Queen Games are best known for their strongly thematic games. The beautifully produced Fresco, for example, is built around a solid theme that is carried through both the base game and its various additions. Queen are also famous for their many enhancements and expansions. Hit games like Alhambra have had literally dozens of small expansions published for them, giving an almost limitless number of permutations for players who like to pick and mix which ones to play with. It comes as a bit of a surprise then to come across Glux: a game from Queen that is abstract and has been kept simple.
Okay, there’s some vague notion that players are illuminating rooms (hence the ‘lux’ part of the title) but even the rules barely try to keep up the pretence that Glux is anything but a purely abstract game. I’m not normally a fan of abstract games - even if the mechanics turn out to be largely abstract, I usually need a captivating theme to rope me in. Despite or perhaps because of its apparently simple design, however, Glux had enough visual appeal to hook my interest even without my having to convince myself I was an electrical contractor.
The game is played on a large grid with six blocks on it of light-coloured squares (‘rooms’). The board is two-sided, with one side for two players and the other for three or four. Players each have a bag of two-sided circular card ‘chips’. The chips look like the faces of a standard six-sided die, and their opposite sides likewise match those of a die. Players each draw a chip, decide which of the two faces they want to use and they place the chip in one of the four corners of the board. On their next turn, they must place their next chip in any position on the board that is the distance away from their first chip that was specified on that chip: if they put down a 5 in the corner, then their chip must be 5 squares from that chip. Subsequent chips can be placed the specified distance, measured orthogonally in any direction, from any of the player’s previously played chips.
Chips can be placed on top of a previous played chip, including that of an opponent, but they cannot pass (jump over) a chip. The objective is to get your chips into the ‘rooms', where, at the end of the game, the chip values are used to determine who has the majority control in each ‘room’ and so scores the victory point value.
The one point that will need reinforcing for new players is that chips are placed in accordance with the distance specified on previously laid chips not on the chip being laid: I found players initially had a tendency to count spaces to match the chip they were laying. Otherwise, this is a game that you can set up and be playing from scratch within a couple of minutes.
Glux plays surprisingly fast. Given that the number of placement choices is likely to increase each turn, you might think that this is a game that might start off quick but grind to a snail’s pace once the board fills. That isn’t so. As soon as a player lays a chip, they draw the chip to use on their next turn - so players are always able to plan their next move while others are taking their turns. This means that the game genuinely takes only 30 minutes. It plays as a much more aggressive game than I would guessed at first glance. Players will quickly find they are placing out chips not merely to benefit themselves but also to block an opponent. They will also be taking advantage of an opponent’s position: putting their own chips on top of those of their opponent, especially when contending for area control.
Though the rules are very straightforward and quickly learnt, Glux is a game with considerable depth and strategy. It can readily be played by primary school children but it can equally be played and enjoyed by serious competitive gamers. It’s a great game, and it deserves a lot more attention than it’s so far been given.
If you want to take a closer look at the game and its components, I've posted a scrollable 360 degree photo of Glux on my Facebook board game review site (Board's Eye View) at www.facebook.com/boardseye