13 August 2021
The future is bright. But not too bright
Published in 2016, Capital Lux was an overlooked beauty. A small box game featuring numbered cards, with a straightforward stick-or-bust-style mechanism, it doesn’t sound spectacular. But it was one of the first titles to boast the gorgeous, paint-on-canvas art of Kwanchai Moriya (Bosk, Under Falling Skies), whose colourful retro-sci-fi characters turned each card into something worth hanging on your wall (well, if it were bigger). Furthermore, that straightforward mechanism worked like a charm and kept you absorbed over multiple plays.
Set in a non-specific dystopian future-world, Capital Lux cast each player as the leader of a base, which had to prove its worth as the best of all the bases in the land. But the trick was never to outshine the capital; if you rose so high you looked like a threat, you’d get smacked down and penalised.
In mechanical terms, this dance of political brinkmanship was merely a matter of playing drafted cards, one at a time, to try and achieve the highest value in each of four coloured suits in your face-up personal stash, or ‘home base’, without that value exceeding the sum of the cards in each respective suit at the centre of the table, or ‘capital’.
Each turn presented a simple choice: either play a card to your home base, or play it to the capital. The twist came with the capital plays. Each capital suit – or ‘district’ – had its own power, which could shake up the game play. The blue district, for example, activated the agent, who could secretly play a modifier (+1, -4, etc.) to any of the capital districts, introducing a small push-your-luck element. The pink district, meanwhile, activated the cleric, which allowed you to balance things out a bit by nabbing the lowest-value card from any of the districts and adding it to your home base.
It all combined to form a neat, elegant game that was also, importantly, huge fun.
Thankfully, none of this has been changed for Capital Lux 2. To the degree that, truthfully, it isn’t really a sequel. It is the same game in a bigger box, with new art from Moriya, improved components, and a ton of trimmings. The good news is that if you never played Capital Lux, it doesn’t matter: this is Capital Lux. Welcome to the party!
And the bad news? Well, there isn’t really any, unless you already have the original and you’re not fussed about those trimmings. These take the form of a decent solo mode, plus multiple district powers which can be mixed and matched however the players see fit, and which in some cases have their own mini-game components. So instead of the agent, you could have the infiltrator, which comes with its own deck of rebel cards and a rebel flag token; these cards can be played to wherever the flag is placed. Or instead of the base-game’s scholar, you could have the discoverer, which gives each player a rocket that they must move along a special, point-scoring track.
Fortunately, these new powers don’t complicate things too much and are smoothly implemented, with their own easy-to-learn rules. And of course, they’re optional. If you just want to play Capital Lux in its purest form, you can, and it’s perfectly enjoyable that way. Everything else is a bonus, which only adds variety and a lot of replayability, giving an already superb game a shelf life that will extend far further into the future.
PLAY IT? MAYBE
Capital Lux was an excellent filler game. Capital Lux 2 adds new elements that make it feel more like a game-night main event, not least because you’ll want to keep replaying it to try out all those different powers.
We suspect Capital Lux O.G. might have been a mechanical inspiration for Stonemaier’s recent dystopian-themed card game – after all, both feature four central, power-activating districts.
What’s in the box?
- 100 Citizen cards
- 1 Capital sheet
- 4 Home base sheets
- 16 Power tiles
- 1 Emperor tile
- 20 Gold tokens
- 5 Agent tiles
- 22 Rebel cards
- 1 Rebel flag tile
- 16 Recruiter cards
- 4 Outsider cards
- 7 Doomsayer tiles
- 16 Mentalist tiles
- 5 Aristocrat tiles
- 1 Discoverer sheet
- 4 Rocket tokens
- 20 Dualist cards
- 14 ROB cards (Solo mode)
This article originally appeared in issue 58 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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