Sunday, May 07, 2006

American History Lux Review

American History Lux, developed and published by Sillysoft.
The Good: Interesting maps, good Lux gameplay
The Not So Good: No multiplayer, can’t play as the non-Americans, some difficulty arises only from unbalanced maps, only 10 maps and no downloadable content
What say you? An interesting use of the Lux engine, but it lacks the flexibility, replay value, and fairness of the original: 5/8

One of the classic board games of our time is Risk. Maybe it has something to do with the prospect of controlling the world, but this very popular game is known the world over. Not surprisingly, there are some knock-offs that try to capitalize on its success. One of these games is Lux, a less than subtle derivative of Risk that is actually quite good. The flexibility of Lux allows for the development of any map you desire, using a map editor or randomly generated worlds. The developers of Lux have used this flexibility to create a series of scenarios covering the major wars of the United States titled American History Lux. Will this history lesson live up to the greatness of its predecessor?

The graphics and sound of American History Lux are a lot like the original game, so go read that review. The maps in American History Lux are well designed and have some interesting strategic elements, such as impassible mountains and open seas. Other than the new maps, however, American History Lux is pretty much identical to the original title in both graphics and sound.

American History Lux features 10 battles throughout American History: the French and Indian War, American Revolution, Mexican-American War, Civil War, World War I, World War II Europe, World War II Pacific, Korean War, Vietnam War, and the Iraq War. The next battle in the series is unlocked once you win the previous scenario, but only for the difficulty level you are playing. The game plays exactly like Risk: place troops, move troops, attack neighboring territory, fortify your troops, get cards. You get reinforcement bonuses for controlling large territories and also key cities (on some maps); this makes combat over urban areas realistically frenzied. Most of the scenarios are unbalanced in the enemy’s favor, which obviously increases the difficulty. This is a despicable tactic: although this might be realistic for a given war, it doesn’t make it fun. The Korean War map is a perfect example. North Korea has a crazy number of initial income that you can’t compete with in the long term, so you must attack quickly with your forces, but a lot of them are far back and need a couple of turns to be fortified up front. You are given historically accurate allies in some of the scenarios, but they don’t really do much attacking. Even worse, you can’t send troops through friendly territory without attacking! This means if I want to move troops through France to get to Italy, I must attack the French troops in the way. Unacceptable. You also don’t receive territory reinforcement bonuses on some maps from your allies, so it’s almost better to eliminate friendly countries from the map to get more troops later on. Also, you can only control the United States and some allies and there is no multiplayer. Sure, the game is American History Lux, but why must we have these limitations on gameplay?

Despite the appealing content, American History Lux is a tough sell. Lux Delux is only $5 more and features multiplayer, a map editor, and a plethora of user made maps, a lot of which cover the same material seen in American History Lux. Given the fact that most of these maps are available from third party sources through the original game, it’s hard to recommend getting American History Lux and its small rules changes, despite the well designed maps. In addition, you can’t play as the opposition and you must attack friendly troops to move through their territory. It would have been better to offer American History Lux as a $5-10 expansion pack to the original game rather than a standalone title. I applaud the developers for expanding the realm of Lux, but the bottom line is that American History Lux actually has less overall features for essentially the same price as its full-featured big brother.