynamic cards assisting you in your petty battle for dominance are these:
These are those nasty little bonus features I was telling you about earlier. These cards not only protect you but also power up the spell so it does more damage more often. With so many ways to send spells flying it doesn’t take long to get three or four hexes bouncing around like pinballs. It makes for a fast-paced and chaotic game that is down-right addictive. Rivalries develop as players hit each other with nasty card combinations, but it’s difficult to hold grudges when the effects of cards are so unpredictable that they often backfire on the people who played them.
No Man’s Hand forced one player to discard her entire hand and play by picking random cards from other players. So when she pulled “Cull” from her neighbor everyone had to discard to match her hand size— zero. With one random pick, the game became sudden death! We were so surprised and curious about how this would play out that we weren’t even mad.
Adding to the chaos is the game’s title drop card. Whenever this card gets dropped players must stop what they are doing, throw their cards on the table, cross their hands above their heads and yell “Hex-Hex!” The last person to do so automatically gets hit with the current Hex and loses voice. There is only one Hex-Hex card, but other cards look and sound like it so you are constantly on edge. Once we had a false alarm due to a card called “Hex Sign” and we all laughed for ages when we realized how stupid we looked, hands in the air yelling nonsense words for no reason
That brings me to one other aspect of the game that I love: the game’s sense of humor. My god, the puns.
Hex-Hex is like the first time you hear your grandmother curse. We’re so used to seeing card games about magic that make you do bad things to good people and we’re used to being really, really butt-hurt about it. This game is all about stabbing your opponents in the back and ruining all of their best laid plans, but it’s somehow utterly devoid of the frustration that generally accompanies that dynamic.
By keeping each round of action only three to five minutes long, Hex-Hex encourages a more easy going attitude. It’s so honestly fun to watch these stacks of tokens and power-ups sliding from player to player that actually getting hit becomes humorous and weirdly satisfying.
On the subject of humorous and weirdly satisfying, let’s talk about this game’s twist ending. You know how I said it had a twist of Fluxx up top? Well, that’s because the person who wins gets to add a rule that players must obey. These rules remain mandatory for every round you play the rest of the night and can be literally anything that doesn’t change the core rules. The designers recommend such gems as “Players cannot say ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’ if they do, they lose one Voice” and “Players must touch the table with their right thumb when passing a hex to the left. If they forget they must discard that card and choose another.” Nothing garners my affection like an opportunity to intentionally irritate to my roommates. Oh, and meaningless gloating. I love this system!
All told, this game is the new favorite in our apartment. We actually got all five residents to play and every one of them loved it. Packaged together in the Hex-Hex XL box are two variant/expansions that dramatically alter the game: Hex-Hex Vexed, and Hexing Stix. These are actually significantly different from the classic game and so we are going to do a follow up just on those next week. So stay tuned and be sure the sprinkle salt on your doors and windows!
Buy Hex-Hex XL
Recommended: 4+ (Three is more intense, but more players = more turnabout.)
Skip-a-Turn Variant: The Knights Who Say Ni: Whoever wins the first round must outlaw the word “it.” Anyone caught saying that word loses one Voice and must answer all questions by saying “Ni” for the remainder of the round.