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Monty Python Fluxx» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A detailed review of Monty Python Fluxx rss

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Bryan Stout
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Annandale
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First, An Overview of Fluxx for Newbies

Fluxx is, as stated, "a card game with ever-changing rules", but it doesn't shift from rummy to bridge to poker; it has a stable game paradigm. The central idea is this: on your turn you draw cards and then play cards, trying to fulfill the current Goal, which usually deals with the cards you have on the table. At the start of the game there is only the Basic Rules card, which has the default rules of Draw 1, Play 1; there is no Goal at first.

You may only play cards during your turn, but you can always play any card -- though they may have no effect at certain times. Each type of card is clearly identifiable -- from the large typename on top but even more from the colored left-hand border -- and tells you how to play that card in the instructions under the typename.

There are 5 main types of cards to play:

New Rules. You play these to the center of the table. They modify the rules, in ways typically falling into these categories: how many cards you draw; how many you play; limits on the number cards in your hand or on the table at the end of your turn; bonuses to let you draw or play more; and miscellaneous rules, often appropriate to the theme.

Goals. These also go to the center, and they state the current winning condition. There can be only one Goal in play (unless the Double Agenda rule is in play), so playing a Goal discards the earlier one. Most conditions involve which Keepers you need to have to win.

Keepers. You play these to the table in front of you. Each one is named for a person or thing appropriate to the theme, and these are usually the cards you need have to win. Some Keepers allow you to do special things during your turn.

Creepers. These are similar to Keepers, except that: A) you don't play them, they go straight to the table once you draw them (you draw again to replace it); and B) they usually prevent you from winning, unless the Goal states otherwise.

Actions. These perform one-shot actions, such as drawing and/or playing more cards, taking cards from players' hands or their Keepers, and scrambling or discarding Rules, Keepers, Creepers or Goals. After carrying out their instructions, you discard them.

In your turn, you may only play cards, not discard them, though many cards require discarding as a part of their play. You must draw and play the number of cards specified by the current rules. A player wins upon fulfilling the conditions of the current goal, no matter whose turn it is. An important tactical consideration is that players may be forced to make another player win.

Since Fluxx's rules framework is fairly simple, and the exceptions are all written on the cards, it is a game that you can jump into after a minute or two of explanation, and learn as you go. It is a game with lots of tactical possibilities, but not much strategic planning, because of its very nature of changing its own rules. This is why many on BGG dislike the game; but many do like it a lot. It rewards adaptability, tactical cleverness and social interaction, and is also often a game that non-gamers enjoy. It is very adaptable to different themes: so far we've seen regular Fluxx (version 3.1), Stoner Fluxx, Family Fluxx, Nature Fluxx, Zombie Fluxx, and now, most recently, Monty Python Fluxx. [I'll abbreviate them F3.1, FF, SF, EF, ZF and MPF.]

[Stop press: before I finished this review Fluxx 4.0 (F4.0) appeared!]

Physical Components

The box is a new one for Looney Labs. Their older boxes were a single-deck tuckboxes, which were tightly compact but didn't display as well in the stores. Zombie Fluxx was in a double-wide tuckbox which could have problems when re-storing the cards. MPF has a side-by-side box with a divider and a lid. The lid has the right amount of tension with the bottom to stay together normally yet come off easily when you want it to. However, I will want to place a loose band around the box when taking it elsewhere, just to make sure. They like the box design a lot and will use it for their future releases.

The cards are of a slightly thinner cardstock: both ZF and MPF have 100 cards, but MPF's stack is a bit shorter. This was probably done to cut costs; time will tell if that makes much difference in durability.

The rules sheet is probably the best one yet for Fluxx games, because the back is used for a very good FAQ list, which addresses not only common misunderstandings but new issues that may arise with this version of the game.

There are some graphic design differences in the cards from previous versions of Fluxx. For example, there is a different font for the titles at the top of the cards -- this follows Looney Labs' tradition of giving each Fluxx version some way to tell which set the cards come from, in case they get mixed together. The Basic Rules card has orange side stripes instead of yellow, in anticipation of the Meta Rule card type which is soon to appear [It's in F4.0]. And more so than any previous version, they sometimes give long titles to the cards which need to be abbreviated when restated along the edge (for ease of reading in a fanned out hand). Rather than abbreviate the long title, they let the two titles complement each other, such as:

Consult the Book of Armaments
vs.
Armaments 2:9-21,

or
The Cartoon Peril Was No More
vs.
Death Of The Animator,

and best of all,
Strange Women Lying In Ponds Distributing Swords Is No Basis For A System Of Government!
vs.
Supreme Exec Power.


Gameplay

MPF is still a Fluxx game in essence, but there are some subtle differences from other versions. It has a larger deck -- 100 cards like ZF as opposed to 84 for F3.1, EF and SF, which gives more scope for expression in things like the new Creeper cards (introduced in ZF). So when MPF has 31 Goals, more than any other version, it is about the same percentage-wise as the others. But more substantially, F3.1 has Hand Limit Rules of 0, 1 and 2, and Keeper Limits of 2, 3 and 4; but MPF has Hand Limits of 1, 2, 3, and 4, and only one Keeper Limit, 3. This lets you keep more of your cards more often, lessening the frustration of having little to work with -- a design decision perhaps made considering the wider potential market for this version.

A more obvious difference is that thematic knowledge is required for this version, more than any other. The small expansion packs of Jewish Fluxx and Christian Fluxx had Actions which let you draw 3 extra cards and play some or all of them depending on how much knowledge of Bible verses or Hebrew words you show. There is a similar Action here -- What Is Your Quote? -- that demands you quote lines of a Python sketch to play the extra cards. There are also New Rules that let you draw or play an extra card for singing an excerpt from a Python song or speaking with an Outrageous Accent. This adds a whole extra dimension to the playing experience when you have people doing this throughout.

