Updated: Dec 26, 2019
It didn’t get as much publicity and hype as some of the other shortlisted games but one of the games nominated for last year’s prestigious Spiel des Jahres prize was Rudiger Dorn’s Luxor.
As you'd expect from the title, Luxor has an Egyptian theme. Players (2–4) each start with two adventurer meeples and they will collect more during the course of the game. Since movement can be applied to any one of your meeples, this is a game where you will usually have choice and agency over where to move. You are moving your meeples around a board that represents the tombs inside an Egyptian pyramid. The board is populated each game with tiles on each square. This makes for a slightly fiddly set up but it does ensure that the playing board is always going to be different every time you play the game.
When a player lands on a tile, they take the treasure indicated provided they meet the requirements of that tile; some require a single meeple but others require two or more meeples, which means you need to leave a meeple in place waiting for your second or third meeple to land there.
Treasures have an immediate points value but they will contribute considerably more to end-game scoring the more you assemble into sets made up of three different treasure types. And on around half the squares, a tile that’s taken is replaced with a special tile; so this isn’t a game where the player who races ahead grabs all the spoils.
Movement around the board is dictated by the card you play. Cards specify the precise number of squares a meeple can move, although there are also cards that indicate a die roll for movement. The trick here is that you can only play a card from either end of your row of cards. This means a degree of planning ahead, as taking a card will obviously mean the next card in the row becomes an end card available to be played on your next turn. A new card is drawn at the end of a player’s turn but that is placed in the centre of the four remaining cards in the player’s five-card hand. Because the position of cards in a hand is so important, we found Luxor was a game that strongly benefited from playing using card racks.
Players have the opportunity to earn special more-powerful movement cards in place of a card from the ordinary draw pile; for example, a card that allows a player to move all their meeples and then choose which one to activate. Luxor shouldn’t be considered a deck-building game, however: these special cards are single use only.
In addition to the set collection and scoring for special tiles, there is a race element to the game. There are bonuses for the first two meeples to reach with the requisite key the chamber at the end of the winding tunnel that constitutes the playing board. The game ends as soon as the second meeple successfully enters the chamber. At this point, all the meeples will score the value of the square they are on… As you might expect, the various different ways of racking up points mean that players can each adopt different strategies: you can try to win by rushing your meeples ahead or you might try to rack up a higher score for set collection and have little regard for the race element.
The format of moving round a board immediately makes Luxor more accessible to those whose previous experience of board games is limited to Monopoly or children’s staples like Ludo (Pachisi). That helps to make Luxor a great family and gateway game as it introduces set collection and simple strategy elements that are called upon in more complex ‘points salad’ board games. The rules are straightforward enough that they can be picked up quickly by children as well as adults, and the card-driven movement encourages children to learn to plan at least one move ahead. Expect a game to last around 40 minutes.
The popular Egyptian theme and, with art by Dennis Lohausen, Queen Game’s characteristically brightly coloured production adds to Luxor’s appeal. And this is a game you can constantly tweak with incremental expansions. Queen Games are well known for their ‘Queenie’ mini expansions. Luxor has already spawned five Queenies, and there was yet another useful mini expansion in this year’s Brettspiel board game advent calendar!