Mac Lab Report

Lux: World Domination, Online or Off

- 2005.08.29

Now that I'm older, I can't even watch Halo, let alone play it successfully. So I looked for something that took a little more strategy and a little less twitching - and I found a couple of games I have really enjoyed over the past few months.

Lux is one of several Risk™-type world domination games you can find online to try. Some of them are prettier, but I don't think any of them play as well as Lux.

Lux is made by Sillysoft and runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. A free download is available so you can try it out. Players log in online (or you can play against the built-in bots), and players take turns just like the board game.

Many of the tedious parts of playing real Risk have been eliminated. You can move entire batches of armies at once, have the computer auto-place armies to start games faster (you can also place armies manually, but almost no one does it), and automatically advance all your troops when a country is conquered.

Lux

Users register and can create an online identity that tracks the number of wins and losses and provides rankings. Rankings are regularly erased to encourage continuous play, but past rankings are used to determine seeds, which are evaluations based on play over time. A seeded player has been in the top 100 or so players online for several weeks in a row and is usually someone to be reckoned with.

I found the Lux online community generally pleasant to play with, especially the experienced players. Occasionally newbs will do things like commit suicide for revenge. When hosting, poor gamesmanship sometimes results in games being dropped by the host - or when the host is inexperienced, when the host is losing. Such behavior quickly results in multiple posts on the Lux message boards hosted by Sillysoft, and top players avoid such hosts.

While some games do hang or freeze, recent revisions to the game are much more stable and such events seem to be much less frequent than when I first started playing.

The graphics of the game are simple (armies are represented by numbers), and the limited graphic display shows blasts and clouds of smoke during battles (no more spitting on the board - oh wait, not everyone used to do that -never mind). However, the game response is excellent, and lag is pretty rare.

The game undergoes regular revision and notifies you when a new user-created map is available. Gamers have added maps of real and imaginary countries, odd geometrical patterns, and variations on the classic game such as changing the number of countries (one map has every country in existence) and changing the number of armies awarded for a continent.

If you loved Risk as a board game, you're going to like Lux. Give it a try.

One of the nicest things about the online Lux community is that they persistently and stridently urge new players to pay the registration fee ($25), and it seems quite a few people have. Eventually, all games run their course, and after playing for several months I let my (moderate) rankings lapse and moved on. The money I spent registering Lux was well spent, in my opinion, and every now and then I stop by and say hi to the old gang.

In my next game review (my second - I don't play a lot of games, so when I pay for one, I wear it out) I'll talk about a game I really like called Massive Assault. Look for that in a few days.

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is a longtime Mac user. He was using digital sensors on Apple II computers in the 1980's and has networked computers in his classroom since before the internet existed. In 2006 he was selected at the California Computer Using Educator's teacher of the year. His students have used NASA space probes and regularly participate in piloting new materials for NASA. He is the author of two books and numerous articles and scientific papers. He currently teaches astronomy and physics in California, where he lives with his twin sons, Jony and Ben.< And there's still a Mac G3 in his classroom which finds occasional use.

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