Fluxx -- Nomic card game

Over on Play This Thing, Manifesto Games founder Greg Costikyan reviews Fluxx, an underground hit card-game that explores the notion of rules -- like Nomic or Calvinball from Calvin and Hobbes -- and has sold over 350,000 units. It sounds insanely fun:

Here's Fluxx's base rules: Draw one, play one. Okay, it's a bit more complicated than that; you shuffle the cards, deal three to each player, and when it is your turn, you draw a card from the deck and play one. Initially, there is no win condition.

Some cards are "keepers," which you play to the table in front of you and keep. Keepers have names (e.g., "Bread"), but mean nothing in themselves--but if a Goal card has been played, it stipulates a win condition (e.g., "the player who has both Bread and Chocolate wins"). Naturally, only one Goal is in effect at any time, but a player can change the game's Goal by playing a new Goal card.

Similarly, rules cards can be played to change the rules--increasing or decreasing the number of cards drawn and/or played each turn, and establishing a "hand limit" (e.g., a hand limit of 3 means you must discard any cards you possess above three at the end of your turn). Other cards are "instants," meaning you play them and follow the instructions, after which they are discarded--typically, these might allow you to take a keeper from another player or the like.

Link to Fluxx on Amazon, Link to review, Link to official Fluxx site


  1. Fluxx is awesome — a great party game for nerds, with just the right balance of structure and anarchy.

  2. I’ve owned that game for years. You’re right; it IS insainly fun. There’s a bunch of ‘themed’ decks as well; a stoner deck (it advises you to not actually follow any of the ‘smoke weed’ rules until it is legal in your area), a ecosystem deck (where you get rules like ‘spiders eat bugs’ and Global warming), and I think a family deck.

    The Winning Condition is my favorite type of card. Some of my favorites: Brain but no TV (if there’s no TV out on the table, and you have the brain, you win) and Cookies and Milk.

  3. Fluxx is one of the most evil games around.

    Mind you, this is a GOOD thing…

    I love this game and have played it for years. I’ve had games last four hours, and games won in one minute. They just recently released a new version called “Zombie Fluxx” which we haven’t played yet, but hopefully will have the gang togther for this weekend.

  4. I’ve loved playing Fluxx for a few months now, I highly recommend it to everyone. After the first game even my mother started to like it.

  5. I like the game because it is fun even with only two people. Fun two-player games can be hard to find.

  6. I agree that Fluxx is fun. And best for parties / casual gaming, because:

    It’s pretty random, barely a “game”, and it can drag. For some that’s not an issue. For some it is.

  7. OOhhh I love fluxx, a great game, everyone I have played it with loves them (and then goes out and tries to buy a deck).

    Just a pedantic little correction though, the sentence “Naturally, only one Goal is in effect at any time, but a player can change the game’s Goal by playing a new Goal card” is wrong. Sure that is the initial rule, but all rules can be changed and so there is a rule card that alters the number of goals in play at any one time.

  8. I’ve played Fluxx a couple of times, and I find it a rather dull game. Sure, the idea is really neat, but the result is that there’s no real strategy: at some point in the game, one player adjusts the rules, based on the cards they just drew, and wins. No one sees it coming, including the winning player, and the time it takes to get to this point is completely up in the air–we had one four-player game last well over an hour.

  9. A few Fluxx decks also come with blank cards allowing you to make up your own Keeper, Rule, Action, or Goal. As my friends and I always try to make random goals of the keepers we had, this allowed us to make a true Goal for one of our favorite combinations: Death Doughnuts.

    I also found a couple of expansion packs at one point – Jewish and Christian themed cards.

  10. Saying Fluxx is like Calvinball is pretty much dead on.

    I play Fluxx every now and then with some friends, and the games can last less than 2 minutes and go for about 2 hours. It’s generally pretty fun, considering you could be plotting the ultimate destruction of your openent for the win one turn, and suddenly become a loser the next.

    The rules are great because they are ever changing.

