|Interaction||Components & Design|
Considering this love gamers have for all things Python, the number of Monty Python games is surprisingly low. Maybe it’s something about their random, unpredictable humour that doesn’t go well with a set of rules that can be condensed on three pages of paper. All the more lucky for everyone that back in 2008 a company called Toy Vault, holding a license to produce Monty Python toys, got in contact with another company called Looney Labs, publishing a game called Fluxx. And thus, Monty Python Fluxx was born.
So far, in my life, I have played a lot of different games and kinds of games, with a lot of people in a lot of places, so it’s not completely out of the blue when I say that many gaming groups have a few things in common; coffee is a common theme in all my gaming groups since was sixteen – admittedly, that one might be because of me; but one thing that literally all the groups I’ve played games with, no matter if it was role playing, board gaming, trading cards, you name it, one thing all those people had in common was a deep affinity, bordering on veneration, for Monty Python. I don’t think there is a gaming group on Earth without at least one person that can tell you exactly, word for word, how dead that parrot is.
After this historic introduction, now for something completely different: Fluxx, the game. The review is about Monty Python Fluxx, but mostly applies to standard Fluxx. Presumably the same goes for Martian Fluxx, Zombie Fluxx, EcoFluxx, Family Fluxx and the upcoming Pirate Fluxx, due to be released in February. All those games are different themes applied to the basic Fluxx game, but unlike the endless re-themes of Monopoly, the different Fluxx games do come with different sets of rule cards.
No matter which edition of Fluxx you play, the basic rules stay the same. Both of them. You draw one card, then you play one card. Oh, and you start with three cards. Those are the rules, and if they sound boring to you: don’t worry, they rarely survive the first count. Because the fun part about Fluxx is that all the rules can and will change, quickly and often. To change the rules, you play New Rule cards.
New Rules come in many varieties, some common to all the Fluxxes and some specific. The most common ones are draw and play rules which replace the respective basic rules. Draw rules range from one to five cards, and if you play a higher draw rule, you immediately get to draw the difference between them. Play rules similarly come in one to five cards, and you also get to play more cards when you play a higher rule – and if that’s not chaotic enough, there’s “Play All” for increased fun: You only stop when your hand is empty. Then there is Hand Limit rules, forcing you to discard at the end of your turn, and a whole lot of New Rules specific to the Fluxx set you have. Monty Python Fluxx, for example, has a New Rule that rewards you with additional cards to draw for singing a Monty Python song, and another one that lets you play additional cards for speaking with an outrageously fake accent – you can’t even begin to imagine how much some people hate that one.
The next type of card is Goals. You will have noticed that I didn’t mention how to win yet. That’s because, in the beginning, there is no goal, so you have to play your own. Later you replace whichever Goal is in play, because there can be only one. Most Goals require you to have a certain set of Keepers. Keepers are cards representing, well, stuff. They don’t do anything special, they just go to the table in front of you, and when you have the right ones you win. To fulfil the Goal “He is Brave Sir Robin…” you need the Keepers “Sir Robin” and “Robin’s Minstrels”, to fulfil “A Bird in the Bush” you need the “Shrubbery” and either the “Swallow” or the “Parrot”. Most goals – actually all of them except a few that explicitly tell you otherwise – require you to not have any Creepers. Creepers are Keepers evil twin brothers from another dimension: when you draw them, you have no choice but put them in front of you right away, and as long as they are there they prevent you from winning. Some goals include one or more Creepers: Bring me the shrubbery requires you to have the “Holy Hand Grenade” and the “Killer Rabbit” – a Creeper – and to absolutely not count to five. It’s right out.
The last group of cards is Actions. They can do pretty much anything that can be done instantaneously: move a Creeper around, draw three more cards and play all of them, trade cards with another player – anything. With Pirate Fluxx there will be one more kind of card not seen in the other Fluxxes so far: Surprise cards, as far as I can tell at the moment, will act like Action cards, but you play them when it’s not your turn.
You keep playing until someone completes their goal, then the game ends instantly – even if it’s not the winners turn. So you can make another player win, and since you have to play the number of cards the current rules tell you to, you may not have a choice. Especially while “Play All” is active, this is not an uncommon way to end the game.
And that is the main reason why Fluxx – in all flavours – is a polarising game: people either love it or hate it. The haters curse the game for being almost completely random: the rules themselves change all the time, you might not have a choice but to help someone else win, and when not playing solo it’s close to impossible to tell what will happen one turn from now. The lovers tend to shrug and say “That’s the point”: Fluxx is light-hearted, easy to play and explain, quick and doesn’t require deep thought.
It’s one of those games that you won’t call your friends and tell them to come over just to play Fluxx for four hours in a row. But when a bunch of people just happen to be there and you start playing, that is just what might happen. It’s easy to loose a lot of time on Fluxx, even when you didn’t intend to. No one will be bored during other player’s turns, no one resigned to not having a chance to win and no one lost in thought about the next five rounds.
There is, however, one thing you should avoid when playing Fluxx: do not mix multiple sets of cards to play. There is just too many Goals and Keepers in a game like that, and the chance of having the right Keepers at the right time is too low; the game just drags on too much. Other than that, if you’re not someone that absolutely must have deep strategy in their game, there is nothing bad I could tell you about Fluxx.