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W. Eric Martin
Designer Andy Looney has had great success with Fluxx, a card game that starts super simple — draw one card, play one card — then escalates and de-escalates in complexity as rules enter and leave play until someone holds the magic combination of Keeper cards that wins the game. Many people loathe Fluxx, finding the game too chaotic for their tastes, but those people are not Looney's target audience while thousands of others are, with publisher Looney Labs generating approximately $1 million in yearly revenues.
Loonacy, which debuted in March 2014, is another simple card game from Looney Labs, but Loonacy starts simple and stays simple, with 2-5 players each trying to be the first to dump their hand of cards. Each card is a domino of sorts, with a different image on each half. Each player starts with a hand of seven cards, then 1-4 cards are flipped to start discard piles. (Four cards with two players, three with three, down to one discard pile with five players.) Everyone plays simultaneously, with you being able to place a card on a discard pile if one image on the card being played matches an image on the top discard. If no one can place any more cards, everyone draws one card into their hand at the same time, then play resumes. Drop your last card, and you win.
If you've played Reinhard Staupe's Speed or a similar real-time pattern-matching game, then you'll recognize the gameplay here: Start the round, then go!, go!, go! until someone wins — except that Loonacy is more speed bump than Speed, with players getting caught with unplayable cards and staring at the discard pile(s) for a few seconds before they realize that no one is doing anything.
When I've played Loonacy with gamers (on a press copy from Looney Labs), for the most part they've loathed the game because it consists of nothing more than "spot the match and play your card". It's unapologetically simple. When I brought Loonacy to an event for teenage exchange students, however, they ate it up, banging on the table after the first game and screaming, "Again! Again! Again!" It didn't hurt that we had five players — then six in later games — because instead of diffusing the action onto separate discard piles, everybody's attention was focused on one spot, with you ready to pounce on every card being played. We played a half-dozen times in 20-30 minutes and stopped only because the event was ending and all the lame host parents who don't play games were showing up to take their kids home.
As I've learned and relearned over the years, almost any game can be fun with the right players. With Loonacy not being a game to engage the brain, but one to inflame it, just be sure that everyone you bring to the table is inflammable...
Cards in hand, ready for the flip