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Card Game Review: EcoFluxx

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The folks at Looney Labs are at it again. Taking their game Fluxx (“The Game with Ever-Changing Rules!”), they've given it a new motif in EcoFluxx (“The Nature Game with Ever-Changing Rules!”). The principle of the original Fluxx is fluid: choose a goal of matching symbols, collect those symbols, and watch as the draw, hold, and play rules change all around.

EcoFluxx, which has a release date of March 5, takes the basic game and pushes it into an environmental theme. The game is for two to six players, ages eight to Adult, with a game time of 10 to 40 minutes. To be honest, those are broad suggestions, and the possibilities go even wider. Conceivably, the game could be played by more than six and the system is simple enough that bright kids under eight could pick up on it. In fact, I'd encourage the game to be played with younger players as it's a good chance for them to learn a few things about the Earth.

The most obvious change from the original title is that the Keeper cards are now natural: tadpoles, birds, leaves, etc. Two or more are needed to fulfill the Goals, which are logical and follow basic life science. The Goal of “Rainbows,” for example, requires the Sunshine and Water cards as rainbows are water droplets in the atmosphere scattering solar rays into a prismatic array of color. It all goes back to seventh grade.

But, the nature theme goes deeper than just different names for cards and prettily colored pictures; the game-play itself has shifted. While many of the goals are similar in terms of collecting the right pair of Keepers, EcoFluxx includes a different style of goal as well, “Eats.” For example, “Bears Eat Fish” reads “The player with Bears in play wins if someone has Fish on the table.” The game takes into account the Food Web, all the interlocking pieces of nature consuming different parts of itself. So, if a player has the Fish Keeper, he's got to keep an eye out for Bears, otherwise the predators get him, and the opposing player wins. The twist makes EcoFluxx a much more interdependent game, which means everybody's got to constantly watch out for everyone else.

Also in the game are three Creepers: Forest Fire, Drought, and Flood. When any of these are in play, no one can win. It may be useful in terms of strategy, but mainly the ecological disasters hold back game development, a strong metaphor for real ecological disasters.

This metaphor is really the strongest reason to promote the game — education. While Martian Fluxx is fun and all, EcoFluxx reflects important scientific matters which are all too easy to forget about in our urbanized society. I'd definitely recommend the game for teachers (the game correlates with National Science Standards) and anyone with students of any age. The better we can understand nature, the better we can work to protect and manage it. And if spreading learning isn't enough, Looney Labs is donating 5% of the game's profits to environmental groups. They're even taking suggestions on how best to spend it.


About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.