Thursday, 14 November 2013

Star Fluxx: The Ever-Changing Card Game... In Space!

In our last post we mentioned some of the games we have our reviewing eyes on for the coming weeks.  Well since then we've actually managed to get our filthy mitts on a few more games to add to our ever-growing review pile, so we thought we'd start the ball rolling with something nice and casual; Star Fluxx, from Looney Labs.
Star Fluxx is one of the most recent additions to Looney Labs' flagship card game, and in a similar manner to Zombie Fluxx or Pirate Fluxx, it follows a genre as a whole, rather than carrying the licence of a specific franchise (as with Monty Python Fluxx).  At its core it still runs off the same rules and mechanics of the original Fluxx, and so in this review we'll be focusing on the Star Fluxx-specific themes and new mechanics, rather than giving our usual walkthrough of the basic rules.  For those unfamiliar with Fluxx as a whole, our review of Monty Python Fluxx addresses the overall gameplay.
So as we mentioned, Star Fluxx covers a theme rather than a franchise, and (as you may have already guessed) that theme is science fiction films and television shows.  However, Looney Labs haven't let the absence of a franchise licence impede their choice of themed cards, and they've cleverly found ways to fit some of the most popular films/shows into the deck...
When releasing any product based on big cult sci-fi series, most fans would probably be that one of the big two has to be Star Trek.  Without making any specific references to any of the series or films, Star Fluxx has managed to make enough references to this cornerstone of the sci-fi world to keep fans happy.  The typical starship crew is all present and accounted for on the Keeper front, with The Captain, The Engineer, The Scientist, The Doctor, and even the Expendable Crewman - who must be the first to 'die' should an opponent ever steal or force a player to discard one of their keepers.  The Cute Fuzzy Alien Creature (a Games & Tea favourite) is a clear reference to the troublesome tribbles from the original series of Star Trek, spending the game happily wandering around the tabletop, and never going into the discard pile.  On top of these there are Goals such as Landing Party and Seeking New Civilizations, and Actions such as Beam Us Up!, which also represent their chosen franchise to varying degrees.
The other of the big two has, of course, to be Star Wars, and is also represented in force (see what we did there?) in the deck.  Whilst not as Keeper-heavy as their Star Trek counterparts, there are some wonderful Star Wars references amongst the goals in particular, such as The Power of the Dark Side, These Aren't the Droids... and That's No Moon... whilst the likes of Laser Sword and Unseen Force bulk out the Keeper pile, and Admiral Ackbar's infamous "It's a trap!" exclamation is represented by the Surprise card It's a Trap! (surprisingly!).
Whilst those two certainly make up the majority of the themed cards in Star Fluxx, there are a number of other franchises which make their way into the deck...

Fans of British science fiction will be pleased to see Douglas Adams' The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy represented (albeit lightly) by Forty-Two, The Intergalactic Travel Guide and I'm Depressed, whilst ongoing hit Doctor Who has a handful of cards in the shape of Time Traveler, What Doctor? Where? and the slightly more subtle Sonic Sledgehammer.
There are a few cards representing some of the older classics of the sci-fi world, such as the two above which represent the old Lost in Space series, and The Monolith flying the flag for 2001: A Space Odyssey.
In addition to these franchise-specific cards, Star Fluxx also features a lot of generic sci-fi cards, including laser pistols, space stations, moons, and alien cities, so even players who aren't too savvy on these franchises can still enjoy a decent little sci-fi game.
One of the interesting additions to Star Fluxx over Looney Lab's previous instalments, is the wider introduction of special abilities on Keepers.  This was touched on lightly in Monty Python Fluxx and Zombie Fluxx, but with Star Fluxx they've quite happily run with the idea and pushed the boundaries a little.  The Captain allows players to steal other crew members from their opponents, the Laser Pistol allows players to kill Creepers, and the Holographic Projection even allows players to win the game using their opponents' Keepers!  The expansion of this mechanic causes Star Fluxx to lose some of the more casual nature of its predecessors, but in return it becomes a slightly more tactical game, and here at Games & Tea we found the exchange to be a favourable one.
Creepers are back again, having been standard fare since Monty Python, although in far fewer numbers than the colossal Zombie FluxxStar Fluxx has introduced a new mechanic with it's Creepers though, by causing them to attach to Keepers and remain with them until discarded.  For example, the Brain Parasites above attach themselves to any Keeper with a brain... as soon as something like the Bug-Eyed Monster becomes available, the Brain Parasites attach straight onto it, neutralise any abilities of that Keeper, and remain attached.  This further increases the tactical element of Star Fluxx, by effectively taking some Goals out of the equation, making players think more cautiously about the order in which they play their cards, and making some Keepers prime targets for discarding or giving away to opponents.
There's one additional card type which we need to mention; the Surprise card.
These were first introduced in Pirate Fluxx (which we will be reviewing in due course), and make their return here.  Whilst they work the same way as Action cards in the players' own turns, Surprise cards are the first Fluxx cards which can also be played in an opponent's turn.  These can be used to cancel Actions, to remove a Goal, or to prevent Keepers from being stolen.  These don't so much increase the strategic edge in the same way that the previously mentioned mechanics do, but instead are more about increasing the length of the game.  This may prove to be a divisive idea, as casual games like Fluxx are often prized for their shorter length, so whilst hardcore fans may enjoy longer games, less committed players may find these to be something of a drag.
The Good Points
  • Each card tells the player exactly what they have to do with it, and so it's a very fast game to pick up.
  • It's a nice compact game, and can easily be taken to a park or pub to play with friends.  Nothing is needed except for the cards in the deck.
  • There are enough franchises references in Star Fluxx to keep most sci-fi fans happy.
  • Star Fluxx is a little bit more tactical than previous Fluxx incarnations, which may be able to sway the opinions of some of its critics.
  • With the right number of players it's quite a quick game to play, and is good to wrap up a heavy gaming session.
The Bad Points
  • Whilst slightly more tactical than other Fluxxes, Star Fluxx is still largely a game of chance, and this luck-based system will not appeal to all.
  • There simply aren't enough cards in the deck to cater to all franchises, and fans of some series (such as Battlestar Galactica or Buck Rogers to name but two) may feel a little bit cheated.
Recommended Number of Players: 3
Fluxx decks are always good wind-up or wind-down games on any gaming nights.  Star Fluxx loses a little of the fun with just 2 players, but with 4 or more (the box advertises 2-6) it can start to drag on as players forget their own Goals and desperately vie to just keep eachother from winning.
Average Game Time: 20 minutes
Star Fluxx is difficult to put an average game time on due to its random and unpredictable nature.  We've played games which have been over in a matter of minutes, and some which have gone on for over an hour.  20 minutes is a good, solid, average time though.
Replay Value: High
Star Fluxx is a good game, and not overly long.  It's appealing theme and wide range of franchises make it enjoyable to go back to, and it's probably the most-played of all the Fluxx decks here at Games & Tea.
The Future: n/a
Each version of Fluxx is its own game, and as such the contents of the box are all you'll ever get of Star Fluxx.  However if you've enjoyed the mechanic then there are several other themed Fluxx sets to choose from, including Zombie Fluxx, Oz Fluzz, Martian Fluxx, Cthulhu Fluxx and Stoner Fluxx.
Price: £12
Star Fluxx will set you back roughly £12, which is a thoroughly decent price for a stand-alone card game.  The various Fluxx sets seem to be standard fare in most specialist game shops, so even if they don't have the set you're after then they should be able to get their hands on it quickly.
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