Fluxx is a game about rules - making, breaking and ultimately winning with them. It's a tricksy thing, a party game with a dash of the parlour that runs on luck but is decided by skill. Who plays what, and when, acquires a new importance when anyone can change the rules afterwards.
Originally a physical card game, Fluxx has been brought to iOS by Playdek. This publisher has a truly stellar back catalogue of iOS card games, including the likes of Ascension and Food Fight, and Fluxx is another high-quality production. The cards' designs are bright and colourful and the game automatically zooms in on any text when a card is played for a lingering moment before putting it into effect. This is important because, as the name suggests, Fluxx is all about reacting to new situations.
The game's played by two to four players (this version supports a single player versus AI, as well as pass-and-play offline multiplayer and asynchronous online games). Each player starts with three cards, and the deck of 100 is divided into types: New Rules, Actions, Keepers and Goals. The rule cards are how you set the pace of a game, impacting everyone until removed or superseded - and hopefully changing things up to suit your standing while messing around with the others.
Each game begins with the basics of 'play one' and 'draw one', but you'll soon be jazzing things up with 'Play 3 Cards' followed by 'Draw 5 Cards', then, if you're really nasty, imposing the old 'Hand Limit 2' and making everyone else discard down before your turn ends. What initially seems like a random set of conditions turns out to have considerable nuance, because it's possible to stretch out turns to huge lengths with multiple rule-changes and manipulate decent hands into victorious ones.
Winning revolves around Keepers and Goals. Keepers are cards that are played and then stay on the table in front of you; things like Milk, Chocolate, Friends, Music, Love, Money, Rockets and Dreams. The Goals set the game's winning condition, which is always an amusing combination of two Keepers; The Eye of the Beholder goal, for example, requires Love and the Eye. The instant any player has the right Keepers for a Goal, they win.
This is probably the simplest aspect of Fluxx, but that doesn't mean it's easy to hit on the right combination - the goals change so often, not to mention the merry-go-round of keepers, that you're always playing catch-up rather than hoarding. This is all thanks to Fluxx's Action cards, which constantly mess up the best-laid plans. The diffident names hide a world of pain: Draw 2 and Play 'em, Zap a Card, Trade Hands, Share the Wealth, Let's Simplify... the list goes on.
But what it means is that nothing in Fluxx is sacred. Your hand can be lost in an instant, heading over to another player or straight to the discard pile. All of those lovely Keepers you've worked so hard to accumulate can be shuffled up and dealt out among the table, or a new rule forces players to use every card in their hand regardless of the consequences - and someone was holding the very Goal you need to win. There is a big element of luck to Fluxx, but this is balanced against mastering its unusual playstyle and making the most of every hand. Either that, or I'm getting luckier.