  11. We bring Fluxx to the bar, and more often than not, end up with more players than we started with at the beginning.

    Also check out Fluxx Zombies!

  12. “I’ve played Fluxx a couple of times, and I find it a rather dull game. Sure, the idea is really neat, but the result is that there’s no real strategy: at some point in the game, one player adjusts the rules, based on the cards they just drew, and wins. No one sees it coming, including the winning player, and the time it takes to get to this point is completely up in the air–we had one four-player game last well over an hour.”

    That’s exactly it! You play for hours, and then it’s some random draw that wins the game for somebody. There’s NO strategy involved! It becomes a very frustrating game, with no real point but the play. If you like the rules changing constantly (which can be fun) and don’t actually care about winning, then it should be good.

  13. I’m glad to see Looney Labs getting some press, because they sell the great Icehouse gaming system, but Fluxx is about as random as Uno, and even more pointless to play. Maybe I game for different reasons than other folks, but I prefer a logistical challenge over some random excuse for socializing.

  14. I discovered this game in 2000 or so, when I drove down to Austin, TX, to meet a group of online friends. We were going to go to a theater production on 6th St. after dinner, but down came the rain, so we retired to a coffeehouse for a while. Someone had a Fluxx deck. We played for hours, and I ordered a deck as soon as I got home. It has a way of drawing people in; a couple of years ago my family was renting a cabin at the lake for Labor Day weekend, and I was playing Fluxx with my boyfriend and the boys who would become my stepsons, and one and then another of my nephews wandered by and asked what we were playing. We quickly taught them and had two more people hooked. It’s a great game, and suitable for all ages.

  15. Fluxx is one of our favorite new games, and the Zombie Fluxx version is just as good, but different. In Zombie Fluxx, there are additional zombie “Creeper” cards that play themselves when drawn, and wander around the playing table as they are killed and reanimated. It makes the game a little more complicated to keep track of, but its awesome in its own way.

    The only complaint about Fluxx is that when 10 New Rule cards are in play at once, the pace slows to a crawl as everyone tries to understand what they are supposed to be doing now…and now….and NOW. Its always a great time though.

  16. “Maybe I game for different reasons than other folks, but I prefer a logistical challenge over some random excuse for socializing.”

    I love random excuses for socializing, personally. I’m not a fan of strategy games. I really enjoy the silly randomness of stuff like this.

  17. I’ve played and rated over 250 board and card games and playing Fluxx is one of the most god-awful worst game experiences. I will play nearly any game other than Fluxx.

    The game is slightly funny, true. Play it once, and you might get a laugh. From then on, it is nothing but “do what the cards say” over and over again. It is terminally dumb, incredibly stupid, and dull as hell when it’s not your turn.

    It is, however, an interesting “idea” of a game. It just doesn’t translate into fun. It’s not like Calvinball because You don’t get to decide the new rules, the cards do.

    Many other Nomic games mentioned, such as Nomic, 1000 Blank White Cards, and others are much more enjoyable as games.

    Sorry, Looney Labs, but that’s my opinion. Some people do enjoy the game, but then some people enjoy nearly any game. Check out its reputation on boardgamegeek.com before deciding whether or not to buy it.


  18. Fluxx is insanely fun. There is definitely strategy, in that there are a variety of tactics that will significantly increase your chances of winning. But no, they won’t guarantee it. Someone might just get lucky and draw a winning hand.
    If you’re looking for hard-core, competitive gaming requiring intense concentration, play something else.
    Fluxx is great because you can have a game between a focussed adult, an 8 year old, and an adult who isn’t really paying full attention, and they can all have fun.

  19. I played this throughout college. The friend who introduced me had actually met the game creator at an event at a Borders book store, and had the “Borders Bonus” card shown above (this was a promotional card only available at such events). He also had a signed copy of the game creator’s custom card (which counted as The Brain card).

