Luxor Breakdown (Collectors Edition with Queenies)
Author: Geoffrey Heffernan
What is it?
Designer: Rudiger Dorn
Publisher: Queen games
Artist: Dennis Lohausen
Year of publication: 2018
Number of players: 1-4
Play time: 45 min
Price: $65 AUD (Retail version $50)
Hand Management 85%
Set collection 14%
Push your luck 1%
Luxor is primarily a racing game with some set collection elements, the standout mechanism is the simple but interesting hand management system. Each turn the active player plays either the left or rightmost cards of a 5 card hand and then draws a new card into the middle of their hand, they move their adventure(s) as per the ability on the card and trigger the effect of the tile they land on. Tiles have a wide variety of effects such as drawing scarab tiles for bonus points, drawing special action cards, collecting keys to the tomb etc. By far the most common effect is to pick up the treasure you land on provided you have the prerequisite number of adventurers, this is where the set collection comes in, as sets of treasure score additional bonus points at the end of the game. Players start with 2 adventurers, but unlock more as they progress towards the tomb at the centre of the board, play continues until two adventurers reach the middle, at which point, final scoring is calculated. Treasure values, progress of each adventurer and bonuses for treasure sets make up the bulk of the scoring with scarab points, unused keys and a few other bonuses also counting, highest final score is the winner.
The CE of Luxor adds quite a number of modular expansions called queenies, these allow for modification of the mechanisms in a quite robust way depending on which you choose to include. You can replace the scarabs so that they give one off powerful abilities rather than end game points, add secret objectives players can complete for more bonus points, add some tiles that give you powerful abilities similar to the scarabs for as long as you leave an adventurer on them and there is even a queenie that adds a secret treasure vault to explore and pickup treasures that give random points.
Luxor is a very nice looking game with above average artwork and bright colorful pieces that really pop on the table. Artwork is consistent with what you would expect from an Egyptian themed game and the cartoonish style appropriately sets the tone of a light hearted family game. Custom meeples for the adventurers are a nice touch and all the cardboard tiles and tokens are of good quality and thickness. There is a well illustrated insert in the box which is large enough to fit all the components, CE queenies and probably the upcoming expansion as well. The CE does come with some extra wooden replacement components for the first player token, sarcophagus and the vault keys, however there are no stickers for the keys and thus they actually look worse than the cardboard versions, apparently this will be fixed with an upcoming expansion though.
Why play it?
Luxor is a great example of the benefits of basing a game on a single, simple mechanism and letting the rest of the design take shape around it. The basics of taking a turn are accessible enough that anyone can quickly get started without remembering every rule and fill in the gaps as the game progresses. Despite its simplicity the hand management allows for a lot of interesting decisions and rewards good short term planning, it is a very clever and engaging system.
The game is definitely light and is relaxing to play without a huge amount of stress or tension. Strategy and tactics are present enough, that the game definitely rewards good long term and short term planning. The special action cards are where a lot of strategy comes from and allow players to pull of some big rewarding moves. Typically the best player will win, however there is an element of luck and the mechanisms are restrictive enough that an experienced player will rarely crush newer players.
The game is beautifully paced and moves quickly even if the players are still learning and at a cracking pace once people are familiar with it. There really is a perfect amount of time to plan in between turns and little need to stall for analysis on your turn, a perfect execution of this oft forgotten part of design is a welcome success.
A notable strength of the design is that Luxor perfectly treads the line of allowing for players to interact in a fairly robust manner without compromising the friendly atmosphere of the game. Players potentially influence your decisions quite a bit as they move around the board and pickup treasures, making it easier or more difficult for you to get to where you wanted to go. You have to be particularly careful as to when players will end the game as there are a number of board positions that reduce your adventurers progress score to 0 and you definitely want to avoid that!
The addition of the CE queenies is where Luxor really shines, it is a shame that these are not automatically included and are perhaps a bit difficult to get, because they really add a new dimension to the game. They allow a light family game to be selectively dialed up in weight and adjust the amount of push your luck to taste. Thus as your family grows up or group gains more experience, Luxor is a game that grows with you and perhaps allows you to acclimatise non gamers to a few more concepts they otherwise might be put off by, if they had to learn them all up front.
The theme of Luxor comes through to some extent but it is pretty abstracted, the game does feel like a treasure seeking adventure but is nowhere near as thematic as a proper adventure game or even other light family games tend to be.
Player count is irrelevant and the game feels the same at any count, an additional benefit of the fast paced play.
Who is it for?
Luxor is primarily a family game and is great for playing with children and adults, 8+ on the box is about right and depending on how the child is going they should be able to play without much help after you pair them with an adult for a game or two. It is light enough for non gamers, perhaps visiting family or friends who only play games rarely.
Luxor is a stress free experience and is perfect for when you want to play a game but are a bit tired or run down to stomach anything medium weight or higher.
If you add queenies you can push the game a little closer to medium weight which will keep any more regular gamers interested.
Fans of Ancient Egyptian history will get a little boost out of the theme and probably enjoy the game more, the topic isn't even taken remotely seriously but it is definitely present enough to add some enjoyable flavour.
Where does it fit?
Luxor is a light racing game with treasure collection and thus compares most directly with Jamaica. Mechanically they are reasonably similar although I feel the hand management in Luxor is strategically more robust. The main point of difference is the use of direct attacking in Jamaica vs passive interaction of Luxor. Overall though if you like one, you will most likely enjoy the other.
For this review I felt it necessary to rate the base game separately from the CE as the queenies really do elevate it a fair bit, definitely grab them if you get a chance.
In the pack: A good game but nothing outstanding, that category of game you would happily play, but wouldn't be your first suggestion very often. It might end up being a standout for you, if it hits a sweet spot for you mechanically or the theme/art particularly appeals to you.
CE with queenies:
Standout: This is a much better than average game, one I would choose to play regularly and have no problem getting to the table.