Behind the Board: Eilif Svensson on Capital Lux 2

Luke: Hey folks, welcome to this week’s Behind the Board! Today, we’re talking with the co-designer of Capital Lux 2: Generations, Eilif Svensson! How’s it going, Eilif?

Eilif: I’m doing well, glad to be here.

Luke: So, just to get everyone up to speed here, what’s your history with board game design?

Eilif: In 2007, I published my first game, Connecto, a trivia type game for the Norwegian market. After a while, I was more and more keen on designing euro-style games. First, Mangrovia was released at Zoch Spiele in 2014 before Kristian Østby and myself founded Aporta Games (also in 2014). Since then, we have more or less published games in our own company. Notable titles are Avenue, Capital Lux (1st edition), Santa Maria, The Magnificent, and Trails of Tucana.

Luke: Wow, that’s an impressive line-up! I’m only really acquainted with Capital Lux personally.

Eilif: [laughs] I mean, if you were going to be familiar with one of them, Capital Lux would make the most sense.

Luke: I ran into it on the BGG forums back in 2016, and it seems to still a popular game in the board game community today. What about it do you feel has allowed it to stand up to the competition in recent years?

Eilif: It’s hard to say, but I think the gameplay is somewhat unique, and it has a different table presence. I must say that Kwanchai Moriya has done an incredibly good job in this regard.

The strength of the gameplay is the clean and simple core system. You only have two choices: playing a card in front of you or playing a card in the middle of the table. Even with only these two choices, you have a lot to consider. So maybe the reason is that this core system feels strong and timeless (even maybe classic) in a way?

Luke: Yeah, I can get behind that, and it makes sense why you would want to revisit the design with such a strong foundation. What’s it been like returning to this design so many years later?

Eilif: It’s been really great to discover that we can build so much more around this core system. But to be honest, we didn’t wait that long. We started on this design late 2017, only a little more than a year since it was published. It has just taken a while to finish it

Luke: Wow, that soon after? Fascinating. So then were the ideas implemented in this version of the game things you wanted to do with the original release?

Eilif: No, we met Travis Chance (Kolossal Games), who has been a great fan of this game. He had this idea of more characters/powers in Capital Lux. We thought that was a brilliant idea. Although it took almost 3 years to finish the design, this is the core idea of this new edition. So, thank you, Travis.

Luke: Yes, I think we can all agree to thank Travis for helping this new edition a reality [laughs].

So, tell me a little about your design philosophy regarding the different powers suits can have.

Eilif: This is actually a big question with a long answer. We have had many different philosophies:

  • Variability: We wanted each power to feel unique and bring a new experience. It’s important that each game feel different, depending on the combinations you choose (there are 256 different combinations).
  • Different “families”: There are two different “categories” of powers that are crucial in this game: (1) Every game needs a power that possibly can bring the capital value down, (2) Every game needs a power that makes you draw more cards. Putting them in two different families ensures that these two crucial “categories” are always present.
  • Power tiles vs. characters: The characters represent their respective family and are only suits that can adopt different powers. Each game will feel more different if you only play with 4 different powers each time.

Luke: With so many variable powers, is there a specific ability that stands out to you as one you’re particularly proud of, and if so, why?

Eilif: Actually, I’m quite equally proud of them all. Boring answer, I know, but the thing is that we have discarded 20+ powers and ended up with these 16, each of them having their own characteristics.

Though, I would like to mention the “Mentalist”. It was really hard to design that one. We wanted a power that messed things up a little without being too nasty. So, it took us more than 2 years (we have done other things, too, of course) to land on how the power should work. I’m very satisfied with the fact that we eventually found a good way to balance this.

Luke: Yeah, that one definitely stands out as a more involved power.

It’s interesting to note that one of the new additions to Capital Lux 2 is a solo mode. What was it like designing a solo version of this game?

Eilif: That was a real tricky one. We thought we were finished many times, but we always discovered some more issues. Since Capital Lux in its core is a game with quite a high degree of interaction, we wanted the solo player to feel pretty much the same tension. However, since the values are very marginal (if you bust or not vs. the capital), it’s very hard to create an automatic player. It all became very “swingy”.

Although an automatic player will never replace a human being, we managed to solve the main issues in the end, and I’m really happy with the solo version. It has both high tension and very interesting tactical decisions based on the cards you see. When you win against the dummy player you feel that you deserved it.

Luke: Last question for today, Eilif. What do you hope new and experienced Capital Lux players feel when playing the sequel for the first time?

Eilif: I hope that new players will get a unique experience as players did with the first edition. Not too many people own the first edition, and it has been out of print for a while, so now it’s time for more players to discover this game.

When it comes to experienced players, I’m pretty sure they will find it intriguing that you can play the game with 256 different combinations of power tiles, compared to only 1 in the first edition. They will hopefully discover new ways to play the game depending on the power tiles in play, making the replay-value really high.

Luke: Excellent. Thanks again for stopping by Eilif, it was a pleasure chatting with you.

Eilif: Likewise.

Luke: If you’re interested in learning more about Capital Lux 2: Generations, be sure to check out their Kickstarter page. Thanks for taking the time to stop by; let us know your thoughts in the comments, and we’ll see you next week!

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