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He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.
Welcome to the Eighth installment of Gaming on a Budget, my series of reviews specifically tailored to people with a limited budget for games. For this installment I have chosen a game that I can’t seem to make up my mind whether I love it or hate it. As of the time of writing this review I still haven’t given it my personal score. I’m kinda hoping that writing this will help me sort that out. So, without further ado, grab your cookies and your milk and get ready for Fluxx!
Fluxx is, at heart, a quirky little filler game that plays well with 2-? players and can be played in between 30 seconds and ??? minutes. Seriously, that is the most I can really narrow it down for you. I played one game with 6 people that went something like 45 minutes. We played another that was over in maybe 2 minutes, and another that was over in 25ish minutes while the winning player was in the bathroom. I’ve also played 2 player games that ran around all of the previously mentioned times. After dozens of games I am no closer to being able to predict how long it will take than I was before I read the rules.
So, how does this mysterious game of mystery play you might ask? Well, it is actually pretty simple. You have 4 types of cards: keepers, actions, rules, and goals. A keeper is a card that sits in front of you, like say cookies or dreams or music, that you use to fulfill the current goal and win the game. Actions are cards that you play that have a onetime effect and then go away, like say draw three cards. Rules change the way the game is played and stay in play until a new rule replaces them, like if the current rule is draw 3 and someone plays a draw 2. Finally, goals establish the current victory condition and come in the form of “if you have keeper x and keeper y you win”. They stay in play until replaced, just like the rule cards.
You will notice I have been kind of vague on the rules, and for once that is not because they can be easily read elsewhere. The rules, you see, are in a constant state of flux. When the game starts each player draws 3 cards and the only rule on the table is draw 1 and play 1. As the game goes on someone may change the draw to 5 and the play to all but one. Then you might see someone play a keeper limit and/or a hand limit. Someone else may then play an action card to get rid of some/all of those rules.
The action cards vary wildly in function, from stealing someone’s keeper to drawing and playing cards to making everyone trade one card to the left/right. Some seem much better than others (steal a keeper vs discard a keeper) but honestly the game is so light hearted and fast it is hard to get too upset about not getting the “power” cards. I had one game where my girlfriend kept stealing my friend keeper over and over, and instead of being annoying it just became a running joke.
So how can a light, fast paced game where you only need the right two cards to win take 45+ minutes? Well, in the games I have played it was because of hand/keeper limits and a card like play all or similar. Add in a big draw card and the draws from action cards, and the game can get bogged down a lot in shuffling the deck over and over because you are all churning out cards like crazy but can’t seem to keep any. But this is not something that always, or even frequently, happens. You are more likely to draw a first turn winning hand in my experience, but the truth is usually somewhere in the middle.
One of my favorite things about this game is the fact that other than the above example you rarely spend much more than 10-30 seconds on a single turn. It also avoids many of the more annoying problems common to games, like analysis paralysis and runaway leader. There isn’t much to think about here, and you can’t even really tell if anyone is winning or not until they have won. The cards and very quirky, with some amusing tongue-in-cheek humor. For example, the goal ‘winning the lottery’ requires the keepers money and dreams heh. Its light, fun, and (usually) fast.
So, what are the drawbacks to this seeming gem of a game? Well, remember how I mentioned someone winning the game while in the bathroom? It was a 6 player game with my mom, dad, two sisters, my girlfriend, and I. My parents actually make a pretty good showing in most games, with my mother and father finishing Small World in first and second place on their first try. So everyone was giving it a good shot, but the game had been going on a while and everyone was starting to get a little tired and confused. Finally dad got up to get a drink and use the restroom. While in the bathroom, my girlfriend noticed that my mom had played a goal my dad had both keepers on the table for. It had happened a couple turns ago and no one noticed. So, when dad exited the bathroom we gave him the good news, he was pleased.
My point is that this game is perhaps even more luck based than a dice game, since you don’t even have to be at the table to win. Also, it seems like some of the themed variants might be more fun since it is kind of underwhelming to win a game by combining a toaster and bread to make…. Toast. Yes, toast is a game winning combo sometimes in Fluxx.
Quality: Low. The cards are the only ‘pieces’ for this game, and they are pretty flimsy. Hardly seems worth sleeving a game like this, so if you enjoy it prepare to buy a new copy every few months.
Learning Curve: Very Low. The cards all have the rules for both they’re card type and the rules for the individual card printed right on them. The rulebook itself is only a couple paragraphs long if you choose to read it anyway.
Strategy/Depth: Very Low. Its light and (supposedly) fast filler, no real strategy to speak of here unless you consider a ‘clever’ use of draw 3 cards strategic.
Theme: Moderate. The theme here is, as far as I can tell, life. It does an ok job of presenting that theme, even if it stretches the imagination to call ‘cookies and milk’ a goal.
Gameplay: High. This one can actually be pretty exciting for a filler game at times. And if you like shuffling cards then you are just going to adore this game. Still, it is mostly a success as filler type games go.
Replay: Moderate. Not something I find myself wanting to play all the time, but I also don’t cringe when someone suggests it. You can win with many, many different goals so it can make the game seem somewhat different each time.
The cookies and milk have been combined, the lottery won, and as the mysterious stranger approaches his toaster with bread in hand we find…
Overall Score: 6/10
Budget Rank: Borrow It.
This game has some big ups and big downs when it comes to a budget buy. On the up side, it costs around $9 plus or minus, so it can be had for the price of a couple decks of playing cards. On the down side, I like a little less luck and a little more predictability in terms of play time when it comes to my filler games. Still, like I said I don’t avoid playing this one when it comes up so some of you will find it worth a buy. Until next time friends, this review has made me hungry for a toasted cookie sandwich.
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Just call me Erik
Good writeup! I do agree that with big draw/play numbers it gets bogged in shuffling, but it's a thousand times slower when it's "draw one play one" with a small hand limit. More options is always better.
I don't play Fluxx strategically. I play it either Tactically or "Push buttons and see what the machine does." That may be why I like it.
I rate it as high as I do because it's a great filler game, which means it's a great intro game. And, it's quick enough to have enough time left to get a heavier game on the table (or lighter ones).