Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Think Fluxx

As many copies as have been sold in the fifteen years – almost a million according to publisher Looney LabsFluxx the Card Game is divisive a design. The problem for many players is that the game is purely random, is too chaotic, and can last anywhere from two minutes to sixty minutes… That there is no way in which any one can win other through random chance. To an extent, this is true, but Fluxx the Card Game is a game about change and adapting to that change, from one turn to the next. Personally, I quite like playing Fluxx, although I prefer the versions without the Creeper mechanic unless thematically appropriate as in Martian Fluxx or Zombie Fluxx, because otherwise, the Keepers slow the game down. Now Looney Labs has turned Fluxx into a board game, and the question is, will Fluxx the Board Game be as good or as bad some think that the card is?

Designed for between two and four players, aged eight and up, Fluxx the Board Game uses much of the same mechanics as the card game, but as its title suggests, it uses a board and playing pieces. What the board represents are objectives to be reached – such as Cookies, Money, the Rocket, Dreams, and so on – and matched to the Goals given on the Goal cards. These objectives can be reached by moving a player’s pieces around. A player simply has to have his pieces on these objectives to gain a Goal, and where in Fluxx the Card Game a player only needs to have his Keeper cards match one Goal card in order to win, in Fluxx the Board Game, a player has to match and win multiple Goal cards in order to win. This being a ‘Fluxx’ game though means that everything is subject to change. Just as in Fluxx the Card Game, the number of a cards a player must draw, play, and discard fluctuates during Fluxx the Board Game, but being a board game, the number of times a player can move his pieces, the actual colour of the playing pieces he can move, the number of Goals he needs to acquire in order to win, the board layout, and the rotation of the tiles are all also subject to change.

The board consists of nine square tiles. One of these is the Start Tile, the other eight represent the playing area. Each of the eight tiles is divided into four spaces, three of which are objective spaces for Goals and one of which is either where there can be more than playing piece or portal that links to a portal on another tile. Together these nine tiles are arranged into a square with the Start Tile at the centre. Two additional tiles serve as the Control Boards. One for the Goal cards, five of which are randomly placed face up in a stack; the other a peg board used to indicate how many cards a player draws, plays, pieces he moves, and his hand limit as well as if he rotate and move tiles, and move off the edge of the board and onto the other edge. A set of pegs are slotted into the spaces.

The cards are also divided between the familiar – to anyone who has played Fluxx the Card Game, and those new that take account of the new playing area. Action cards will be familiar and do various things such as ‘Taxation!’ which forces rival players to each give you a single card or ‘Discard and Draw’ which lets a player effectively change his hand. New Action cards interact with the board and playing pieces. For example, ‘Back to Square One’ forces the playing pieces of every other player back to the Starting Square and ‘Rotate Colours’ forces players to change the colour of the playing pieces they control. New Rule cards like ‘Hand Limit’ will be familiar although instead of the limit being set by the card, the player now shifts the appropriate peg on the board, whilst ‘Rotate On’ and similar cards turn the board movement on or off. Goal cards remain unchanged from Fluxx the Card Game except for setting the objectives that the players need to move to claim each Goal card. The new Leaper cards send playing pieces to a particular Objective, like ‘Music’ or ‘The Eye’, or to any ‘Octagon’ or ‘Portal’ space. Lastly, the Color cards determine which playing pieces a player currently controls.

At the start of the game each player gets to adjust the control pegs up once and receives a hand of three cards and a color to determine his initial playing pieces. Five Goal cards are placed on the Goal Control Board all face, the uppermost one setting the initial objectives.

On his turn each player draws a number of cards, then plays cards and moves pieces, and then discards cards, all according to the positioning of the pegs on the Control Board. A player is free to play cards and move pieces in any order that he wishes, and this is where the game begins to get interesting. To start with, if a player moves a playing piece into a space already occupied, it bumps the playing piece already there into an adjacent space – except for Octagon spaces which can hold more than one playing piece. That is the least of it because a player can also examine the cards in the Goal stack, though not change their order, so thus he knows what Goals and what Objective spaces he needs to reach throughout the game. Plus a player may also have Goal cards in his hand and these can be played onto the top of the Goal stack to claim. What having this knowledge of the Goals and their Objectives throughout the game means is that a player can actually plan both his card use and his moves. If he is clever, it is possible for a player to use his cards and move his pieces to gain more than a single Goal in just one turn.

What these together add is a strategic element to Fluxx the Board Game that is not present in Fluxx the Card Game. They also serve to counter the random element so often criticised in Fluxx the Card Game. Not completely though, as the cards drawn and the actions of rival players still effectively have a randomising effect. The great thing is, is that it does all this without adding anything in the way of complexity.

If there is anything disappointing about Fluxx the Board Game it is the Control Boards and the pegs. The latter do not always sit easily in their holes and it is sometimes difficult to keep track of which peg is meant to sit in which hole. That said the other components are decent enough and the playing pieces are pleasingly differentiated by both colour and shape. The rules are clearly written, but another  pleasing touch is the inclusion of a box that explains the differences between Fluxx the Board Game and Fluxx the Card Game.

In developing Fluxx into Fluxx the Board Game, the designer has created a game that is more thoughtful than Fluxx the Card Game. Still a light game though, so suitable for a family audience, but still just enough of a challenge so as not to bore a gaming audience.