All Features


  PlayStation 3
  PlayStation 4
  Wii U
  Xbox 360
  Xbox One


American History Lux

Score: 75%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Sillysoft Games
Developer: Sillysoft Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Board Games/ Turn-Based Strategy/ Edutainment

Graphics & Sound:

As much as I hope the history of America isn't strictly defined by war, it's true that one can learn a lot from the great battles that shaped the country. And, as you work your way through American History Lux, you'll definitely come away with a better understanding of American history.

A bouquet for American History Lux is granted once you see how nicely the Lux "engine" - if that's a fair thing to say - has been adapted to this theme of great American battles. The game boards here are constructed from real-life geography of domestic and overseas engagements. We're not talking rich 3D landscapes, but the place names are on target. This allows you to really retrace the historical battle, although that level of detail isn't included in the game's backstory for each level. More on that later.

The brickbat in this category goes to a bug in the version I tested (for Mac, so it may not be present in other versions) that causes the screen to black out if you click on certain places in the game screen. There was no way to fix the blackout, other than restarting, which meant losing the entire game. Disabling fullscreen mode seemed to fix this, but the small screen was much less satisfying. The game music was interesting, but there wasn't enough of it. What I heard I really liked, but it was too obvious when the loop came around again, and in a longer game the loop came around too many times.


For anyone unfamiliar with Lux gameplay, just look to the original game that inspired Lux, which is Risk. Turn-based deployment of troops and battles based on the strength of each side are the rule. Strength is measured, as in real life, largely by numbers. American History Lux uses strategic waypoints in each battle (cities, forts, etc.) to represent bonus points. Bonus points are connected to troop production, so that the side with a larger army may not necessarily win the day if the other side controls key ground. Some might say that Lux is not as strategic as other games that incorporate the concept of some territory being harder to conquer than other territory. It's also true that there isn't any concept of resource gathering, as would be typical in deeper turn-based strategy games. What is done very well in American History Lux is to create a realistic dynamic of battle between opposing factions (not just one side versus another, since there can be more than two sides at battle) and the need to leverage territory and supply lines.

The historical setting is a nice backdrop, but not much more. American History Lux may be close to a learning tool, but you won't find much that actually gets you deep into the historical battle. It would have been neat to have included a feature to let a game spool out automatically along historical lines, so you could use American History Lux as a way to watch the battles unfold as history recalls. Then, you might throw in some generals or consultants who could offer advice along the way that you could follow or ignore. Most of all, I would have liked some option to turn on narrative, so that the players in the historical setting were more visible as they made their moves. The best feature of American History Lux, which is the short ramp you travel to learn and master the game, is also its weakest aspect, where the "edutainment" is concerned. Players who really want to invest the time to understand each battle are steered toward Wikipedia, when what I really want is to have historical context more embedded in the game.


Multiple levels of difficulty make this accessible to most all players, but I didn't like that instructions took the place of a tutorial. The instructions are comprehensive, but there's no substitute for a short, live session. On the easiest setting, opposition is not lacking, and players who aren't diligent in guarding their territory and strategic in how they pick battles and deploy new armies will quickly find their lunches eaten. On the more difficult setting, watch out! Those who can beat American History Lux on "General" setting will find an even harder level unlocked.

Game Mechanics:

Placing armies and troops is handled with a mouse click on the territory you wish to reinforce, and keyboard shortcuts help when you want to play all available forces or units of five or ten at once. The same approach applies to battles, which helps to avoid multiple clicks on a large force that you want to hit with an "all or nothing" offensive. After the deployment stage, where you place troops in territory you occupy, the battle stage takes place. Depending on territory you conquer, you may win card sets. Multiple cards can be cashed in for troop units, which can definitely turn the tide of battle in your favor.

Battles are a series of attacks and occupation. Superior numbers generally result in a win, although the outcome at times is that you'll just wear down the opposing army and you'll end up depleted but not in control of territory. Or, you'll win the territory but not have enough troops to deploy in order to keep the territory. This dynamic helps to bias play toward a more cautious approach. Overextend, or push into territory that is bordered by superior armies, and you may have thrown away troops for nothing. The key to success after successfully deploying troops to battle is to fortify all positions. This final stage comes after battle, and you simply move units within territory you already occupy. A strong "front" helps to keep the enemy from occupying critical territory, and there's no use leaving troops behind unless you're employing some kind of strategy that might leave parts of your territory exposed. History is full of tactics like this, and American History Lux gives you the opportunity to try them on for size, without the bloodshed.

American History Lux is a standalone production, and doesn't require the original Lux or Lux Deluxe. At the price of $20, the game is a bargain, even though it doesn't include the options for customization that are available in Lux Deluxe. Personally, I would spend the extra $5 to get Lux Deluxe, since there are many more maps to download, many of them historical war scenarios. Several American History Lux maps are available for play with Lux Deluxe, but I can't see where any of the cool maps created for Lux Deluxe are available for use with American History Lux. So, if you already own Lux Deluxe, there doesn't seem to be any reason to buy American History Lux. If you know you'll never be interested in the over 200 add-on maps available for download from Sillysoft's website, American History Lux is a neat way to experience the battles that shaped America. But, if you're like me and American History Lux gets you excited about Lux, don't come crying to me that you spent $45 when you could have had the Lux Deluxe experience for $25...

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Minimum System Requirements:


Test System:

Tested in Macintosh (iMac G5, OS 10.4.6, 2.1 GHz, 1.5 GB RAM)

Macintosh Ultratron Windows Neighbours from Hell 2: On Vacation

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated