I was really into abstract games last year. Picked up Santorini, Apotheca, Druids, and now Glüx, a delightful game with an umlaut that is going to make this review a significant pain to type. Tried it at a friend’s place and then got lucky with a $16 deal on Amazon when Queen Games was apparently having their equivalent of a fire sale. Now, it’s a useful way for me to stall while I’m waiting for Kingdom Builder: Harvest to come out and still review something vaguely related to the series (since they’re both published by Queen Games).
Anyways. In Glüx, you are trying to illuminate various rooms with your light source, though some of your lights are stronger than others. Control the rooms, and you’ll earn valuable points. But watch out! Your opponents might steal the room right out from under you. Who can shine the brightest?
Setup! Fairly straightforward, as usual, since I seem to . You’ll find the game board has two sides:
The left one is for two players, and the right one is for three or four players. Use the appropriate side for your player count.
Next, you’ll have four sets of chits, each double-sided and in four colors:
Give each player their preferred color, along with the starting square and the scoring square. The scoring square is the smaller of the two.
Now, choose your starting locations:
- In a two-player game, players begin on opposite corners, as far apart as possible.
- In a three-player game, two players start on the same side of the board but on opposite corners, and the third player starts in the middle of the other side of the board.
- In a four-player game, each player occupies one corner of the board.
Once you’ve chosen your starting locations, draw a chit from your bag randomly and place it on your starting square, whichever side up you prefer.
Once you’ve done all that, your play area should look like this, indicating you’re ready to start:
Gameplay is fairly straightforward. Every turn, you will draw a chit from your bag. These chits are double-sided, and are one of 1/6, 2/5, or 3/4. You can place it X spaces away from any other chit of yours, where X is the number of pips showing on the chit. For instance, if you have this situation, you can place on the highlighted squares:
You cannot, however, ever place if the way is blocked. If you or another player is in the way of your chit’s path, you cannot go around or over them. You can, however, place on any player’s chit with one of your chits, provided you’re the right distance away. If you do, nobody else can place on top of that chit stack. The maximum height is two. Them’s just the rules.
However, the chits do more than placement. They are also points of area control in each of the rooms (outlined areas on the board). Each pip on the chit is one point, and the person with the most points controls the room (don’t worry; there’s second place, too). So do you place the 1-pip side so that you can add more chits later? Or do you place the 6-pip side so that you can bump up your control early on? These are questions you must answer to win Glüx, or honestly just to play Glüx. If you can’t answer these questions you’re just going to sit on your turn and not do anything and force the game to a stalemate.
If you find that your movement has been restricted significantly or you just feel like it, you can, once per game, pop a new chit on top of your starting square. Now you can potentially move elsewhere. If you cannot move at all (even after doing that), you are out for the rest of the game. That said, I have never seen that happen, but I suppose it could.
At game end, for each room:
- If one player has the most pips in a room, they get 4 points.
- If there is a tie for the most pips in a room, all tied players get 4 points. No second place is awarded.
- If one player has the most pips and another player has the second-most pips, the player with the second-most pips gains 2 points. There is no third place or lower.
- If there’s a tie for second place, all tied players get 2 points.
Whichever player has the most points wins! If there’s a tie, the player with the most pips in the center room wins! Always control the center.
Player Count Differences
Thankfully, the board scales in size as player count increases (sort of), so it doesn’t become cramped or anything. If anything, it becomes a bit frenetic at four players, since there’re so many pieces on the board. It makes it easier to surprise an opponent because they’re not always sure who to pay attention to.
The only thing that’s weird is that in a three-player game, one player takes the middle of the board, meaning they can expand left and right pretty easily (or up and down, depending on your perspective) which seems a bit advantageous. Other than that, I like it at two (though I prefer Santorini), but I think it’s awesome at four. Just the right mix of mean and busy and short.
It’s an abstract, so there’s plenty of strategy.
- You want to control the middle. It’s the tiebreaker and it’s the easiest way to attack other rooms (since it’s in the center). Go for it.
- Don’t be afraid to cap your own pieces. Capping is what I call placing another chit on top of a chit (since you can only make a stack two pieces high). It’s often good to cap them defensively or just to change up tactics mid-game.