  20. Having played Fluxx, I’ve got to agree with those who aren’t as big fans of it. It’s fun for the first half-hour of play, maybe, but by then the random nature makes the whole thing worthless. Loony Labs has other really good games, though; I highly recommend Chrononauts, a game where you travel through time and change history.

    Also, I’ve always thought of the Stoner Fluxx variation as being “Like Fluxx, but…well…it’s not really ‘moreso’ either.” Loony Labs makes no secret of their political leanings on the legalization question.1

  21. Kids, kids… you’re both right!

    Fluxx can be extremely fun, and can also be dull and pointless. It’s mostly contextual. A group of players more attuned to weekly Puerto Rico matches will often be frustrated by the limited role of strategy, but if the same people are hanging out in a bar with some non-gamer friends, it’s the prefect speed.

    Everyone should try it at least once, but not in a group larger than 4 or 5, since it will get slow. I’ve also made a couple cards which can speed up endgame, such as “Immanentize the Eschaton” (which reactivates all the Goal cards in the discard pile.)

  22. Fluxx is one of my favorite games ever. To those that say there’s no strategy involved…well, you’re wrong. It’s just that your strategy can get cut off at the knees by someone else’s actions, thus requiring you to develop a new strategy ASAP. That’s the most fun part of the game, to me.

  23. There’s no high strategy in it, but few games make me laugh as much as Fluxx does. I did try to play it with my parents once and it went pretty slow– I think it’s one of those games that works better with fluid than with crystallized intelligence, but your mileage may vary.

  24. If you like UNO or ‘Oh, Hell’, you’ll love Fluxx. Like they say above, it’s very social and very random. An 8-year-old is just as likely to win as his 85-year-old grandma. There is a ‘Family’ version for just this reason.

    I really like to play rules-heavy strategy games, but every once in awhile it’s fun to just sit down with family or a bunch of non-gamer friends and have some fun.

    That’s what Fluxx is for.

  25. I carried this game around for finals week during high school, and as a quick set-up-and-play game that fit into the time parameters of between ten and forty minutes of free time, its great.

    It isn’t a game to devote an evening to, and its a game as much about learning to play it as to playing it. Yes, this can make games dull, but then you quit, draw a new hand, and try to avoid bad rule combinations the next round.

    As a game for a few minutes, or for play while waiting somewhere, its great, a good alternative to a regular deck of cards, and not nearly as high-cost and high-anger as, say, Magic: the Gathering.

  26. The game scales well for any age or mix of ages, status of inebriation, social and educational background, the players’ familiarity with each other, length of hair and acceptance of tie-dye, etc.

    I am a fan of lots of crunchy hardcore strategy games, I like many of Looney Labs more serious creations, I love everything from “German” style board games to Star Fleet Battles, and yet I think Fluxx is great fun. Yes, it’s silly. Calvinball is supposed to be silly. Baseball-umpire-types and Fantasy-Football-types and cricket-fan-types may scoff and write how the game’s too random and dull for them, but then that’s what I think theirs are too — at least Fluxx isn’t pretentious or elitist ;)

    For people who like simple, easy-going, fun games, may I also recommend Looney Labs “Aquarius”?

  27. I find it amusing that people either love Fluxx or hate it, with a few people in between. It’s like a reverse bell curve.

    I wonder if we plotted the enjoyment of Fluxx against the enjoyment of Risk if there would be an inverse relationship…

    I agree with #21; it’s fun for a lot of people because it’s random, and the tide can turn from one person winning to another very quickly. We’ve had the 6 year old win. Many strategic games lose their ‘fun’ for any player that’s not clearly in the lead; it’s not as much fun playing if you know you have no chance of winning.

    Fluxx makes it possible to be the player who has the least going for you, and then turn around and win. In that, it’s more like pure game of chance. As a game of chance, I find it engaging and usually interesting.

