is a short bidding game of ancestral art by Dominique Ehrhard and Michel Lalet.
Playing Time: 30 minutes
Lasxaux comes in a medium-sized box with:
Stones: These are the first thing that you'll notice in the box. They're a set of 50 real shell-like stones which are used as the bidding currency in the game. All the players offered nothing but kudos about these bits, and they do really nicely set the tone for stone-age gaming.
Cards: These are what players are trying to capture. There are 54 in all, nine cards each depicting six different animals. Each one has a nice cave-drawing-style picture of the animal. Each card also depicts two colors (using hand prints), which designate which colors a player has to select to earn the card.
Tokens: Each of five players gets six of these circular linen-textured cardboard tokens. Each one shows a hand print in one of the six colors, matching up with the colors on the cards.
The components are all good quality and they have a beautiful artistic aesthetic to them. You do pay for it with the $30 price-point, but nonetheless the game earns a full "5" out of "5" for Style: very nice.
The object of Lascaux is to capture majorities of the six types of animals.
Setup: Each player is given 10 or 12 stones and the six tokens for his color. A first player is chosen.
Laying Out Animals: Each round of play begins with a set of animals being laid out. From three to seven cards are laid out each round. There must be animals showing all six colors, or else seven cards total. Since there are two colors on each card, there could be as few as three cards.
Before bidding begins in the round, each player secretly selects one of his color tokens and places it face down in front of him: this will be the color of animals that he is bidding for this round.
Bidding: Starting with the first player, each player in order either pays one of his stones to the bank or else drops out, taking all the stones from the bank when he does so. When a player drops out, he also plays his (still face-down) color token to the middle of the table, atop any others already placed there.
When everyone but one player has dropped out, each player reveals his selected token in reverse order of dropping out. The player then takes all remaining cards showing his color. Clearly, the last player will get all of his selected color, and subsequent players will get less or none.
The next round of bidding now begins starting with the player who dropped out first in the previous round.
Ending the Game: The game ends when all of the cards have been auctioned off in this manner. Each player now earns points for each set of like animals that he has the majority of, with points equal to the number of animals. Each set of six stones is also worth one point. The player with the most points wins.
Relationships to Other Games
The unique auction mechanism of Lascaux has appeared in one other game, No Thanks. Whereas No Thanks is a super-short filler, Lascaux adds some flesh to the bare bones. It's still a filler, but there's a lot more room for thoughtful and strategic play.
The Game Design
Lascaux is a very clever game that takes the basic No Thanks engine and gives it considerable depth.
It has a fair amount of bluffing and second guessing, as you now have to figure out not only when your opponents will drop out, but also what colors they might be going for. As a result you can make very good tactical decisions that allow you to grab up all the stones just before an opponent and still get what you wanted. There's also a lot more room for strategy than in No Thanks, because you can conserve stones from one round of play to another depending on what animals are available and how valuable they are to you.
Overall, Lascaux has many new and interesting decisions.
Now mind you, a 30-minute game of Lascaux lasts about 3x as long as No Thanks, which runs more like 10 minutes on average, so it needs to have a lot more depth to it. Whereas No Thanks is a brilliant game for its very short time period, I'd just call Lascaux very, very good. Nonetheless, it earns a "5" out of "5" for Substance.
Lascaux builds upon a No Thanks-like bidding mechanisms to produce a much deeper (though longer) filler game that's also beautifully produced.