Thursday , May 23 2024
Tripods, ray guns, and mind-control devices! Oh my!

Card Game Review: Martian Fluxx

Years ago, my friend Chad suggested we play a card game called Fluxx, the predecessor to Martian Fluxx. He described it as a game where the cards themselves determined ever-shifting rules. My expression must have betrayed my thoughts and memories of the pseudo-game Mao from high school that inevitably turned into a screaming match (fun in its own right). Chad, however, assured me that Fluxx was awesome.

It was.

The printed game dynamics are for two to six players, ages eight to Adult, with a game time of five to 30 minutes. To be honest though, those are only broad suggestions. Conceivably, the game could be played by even more than six, the system is simple enough that bright kids under eight could pick up on it while anybody can enjoy the cutthroat stakes.  Truly, the concept behind Fluxx is that it’s a game playing with the concepts of games. Does it get much more post-modern than that?

Now we get to Martian Fluxx.  The fine people at Looney Labs have taken their concept of a game that begins with two rules and ends with who-knows-how-many and applied its system to an invasion by Martians.

That’s right, Martians.

The premise of the game is simple: players are competing Martians looking for the best way to overwhelm the Pathetic Humans and conquer Earth. How they’re going to do that exactly has yet to be determined. Taking the symbol-matching motif of the original Fluxx and applying it to the new notion works remarkably well.  It shows both the strengths of the original, well-conceived game mechanics and the creative potential of the system.

As with the original Fluxx, the rules are constantly changing depending on which rule cards are in play. Sometimes players draw one card per turn, sometimes as many as four. Sometimes they play one card, sometimes every card they have. The way to win the game eventually comes into view with a Goal card, and a madcap sprint to either matching its Keepers or blocking other players from winning. The twist appears with Keeper cards representing Martian technology, aspects of invasion movies such as Men in Black, Mars itself, and cows (ever-popular among alien abduction). It’s a game that constantly keeps players on their toes (or tentacles, depending).

A new aspect of the game are the Creeper cards. While Keepers aid players in winning, Creepers such as Germs, The Army, and a slew of Pathetic Humans get in the way of conquest. Players must balance collecting Keepers with ridding themselves of Creepers to achieve the Goal before anyone else can.

All the mechanics aside, just look at the box. The front has a Martian tripod blasting a laser gun whilst the tripod abducts cattle, as well as humans panicking in sheer terror as alien fleets hover overhead. That alone should be convincing.

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.

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