Dale Yu: Review of Luxantis

Luxantis

  • Designer: Kai Haferkamp
  • Publisher: HABA
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 6+
  • Time: 20-30 minutes
  • Weblink: https://www.habausa.com/luxantis/
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by HABA USA

Luxantis (aka Die Legende der Irrlichter in German) was one of the games that I spent a long time looking at while at SPIEL 2018, but lack of luggage space (and lack of small children at home) made me leave this one behind…  Well, the game is now out in the US, and HABA USA was gracious enough to send one to the Opinionated Gamers to try. I have always found that while HABA games are designed so that young gamers can enjoy their games, they are often designed so that adults can still have an enjoyable time playing them as well.

the board in daylight

This game has an electronic board, powered by 3 AAA batteries – and it shows the forest labyrinth in the kingdom of Luxantis.  There are a bunch of LED lights in the board which will illuminate both the safe (blue) and dangerous (red) parts of the forest.  The players must work together to win this game in the magical light forest.

To start the game, the central green button is hit, and the lights cycle on to show you that your batteries still work!  Each player takes a transparent pawn and places it in the central clearing of the forest. There is a castle board which is also placed on the table.  The Creature cards are shuffled and 8 cards are selected for the game (the difficulty of the game can be determined by which creatures are chosen). The first four cards are placed on the bottom row of the castle board.   Look at the object icons on the creature cards – if you can put tree tiles on top of those icons on the board, the Creature will be vanquished!

Once everything is set up, hit the black button to randomize the paths of the forest.  The red lights will be visible for awhile, and this will show you the dangerous areas of the board.  Try to remember where the red lights are showing! When the lights go off, the first player can their turn.  Each turn has the same two phases – Movement and Rolling the Die.

To move, you move your transparent pawn up to 5 spaces.  All movement must be orthogonal, you may not move over hedges and walls depicted on the map; and you may not move over or onto other pawns.  If you end your turn with your pawn on top of a magic object, you can use this object to fight off the Creatures on the castle board. Look at the face up creature cards on the board.  Cover up each visible matching icon on the card(s) with a tree tile. If all the objects are covered on a card, that card is vanquished and removed from the board. If this creates a gap in cards (or opens up a space on the bottom row), a new card is put in that space.

After you have moved, the active player then rolls the die, and then depending on the face rolled – something happens:

Red face – you have to hit the red button and the red paths will light up.  If any pawn is on a space with a red light, that pawn has to return to the central clearing.

red lights

Blue face – Hit the blue button. This will cause all the safe spaces to light up blue.  As an added bonus, all pawns which are on a blue lighted space may move one bonus space at this time (following the usual movement rules).

blue lights

Black face – This is the black vortex, and this scrambles up the labyrinth.  When you hit the black button, the maze is regenerated randomly and the red lights will flash in the new arrangement.  If a pawn is on a newly lit red space, it must return to the central clearing.

Shadow Creature – one shadow creature (chosen by the players as a group) moves one space closer to the castle.  This creates an empty space below it, and this must be filled in with a card if possible.

After the die roll, the next player clockwise gets to take their turn.  The game is lost by the players if a shadow creature is able to reach the castle.  The game is won by the players if all the Creature cards are vanquished before that time!

My thoughts on the game

Luxantis is a simple cooperative game which can be surprisingly challenging.  When playing with all adults, I’d probably recommend using only the most difficult creature cards as well as starting them one row closer to the castle!  

The big challenge here is trying to get each pawn moving towards a different magic item, and trying to prioritize which items need to be covered in what order.  Though it seems counterintuitive – there are some times where I hope that we roll the advance Creature side often at the start of the game because this allows us to get some more cards visible on the Castle board.  Each time you roll the die, you simply advance one of the four columns, so it’s not a huge deal – but it is nice when you can cover all of the possible icons of a particular magic item when a pawn reaches it. That way, you don’t have to send someone back to cover it again at a later point in the game.  Of course, when you do this, there is a lot of pressure to get to the items in as quick a manner as possible!

The game sounds super easy when you explain it, but the big wildcard here is the black vortex.  Each time the black face is rolled, the board is rearranged, and all your plans could be completely wiped out.  Some of the pawns might be unceremoniously kicked back into the central clearing. Other pawns may remain safe, but their path to the magic object they were heading for may no longer be safe!  There’s no way to predict this nor plan for it, so just stay on your toes. Additionally, for me, after a few resets of the board, I’ll admit that I often have a really hard time remembering which is the most current set of bad/safe spaces.  I find that I really just have to focus on a part of the board near my pawn or nearest to my side of the board and remember those spaces. We definitely have to rely a lot on the group’s memory of which spaces are thought to be safe or not!

I have yet to play this with a younger child, but my all-adult groups have enjoyed our plays of this.  It’s probably not the sort of cooperative game that will make a permanent home in my collection though – there just isn’t enough tension nor challenge as compared to other cooperative games.  If I had younger kids though, this would be a great game to have that allows all the members of the family to play. And, my guess is that the superior spatial memories of young children would really come in handy!

The rules are actually quite simple. The rulebook is surprisingly thick – mostly because HABA includes rules in German, English, French, Dutch, Spanish and Italian in the book.  But, in the end, the entire ruleset can be summarized in about 1/3 of a page!

seriously, you can play the whole game with just the text in the box in the center of this page of the rules

As you would expect with HABA, the production quality is great – and for once, the company has gone the way of electronics as opposed to its trademark wooden pawns and bits.  The electronics are necessary for the frequent on-the-fly randomization, and the LED lights look great. The only “glitch” that we’ve found is that the green power button can sometimes be hit by accident, and this causes the game to essentially reset.  When this happens, you just have to treat it as if you rolled a black vortex on the die and just keep going. In the end, it’s not too big of a deal because the black vortex sure seems to come up more than the 1/6 of the time that odds say it should… but man, I kinda wish the power button was instead a switch on the underside of the board which you could only access when you were setting up or cleaning up!

Using electronic parts seems to be a change from the usual HABA MO, but it works here providing a visually appealing game, though this one may slant a bit more towards being just for the kids or at least for a game that includes at least one kid.

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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