Two popular flavors of Fluxx are back: EcoFluxx and Family Fluxx, both originally released in 2005, have gotten a facelift and are set to be released next Friday, March 5. Looney Labs sent me a copy of each to try out.
First, a brief overview of the Fluxx games for those of you who haven’t played before: it’s a wacky card game in which the cards themselves change the rules of the game. It starts off simple: draw one, play one. But until somebody plays a Goal card, there is no way to win. New Rule cards change the way the game is played, from how many cards you draw and play each turn to limiting the number of cards you can hold in your hand to giving you bonuses for how many cards you have (or don’t have). Actions are one-time-use cards that let you steal cards from other players, mix everything up, throw away Rules, and so on. Keepers are cards that match up in different ways to achieve the goal. (For example, you might have Chocolate + Milk = Chocolate Milk, or Sun + Chocolate = Squishy Chocolate.) Finally, Creepers are like anti-Keepers: they typically keep you from winning (unless, of course, the cards say otherwise).
There are several versions of Fluxx with different themes: I reviewed Martian Fluxx last fall but I also really like Zombie Fluxx. All of the versions have the same card backs, so you can mix and match games for some really wacky outcomes. (You can distinguish the cards by their fronts.) So, back to the new versions…
EcoFluxx is wild–literally. There are Bears which eat Fish which eat Worms which (along with Mushrooms) cause Decay. Maybe you’ve got Snakes + Sunshine = Basking. Of course, all this is assuming there isn’t a Forest Fire or a Drought or a Flood.
I hadn’t played EcoFluxx before now, and the way the Goals work in this version is pretty cool. There are still a lot of the traditional two-Keeper Goals (Dirt + Water = Mud), but the food chain Goals mix things up a bit. For instance, you can win the “Birds Eat Insects, Worms or Seeds” if you have Birds and anyone else has something that birds eat on the table. And if you happen to have Poison, then nobody can use your Keepers as food. (One Goal that may irk science teachers is Lizards + Shells = Turtles. Sure, it’s cute, but is that really what we want people to learn?)
The Creepers in EcoFluxx also work a little differently: in keeping with the “everybody’s connected” theme, the three natural disaster Creepers prevent anyone from winning while they’re present, aside from some detrimental effects for the person who has them.
This new version of EcoFluxx has been updated with a bunch of new cards (including the Creepers, which weren’t present before) as well as new color artwork. My biggest complaint, actually, is with the new artwork. It’s nice, sure, and holds up just fine compared to the other versions of Fluxx I’ve seen. However, I looked up the original artwork and discovered that it looks like those detailed black-and-white drawings you might find in an old science textbook. The new drawings are colorized versions of the originals but you lose a lot of the fine linework. Personally, I think they should have stuck to the originals for that. I’m sure you could still find the old version if you wanted, but the new version has enough changes in the game that I’d probably prefer it in all other aspects.
A couple other notable features of EcoFluxx that set it apart from the other flavors: 5% of the proceeds go to environmental groups. Also, there are some correlations with National Science Standards, including two lesson plans for using the game to teach about the food chain and water. While I found the correlations chart barely useful, I did like the lesson plans and may simplify it for my own younger kids.
Speaking of younger kids, the new ruleset explains which cards to remove from the game to simplify it without breaking the game. That’s pretty handy, particularly in a game where so many of the cards are tied to others. Of course, if you have younger kids, you may want to check out Family Fluxx.
Family Fluxx has been repackaged but the game itself is the same as the original version, so if you already own this one there’s no difference in the actual game. This version of the game is designed for younger kids (recommended ages six and up), but it’s designed to be played with family. Some of the New Rules include Child, Parent and Grandparent Bonuses which allow you to play an extra card if you qualify. The Keepers are things like Cake, Playground, Cheese, Cat, Tree, House … mostly concrete items that kids will have an easy time understanding, and the goals are similar. (I liked The Cheese Stands Alone, which lets you win if you have Cheese and nothing else.)
I played a couple times with my six-year-old, who enjoyed the game but will probably need some explanations of some of the Action cards in particular until she gets used to it. Of course, she also gets really upset when I win, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue that we’re working on separately. Family Fluxx has fewer cards than the other versions (look at the open-box photos for a comparison) which makes it simpler, and it’s a little cheaper than the others.
Overall, I’ve been a big fan of the Fluxx series for several years, especially because it’s one that my wife really enjoys playing as well. It’s a pretty easy game to teach and most of the time can be played pretty quickly so it also makes for a good warm-up to or filler between games with heavier strategy. The caveat, though, is that it may not be for people who like something less chaotic. Between the two new versions, I liked EcoFluxx better and if you’re only going to get one, I’d recommend that one. You can simplify it for younger kids anyway, add in all the cards to make it more complex, and teach some science in the process. But either one is good for introducing your kids to Fluxx. It’ll be a while before my daughters will catch all the references in Monty Python Fluxx…
Look for the entire Fluxx family at your Friendly Neighborhood Game Store, directly from Looney Labs, or on Amazon–just be sure to check what version you’re getting. EcoFluxx retails for $16.00 and Family Fluxx retails for $12.00.