GDC '08: Proximity HD Hands-On

We check out a demo of this simple but addictive XNA-developed board game.

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SAN FRANCISCO--The last, but not the least, of the games we played this week created with Microsoft's XNA development toolset was Proximity HD, an unassumingly engaging board game that supports up to four local players. When you first start a game, the hex-covered screen looks rather plain, but don't let appearances fool you: Three GameSpot editors had a hard time pulling themselves away from a heated standoff that came down to the last second. When's the last time a game with numbered tiles created that kind of tension?

Play Proximity HD with friends at your own risk.
Play Proximity HD with friends at your own risk.

The concept is straightforward: Players take turns setting a tile with a number from 1 to 20 on the game board. When the game ends, the player with the highest total on the board is the winner. It isn't quite that easy, though. If you place a number adjacent to other numbers you've placed, those numbers increase in value by two, which adds to your score. If you place a number adjacent to an opponent's, and that number is lower than yours, you capture that tile and add your opponent's points to your total. If your number is lower than your opponent's, you decrease the value of that tile by two, but you don't capture it.

The game isn't tough to get a handle on, but the randomly generated boards kept us hooked. The five tiles you get to choose from may or may not include a high number, yet a game can hinge on how well you use the single-digit tiles. And the more players that are included, the more strategic the game becomes. The game can be a nail-biting tug of war in which a losing player can gain the lead with a single tile that captures multiple enemy tiles and increases his own neighboring tile values in one go.

There are a number of board sizes to choose from, and you can also set how many tiles players can choose from in each turn. If you like board games and have a friend or three, you can check out a demo of Proximity HD free of charge for a limited time through Xbox Live's Creator's Club content. We'll bring you news of a release date as soon as one is announced.

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