Quick Look: Hyperwars
Designer: Fabricio Leotti
Artist: Niklas Hook
Year Published: 2021
No. of Players: 3-5
Playing Time: 10-15 minutes
Hyperwars is a cyberpunk themed real-time area control board game for 3-5 players that can be played in 10-15 minutes.
Players take on the role of large Corporations set in the dystopian city of Urbana. You are competing for hegemony in the market of illicit products.
The game is played in two stages: the Action Phase and the Scoring Phase.
The Action Phase is played in real-time for exactly five minutes. There are no individual player turns. Players perform all actions simultaneously. During this phase, players use their Action cards to deploy Agents and move goods from their sources to the Districts they wish to control. Each District has strict needs the Corporations need to supply.
The Scoring Phase happens after the five-minute Action Phase ends. During that phase, the player with more Agents in a given District is said to control it and has the chance to fulfill the needs of that District, getting points for that or failing miserably. After all Districts are scored, penalties are applied based on the number of Actions cards they have left in their hands, and the winner. is determined.
Have you ever made a happy mistake? Hyperwars was a happy mistake that I am glad I made! As per my usual, what drew me into this game from Fabricio Leotti was the playtime and the components. I was amazed that a game with so many parts and pieces would have a runtime so short. 10-15 minutes! So, giving it a try seemed like a no-brainer. So why the happy mistake? Well, I read the tagline: Large Corporations compete for hegemony in the market of illicit products. I saw all the pieces. I saw the runtime. What I failed to do was, read the actual description of the game. I am not a fan of the real-time genre. If I had read that, I know I would have passed on this game. And THAT would have been a terrible mistake.
The set up and rules depend on the level (there are five different ones) that you choose to play. No matter how many players or the level, each player selects a color and takes the associated 10 agents (meeple) of that color and a draw bag. Into that bag, add 3 cubes of the three base colors, red, blue, white (Weapons, Cybernetic Implants, Cloning Matrices). Each player will need one of each base action card: Deploy/Move, Produce, Deliver (no red borders on these starter cards). Shuffle the rest and place in the middle with the remaining cubes of each of the colors required for your level.
You select the amount of districts based on the number of players, one per. The actual names do not have any impact on the gameplay. Shuffle and place an objective card into the center of each of the Districts. If you are playing level 1 (which I advise for your first 2 or 3 plays), you are set. If you are playing a higher level (I played level 2 twice and attempted 3 once), you might need additional colors, tiles, meeples, etc., to play the game.
The game plays in two phases, action and scoring. The action phase is the five minutes of fury which consists of playing cards, passing cards, picking up cards or drawing cards, adding cubes into your bag, drawing cubes out of your bag, placing cubes, moving cubes, placing meeple, or moving meeple. SIMULTANEOUSLY!
Then, the calmer scoring phase follows. Each District is scored based on who has control of it AND completed its objective, minus any penalties. Scores are added. Winner is announced. And more than likely, the game is reset and the pandemonium starts all over again.
The theme of futuristic dystopian society fits the game well. It doesn’t really feel necessary though. This game could have been completely abstract and not much would be different. But, I did like the theme. The mechanics make this game a standout. It felt like Fabricio Leotti just drew random game mechanics out of a jar and made a game around the three. Who would have thought to combine area control with worker placement and then throw real-time on top? Not me. I am glad that he did, and he weaved them together so well.
The object of Hyperwars seems simple, have the most agents in a district to control it, and have the correct color cubes required to meet the objective card in the middle of the District. Seems easy enough, right? Nope.
I will cover the basic actions, but there are more depending on what level of rules you are using.
The basic actions are: Deploy/Move, Produce, and Deliver. When you play the Deploy/Move card, add an agent of your color to a valid area. This can be either in a district where you already have an agent, or a district where you have none. The districts are separated into areas based on player count. You cannot control two spaces in the same district. The Move part simply means to move an agent already in a district to a valid area.
The Produce action, you can add three cubes (red, blue, or white) to your bag, shake it up, and draw three out. You must place all three in the same area containing one of your agents. You are trying match the objective colors and counts with your placement.
Finally, the Deliver action allows you to move one or more cubes of any color from one area you have an agent to any other one area that you have an agent. Again, you are trying to get the colors and counts to match. You must use this action in tandem with the Produce action to move your cubes around the districts.
Once you use a card, you discard it facedown to your opponent on your right. You draw up any cards to your left that have been played and discarded by your opponent on your left. At any time, you may choose to draw from the action card stack in the middle. If you really need a Deliver, but you don’t have any, you can draw from the middle.
Beware, any cards still in your hand or left facedown next to you are negative points at the end of the game. Also, any additional cubes in an area where you met the district’s objective are negative points. This is where strategies come about. When to draw? When to deliver cubes? When to add agents? The person with the most control scores the larger value. Anyone else that meets the objective scores the lesser value.
The deck of Action cards will feature the same three cards, but some will have a red border. In higher level games, these cards can be used for either their printed action or as Improve/Attack actions. Improve allows you to purchase one of the four different improvements. These can allow you get clones for more agents, discard cards at the end of the game, play all of one type of card at once and discard at once, or you can get the orange cubes that score differently. The Attack action allows you to purchase one of the four attack tiles and place it facedown in an area with one of your agents. These are flipped face up and take effect at the game’s end.
I worked off a prototype copy. The artwork by Niklas Hook was spot on the theme of futuristic dystopia. Each of the elements is monochromatic, and for some reason, that really works for me with this game. The components were 3D printed, but you get the idea of what they will be in the production copy. All the boards and cards were nice standard quality.
Setting the timer, taking a deep breath, and shouting “GO!” made Hyperwars fun! Maybe coming up with a word specific to the game would be better, but we just shouted “GO!” or “Hyperwars!” You do you. You must take the deep breath to get your mind ready for the mayhem you are about to put it through for the next 5 minutes. Strategies abound in the game. Do I draw a new card because I don’t have what I need? Do I just waste a card while I wait? Can I sit on my cards and not feed the person to my right, then just unload on them in the final 90 seconds? Can I do all of these? With the five different levels of play, you can make this game as chaotic or less chaotic (it is always chaotic) as you and your group feel. It offers tons of re-playability.
Hyperwars has a very steep learning curve. I advise for your first real play-through, don’t even bother with a timer. Just get the actions and rhythm down. Once everyone understands what to do, how to do it, and is ready, add the timer. This is a tough game to teach. It is one where experienced players will have a slight advantage. However, keep playing it. Get to know it with your group, and you can unleash bedlam on each other for 5 gloriously fast-paced minutes. With this game being so new, it could really benefit from a few more “how-to” videos.
Hyperwars blew me away in its gameplay. It was fast, furious, frustrating, and frenetic. Like I stated at the start, had I known what type of game I was getting into, I probably would have passed. I have never been so happy that I accidentally played a game that I would have otherwise skipped. Is Hyperwars enough for me to give the real-time genre another chance? Probably not, but I will add this to my collection of real-time games happily. I look forward to playing the other levels and introducing this game to my group of friends.