Saturday, June 21, 2008

A State of Fluxx

Lately we've been playing a neat little card game at my apartment called Fluxx, which we bought for our roommate's birthday after reading about it online. Fluxx is unique in that it begins with only one rule - "Draw one card, play one card" - and expands from there, often to gargantuan proportions. Interestingly, the way to actually beat the game can't be known initially; during the course of play various "Goal" cards will be played which will dictate the current terms of victory. Most of these goals involve possessing certain "Keeper" cards - temporary cards played in front of the player, a certain combination of which facilitate victory, provided that the proper "Goal" card is active. Some rules even allow two "Goal" cards to be active simultaneously. (In such a case, satisfying the requirements for either is enough for a victory.)

Things get particularly interesting when you add in the "New Rule" and "Action" cards. Rule cards remain active from the time they are played until they are removed or replaced by another rule card which makes the first obsolete. Most "New Rule"s involve thing such as hand limits, increasing the number of cards drawn or played per turn, or reversing play. "Action" cards are one-time only and very straightforward: "steal a keeper", "switch hands", etc.

At first I felt a sense of disappointment because Fluxx isn't nearly as amorphous as the web review made it sound - it's merely a straightforward card game with a certain number of varying parameters. Most of the "New Rule" cards don't change the game significantly, and building towards a victory is difficult because "Goal" and "Keeper" cards change often. Later I realized that the stable foundation is part of the fun. It can be hard enough to keep track of all of the rules that are sometimes in play (though some cards allow you to eliminate rules or even reset back to "Draw one, play one" rule with which the game begins). Some sense of stability helps to keep the game more fun and reduce confusion.

Fluxx already has a number of companion sets, which can be combined with other Fluxx decks or played separately. Earlier we played the compelling Zombie Fluxx, which my friend, an avid zombie buff, was practically forced to buy after his Fluxx deck arrived with an ad for the game. It turns out that it is possible to add additional chaos to the already-chaotic zombie formula. Zombie Fluxx is great fun, even if you don't combine it with an existing Fluxx deck. In fact, Zombie Fluxx plays slightly more traditionally, incorporating fewer parameter-modifying rule cards (like hand limits) and introducing a goodly number of zombie cards, which hurt rather than help you.

The deeper rules give the game versatility - certain "Keeper" cards double as weapons, and the four types of zombie cards behave in different ways. By killing active zombie cards or "scaring" them away, you can divert zombies to other players or remove them entirely. The entirety of the basic Fluxx formula remains, sans some of the more complicated cards the original offers.

Chances are you'll know from this review if this sort of game will appeal to you. We found Fluxx and its iterations in a specialty store for $12.95. You could probably find it elsewhere for cheaper.

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