In Defense of Fluxx

Fluxx has a lot of detractors who feel it is too random. I enjoy Fluxx, but I didn’t disagree with people when they said that there isn’t much strategy and it’s a bunch of randomness.

But lately I have been thinking about Fluxx and wondering if it’s really as random as people think.

I believe part of the reason people feel Fluxx is very random is the terminology used in the game. The rules and the goal are constantly changing. Obviously a game where the goal and rules can be different from one turn to the next is very random.

But if we look at it from a different perspective, it doesn’t seem as random. If the actions are immediate effects, the rules are ongoing effects, and the goal is aligning two sets of cards (your keepers and the current goal) it seems more like a strategy game.

Some cards are strictly random, like the rule “First Play Random”. But the majority of cards allow for strategic choices to try and manipulate the game state to your advantage.

Lets look at the different types of cards and how much they add to the randomness of the game.

Keepers

Keepers don’t do anything in the original game, so they don’t add any randomness. In many of the themed sets some keepers have abilities, but we won’t get into those.

Goals

The goals also don’t have any game effects besides determining the winning game state. So they don’t add to the randomness.

Actions

Actions have an affect on the game and can be random. But the majority do a specific thing and allow a choice to be made.

Even when a player plays “Draw 2 and Use ‘Em” they get to decide the order in which they use ‘em. This can be a strategic decision if the order of those cards affect each other. For instance, if you draw two goals the second one played will replace the first one.

Some actions are completely random but they usually don’t have a lasting affect on the game.

New Rules

The new rules have the largest impact on the game. They usually stay around for multiple turns and can have a ripple effect by allowing or causing more rules and actions to be played. But are they very random?

The majority of rules control the number of cards you draw, play, keep in hand, or keep on the table. With the exception of the randomness of drawing from a shuffled deck none of these, by themselves, cause randomness.

Drawing and playing more cards allows more decisions, strategic or otherwise. Hand limits and keeper limits force players to make decisions. All of these increase the strategy of the game. Players must manage their hand and the order they play cards to gain an advantage. Playing a hand limit 0 card to force your opponent to discard their entire hand, then replacing it with a hand limit 2, so you get to keep cards is a strategic move.

Some combinations of these rules can cause the game to become purely random. If players have a hand limit of 0 and only draw and play 1 card per turn, there can be no decisions until that game state is broken. This situation is unlikely to occur unless a player decides to make it happen though.

Some of the new rules are truly random, like “First Play Random” and “Mystery Play”. These could lead to a more random game state or end up removing themselves and making a less random game state. But even these random rules are usually played by choice.

So is Fluxx Too Random?

The majority of cards in Fluxx do not remove player agency. A few are truly random and some combinations of cards can cause situations where players make no decisions.

In very rare instances an initial random event can cause more randomness, but usually there are player choices along the way to limit or continue the randomness.

I don’t believe Fluxx is too random. I believe it actually has a lot of strategy for a light card game.

However, what it does have is the ability for players to have a major and sudden game changing affect on their opponents.

I think what people actually are bothered by in Fluxx is a lack of control. They attribute this to randomness, but it is more likely caused by their opponents having such a strong impact on them.

But really, how much control can you expect to have when the game is constantly in flux?

What do you think? Is Fluxx just a random luck fest, or a light strategy game that utilizes randomness to build tension and excitement?

Designing Elegant Board Games

Elegant – adj. – Pleasingly ingenious and simple.

When gaming, a player uses two types of thinking: Fun thinking and work thinking. Fun thinking, the type we love using when playing games, includes; planning strategies, solving puzzles, and basically trying our best to win.  Work thinking, which is the kind of thinking that takes away from the gaming experience, includes; remembering complex rules, maintaining the functions of the game, and tracking the elements of the game so it works.

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