Published: Aporta Games (2016)
Artwork: Kwanchai Moriya
Duration: approx. 30 mins
I had my eye on this one for some time, and after hearing about it from Annette on The Instagamers Network (it was one of her top games of 2016) and reading about it through Calvin at Ding & Dent I finally took the plunge and got hold of it. The gameplay sounded like fun and it seemed like a perfect two player. Being a sci-fi fan I loved the theme and the artwork also really appealed to me. Having now played several solid games of Capital Lux, I wanted to share a little bit about my experience.
I have a deep admiration for ‘small’ games. Small games as in physically there’s not much to them- The Blood of Englishman, Mint Works, Dale of Merchants- that you can take anywhere, set up and play faff free and have a jolly good time with. I know I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again for good measure- I love big games. They’re exciting to learn and fun to play, like unraveling a mystery. But it’s the small games, like Capital Lux, that I often find myself admiring. Because every now and then you come up with a gem, like the games mentioned above, that really deliver. Capital Lux is one of those games. It consists of a deck of cards and some wooden tokens (or discs in post-Essen copies I believe) yet there’s so much within it to unpack.
Capital Lux did not disappoint. Thank goodness, because I don’t have the money to waste. This is possibly where I fall down as a ‘reviewer’ as these days- as I vet games so thoroughly before I purchase and tend to only play games I buy, that it’s not often I have anything too negative to say. I think I’m more about sharing the love. But anyone who has read my blog for a while will know that I always point out anything that didn’t quite work for me, or at all, if needs be. It just doesn’t happen too often. So for the next few paragraphs I’m going to give you a brief overview of Capital Lux, sing it’s praises, then be off.
In brief you have 4 ‘capital cards’ central to players and a deck of profession cards. Over three rounds you each begin by drawing 6 cards (in a two player game) choosing two, swapping hands, choosing another two and passing back to each other again, giving you each a total of 6 cards; 4 you chose, 2 you were left with. Each round you will either play these cards to the capital or to your hometown. The cards in your hometown are worth the points that will win you the game, but the value of each profession in your hometown cannot exceed the value of those professions in the capital. If they do, you lose those cards for good. When you play a card to the capital you must use the special action each profession provides. E.g.- a Merchant allows you to pick up gold (discs) and these will come in useful for modifying the value of one of your sets at the end of the first two rounds. Any unspent gold at the end of the game will equate to points. The Agent will let you pick up a modifier card, which you must assign to one of the capital cards in secret. This will alter the value of those cards at the end of the round. Please follow this link to find out more about the special actions and to read the rulebook in full. The player with the highest value of each card type in their hometown will receive the highest value of card in the capital to put aside for end scoring. At the end of round three you notch up all your cards/gold and the person with the most point wins the game.
Capital Lux incorporates many things I usually enjoy- hand management (i.e.- a game with cards that you figure out what to do with) card drafting (choices that will make or break you) influence of a central area that will in turn affect the flux of the game, and press-your-luck. I didn’t realise how much I enjoyed pressing my luck until recently, but I do have a devil-may-care streak that somehow resonates in my game playing. I loved this aspect of the game, and appreciated the clever balance you have to find to get the game swinging in your favor. For me it’s one of those games that it is what you make it, and that also depends on who you’re playing with. My regular opponent is Jon and we don’t beat around the bush when it comes to messing with each other. We will gladly take the opportunity to deliberately f**k with each other, but we know each other pretty well to guess what the other is up to. E.g.- he put a modifier on the capital Cleric knowing that I was attempting to gain from him. And anticipating that he would do that, I then put a modifier on the capital Scholar that I knew he had his sights on. Meaning at the end of the round we both had to remove our cards from play because we’re a pair of mean idiots sometimes. But we did have a laugh. In subsequent games we played it pretty straight, but there’s always that anxiety of knowing that if you put your last card down and your opponent is holding a few extras (picked up through the Clerics special action) there’s still a chance they’ll either intentionally or unintentionally mess you up at the last minute. Using the capital cards for their abilities is a really interesting aspect, because no matter what you do there is a knock on effect, so you have to be planning ahead and anticipating those eventualities within a short space of time.
I like the fact that the game is short. I find that the urgency in which you have to accumulate points adds to the gameplay. There’s so much to achieve and a brief window of opportunity to do so. And more often than not you’ll say ‘let’s have one more game’.
So to conclude- if you like your strategy streamlined and you like your fillers with bite then you’ll probably love Capital Lux. If you hate numbers, thinking about numbers and balancing numbers (all basic factors in Capital Lux) then you possibly will not like this game. But numbers aren’t my strong suit either but it didn’t lessen the experience for me at all. It’s the goodness it’s wrapped up in that gives those numbers value. It’s a good ‘un.
Thanks for reading!