Robert Hornbek

Game Development & Exploration


Posted by rHornbek on November 18, 2009

I was having a discussion about a concept for a card game when I first heard about Fluxx.  In my concept there would only be two rules, on your turn you must draw a card and play a card.  Cards, as they are played, would add additional rules and objectives to the game.  Even the objective for winning the game would change as users played cards.  Ultimately every aspect of the game would change as cards are played and removed from the table.  Interestingly enough I learned from one of my friends that just such a card game exists.  I immediately looked Fluxx up online and not long after purchased it.

"The card game with ever-changing rules!"

Fluxx is a card game that should be played with at least three people for the most enjoyment.  Users are dealt three cards at the beginning of the game and the rest of the deck is placed in the center of the table to be drawn from.  There are five different card types…

Rule Cards

When a rule card is played it will change how the game operates.  In most cases a rule card will define how many cards you must draw or play on your turn.  Some rule cards will even restrict the number of cards you have in your hand.  There are different types of rule cards that will replace rule cards of the same type when they are played.  For example, if a draw rule is played the existing draw rule must be discarded etc.

Action Cards

Action cards are played from your hand and immediately discarded.  The effect of an action card takes effect immediately.  Some action cards allow the user to draw additional cards, take cards from other users and in some cases change the rules.

Keeper Cards

Keeper cards are generally part of the game’s conditions for winning.  Played keeper cards will not change how the game operates but may bring a user closer to winning.  Each keeper card is themed differently such as the Brain card, the Rocket card and the Dream card etc.  In most cases users are trying to get a combination of two keeper cards to win the game, but none of the users will know which two those are until a goal card is played.

Just a few examples of cards and their types.

Goal Card

As mentioned above, goal cards define the condition a user must meet to win the game.  There can only ever be a single goal in plat at one time, and when a new goal is played the previous goal is discarded.  In most cases goals will say something like “The player with the Rocket and the Brain wins the game.”  If at any time, while this goal is in play, a user meets these conditions they win the game.

Creeper Cards

Creeper cards must be played from your hand immediately and placed in front of the user for all other users to see.  Creepers will typically prevent a user from winning the game as long as they have it in front of them.  Each creeper card can be discarded or moved to another user in some way.  In the case of the Radioactive Potato, each time a new goal card is played the Radioactive Potato is passed to the user on their right.  Some goal cards will actually require a creeper card to win the game.

I had the pleasure to play the game multiple times with multiple people and it was received rather well.  At first the game felt rather slow, because most of us had to read all the cards in our hand and in play on each of our turns.  Once we become familiar with the cards the game began to move much quicker.

One of the things I really liked about the game was how quickly someone could go from close to winning to being the furthest from it.  It is not always easy to collect a lot of keeper cards, but it typically only takes two to win the game.  However if the goal changes before you get the second keeper you will have to start all over.  A side effect of this mechanic is that users don’t tend to win until the last minute.  To be clear, this means that you rarely build up to victory it just sort of happens all at once.

I really enjoyed the way the game’s rules would change as users played cards.  However it became a little disappointing when I learned that most of the rules that are changed only effect the number of cards you draw, play and hold in your hand.  There are some rule cards that deviate from this some, such as a card that requires you to let the person on your left to play the first card of your turn at random from your hand.

I currently own version 4.0 which is in full color and comes in a nicer box

So far the game has been enjoyable each time I’ve played it, but it has lost some excitement.  In the last game I played my brother, on his first turn, ended up getting just the right cards in his hand to allow him to draw and play what felt like 15 cards.  By the end of his turn all the rules were changed, which wasn’t terrible, but everyone else playing who hadn’t even taken a turn had no cards in their hand.  The biggest problem I had with this was the way the game practically played itself on my brother’s turn.  The time spent doing this was far too long and it really didn’t progress the game in any interesting ways.

I am actually pleased to learn that a card game almost exactly like my concept actually exists.  While I have a few other ways I would execute the game I decided to take the concept of “ever changing rules” and apply it to a video game.  There is a lot of work still to do just to round out the concept, but I plan on sharing those thoughts as soon as I get them down pat.

What is this you ask? Read on to find out!

I highly recommend Fluxx to anyone, for it is a fun and relatively simple game to learn and play.  You may be pleased to know there are expansion packs for Fluxx that apparently takes the game to whole other levels.  The first expansion pack I plan on getting is the Fluxx Zombie pack, and when I do I will make sure to review it as well.


2 Responses to “Fluxx”

  1. I thought I would return the favor and visit your blog. I’m glad I did. I enjoyed reading your review of Fluxx. It sounds like the game relies too much on luck and not enough on strategy. Good luck on developing our own games. Blog-on…deb

    • rhornbek said

      I could not agree with you more about the game relying far too much on luck. However I have a theory, that I aim to test, that the reason the game appears to rely so much on luck is because of how people typically play games. In most cases there are clear methods and goals in the games you play, while in Fluxx these methods and goals constantly change. However, being more familiar with the cards in the deck and the nature of the game someone could become more creative about how they play. When my brother took his turn he could have chosen not to play the way he did lessoning the dramatics of his turn. This would have let other players take more actions building a greater foundation for his next turn. The next time I play I will try and avoid the human desire to go big and play everything. Instead I will play less knowing that in either case I will not be getting any closer to winning. Or I could be completely out of my mind… thanks for reading my post!

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