What’s in my hand?

Small box games are the grab bags of board gaming. They’re cheap and generally rules light. So there’s not as much investment in getting a game up and running. However, you still want to be having as much fun as possible. And with a million and one games out there is Capital Lux worth it?

Well, you’ll have to read on and see won’t you.

Cover to the board game Capital Lux

Name: Capital Lux

Players: 2-4

Publisher: Aporta Games

Designers: Eilif Svensson, Kristian Amundsen Østby

Artists: Kwanchai Moriya

Capital Lux’s mechanics are befitting of a used car salesmen advert. We got bluffing. Card drafting. Action selection. Area control. Hand management. Only while stocks last.

But don’t be scared.

It’s a rather simple game, as long as you don’t mind some basic mathematics.

Your turn consists of playing one card, in one of two ways. You either add your card to one of the four character stacks already in the middle of the table and use its power. Or you can play the card in front of you – for 2-6 points.

This reminds me of Love Letter. A game I wrote a love letter to. And it plays into some of the same thought patterns. However, where Love Letter treats you to a fine dining experience of logic and deduction. Capital Lux waits in until you’re done outside in the back alley. And then beats you up and steals your wallet with its cunningness, greed and ruthlessness.

And it all begins with the card drafting phase before the first round.

Open box showing the components of Capital Lux. Included: A deck of cards, 8 yellow discs.
What’s in the box

You pick two cards and pass on the rest. Giving you a sneaky peek at what others are getting. What their strategy might be. And allowing you to affect that. Or build your own strategy. Either way you need to be conscious of what you’re keeping, and what you’re giving away.

Each round of Capital Lux plays quickly. With each player getting only 5 or 6 turns. Therefore, you need to capitalise on every advantage available.

From here it’s all about putting your strategy in place. Which is harder than it seems. The different card powers, when activated, drastically shift the playing field as though it were on tectonic plates. These feel great to use. But you sacrifice your chance at getting points to do so.

Cards of Capital Lux laid out.
I need to start stacking some greens

For each of your character stacks, at the end of the round:

  • If you have more points than what’s in the middle. You lose that stack. All of it.
  • If you have the most points of anybody – and still own the stack. You get to bank the highest card from the matching character stack in the middle of the table.

The latter is important because even though your stack survives this round – likely by the skin of its teeth. You need to reinvest into that character type next round because you took away a lot of the points in the middle. In this way Capital Lux forms the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for all players for the next round.

This knowledge sharing is what makes it such a strong entry into small box board games. You always have a good feeling for what’s going on, and you’re always able to form the perfect plan.

But sadly no one else ever sticks to that plan.

Which is awesome, because it creates these decision points throughout where you have to choose to follow your initial plan or recalibrate. It also gives you the tools to do this recalibration.

Holding a hand of cards from Capital Lux.
This is what’s in my hand

This is the main highlight of the game for me. Every move you make directly affects your opponents, and it lets you play as aggressive as you need to be. And with everyone balancing what’s on the table, and what’s in front of them means that we are all playing on the edge of winning or losing. Making every move a high stake.

If that weren’t enough, the game also allows you to indirectly bluff, or play with information that only you know. Making you feel hella smart when, or rather if, it all comes together.

This game is damn near perfect for this type of small box game. However, I can see people getting annoyed at the number crunching in the last round. As there’s a lot of cards on the table, but you’re trying to figure out and remember how many points everyone else has. For me, if I’m doing this, it’s a sign of how engrossing the game is. For others, I can see it being too much work for the pay-off.

Another minor quibble is the cards. I love the artwork provided by Kwanchai Moriya, the guy has more style than a fashion week runway. But they put the point value only in one corner of the card. The standard I’ve seen is to have it in opposite corners, so that you’re not constantly flipping the cards. Which makes sense, and is an extremely mild annoyance in Capital Lux.

Otherwise it’s a shame that this game hasn’t got as much attention as it deserves.

It’s quick.

It’s meaty.

It’s fantastic.

A Critical Hit that not only enters my collection. But one I look forward to playing. Over and over again.

Corgi approved!

Where’s my Dawn of the Peacemakers review you son of a gun?! Well, about that. Given the trouble I’ve had coordinating my group lately, I’ve started a new campaign with my wife. We’re just under half-way through, and there are so many interesting things happening it didn’t feel right to review it until I got closer to the end. So in short – it’s coming.

How’s your week been? What have you been playing? Did you see the news about Wingspan? My copy got caught up in the delays – see you in another two months my sweet 😦

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