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

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Goes Smooth as Fluxx

For almost two decades, Fluxx has been a mainstay of the gaming hobby. Published by Looney Labs, ‘The Card Game with Ever-Changing Rules’ has proven to be a pocket-sized and pocket-friendly game that is easy to bring to the table and play between longer and deeper games. The ‘1999 Mensa Select Winner’ is a card game in which the cards themselves determine the current rules of the game and by playing cards, the players alter various aspects of the game—how many cards to draw, how many cards to play, how many cards to hold, and even how to win. Essentially, only at the beginning of play is the state of the game set; at all other times, the state of the game is in ‘Fluxx’.

In order to win, a player needs to match the Goal card in play by having the two matching Keeper cards in front of him. For example, the ‘Time is Money’ Goal card requires a player to have the ‘Time’ and ‘Money’ Keeper cards in front of him. This can be on his turn or on another player’s turn, but match the Goal and he wins. Of course the Goal card and the Keepers each player has can change from one turn to the next.

At the start of the game, there is one simple, Basic Rule card—‘Draw 1, Play 1’. After that, everything can change from one turn to the next or even be reset to the basic rule. For example, a turn or two later, the Rule cards might be ‘Draw 2’, ‘Play All But 1’, and ‘Double Agenda’. What this means is that on his turn a player must draw two cards, play all of the cards in his hand until he only has one left, and that there can be two Goal cards in play rather than just the one. On another turn, the Rule cards might be ‘Draw 4’ and ‘Hand Limit 2’, meaning that a player must draw four cards, can still only play one card (because no Rule card has supplanted the ‘Play 1’ of the Basic Rule card), and then reduce the number of cards he can hold in his hand to just two.

Besides Rule, Goal, and Keeper cards, Fluxx includes several other card types. Action cards lets a player do something special. For example, ‘Trash Something’ lets a player take a Creeper or Keeper card in front of any player and put it in the discard pile, whilst ‘Draw 2 and Use ‘Em’ lets a player put his current hand aside, draw two new cards and play them before picking his hand back up. Creeper cards are like Keeper cards, but must be played once drawn and worse, prevent the player from winning—except under certain circumstances.

From Family Fluxx and Monty Python Fluxx to Zombie Fluxx and Batman Fluxx, Looney Labs have adapted to base game to numerous themes and licences, of which the latest is Firefly Fluxx. Based on the 2002 television series, in Firefly Fluxx the players try to match themed Keepers—characters or objects from the series—with matching Goals. So the ‘Curse Your Sudden But Inevitable Betrayal!’ Goal needs to be matched with the ‘Wash’ and ‘Toy Dinosaurs’ Keepers, whereas the ‘Big Damn Heroes’ Goal can be matched with any two of the ‘Mal Reynolds’, ‘Jayne Cobb’, and ‘Zoe Washburne’ Keeper cards. Several of the Keepers enable extra, specific actions. So ‘Zoe Washburne’ Keeper allows a player to steal the ‘Wash’ Keeper from another player and the ‘Wash’ Keeper allows a player to steal the ‘Serenity’ Keeper from another player. Stopping these Keepers from being used to win the game are the Creepers ‘Reavers’ and ‘Hands of Blue’. Thematic Action cards include ‘You Are Bound By The Law!’ and ‘I’ll Be In My Bunk’, the first being played to prevent a player from taking actions on his next turn, the latter to let a player leave the game and the room for a turn!

Firefly Fluxx also uses ‘Surprise’ cards. These have two effects, one when played during a player’s turn, one out of a player’s turn as an interrupting or blocking move. For example, out of turn, ‘You Can’t Take This Guy From me’ can be used to stop another player taking one of your character Keepers (and steal his hand of cards into the bargain), but during his turn, it can be used to replicate the ability of any Keeper in play.

Physically Firefly Fluxx has been given a suitably period styling. The cards are all clear, but the rules do include an FAQ. The artwork is reasonable, but perhaps a bit cartoon-like to present really good likenesses of the series’ characters.

Design and play-wise, Firefly Fluxx is a good match of theme and mechanics. In particular it fits the Firefly adage that ‘things don’t go smooth’ and since this is Fluxx, that is the last thing that they do. Of course, Firefly Fluxx is not a deep recreation of the television series, but for a quick and dirty treatment, it certainly is shiny.