MARTIAN FLUXX (Looney Labs, 2-6 players, ages 8 and up, 5-30 minutes; $16)
The appropriately named Looney Labs often manages to come up with clever games with a humorous twist. Perhaps its most famous game is Fluxx, a wildly chaotic game of rules making and rules breaking (featured over a decade ago in the Summer 1998 GA REPORT). The game's success has spawned a host of spin-offs using the same core game mechanics against different themes. The latest game in the line is Martian Fluxx, another Andrew Looney design. This time, the premise of the game is one sure to delight fans of HG Wells' War of the Worlds: a Martian invasion of Earth. The twist? WE are the Martians!
Although using a 100 card deck (20 cards more than standard Fluxx), Martian Fluxx follows the same play pattern. The Basic Rules card is placed in the center of the play area which, as might be suspected from its name, gives the basic rules of the game: all players are dealt 3 cards, draw 1 card per turn, play 1 card per turn. From this point, things rapidly and unexpectedly change!
Game dynamics depend on cards played. New Rules cards introduce new rules that supplant or add to previous rules in effect. Some cards are Goals which, when played to the table, establish conditions that must be met in order for someone to win. Action cards allow "actions" (such as drawing more cards or claiming or discarding cards etc.). Keepers are, for want of a better word, "artifacts" which are often necessary for a player to have in order meet certain Goals. Their counterparts are Creepers which must be played ("Pathetic Humans, for example) and make it more difficult to win, Two other new card types appear in the deck: the Meta Rule and the Ungoal. The Meta Rule card sets a time limit for play and only goes into effect at the beginning of the game if all players agree. (With the game already playing quickly, this card seems superfluous.) The Ungoal is more interesting as it gives the underdogs a fighting chance. If played and its conditions met, the invasion is called off and the Humans win!
Martian Fluxx makes good use of color as the different cards are color-coded so, when holding them in your hand, you can see at a glance what types of cards are available to you. Card quality is good and it is worth mentioning that the font used is large and easy to read (a nice change from many games which seem to be in love with 4 point type making reading cards the biggest challenge in the game).
Martian Fluxx shares the strengths of Fluxx. It is very fast (the game CAN literally end in five minutes and usually won't last much longer) and it's a game of constant surprises as you never know what will happen next. It also shares the weaknesses: it is very fast and you never now what will happen next. For these reasons, the game will not appeal to players who like to analyze each move, predict future strategies and exercise control. On the other hand, that's not the target audience. The game plays as if you're the ball bearing in a pinball machine. If that sensation in a quick and quirky game appeal to you, then Martian Fluxx should suit you "Wells". - - - - - - Herb Levy