  28. I used to work at a Game Keeper, a board game store owned by Wizards of the Coast, and in the down time I would learn new card and board games to help me sell the games in the store. Fluxx and Chrononauts were two of my favorites, and I would regularly bring my own copies in to play with customers who were looking for something fun and new. Fluxx was perfect for an in-store demo, because you can always deal a new player in and bring them up to speed. I also highly recommend the Looney Labs game Nanofictionary, which is great for a creative group who loves making up stories. There are a lot of great games out there that people normally pass over, and with the slow demise of the American Board Game Store, I think we’ll be stuck in a world where people only ever play Monopoly.

  29. “…it’s fun for a lot of people because it’s random, and the tide can turn from one person winning to another very quickly. We’ve had the 6 year old win.”

    Yep. I’ve heard a story of a guy who played against his cat (who would select a face-up card by swatting at it), and the cat won. This isn’t really my idea of “fun,” but hey, whatever floats your boat.

    “Many strategic games lose their ‘fun’ for any player that’s not clearly in the lead; it’s not as much fun playing if you know you have no chance of winning.”

    I suppose it depends on what you get out of gaming. If you game for fun, and are only concerned about winning, then you’re likely to be frustrated with being anywhere but in first place. If you’re more interested in the challenge of learning to manipulating the system through trial and error, then losing isn’t that big of a deal.

    The issue is that Fluxx is a “party game,” which means it’s more suited for a group of people who are hanging out, and are looking for an activity to keep them occupied at the same time. Strategy gamers are looking for an experience that isn’t dictated by who draws the right card at the right time, but is more about making sound decisions when you have to make a choice.

  30. We’ve done a full review of Zombie Fluxx on our podcast, The Spiel (thespiel.net), for anyone who might be interested.

    I think the emphasis on randomness in the game frustrates some people, but I certainly don’t see that as a fatal flaw. To me, the game plays like a series of loosely connected puzzles. On your turn, you try to do the best to skew things in your favor and “solve” the game given the knowledge of the cards face up and the cards in your hand.

    Any move you make is contingent and certainly may not hold up by the time it gets back to you. You have only a very marginal control over the game on any given turn.

    It’s meant for light fun not high strategy and on that level I think it succeeds in allowing very disparate groups of players sit down and have a good time playing.

  31. What terrifying Twilight Zone alternate universe have I fallen into where Cory Doctorow has never played Fluxx? Fluxx is as Doctorow as Steampunk and Copyfighting. Next you’re gonna tell me you’ve never read Schismatrix.

  32. If you’ve never played Cosmic Encounter, a CCG like Magic: The Gathering, or any of the dozens of games designed in the last 15 years that have incorporated the idea that the rules of the game can be bent while it’s being played, Fluxx must seem like a very exciting idea. And if this game’s your idea of fun, I’m not going to try to talk you out of it.

    But I can’t stand it – in fact, I can’t stand most of Andrew Looney’s games. He’s been quoted as saying that he hates games where you have to think when it isn’t your turn. That pervades his game-design philosophy, and to me it makes his games not worth playing.

    Here’s a typical Looney mechanic: a card that, when you play it, forces every player to give his hand to his left-hand opponent. Or one that makes players exchange victory conditions. At a stroke, these cards render most of what you do when you’re playing – managing the cards in your hand and planning out the order that you’re going to play them, in short, figuring out how to get ahead or win – completely irrelevant. This is his idea of fun.

    It’s wacky! It’s unpredictable! Well, that’s one perspective. I feel like it displays contempt for anyone who has been foolish enough to invest emotional energy in thinking about what he’s doing. These are mechanisms that punish you for caring.

    The comparison of Fluxx to Nomic is really inapposite. Yes, both games allow the players to change the rules as they play. But the two games could hardly be more different. In Nomic, you can’t change the rules unless you get other players to agree to your change (unless that rule has been changed), which creates a radically different kind of experience. I don’t like playing Nomic either, but for totally different reasons for not liking Fluxx: in Fluxx, your decisions don’t matter; in Nomic, they matter so much that every decision is a source of endless discussion.

