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Publisher: Sillysoft    Genre: Strategy & War
Min OS X: 10.2

American History Lux
May 23, 2006 | Michael Scarpelli

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Back when the Americans were still the English.
In spite of the wealth of computer strategy games that have come out over the years, whenever anyone mentions to me that they're playing the game of world conquest I know instantly what they're referring to. I don't assume Command and Conquer or Hearts of Iron or Age of Empires or anything that fancy. I think of Risk.

A few years back, Sillysoft formed and graced the Mac gaming world with a simple and addictive Risk clone known as Lux. The game offered various computer personality types to play against to spice up the competition, but it also offered nifty LAN multiplayer options that were the savior of many a sleepy office day.

Manifest Destiny
Lux was a hit and since its initial release Sillysoft has prettied it up and added more features and levels, making it a true game, and not just the culmination of some quality tinkering, in the form of Lux Delux.

On the market these days, along with Lux Delux, is the new American History Lux, which features the same Risk-style gameplay spread across various conflicts that the United States has been involved with in its history. Maps involve the conflicts of the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, the Mexican-American War, the US Civil War, World Wars 1 and 2 (Europe and Pacific for WWII), the Korean War, Vietnam War and finally the Iraq War of George H.W. Bush.

Each conflict is super-simplified in board game styling. Enemy units do not behave necessarily as they would have during the conflict and even regions are stylized to fit the game's mechanics. Major cities and historical strongholds are there, though, and can be grabbed to help turn the tide of the conflict and give bonuses to the occupying faction. Historical allies do play a part in the conflict and will aid the gamer on each level they're involved in, however a really aggressive gamer can feel free to turn on their allies if need be and truly clean house.

Lest you think the game is more or less devoid of realism, each level has an information screen that can be visited to learn a bit of actual history about the conflict in question. The synopses are written at first in the manner of a history lecture, but as history catches up with the present day the gamer is given marching orders in a very "It's up to you to make the difference, soldier!" manner that's a fun way to spark off each level of the campaign.

Basic Training
For anyone not familiar with Risk, the concept is simple. Gamers start in control of particular regions on a map. American History Lux differs from regular old Lux (and Risk) in that typically the gamer's units are all concentrated in one area against an equally concentrated (and almost always much larger) force. Usually, Risk and Lux involve each player controlling a variety of areas across a world map, rarely having controlled territories bunched in a single region at the outset.

The number of territories controlled will determine the number of troops a gamer is given at the start of their turn. They can place these units in any territory they control. Once units are placed, attacks are made against adjacent opponent territories, with combat being determined by a roll of the dice. In classic Risk, gamers attack with up to three units at a time and defenders defend with up to two at a time (regardless of higher unit numbers in the region). A die is rolled for each of the units involved in the battle and the highest roll determines who removes a unit first, with a tie going to the defender. The process is then repeated for a second unit as well, with the next highest roll. If the attacker is using a third die, that roll is ignored, only being used to raise the attacker's probability for success. Once the opponent is gone, the gamer can occupy their new territory. This process is invisible in Lux games, and instead the gamer will just see their units press ahead or reduce in number.

Also in Risk, at the end of each turn where a territory is successfully taken, the gamer is given a card. The cards contain two symbols: a horse, cannon or soldier and a color-coded region symbol. As cards are accumulated, matching sets of symbols (three or more of either type) can be traded in for extra armies. At five cards, the gamer has to trade in cards if they have an available match, instead of being able to stockpile for a massive trade-in late in the game. Extra units are also given for territories controlled with further bonuses being given for locking down entire regions.

At the end of a turn, players can fortify their units, moving them about into adjacent controlled territories to ensure defense of the area during their opponent's assaults.

The great convenience of Lux is how automatic all these processes are. Gamers can use key combinations to have large numbers of attacks be processed all at once and to make the distribution of units across the map quicker. For someone with a fast mouse-finger, it's possible to burn through a dozen or so Lux games in about five minutes. Not that those will be successful games, but it can be done.


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