Fluxx is a cerebral game of constantly shifting rules and opportunistic play; the play mechanics change constantly, so developing long term tactics is impossible. It would be difficult for me to give you an outline of all the different rules, other than the initial game state, but I’ll try to convey the concept as best I can.
For 2 – 4 players, the win state is to have in front of you the “keeper” cards that correspond to the current goal in play. Initially, the rules are “draw 1” and “play 1”, and you start with a small hand of additional cards; these rules will likely change before a full round is up though. Players therefore take it in turns to draw one card, then play one card.
Cards consist of:
- Rules. These adjust the core rules of the game and limits in play as well as creating some additional free actions that players can take. These range from Draw 5 – which replaces the default rule of draw 1 card each turn; to Goal Recycler, which adds a free action to discard any goal cards you have and draw new cards in their place. New rules are enacted immediately, so careful usage enables you to extend your turn. Rules are placed in the center of the table and effect everyone, every turn in which they are still in play. When special rules are removed, they always default back to draw 1 and play 1.
- Actions. These have an immediate effect and vary wildy, but unlike rules their effect is only felt once. Some are as simple as Draw 3 cards, while some are game-changingly drastic, like everyone exchange hands to the left, or discard all new rules.
- Goals and Keepers. Keepers are random items that do nothing, yet they are required to win. A goal requires two specific keeper cards. If you hold those keepers when that goal is in play, you win. The “cookies and milk” goal would result in instant victory for the player with both cookies and milk keeper cards in front of them. Keepers are not immutable though: they can be stolen, discarded completely, or even randomly redistributed.
The win state of having two items listed on the goal feels obviously arbitrary and there is no way to predict when this might occur. Players might win on the 3rd of 4th turn if they’re lucky; or the game may end up going on infinitely as rule resets are played and goals are discarded. That said, the more keepers one player has, the greater the chance that they will win, for the obvious reason that they can more easily make a pair to match the current goal.
I’d imagine that the physical Fluxx card game is quite a mentally taxing affair; keeping track of current rules for maximum cards, how many you must play this turn, on top of any immediate effects from action cards. I’m sure quite a few lively family “discussions” around the kitchen table have been caused by this game, while the frantic gameplay must offer numerous opportunities to cheat. As a digital implementation, the mental taxation is removed – the iPad keeps track of the rules, and gently guides you through each move; instructing you exactly what remains to be done and helpfully highlighting free actions you might otherwise have forgotten to take. It is here that I feel opinions will be divided. If you find this guiding behaviour helpful, then you will love the iPad version; if you find this detracts from the original, then this is undoubtedly a deal breaker. Having not played the original, I’m afraid I can’t comment either way, and must judge the game on what is before me now. In many ways, this strips the experience down – allowing you to concentrate on the mechanics and flow of the game, though I hesistate to say strategy.
With digitised card games, the miniaturization of the cards can often present problems if they’re text heavy. This is not a problem for Fluxx; each card is colour coded, and the main effect is indicated either with large print type or with an obvious pictoral element. In special cases, you can double tap to enlarge the card at any time. The graphics and bold colouring are a little crude in places, with a sometimes eclectic mix of fonts, but generally it’s a polished graphical experience.
Sound wise, the background music is either catchy or mind-numbingly grinding – depending on your outlook of life in general – with sound effects for all the core game actions, and special clips for goals that add just the right amount of variety.
Multiplayer is there with a custom GameCenter implementation, though I had difficultly finding enough players to start a game. Luckily, starting and managing multiple games is pretty easy. AI players can also be added with two difficulty levels.
Technically then, it ticks all the boxes. There’s a solid tutorial to explain the basics, multiplayer, offline play, great help, and professional if somewhat garish graphics.
But is it fun? Yes. Maybe. Sometimes not. Mostly yes. Oh, I don’t know! Fluxx quite literally does away with the rules and conventions of gaming; the game itself mutates the rules such that no two games will be alike. I found it strangely compelling some of the time, while other times the extended games would begin to drag. Whacking up the game and animation speed certainly helps. I am quite undecided. Fans of the physical game might love this simplification of game flow that the digital version offers; while others may hate the hand holding, and long for the friction created in a social setting. For those who don’t know the game, I’d encourage you to check out some YouTube videos before purchasing.