Car Games: Pirate Fluxx

Pirate Fluxx

My wife and I are gamers. We game. We met in not one but two different games (Second Life and World of Warcraft), in a guild that was, more or less, formed from SL designers and their friends and family. Gaming is in our blood. Because of this we like to have what we call ‘car games’, easily portable two to four player games we can take to a coffee shop or restaurant and play without hassling people around us overly much.

We picked up one such game at the 2014 Emerald City Comic Con at the suggestion of one of the vendors in the gaming section. He pulled out a copy of the basic no-frills Fluxx game, handed it to us and we and another couple joined in for our first game of Fluxx. About fifteen minutes later, we bought Pirate Fluxx, because pirates are awesome and so is Fluxx.

Fluxx is named appropriately, as every card played has a dramatic effect on not just the other players, but the rules and goals of the game itself. The basic rules, however, are very simple. Each round you have to draw one card and play one card. How do you win? By playing a Goal card, and having the cards it displays on the table in front of you. Sounds simple right? Well. Things can change quickly in Fluxx!

There are a few types of cards, each following that game’s theme, in this case, pirates:

Goals let you win the game and show two or more Keepers or Creepers.
Sample Goals: Yo Ho Ho & a Bottle of Rum (Jolly Roger and Rum), Privateers (Royal Colors & Jolly Roger)

Keepers are usually played in front of you. They can be stolen so playing them can be a little risky! Some have special rules, like the Captain’s Hat, but in Pirate Fluxx, most don’t. They just sit there.
Sample Keepers: Monkey, Pieces of Eight, Frigate, Limes

So far so good. Now to the cards that start shaking things up.

Action cards allow you to do interesting things. You can steal keepers. You can take a card from the discard pile. You can force everyone else to discard cards. There are a lot of strange Action cards in the deck with a lot of very weird effects.
Sample Action Card: Walk the Plank! (The chosen player must discard their entire hand of cards)

Rules cards are like action cards from hell. First, they stay in play until someone plays a card that gets rid of them. second, they can really shake things up. There are rules that make you draw five cards a round, or two. There are cards that can force you to play 3 cards a round, which if you only have a hand of three cards means you have to play that godawful card you really would rather not play. There are Keeper limits, hand limits, and even stranger things. Rules cards mean just about every game of Fluxx is different.
Sample Rules Card: Talk like a pirate! If you speak with an outrageous pirate accent during your turn, Draw 1 extra card. Draw 2 extra cards if you’ve been continuing to use your accent since your previous turn.

Surprise! Cards help to counteract Actions and Rules. Mostly they let you react to another card play and either steal it, cancel it, or do something completely off the wall.
Sample Surprise! Card: Avast! Halt! (Cancel an Action a player has just played)

Finally, there are Creeper Cards. These are like evil anti Keepers. You have to immediately play one if you get it, and you can’t win the game as long as you have one, UNLESS the goal card played specifies you need that Creeper to win. Creepers suck. Playing a tricky combo and getting your creeper switched to another player’s hand is pretty awesome though.
Sample Creeper Card: Scurvy! (If you have Oranges or Limes on the table, discard Scurvy immediately)

We found the basic Fluxx game a little too simple for us, so we went with Pirate Fluxx. It added Creepers, something not found in the base game, and a few gameplay mechanics to a few Keepers. The weird humor and oddball cards shook things up nicely.

So how does it play? Its a little insane at first, especially if you’re playing with someone who’s never played before. Once you’ve gotten a few games under your belt, you quickly learn there are cards that you just never really want to play, and you establish a little bit of a detente with the other players. Its fun with two people, but really comes into its own with four, as it becomes difficult to predict what everyone will do or what kind of plays you’re going to have to defend against. Fluxx is a chaotic, madcap, play by the seat of your pants kind of game. Strategy will have to be done on the fly, if at all, but skill can and often does trump luck.

Pirate Fluxx was our favored, go to game for quite a long time. We stopped playing it simply because we burned ourselves out. That’s the sure sign of a good game to me. The downsides are that blind luck can trump rock solid strategy, and it can be difficult to really plan anything beyond a few moves ahead. This seems like a sweet spot game. Its got enough twists and turns to keep gamers interested, but the rules are simple enough that non gamers can join in without too much trouble.