Tag Archives: Looney Labs

Many of Horror – Cthulhu Fluxx review

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.
Cthulhu Fluxx is a Looney Labs production and is available now. Getting a copy requires little to no sacrifice to any Elder gods – just hand over around £13 (or go to Gameslore and pick it up for £10.99) and prepare for DOOOOM. 
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Hallo Spaceboy – Star Fluxx review

It’s pretty safe to say that most gamers have at least played Fluxx or one of the many spin-off releases. It’s also pretty safe to guess that you’ve got one of two opinions: you either love it or hate it, but everyone can agree that it’s got its place in the annals of gaming history. In recent years, Looney Labs have amped up their output of themed decks – we’ve had Zombies, Pirates, Martians, a Family edition and more…

…and now it’s time for an additional edition! Star Fluxx is the latest variant to be unleased from the Lab is firmly rooted in the science fiction classics with the usual Fluxx-y twists you’d expect. The game itself is exactly the same as ever; beginning with a basic rule card in the middle of the table – “Draw One, Play One”. There is a lot of printing on the cards, but it’s not that much and if you really have a hard time reading it, Houston, we have a problem and it may be time to think about LASIK surgery.

Houston LASIK surgery

A few of the Goals in the game, stacked out with puns aplenty.

The aim is play cards from your hand to manipulate the rules, drawing and playing more. Pretty soon a Goal card will be played, meaning that all players are now aiming to have the necessary Keeper cards laid down in front of them to claim victory. For example, if the Goal is “Star Warriors”, a player will need the “Unseen Force” and “Laser Sword” Keepers before them to be declared the winner.

As always with any version of Fluxx it’s never quite that easy. Plenty of cards are included to to scupper your opponents’ plans that could force them to discard Keepers, for example, or even allow you to steal them. There’s also Creepers, the bad version of Keepers, that you’ll need to get rid of before you can win. Star Fluxx also sees the return of Surprise cards, only recently introduced to the game format (in Pirate Fluxx, actually) that act as interrupts. Don’t like something you see? Get a Surprise card down! Control your destiny!

The usual Looney Labs humour comes out in Star Fluxx, drawing inspiration from a wide range of movies and TV shows. Star Trek and Star Wars are both widely represented (as you’d expect) but they’ve attempted to include others too: 2001 gets in there with the Monolith, Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy gets a nod with a familiar looking digital book and… is that Kaylee from Firefly? Well, kind of. Nothing’s officially licenced, but you can tell where the ideas come from. There’s even a certain time travelling physician.

Definitely everyone’s favourite engineer and it’s always good to have a redshirt around. And doesn’t that Monolith look like an iPad?

Fluxx will always be a divisive game but I honestly think that these variant editions are helping win a few more people over who may have fallen out of love with this little filler. The addition of the Interrupt cards has revitalised the game in my eyes – where before you were pretty much helpless, at the whims of whatever the other players did, you now have more control. Sure, there’s the possibility that games could potentially outstay their welcome but the days of rounds taking an hour or more are (hopefully!) gone.

It’s still the light card game that it’s always been and sci-fi fans will appreciate the little touches that have been brought in. Fluxx – in all its iterations – is never going to be a Spiel des Jahres winner, but as I said earlier it has it’s place in gaming. If you’re looking for something quick and dirty to pass some time, you could do a lot worse than checking out the latest from Looney Labs. For nerdy types like me, Star Fluxx might just bring you back to the dark side.

Star Fluxx is available now from all good game stores. Designed by Andrew Looney and published in 2011 by Looney Labs, it’ll set you back around £12/$15. Rounds can take anything from a couple of minutes to an awful lot more – it all depends on the cards you get! Now, whether to go for the Phasers on Fun line…? Hmmmm…

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Any Day Now – Back To The Future: The Card Game review

Without doubt, one of the finest movies (there’s a big difference between movies and films) of the 1980s is the mighty Back To The Future. The time-travelling adventures of Marty McFly are forever etched on the minds of a generation of thirty-somethings around the world, myself included.

This year sees the 25th anniversary of Back To The Future (which, of course, also spawned two pretty damn good sequels). While the retro hype machine hasn’t exactly gone into overdrive, there’s been a reissue of the trilogy on Bluray and even some screenings in cinemas of the original movie. Along with that, Looney Labs – creators of Fluxx – have released a licensed card game to tie in with the celebrations.

Many people find Looney Labs games very divisive, ironic for a company that prides itself on an inclusive, friendly attitude. Fluxx is often seen as the main offender, its chaotic rules meaning games can last for minutes of hours with no way of knowing in advance. Back To The Future: The Card Game is based on another of their releases, the time-bending Chrononauts, but how does it stand up to its predecessor?

Where the original was… alright (it’s been damned with faint praise, sorry!) this updated remix cures a few problems and is actually a pretty decent game. It’s also very simple – something that Andrew Looney and his team do well. Each player takes on the persona of a character from the town of Hill Valley – however, they’re not the ones you’d expect. Invariably done to help the game work a little better, you play previously unknown members of the various characters families – second cousins twice removed, that kind of thing. Marty must’ve been too busy making Biff drive into a manure truck…

Whatever character you’re dealt, the winning condition is the same. You each have a set of goals to achieve, some of which may coincide with other players’ ambitions. Laid out before you are a series of 24 cards (in a 6×4 grid) that represent the whole trilogy’s time line from the 1880s to what is now nearly present day.

This review definitely needs pictures, so here's the first - the grid of Linchpins and Ripplepoints.

God I feel old. Not even a hoverboard to show for it either.

Anyway, the grid is made up of these cards, all of which are have different versions of events printed on either side. Depending on the cards you play from your hand, these Linchpins (causes) and Ripplepoints (effects) will flip back and forth, showing fluctuations in the time line – event A will effect event B, which in turn will effect event C. You know what I mean. It’s like a very small-scale Butterfly Effect, causing a hurricane in China when you step on a bug in Bristol.

