Capital Lux 2: An Absurdly Awesome Tactical Game
If you’ve read (or seen) The Hunger Games, the setting of Capital Lux (and Capital Lux 2) will feel very familiar to you.
Set in a seemingly dystopian future, you make your home in the slums of the City while contributing to the glitzy rich Capital district. Aporta Games released the first version of this tactical card game in 2016, but the standalone sequel fulfilled from Kickstarter earlier this year. Capital Lux 2 is gorgeously illustrated by the talented Kwanchi Moriya and plays 1-4 players in under an hour.
Start Capital Lux 2 by choosing four power tiles (1 of each color) to determine what power is activated when playing a card of that color into the Capital district.
- Blue powers are themed around modifying number totals of any district (with tiles or gray rebel cards).
- Pink powers are themed around moving/removing low number cards from regions.
- Yellow powers revolve around leveraging gold/aristocrat tiles.
- Green powers are themed around gaining more citizen cards.
Setup also includes seeding the Capital with three citizen cards. At the start of each round players draft six citizen cards in three sets of two.
In Capital Lux 2, players take turns placing one card from their hand per turn in either the Capital or their Home, always in the matching color district. Players activate that district’s specified Power if placed in the Capital. No powers activate if a player plays in their Home.
A round ends when one player runs out of cards in their hand.
At the end of each of the three rounds, each player checks each color to see if their total in that color exceeds that of the Capital district. If so, the Capital police wipe that player out, forcing them to discard all cards of that color from their district. After that has been evaluated, whoever has the highest remaining total in each color receives a bonus – the highest Capital citizen card in that color.
Winning players add this bonus card to their total at the end of the game. Players gain gold coins instead if there is a tie (and also from some card effects). After three rounds players add their Home citizen cards remaining, two point gold coins, and any bonus cards. The player with the highest total wins.
I was blown away when I stumbled into a copy of the original Capital Lux. I loved it so much it drove me to back the sequel on Kickstarter, the only Kickstarter I’ve ever done. Here’s what I love:
I love card drafting as a fantastic, exciting, choice-filled game mechanic. I especially love it in Bunny Kingdom – after a few dozen plays of that game, I still feel the choices are just as painful and cutting as they were in the beginning. I’ve also enjoyed it in other games like Blood Rage, Isle of Cats, and Paper Tales.
In Capital Lux, the card drafting fantastically blends simplicity and complexity. First you need to consider what power to activate: simple. Then, you need to track citizen count between the Capital and your Home, and guessing where your opponents might play. This is a lot harder.
Drafting two cards at a time is great for strategic planning/decision making. This allows you to plan combos or multiple number card combinations working together.
I also love the math aspect of this game. It’s fun to pick which numbers you want and try to come up with the best numbers to maximize your totals without going over. As an engineer, I enjoy and excel at math so it’s fun for me to engage in this kind of puzzle.
I love games where you have to try to predict the future. I love stock market type games like Imperial, 18XX games, Die Fugger, Airlines Europe, etc. mainly because of this. Capital Lux has some of this as you try to guess what the Capital value is going to end up being. What cards might disappear through the pink powers? What are other players going to add to each color based on what they have in their Home right now? Although my memory isn’t great I am forced to try. Even remembering what cards I didn’t save in the draft is strategic.
With prediction comes timing, and envisioning a sequence of events and occurrences. I love processing the balance and uncertainty of when to play which card in my hand.
Should I play this green card in the Capital first to get extra card(s) now to maximize my planning capabilities early? Or am I going to put that green card in my Home anyway so I might as well do it to get more information for planning with my other cards?
Should I wait on the pink card so I can disrupt the Capital totals later and ruin other people’s plans or do I need to get that radical change possibility out of the way early so I don’t risk my own future?
The layers of thought on this are so fun and juicy, especially as you are forced to reckon with the shakeups that others bring; which brings us to my next favorite thing.
I love games that require constant reconfiguring of strategy due to changing conditions. I can’t think of many other games that force this upon you more than Capital Lux. You must hold your strategies very loosely and flexibly. It’s almost an oxymoron – strategic tactical-ness. This aspect blends together all the above points, mixing math, prediction, and sequential planning.
Some people hate this chaotic nature and feel it’s too out of control or they can’t adapt well enough. I understand, but I disagree. The beauty of Capital Lux is the need to maximize your options in the chaos. Optimization through pain and loss is real life, man.
If I’m going to lose all my blue citizens in a round regardless, I consider other options. Maybe a pink card can let me steal a blue from the Capital which could force all my opponents to lose all their blue citizens as well. Capital Lux is fun to play for the same reason NFL football is my favorite sport to watch. It feels like almost anything can happen at any given moment. A pick-six can suddenly and radically change the momentum of a football game. Adding a single pink card which removes the lowest green card could suddenly save my pink citizens and doom my green citizens in a single play.
Replayability / Variety
Even with the limited original Capital Lux (with only a single power in each color), I was enamored with the variety of different situations and predicaments presented to me.
Sometimes the card drafting would be overflowing with pink cards in one game. Other drafts would have too many blue, requiring a totally different tack. I enjoyed the power combos I could create or predict even with only the four basic powers in the original game. In Capital Lux 2, the designers provided five different powers in each color (that stick to loose themes, described above) plus mini-expansions. The variety and replayability is virtually infinite here.
If you want play the game even when nobody is around, Capital Lux 2 also offers a solo mode with a very challenging automaton named Rob. So far, we’re pretty even, but the best I’ve done is +14, “very good” status.
One sign of a fun board game opponent is to find someone who you go back and forth with on victories. The solo mode of this has delivered on this quite well. Solo also gives you some new variant thought processes on the prediction element described above. You need to prepare for red cards to come out which remove the minimum/lowest numbered card from the Capital.
I would love this game even if it were an hour long. But Capital Lux 2 can be played in under 30 minutes.
The short duration makes the chaotic almost-absurdly tactical nature of the game much more palatable. “Wow, that one play you just made totally destroyed my chance of winning. Nice move” I say while weeping and placing my pile of 17 blue citizens in the discard pile. Oh well, it will be over soon and we can pick 4 new power tiles and play again. Of course, that requires finding someone else nearby who loves this game as much as I do (which I have yet to do).
I openly admit that Capital Lux 2: Generations is not for everyone. I have played with people who said “That game just made me angry” and I have played with people who said, “I think this is my new favorite game!”
Obviously, I’m much closer to the latter. I hope you check it out, it’s definitely worth a try.
Find Capital Lux 2: Generations on Amazon or at your friendly local game store – or come to Massachusetts and play it with Dave!
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Capital Lux 2: Generations
Age Range: 10+
Number of Players: 1-4
Playtime: 30 minutes or less