Lexio is a rarity and for this I am extremely grateful. Sometimes you come across games that are rare because they deserve to be lost in the mists of time. A more positive rarity is one that is being rereleased but has yet to hit the mainstream. Lexio falls into that category.
The game consists of 60 white tiles. There are four suites, with 15 numbered tiles in each. Rather than the traditional valuing of cards (one through fifteen) Lexio has the lowest value of three, rising to 15, then a “one,” and finally a “two”.
Each of the suites has different strengths. The red sun suite is higher than the green moon. The yellow stars come next, followed by black clouds. This is very akin to cards and bridge, where spades are the strongest suite.
Depending on player count, each gamer will start with a hand of 12 or 13 tiles. They might choose to group them in numbered pairs, or triples. Sometimes a player might have five tiles of the same colour (a flush) or five sequential numbers (a straight). Players can choose to group their tiles in the same way as poker hands.
The leading player plays a set of tiles from their hand (a six cloud and a six star, for example). The next player may choose to follow that hand by playing tiles with the same grouping. However, these tiles must be stronger. They must either have a higher value (a pair of sevens for example) or contain a stronger suit (a six moon and six sun). In turn, players continue to follow the lead. Players can choose to pass if they wish to retain some tiles in the hand. When all players have passed the last player to place any tiles becomes the lead. They can now choose what group of tiles to play from their hand. As soon as one player has laid their last tile that round ends and the scoring fun begins.
Player score according to the number of tiles remaining. The first player has played all of their tiles. They recieve chips (or points) according to the number of tiles that other players still have in their hands.
In a simple three-person game, Player A might finish first. Player B may have four tiles and Player C has six remaining. The winner of that round receives 10 points (4 from B and six from C). The second place player (in this case B) will receive points according to the difference in their final tile count from lower ranked player. Player B will receive two points (6 – 4) from Player C. With five players, you may have pity on the lowest ranked player who has the most tiles remaining. They will be giving out many points to all of the other players. After a prearranged number of rounds, tally the final points to find the winner.
Mixing It Up A Little
Included in Lexio is a set of cards. These function as an expansion pack providing new opportunities and strategies. Players may use only one card per round, and it can be played only alongside any tiles that are laid. These cards have a variety of uses. Some force another player to miss a turn, or remove certain numbered tiles from their hand. One or two cards can substitute tiles as wild cards - enabling a double to become a triple, for example. The expansion can even be used to change the end game scoring, sometimes allowing the player in last place to avoid some heavy penalties.
When I took Lexio out of its wrapping I was a little bemused. It is made by DG games, a Korean company, and this shows in the artwork and illustrations. I was surprised by how heavy the box was. Indeed, for such a small box it weighed 1818 grammes. For reference, Tzolk’in is nearly three times the size and weighs “just” 1562 grammes. Bear that in mind if you are planning to post this game as a Christmas present!
This box is densely packed with 60 tiles. They are gorgeous. We talk about component quality a lot during reviews. Sometimes we use the tiles from Azul as a benchmark. I would suggest the tiles in Lexio are superior. The weight, feel, and sound are of such high quality. They are on a par with an original Chinese Mahjong set I bought in Beijing a few years ago! There is virtually no space in the box once they are in place. I love it.
There is some little attention to detail with the high value “twos” each having their own spaces. My daughter insists that every tile is ordered and placed in its “correct” space. The game comes with a bag for tile mixing and drawing. There are a set of point tokens. These may look lovely in the box but are very thin and cheap plastic. This is the one element that might let the quality down slightly. Thicker poker chips would have been perfect.
Thoughts on Lexio
Once underway, the best tactic is to try to steal the lead by playing the last tile. However, in being so determined, a player could easily break up a straight or flush with a weaker hand. They will then lose the lead more readily. Ultimately, a player wants to lose their tiles as quickly as possible. But you could choose to gamble and keep a couple of high values back until later in the game.
Playing poker involves card counting (if possible) to try to ascertain what cards may be drawn or played. In Lexio, players all know what is available, so they must keep tabs on which high-value tiles might remain. This will allow them to predict who might try to steal the lead.
My family have really come to love Lexio. It has a filler game feel to it. It takes a few seconds to grab the tiles and get started. The number of rounds can be varied according to the time available, so my daughter will always try to squeeze a few extra rounds in during an evening. Lexio is not hard to play. Older children and teenagers can enjoy this alongside adults. Anyone who has played Canasta, Poker, and Mahjong will definitely feel at home.
The expansion cards feel a little tacked onto the side of the game. This is a game with tiles. Why add cards? There is a purity about the base game that is somewhat muddied with the expansion (in my opinion). The cards might add an opportunity for a player to improve their hand. The joker cards can be useful as wild cards. Like any expansion, there is a choice whether to use it or not. We are more than happy to play the standard game. Others might feel differently.
Lexio For Two
Does it work with two? Yes, but Lexio really comes to life with four or five. With higher player counts, there is plenty of fun in claiming chips and points from other players in lower places. Being in first place feels great, but sometimes a player who is consistently in second place seems to do best overall.
Final Thoughts on Lexio
This is an unusual game to feature. It is not technically a board game. Indeed, a set of numbered cards would do as well. But here is where the components can really make this game sing. My wife and daughter love Lexio, probably because they consistently beat me. There is no hidden agenda or subtle subplot. There is a degree of chance, as there is in any tile or card game. However, with 15 to 30 minutes of tile-clicking satisfaction, this Poker/ Mahjong mashup is an excellent game to consider with the festive season just around the corner. I would say this could be considered a good Christmas present, as long as you choose to hand-deliver it to save the postage!