Here's the ID card, front and back. Don't recall Marlin from the movie? Me neither.

You affect the grid by taking one card from the draw pile then playing one from your hand. This could be an item which stays in front of you, or one off action and Power Action cards. Time Machine and Doubleback cards (normally) allow you to flip a Linchpin, hopefully helping you to victory. This is a game all about time though, so you know that may not happen…

Here's a close-up of a couple of cards. They stay in the same position when you flip them, as shown by their co-ordinates in the top right.

Once you’ve managed to get the cards exactly how you want them (as stated on your character’s ID card), you’ve then got the chance to grab a win. Again, this involves you flipping a card, only now it sees you attempting to un-invent time travel in order to keep everything as you desire. There are five cards on this part of the grid, shuffled at the start of the game. When you attempt to finish the game, you take the top one hoping it’ll say Doc Brown has hung his clock properly (as opposed to slipping off the toilet, having a eureka moment and coming up with the flux capacitor). If you’re unsuccessful, the game goes on with you now racing to try and flip the next card on that pile as your opponents feverishly attempt to disrupt the cards on the time line that will scupper you but allow them to win.

Each grid card has two sides. Here's what happened when Doc Brown met the Libyans...

...and when he remembered to wear his bullet proof vest. Same card, two events.

As with anything to do with time travel, it can get very messy very quickly. Something that you do to help yourself may also aid another player while messing up someone else’s scheming. In turn, your opponents can quickly have both negative and positive points on your objectives. While it initially seems random, with a few plays you should be able to work out (through checking out what they’re moving) the characters they’re playing. Know that and you’ll know what to avoid flipping yourself, coming up with a method that gets your goals met and no-one else’s!

So, highs and lows. On the upside, like many games from Looney Labs, it’s a quick affair with a simple set of rules. Beneath those, though, lies a game that initially appears random and chaotic but actually has a welcome unexpected level of strategy. The theme works incredibly well too; after all, it’s the film about time travel. The only way it could be more thematic is if it came in a DeLorean shaped tin. There’s a few minor downers; you’re not playing with characters from the series, but I understand why – it would have made the game far too complex and unwieldy to play, and if it’s hard to play no-one is going to have fun. Also (and I hate to say it) the fact it’s from Looney Labs may put certain players off. If that’s the case though, tell them to harden up and give this entertaining little game a try. Back To The Future: The Card Game may not change the world (despite the efforts of the characters within) but give it a shot with an open mind and you’ll have fun!

Back To The Future: The Card Game is available now, and will cost you around £10. Designed by Andrew Looney, it’s an evolution of his earlier Chrononauts game system, streamlined and made just that little better. Still not sure? Check out the video right here for a swift run through!

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News and stuff – 7th May 2010

Another week, another hopefully factually correct bunch of information!

Let’s start off with Plaid Hat Games, makers of one of the big games around at the moment – Summoner Wars. This two player card game is getting a lot of positive reviews at the moment, including over here at Downtime Town – the Little Metal Dog review will be coming next week after I’ve played a few more games of it. If you’ve been lucky enough to give this excellent game a shot, you’ll know that pretty much anyone who’s seen it has one complaint: the board. Less an actual board, more a shiny folded piece of paper that dips and rises all over the place, it’s a bit of a pain when one of the most important factors in the game is knowing where your cards are on the grid. Plaid Hat have listened to the players and are now issuing a premium solid board for which they’re currently taking pre-orders on their site. Nice to see independent companies taking notice of what the people who buy their games are saying! And while we’re on the subject of Plaid Hat, Colby Dauch (founder of the company and designer of Summoner Wars) will be on episode two of the podcast, talking about all manner of stuff.

Random aside time. When I was a kid, growing up my grandmother never just referred to me as ‘Michael’. In the house, if she just said ‘Michael’ it could cause a bit of confusion, as my grandfather went by that name as well. The solution she came up with was to call me ‘Michael J’, taking the first letter of my middle name and adding it to stop any problems. With this information, consider my surname – Fox. Put them all together. Michael J Fox. Yes, I got beaten up a hell of a lot at school, because I was ten when Back To The Future came out. I must admit though, I absolutely love the films (and for your information, BttF 2 is easily the best of the bunch). But what does this have to do with gaming? Well, Looney Labs, makers of Fluxx and Chrononauts, have announced the upcoming release of Back to the Future: The Card Game. So far details are thin on the ground – nothing is out there apart from a release date, which they currently have down for September of this year. Being a cheeky git, I’m going to be asking them for an advance copy to review because… well, dammit, I’m Michael J Fox! It’s my right! More info as soon as I get it.

Finally, in a bid to break into that elusive German market, Warfrog Games have now officially rebranded themselves as Treefrog, complete with a spanky new website. Seems that an armed American amphibian as your logo doesn’t go down too well auf Deutschland, especially amongst family gamers. They’ve also announced that Age of Industry (their updated / streamlined version of Brass) will be out in June this year, and that if you fancy looking at the rules for it you can feast your eyes on this shiny .pdf file. Seems to be a bit more accessible, not that Brass is the hardest game in the world to get on with.

And that’s it! More reviews to come over the next week, including one of Forbidden Island – the new release from Gamewright and Matt Leacock. I’m also continuing to work on episode two of The Little Metal Dog Show – the first episode has had an incredible amount of downloads (well over one thousand at time of writing) and I’ve had lots of great feedback. Thanks again if you’ve listened – hopefully #2 will prove as interesting. If you want to get in touch, give me a shout on littlemetaldog@gmail.com or nudge me on Twitter. Cheers!

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