Game Review: Nova Lux
Posted On April 10, 2021
Number of Players: 1-6
Time: 60-75 mins
Game Type: Engine Building and Resource Management
Gamer Type: Casual and Strategy
Space is one of the great areas for gaming. Since we do not know what is out there, anything is fair game for science fiction fun. In Nova Lux, by Dragon Egg Games, you are a space miner looking to complete your goals and be the best at what you do and while that may seem like a simple goal, it makes for a fun game. Mining helium, collapsing stars, and colonizing planets can be a blast – a blast that will make you the best pilot in the galaxy (at least for a mining ship).
As noted, you are a space miner. You have a ship and a crew and it is time to “do what you do.” Each turn, you make movements to increase your holdings of strategic resources. Once you hit seven resources in each category, that is where the fun begins. As a captain of the ship, you get to build your colony and try to meet the needs of your patrons. Only when this is complete can you retire as the best captain in the galaxy. It is a great story that will draw players into the game and help you bring new people into slightly more complex strategy games. 7.5 of 10.
The artwork for this game is fun. The highly detailed pictures really complement the strategy level of the game. The star tiles are beautiful. The player boards are easy to read. The faction cards are well-drawn and the pieces are brightly colored. The only slight knock and I do mean slight, is that the font in the rule book is very small and can be tricky to read. This is a common problem with small box games, so it is not overly problematic.
Speaking of the box, it also has great artwork that makes you want to play the game. The box is a common size that will fit with many of your small box games, which makes it great for your shelf. Finally, the dice have different colors. I know that seems like an odd thing to note, but when you are rolling across the table it helps keep track whose dice is whose. 7 of 10.
The mechanics of Nova Lux are fairly simple, which makes for a great strategy game. The primary mechanic is the star cards. With these star cards, you build the resources you need to win. Each card is a “this for that” trade. Initially, you will trade one resource for two (generally), then the trades change throughout the game. The whole time you are doing this, you reduce the amount of hydrogen in the star. Once you use it all up, the star collapses, first to a red giant and then to a random “end of life card.”
In addition to the star cards, you also have factions (and federations for solo play). Interestingly, factions give you special abilities that can really change the state of your game. Finally, you have the combat system. It is a simple dice role system where the victor takes resources from the victim, but be careful that it does not come back upon you. 8 of 10.
The neo-Eurogamers will love that there is very little dice rolling or randomization in this game – it is a high strategy game. Initially, the factions are decided by draft (which gives you more control over what you get). Next, you chose where you place your ship to start. Finally, you can see what is on the table at all times, the only randomize in general play is the way in which the cards are stacked on the table. The only reason dice are used is for combat, which can be avoided if you so chose.
As for the big four, three of the four are represented. There is little defense in this game other than running away. You can be an offensive player and select factions which give you boosts for battle. This allows you to control your stockpiles and your opponents. You can also “rush” stars, expending all of your resources and depriving them of theirs. If you select good trading cards, you can do this quite often. Where the game really shines is engine building. Above, we noted that you collapse stars; when you do this, you collect them. Players can keep up to three of these they can use at any time during their turn – the catch is that you need to spend hydrogen rather than receive hydrogen to use the engine. 8.5 of 10.
Novelty and Overview
Space games are abundant and mining games are around, but space mining games are few and far between. The interesting way in which the mechanics and strategy are melded makes this a great game that is new to the table. Initially, there is a slight learning curve to the game; however, once you learn it, the depth is amazing. The card artwork brings you in, and the game style keeps you playing. 7 of 10.
Overall, this is a great small box game. As I travel a lot (or at least I did before COVID), having a cool game I can throw in my bag is great for long trips. Of a special note for this game is that it has a dedicated solo mode. In many games, you see solo modes added on as an afterthought; this game has specific cards for the solo mode. Factions become federations which change game play drastically. If you are one of our solo readers, you should check this game out. In fact, if you are any of our readers, you should check this game out! 38 of 50.
Check out the next review for details on the upcoming expansion.
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Dr. Christopher Smithmyer is a writer for NRN, the Vice President of International Affairs at Brav Online Conflict Management, and an Adjunct Professor of MBA Business at Doane University. He is also part of the founding team at BlackWalletLTD, one of the leaders in stable coin 2.0 ecosystem maintenance. Dr. Smithmyer’s focus is international business and finance, along with reviews of board games, weapons platforms, and survival items.