I opened the clam shell packaging and dug out the rules, after only a couple of minutes I declared to my players “It’s just Hex Hex”. Hex Hex is a game published by Smirk and Dagger Games. It was originally published in 2003, and was designed by Curt Covert. Hot Potato, is a game that was just published recently (2010) by Cambridge Games Factory, and the design is credited to Rob Seater. While eight years separate the publication of these two games, little else does. However, it’s important to remember that imitation is the highest form of flattery.
Hex Hex and Hot Potato, are both about moving an object around the table in an effort to cause harm to other players, while avoiding such harm for yourself. In Hex Hex, this is done with small tiles known as the “Hex”. In Hot Potato, this is done by passing potato cards around the table. Either way, if you can’t get rid of the item by the end of your turn, you are going to be taking some negative points. This is a good time to point out a a difference between the two, in Hex Hex the person who passed you the Hex gets a positive point if the Hex explodes on you. In Hot Potato, no such advantage is given.
How you move the potato around the table is identical to how you move the hex. When you have a potato/hex in front of you, you play down one card. That card dictates who the potato/hex will move to, either by moving it to the left, right, or across the table. In both games, you can also play cards that will split the hex/potato or make them worth more points when they explode.
However, while the main mechanics of the game are nearly identical, there are some small differences that make each one stand out. Hex Hex is a game with arcane symbols for the artwork. After all you are hexing people. Hot potato has lots of cute pictures of potatoes, oven mitts, etc with the main goal being to avoid getting burned. For this reason, hot potato seems to have more mass market appeal, as the arcane symbols seem to distract and confuse some people.
The language on the cards also separate the two games. The cards in Hot Potato are very simple. For example “Pass Right. Pass 1 potato to player on your right”. The card that does the same thing in Hex Hex says “Turn Aside Right. Hex passes to the player on your right”. Notice the more flowery language on the Hex Hex card? And this is on one of the very basic cards, the language gets more technical on more complicated cards. So for this reason, Hot Potato continues to have more mass market appeal in my eyes.
There was one difference that I wish they had kept the same. Hex Hex is played in rounds. At the end of each round, the winner of the round gets to create a new rule. This rule has to apply to everyone equally, but can otherwise be anything that you want. This added a very fun (and often funny) element to the game. This element was completely missing from Hot Potato. Being the one to create the next silly rule was often a driving motivation to win, and thus without it, winning seemed to lack some of its luster. Although there is nothing saying you couldn’t add this to your own house rules.
While Hot Potato has Hex Hex beat on “mass market appeal”, Hex Hex currently has Hot Potato beat on replay ability. Hex Hex currently has two expansions that add a lot to the game. They are both big meaty, full sized expansions. Hot Potato has one expansion, although it was included in the set we got. It is also only comprised of four additional cards, not enough to give you a very different feel.
The phrase that was used over and over again by my players is that “this is beginners hex hex”. The cards are simply worded, and don’t do a whole lot of odd or special things (like in the hex hex expansions). The artwork is light hearted and kid friendly. And a couple of the rules (such as giving points to the passer) were eliminated, which stream lined the process. Also, if you are motivated by the all mighty dollar, the original Hex Hex (no expansions) is retailing for about $5 more then Hot Potato. However, if you like the basic idea of this game, but want more game play variety, sticking with Hex Hex is a good way to go.
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