Time for another guest reviewer, this time someone a little closer to home – the rather splendid Steph Burrows Fox. As our home’s resident expert in all things Lovecraftian, she’s the ideal candidate to check out the newest edition in their long-running Fluxx series of games. Always a game that divides opinion, what’s her take on this release?
The latest version of Looney Labs’ Fluxx is filled with pain, misery, and doom, which is actually a good thing considering it’s Cthlulhu Fluxx. All of the familiar elements are there (new rules, goals, keepers and creepers) but with several added elements that make Cthulhu Fluxx stand out from the pack. In order to do this, original creator Andy Looney has roped in Keith Baker (creator of Gloom and the D&D Eberron campaign setting) as our eldritch developer. Baker wanted to create something more than a new skin to the original game, and I think he succeeded.
Some keepers and creepers now have a doom count – after all, what is a Cthulhu game without doom? – so you have to keep an eye on the goals and/or ungoals in play while keeping your doom count low. Thankfully, other keepers, like the cat, offer cuddly anti-doom to help deter the end of days.
One of the many combinations and goals in the game – if you’re familiar with any of the games, you’ll be grand with this one too.
There are also more ungoals in Cthulhu than the history of all the Fluxx games. Only two have appeared before: one in Martian Fluxx, the other in Zombie Fluxx. In the true spirit of Lovecraftian gaming, Cthulhu Fluxx contains four ungoals, as well as a new rule that allows one goal and one ungoal to exist side by side rather than replacing each other. The horror!
But never fear, if an ungoal comes to fruition you may still be able to win if you’re holding the Secret Cultist card. Iä! Iä! This can either be played out of turn when an ungoal is realised, or on your turn (though this would cause you to miss a turn, as if you play it you aren’t really the best at secrets, are you?). There’s also a Meta Rule (which is only kept if all players agree) called Cult Clash, which allows determination of a winner even with an ungoal: the player with the most doom wins, though the Secret Cultist trumps the Cult Clash card.
One of the concerns Looney and Baker had was if players who were not familiar with the Mythos would be able to play and enjoy the game. So there are some cards representing generic elements that appear in many of the stories: a body, the university, madness, etc. There are also investigator cards which carry both a name and a title, allowing them to be both specific people from the Mythos as well as archetypal characters (such as Richard Pickman, the Artist, and Henry Armitage, the Librarian).
The normally happy and shiny world of Fluxx has been invaded from beneath the depths!
When I sat down to play with a few friends, I was the only one who really knew the stories and the Mythos out of the four of us. Our first game was lost spectacularly in about five minutes. After a laugh, we had another go. True to form, it was a battle against failure, peppered with jokes and finger-pointing.
Not being familiar with Lovecraft’s stories is not an issue but as a fan of the tales I also had fun recognising the familiar characters and elements. The lovely artwork of Derek Ring captures the spirit of the mythos while remaining cartoony and fun, while the addition of doom and ungoals help round out the game and make Cthulhu Fluxx the masochistic gaming experience I’ve come to expect from Cthulhu games.