- Anticipate your opponents’ moves. Unless you made a mistake on your turn, generally, your opponent has to make some play that suggests where they are planning to go (since there are only so many possible moves). If you’re well-defended, you can usually cap your own piece to block them or play a piece on theirs or to block theirs.
- Know when to play a 1 versus playing a 6. Generally 1s give you more placement options / better defense but less control. 6s give you more control but it’s easier to get blocked and harder to protect yourself. Either way if it gets capped by another player it’s theirs now, so keep that in mind.
- Lots of players leave their starting room unprotected. It’s pretty easy to get in there and take control of it, if you get the right chits. Just make sure you watch out for them dropping a 1 on their starting square and capping your chits. This does, however, give you the opportunity to yell something related to being in their house, which I would encourage from a gameplay and strategy perspective.
- It’s not bad to go for second place in a room, late-game. It’s an easy way to get a reasonable number of points if there’s a room that one player has completely controlled and nobody wants to get in. Just pop in there, put a piece down, and go for it.
- Ties benefit every player except the players who aren’t tied. The only reason, in my mind, to try and win a tie for a room’s control is if you’re tied with the likely points leader of the game. If that’s the case, then yeah, steal the room from them. Otherwise a rising tie-d lifts all boats, as they say (heh).
- Cut off your opponents. All the defensive plays in the world won’t help if you’ve blocked off one of their chits completely and they can’t reach it before you cap it. Is it aggressive? Sure. Does it help? Absolutely.
- There’s an argument for going far early-game and moving a bit more strategically in the later game. The problem with this is that it leaves you vulnerable to getting cut off / losing room control since you’re spread super thin. If it works, then you’ve got nodes all over the board to move from, though. It’s just a question of spread.
- It’s good to remember how many of each piece type you have left. Since you know what the chits are, knowing you have no more 1/6s could inform your strategy as to what your next move should look like (or what potential moves could look like in the future.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Very easy to learn. Seriously. Only takes a few minutes to explain and then you’re going.
- Plays reasonably fast. Generally people want to play a second game after their first, so you should budget for two games, if the players like abstracts.
- Cool theme. I like the idea of light as a gameplay element, though as I mention in the Mehs, I wish that shone through more in the gameplay. (Heh because it’s a game about lights get it)
- Double-sided board is nice. It’s a good use of the space and nice that it supports a decent variety of player count (especially given the MSRP).
- Came with bags. I like the bags as well! They’re decent material, and the whole thing is a nice experience.
- Seems expandable. I could see a Glüx 2 with extra rooms and a new board and such. I’d totally try that out. Maybe special movement rules? Let’s not get too crazy.
- Family-friendly, if that’s your thing. It seems difficult to have made a game about lights not family-friendly, but, I mean, never doubt the potential of others.
- The scoring system doesn’t 100% make sense to me. I guess they made it 4 and 2 so that it would go all the way around the board, but I see no reason why it couldn’t just be 2 and 1 for second place. Just something that occasionally bothers me.
- No blue or black pieces. I understand why, but I had to go with my third choice, purple. Alas.
- The theme doesn’t really come through in the gameplay. Are the pips lights? Are the lights fighting? Who made the lights fight? It’s unclear and these are all occasionally questions I have.
- A bit pricey? I mean, I got it for $16, so it’s hard for me to compare, but $40 seems like a fair bit. Then again, I don’t really know if I want to get too into the weeds with “how much should board games cost?”, so, your mileage may vary on this one.
- Surprisingly mean. You have to get aggressive if you’re going to win, and it might make players in your group upset. Just a thought to consider before going head-first into it.
- The chits feel vaguely cheap. I would love a Glüx Delüxe (though I’m like, 95% sure that’s not how that should be pronounced) with plastic or metal or light-up chits. It would be pretty awesome. The cardboard isn’t bad, just a bit disappointing.
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, I think Glüx is a solid game! I really enjoy it and often will suggest it when I’m teaching people new games, as it’s an easy-to-learn but nicely strategic abstract strategy game. It’s got a nice depth to it, and I always feel like I’m learning some new way to think about the board when I play. If you’re a fan of abstracts, I’d definitely recommend checking this one out — it’s great! Especially for a four-player abstract, which I don’t have a lot of good coverage on in my collection.