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November 25, 2007

I’ve been having quite a bit of fun with a new card game I just got – Fluxx
I’m not sure what’s more fun to me – playing the game or figuring out why I think it’s fun. Normally, I go for games in which my ability to form and execute a strategy is unmarred by massive quantities of luck. That’s probably why I am also enjoying Scotland Yard.

During Fluxx, and obviously it’s the reasoning behind its name, everything is in flux. The rules and goals literally change throughout play. Just as I think I’m closing in on a goal, someone changes it. So, I adapt. I start planning for something else. When I think I have the perfect plan ready to execute – and I really thought I did – another player drops the “change hands with the person to your left” card… and they win the game with my hand. You can actually be forced to play a card that causes someone else to win.

It starts less chaotically than that. In the beginning, each player is dealt 3 cards. On your turn, you draw a card and play a card. There are four types of cards: actions, keepers, goals and rules.

  • Actions do things like cause everyone to change hands or discard all their cards. They can also affect things like changing individual rules, discarding rules, or taking another turn.
  • Keepers are individual cards that represent things like war, peace, milk and cookies. Really. You keep keepers. How many you get to keep depends on the rules.
  • Goals determine the win condition. A goal might be as simple as having “milk” and “cookies” played as keepers.
  • Rules start simple, but have the potential to become strangely – and amusingly – absurd. As you play the game, you get to play new rules like zero hand limit, play 4, draw 5, draw X2, keeper limits, etc. The rules constantly change and sometimes defeat one another – like when you have to draw 10 cards, play one but keep zero in your hand.

While this probably sounds like an impossible mess to anyone who’s not played the game, let me assure you that it is. However, it’s a really fun mess. Because I am constantly adapting my strategy, and because I believe there might be some kind of greater strategy in all of this that I have yet to understand (I’ve only had the game a few days), the game keeps me interested as a player. Also, the absurdity of the changing rules and goals affects me and other players alike. I could force someone else to win just as easily as they could force me to win. So, it feels fair to me.

If you’re interested in a relatively cheap and good game, I’d recommend it.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 25, 2007 4:32 am

    I have to say, I love reading this blog and finding out you are enjoying some of my favorite board and card games. This is one of my favorites! My freshman-year roommate in college had a deck. Several years ago, I acquired it myself at GenCon. Most of all, I enjoy the Blanxx–the cards that let you customize the deck yourself. My Fluxx deck today is easily more than 50% composed on cards I’ve written myself. It’s fun to make rules! It’s also a great way to learn how to balance a game. I keep to the format of the original–one or two Keepers per Goal, three Goals per Keeper, etc–but its the Rules and Play Immediately cards that are the most interesting šŸ™‚

  2. November 25, 2007 6:18 pm

    I’ll be the curmudgeon then, since I never particularly liked this game. There are too many game-breaking cards (search through the deck and/or discard pile for any card, take another turn, etc.) that end up making the game quite random. It is quite possible to win on the first turn by being dealt a “play 3” or “play 4”, along with a Keeper and a goal card that lets you win with that Keeper.

    I think the reason you haven’t discovered a deeper strategy is that there isn’t one; the game state can change too much between turns for there to be much usefulness to advance planning.

    I still think it’s an important game to play for a designer because of its “meta” nature (the rules of the game include ways to change the rules of the game). The similar Nomic is far deeper because of the expressiveness that the mechanics allow (you can propose ANY new rule), but Fluxx at least can be played in the space of 10 or 15 minutes, and it’s more accessible to younger gamers.

  3. November 25, 2007 7:48 pm

    This sounds pretty fun. I think I’ll have to pick this one up!

  4. November 25, 2007 9:54 pm

    I mostly agree with Ian, except I think the game is definitely fun in small bursts. I can only play about three games in a row before I lose all interest, due to the fact that it’s mostly random.

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