American History Lux is a downloadable war strategy game that takes an often boring subject and turns it into a simple but epic game. It's a whittled-down version of Sillysoft's more detailed Lux Delux title, making it perfect for casual world-conquerors. The game plays a lot like Risk with a few extras and is available for Windows, MacOS X and Linux.
As the name suggests, AHL lets you re-enact famous battles in American history. Although entirely optional, you can read a little background info before heading onto the battlefield. You aren't obligated to learn anything, so don't worry. Each map shows you and the opposing armies along with the territories controlled by each. The usual deluge of manageable tasks is gone, leaving you with just one thing to worry about: obliterating your enemies.
At the beginning of each turn you get a certain number of troops based on the territories you control. Each round lets you place units then mount attacks against bordering areas. After the dust settles, move units around to fortify weak areas, then unleash your opponents' turn and hope you did a good job.
A few extras set this one apart from the usual fare. For starters, there are bonus territories you can control for additional units each turn. There's also an interesting card system where you can build massive extra units by occupying certain areas of the map. Cache in the units before a turn for a massive bonus, then level the enemy with a gigantic force of troops.
The atmosphere of American History Lux is truly epic, helped along by a grand musical score. You can hop right in and start playing the game without knowing the first fact about American history or strategy titles. The game doesn't hold your hand but gives you the freedom to explore your own strategy for victory without any penalties.
Analysis: I rarely indulge in the time-consuming strategy game genre, especially war games which have always seemed too stuffy for me. This one really took me by surprise, however, as it is remarkably simple and caters perfectly to my taste in casual games and craving for strategic gaming.
After abysmally losing my first war, I came back with a vengeance and something else extremely helpful: a strategy. With so few things to manage, the number of strategies you can adopt is impressive. Should you be offensive or defensive? Build your forces on the borders or in key cities? Go for the bonus cards or total obliteration? Your choice.
Even after bowling through the major wars in American history, there are several difficulty levels in AHL that really ramp up the challenge. I can't even begin to imagine what the highest difficulty is like, and I'm actually a little frightened to find out. Still, if you go through the game and find it too easy, there's plenty of challenge waiting for you.
American History Lux is a great casual strategy game, so don't hesitate to give it a try.