MPF has perhaps the most nicely integrated Fluxx deck yet. Every Keeper has at least 2 Goals that it can apply to, and 3 Goals for most. (The five Keepers labelled as Knights of the Round Table -- King Arthur, Sir Bedivere, Sir Lancelot, Sir Galahad, and Sir Robin -- each have one Goal that specifically mentions them, but there are 4 Goals that take any Knight.) The Creepers also have about 2 Goals each they can apply to. The New Rule One, Two, Five! makes all numeral 3s on the cards become 5s, which is not only a delightfully Pythonesque thing to do, it fits with the only Keeper Limit (3), and expands your play options -- my daughter once played Draw 3 and Play 3 and then One, Two, Five!, letting us all draw and play 5 cards each turn.

There is only one card I found confusing: Nudge, Nudge, Wink, Wink..., whose instructions say
Quote:
"Know what I mean? Know what I mean? Say no more! Say no more!"
All players who know what is meant may immediately draw 1 card.

I think this is supposed to be a Pythonesque way of letting everyone draw 1, but I suspect many players will be confused both by what is meant (the sketch itself? what the man in the sketch was hinting at?) and the implied avowal of knowledge (can you bluff and draw anyway? can you challenge other players' knowledge?).

But this was only one card. There was one Goal I was worried about at first -- The Cheese Shop, which lets you win if you are the only player with no cards in your hand or on the table -- because this is a hard thing to accomplish in Fluxx. But MPF has the Action card Bring Out Your Dead, which lets everyone discard any and all of their cards they want to, making this Goal very reasonable to accomplish. But this does lead to an interesting psychological sitation: if someone else plays BOYD and then starts discarding items, should you also discard so he cannot win? Some interesting bluffing possibilities there.

Another mind-game card is My Hovercraft Is Full Of Eels, where you choose two players who call out a number 1-4 at the same time, and their sum (minus 1) chooses an action off a list. Savvy players could start negotiating which numbers to call out, to get the desired action -- for which reason the card player should choose himself as one of the two. This also leads to all the social metaplay that comes with keeping your promises or not.


Theme

One thing about the gameplay of Fluxx is that it fits so very well with the whole thematic feel of Monty Python. As I said elsewhere, "In both Monty Python sketches and Fluxx games you have sudden reversals, raised and dashed expectations, outside forces throwing monkey wrenches into the works, and a great time along the way". But this is only one of several ways the theme is expressed.

The artwork is very good, and goes a long way toward establishing the theme. The Keepers, Creepers and Goals have colored line drawings of the Monty Python items they refer to, which are instantly recognizable, at times evoking a laugh when you first see them.

The main way that Fluxx games represent their themes is through the Keepers and Goals. Many Goals have obvious, yet fun combinations of Keepers, such as Message For You Sir... (which requires having Sir Lancelot and the Important Message on the table in front of you), or And There Was Much Rejoicing (which requires Robin's Minstrels and 2 of the Knights of the Round Table). They also have clever new combinations such as This Is A Temperate Zone! (Coconuts and the Resting Parrot), and Things No One Expects (the Spanish Inquisition and either the Airborne Cow or the Nude Organist).

Several Keepers have nice thematic powers, in addition to being useful for Goals. The Finger Of God, the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, and Excalibur all get rid of Creepers in different and appropriate ways. The Animator counts as the Finger Of God if the latter is not on the table. (This card and the Cheese Shop have caused the most questions so far, but I still like them both.) My favorite is the Catapult, which lets you hurl your Keepers at other players -- metaphorically, of course; they keep whatever you hurled but discard whatever Keeper you hurled it at. I haven't used it yet, since I usually want to keep my Keepers, but the ability to do that to stymie another player is precious.

There are also new thematic ideas among the other types of cards. Besides those already mentioned, the New Rule Get On With It! lets you end your turn early by discarding your whole hand and drawing 3 new cards. Among the Actions, Run Away! Run Away! forces anyone with a Knight on the table to move it to another player. And Now For Something Completely Different really mixes things up: everyone shifts their Keepers to the right, their Creepers to the left, discards their hand and draws a new hand of 3.

The deck was designed to appeal to those with just a little knowledge of things Python rather than the hardcore afficionados. Hence, the deck mainly refers to the Holy Grail film and a few favorite TV sketches -- as you may have noticed. Sorting through the deck, I find about 1/4 of the cards don't refer to anything Pythonesque (mainly bread-and-butter cards like Draw X, Hand Limit Z, Steal A Keeper or Jackpot!), about 1/2 refer only to the Holy Grail film, and 1/4 refer to a combination of the Grail and other Python themes.


The Future

After seeing Zombie Fluxx and Monty Python Fluxx, I conclude that a strong theme is what Fluxx was made for -- they are my favorite versions of the game. I know that Martian Fluxx is in the works, and I'm sure there will be yet others. This is the first licensed theme, but hopefully not the last. (Simpsons Fluxx, anyone? Star Trek Fluxx?)

In the meantime, the Pythonverse is so vast that this deck just starts to explore it. Looney Labs has put out a few general expansion packs for Fluxx (Jewish, Christian and the Fluxx 10th Anniversary Party Promos), and one specifically for Zombie Fluxx (the Zombie Fluxx: Flame-Thrower Expansion Pack). And of course, there are always the Fluxx Blanxx for people to add their own creative expansions. But I would love to see several official Python expansion packs over the coming year(s). There is certainly creative room, and hopefully a market, for them.


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