Last time (and yes, it has been awhile), we observed from purely a numbers standpoint the most cost-effective combat units in the game are arguably the Fungoids and Crystallines. While numbers don’t lie, they can be misleading. When all of a unit’s strengths and weaknesses are taken into account, their purchase costs are well balanced. The key is to discern which units you need to achieve your goals, and then use them as effectively as possible. This week, we take a look at the backbone of any Nexus Ops army, the miners. The three cheapest units – Humans, Fungoids, and Crystallines – are the only units in the game that earn a player Rubium by standing on a mine at the end of the turn. Without an income, a player quickly runs out of troops – so buy miners early and often. But how much is too much, and when to use them as more than miners? Let’s take a look at each unit in turn.
Humans – The Cheap Unit
At just two Rubium per unit, Humans’ primary role is “the cheap unit”. Since it is the least expensive unit available, it is perfect for any job that calls for a unit, any unit at all. Why spend more if all you need is a warm body? For example, your starting mines are only rarely attacked (if ever) in a game. If all you need is someone to stand there and work it, why pay the extra Rubium for a Fungoid or Crystalline? The second basic roll is as the combat grunt. In any larger combat, you will expect to take losses. If you know you will likely lose from two to three units early in an upcoming combat, it only makes sense to stock your attacking army with two or three humans.
As mentioned, their basic role will be to serve as miners in well protected areas and as necessary (and cheap) sacrifices during battles. Since they are so cheap, attacking in numbers can be effective. Since combat is only two turns, a player attacking a single enemy with an army of four humans is guaranteed to end the fight with at least two humans remaining. Toss in the Gravity Anomaly Energize card that reverses the order of battle, and a large human force can be quite intimidating. In the first few turns, there are riches to be had through exploration. More units mean more exploration tiles revealed, so a focus on humans for the first couple of turns is usually a good choice. On rare occasions, humans can be used as bait for the other players. By parking a single human on a large mine, it will pay for itself at the end of the turn – even if it is destroyed later. While the tradeoff of a lone human for an Energize card may look attractive, be wary of granting any of your opponents the additional victory point that comes with winning a battle. However, if that same combat entices your opponent into stretching their valuable forces too thinly or bringing their forces in reach of your more powerful army, it is a fine idea. Taking the idea a step further, two humans can occasionally hold down two separate front-line mines if they are supported by a large friendly force in an adjacent hexagon. It may not be worth your opponent’s time and trouble to defeat your human and steal away your mine if you will just turn around and smash their invaders in the next turn.
Fungoids and Crystallines – Frontline Melee and Mining
Fungoids and Crystallines fall into the same category and typically serve in all the same roles. Crystallines have a minor combat advantage, in that they get to attack first, but there are also more Fungal Forests on the game board. These two attributes tend to balance each other out, so the board set-up will tend to dictate which unit is best for a given situation. With the ability to work mines and the best cost per attack ratio in the game, these units are very versatile and should regularly appear on your shopping list. Their best ability, their terrain bonus, is also their greatest liability due to the opposing terrain penalty. If the exploration tiles and terrain hexes end up favoring a single terrain type (Forests or Spires) a player can easily specialize in Fungoids or Crystallines to great effect. It is not uncommon for a player to have nearly their entire inventory of Fungoids or Crystallines in play at one time.
With their reasonable offense and mining abilities expect to use them to take and hold key frontline tiles. As the only units able to mine in Magma Pools, they are necessary for mid-game mining. Depending on the distribution of the exploration tiles, some key mines at the border between players will favor one terrain over another. This is the perfect opportunity to pump out a small army of the appropriate matching unit. Even two Fungoids sitting in a forest require your opponent to commit significant resources or risk losing valuable units. You might find yourself building and sending Fungoids out to battle in one direction while your Crystallines head out in the other. It may seem counter-intuitive, but don’t build up Fungoids or Crystallines in case you draw the energize swarm cards that allow up to four of those units to teleport into an appropriate hex (Liquifungus Forest or Crystal Spires). Since units are built before movement occurs, you can always buy a small army of the appropriate type the turn you intend to use your swarm card.
As the workhorses of mining, all three of the mining units are a necessary part of a good Nexus Ops strategy. However, just because they are your miners, don’t forget they can also play a significant role within your combat plans. Use them in larger numbers and you may be surprised at their offensive power as well as their ability to encourage opponents to find easier combat targets somewhere else on the board.
Next week we will finish this series by looking at Rock Striders, Lava Leapers and the ever-dangerous Rubium Dragon. Until then, discuss this article on our message boards.
About the Author
A lifelong lover of games, Dr. Matt J. Carlson is the author of GamerDad Unplugged, a regular, online column about board games.