Looney Labs awarded me a free deck of EcoFluxx as a prize in the Fluxx Buxx contest. It arrived in the mail today, and my fiancee and I cracked open the box, eager to give this new Fluxx blend a try. We ended up playing 8 games of it that night.
What it is: 84 cards of the familiar mixture of Keepers, Goals, New Rules, and Actions. All of the Keepers and Goals are new, as are some of the Actions and one of the New Rules. All the Keeper art was done by Allison Frane, who's sketches border on photo quality. The cards have the traditional back design, so they are compatible with other Fluxx decks. The color bars for the EcoFluxx cards have subtle patterns in them to help differentiate them from other Fluxx cards; otherwise the EcoFluxx cards use the same layout as thier Fluxx 3.0 brethern. The Basic Rules card has been updated, and now has text on the back side explaining the gameplay (it's the short story from the Fluxx 2.1 box back). The rules sheet is practically identical to Fluxx 3.0.
How it plays: First thing's first, EcoFluxx has all the chaos of classic Fluxx, but with a nature theme. All of the Keepers represent animals (Rabbits, Fish, Spiders), plants (Trees, Seeds) or environments (Dirt, Sunshine). The goal cards reflect the relative placement of each organism on the food chain; these are called the "eating" goals. An example of this is the goal Rabbits Eat Leaves, where a player with Rabbits wins if any player has Leaves on the table. Other goals illustrate combined partnerships, such as Basking (the player with Snakes and Sunshine wins). Lastly, the Keeper Poison prevents your Keepers from being "eaten" by predators; this helps prevent others from winning, but also prevents your own chances of winning! Since all the Keepers are interconnected through the goal cards, there are some interesting tactical decisions to be made when choosing to play a Keeper. Organisms lower on the food chain may help an opponent more than a keeper higher up on the food chain, but also are more useful to you.
Another theme in EcoFluxx is a light educational sense. Some of the goals illustrate biological lessons in simple ways that encourage questions. The Ferns goal (Leaves, but not Flowers) introduces the concept of non-flowering plants. Tadpoles become frogs through Metamorphosis, another goal card. Other cards illustrate deciduous trees, pollination, composting, herpetology, and extinction. EcoFluxx may not substitute for a biology lesson, but it would be a good way to broach and demonstrate ecological ideas to children, hopefully encouraging curious questions.
Lastly, EcoFluxx urges activism towards nature conservation; it includes an info card promoting conservation as a compassionate act towards others. As with the imfamous Stoner Fluxx, Looney Labs has pledged to donate proceeds from the sale of EcoFluxx to small environmental charities through the EcoFluxx Foundation. As with other Looney Labs games, the packaging is also refreshingly minimal.
The Bottom Line: if you liked Fluxx, you won't be disappointed with EcoFluxx. If Fluxx wasn't to your taste, EcoFluxx won't change your mind. It will delight young and old alike, and is a perfect companion on your next nature hike or campout. You don't have to be a tree-hugger to enjoy EcoFluxx; it'll get you to smile and just might save the Earth in the process. Happy Trails!