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Card Game Review: Pirate Fluxx

I’ve reviewed Martian Fluxx, Family Fluxx, and EcoFluxx, and I think I’ve found a new favorite: Pirate Fluxx.

Of course, that is a subjective opinion, being a major pirate fan myself (the one problem with ninjas: no repeat business in assassination!). Objectively, the game has a few new dynamics to take play in a more unpredictable, yet strategic, direction from the other Fluxxes… Flucci… Fluxx games.

The original Fluxx was a game devised out of changing the rules themselves: cards play what rules are in order based off the starting point of “Draw one, play one.” As the game progresses, the drawing, playing, and hand size allowed all change in numbers and eventually a Goal is played as a collection of matching Keepers to win. The main objective innovation in this Fluxx is the New Rule “Swap Plays for Draws,” which allows players to use any remaining plays for their turn as extra draws, causing a powerful horde of cards, possibly countered by a “No-Hand Bonus.” Such rules-tinkering makes for a fascinating structure upon which a theoretically infinite number of variations could be applied. The theme this time around is pirates, and the rule changes reflect in split-second strategy to capitalize on events as unpredictable as the waves, high risk, and the glamour of the world of pirating.*

Following its roguish theme, this Fluxx contains new Rule cards such as “Plunder!”, which allows each player to steal a Keeper from another once per turn. It raises the manic feeling as, rather than a few special cards that allow stealing Keepers, it may happen at any time. Keepers such as Cutlasses and Flintlock Pistols can block plundering, just like in real life. Another New Rule is “Talk Like a Pirate”, which gives players an extra draw for speaking in a pirate accent and two extra draws for continuing to speak in such a way for an entire round. As our play-testing continued, it was obvious how terrible we were at the typical West Counties English, but we quickly made cases for Irish and Asian pirates, of whom there were many upon the high seas. Also, we laughed a lot, which is really the point in the first place. Much of Fluxx is luck, and, though a refined strategy may help, constantly changing rules will disappoint the “bad loser” types who only have fun if they win.

Rules are hardly the only change for Pirate Fluxx, however. New Action cards such as “Walk the Plank!” (in which the victim must discard his or her hand) and “King’s Ransom” (taking one card from each player’s hand) give the feeling of wild insecurity that keeps piracy so interesting. The most powerful card in the deck, however, stands as the Keeper “Captain’s Hat.” It demands two cards from every player instead of one during “King’s Ransom”, makes the player immune to the Creeper “Shackles”, cannot be Plundered, and, most importantly, reads, “If you have this on the table, all other players must call you the Captain.” Hilarity aside, it acts as a genuinely powerful card, establishing a lead player for the game, which is a very new motif for a Fluxx game. It even spawned the new Action card “Mutiny!” in which a player may steal the “Captain’s Hat” or dig it out of the deck.

The greatest change in this Fluxx, however, is the introduction of the aptly named Surprise cards. Rather than working in the turn system that has always followed from the original, these out-of-turn cards allow for mainly blocking and some stealing of significant plays. “Avast! Halt!”, “Veto!”, and “Canceled Plans” block Actions, New Rules, and, most importantly, Goals. “That Be Mine!” steals Keepers as they are played, preventing a possible victory. The spontaneity and resulting strategy from these cards gives Pirate Fluxx an even grander sense of high stakes, adding cunning and surprise to an already madcap game.

Pirate Fluxx launches February 11, 2011. For a look at gameplay, check out Looney Labs’ video featuring pirate playtesters.

* Glamorous, at least, as in the world of pirating is portrayed in movies. Real piracy is boring, filthy, notoriously confined in poverty, and holds uncomfortably high murder- and prison-rates.

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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