  33. Fluxx can be an interesting party game, but as mentioned above, there’s no real strategy to it.

    Now, if you want a REAL card game version of Calvinball, look no further than 1000 Blank Note Cards. It’s got the same draw-a-card/play-a-card rule, except the deck starts out mostly blank, and players fill in the cards with whatever they want as they go along.

  34. Fluxx is one of my favorite games, and it’s interesting the reactions that it gets out of people… My real life experiences with showing people the game have about matched that of the commenters here. It’s very love-or-hate. Programmers seem to love it, by my experiences. There’s definitely a strategy to the game, although a lot of people don’t seem to believe that. But it’s fun even if you’re not trying to strategize, and you just want a casual game to have around for socializing. I’ve heard it compared to Uno before, and I can see that, but I don’t really care for Uno and I’m a huge Fluxx fan. Easiest way to find out if you like it is to buy a deck!

  35. Fluxx is a super game! I’m surprised it took Cory this long to find out about it. It is great to play with anybody so long as they can read the cards. This is a favorite for my family as the games are hilarious and often brief enough for any attention span.

  36. Fluxx was the very first non-mainstream card/board game our daughter played, and it’s been a reliable quick game for us for years, although No Thanks has taken over as the filler game of choice recently.

    (That said, let me echo the surprise that Cory hasn’t played Fluxx; it had seemed like a game he’d naturally encounter at a con at some point.)

  37. What I meant to say is that Fluxx was an OK game prior to Zombie Fluxx, but now is great thanks to the additional rules of Zombie Fluxx. 8~D

  38. Count me as one of the people tickled to see a post about a game I’ve been playing for over a decade.

    When I worked at a game company, we talked about “social games” and “gamer games”. The latter were games with strategic depth; the former were more casual, better suited to being played by and with players with a wide range of ability, and generally shorter.

    Fluxx falls towards the social end of the spectrum, but it’s a geeky social game, thick with meta-rules that change the game environment from turn to turn.

    The game club I play with is into gamer games — when Peurto Rico was new we would have two or three games of it running simultaneously — but Fluxx is a perennial favorite for the times when we want something light.

  39. I love Fluxx. It’s most certainly untrue that there is no strategy to the game–sound strategy will increase your chances of winning significantly–but it is true that there is a lot of randomness to the game. That makes it a game that’s wonderfully suited to people who revel in the unexpected and completely ill-suited to people obsessed with winning every game they play.

  40. I’ve never played, but it sounds fun. I’m kind of partial to One Thousand Blank White Cards, myself.

  41. I first ran into Fluxx at Stabcon, a weekend-long boardgaming event that is probably the ideal environment for encouraging the odd short game that doesn’t require huge investment in time and mental resources. If you’ve just slogged your way though Arkham Horror and are contemplating spending the evening on Starfarers of Cataan, then Fluxx is just the sort of palate-cleanser of a game to pass half an hour whilst the old strategy neurons regenerate.

    (Don’t get me wrong – Arkham Horror is an excellent game. But the first time I played it, I sat down afterwards to write a combined summary of the rules and how-not-to-screw-up guide to the really important elements of its strategy. It was four pages long. Sometimes you want a game a little easier on the grey matter.)

  42. Cool! This sounds much like Mao, a card game my friends and I played addictively in high school. Much like “crazy-eights”, but you can’t tell anyone the rules (simply penalize for breaking them), and make one up each time you win a round.

  43. Holy Clusterflux! Look at all the discussion.

    Put me down in the “likes it” column.

    There is definitely strategy in Flux, and your strategy may have to shift suddenly when the rules or goal have changed.

    Anyone who got turned off on it the first time probably never played it long enough to figure out how to play it strategically. (Do I hold this keeper, or play it now? How well have you memorized the various Keepers, and what Keepers are your opponents showing.)

    I particularly like playing Family Flux with kids. The kids have to read each card, for one thing. And there’s enough randomness in it to balance the odds between kids and adults.

  44. This is one of my all time favorite games. A friend brought a deck to a summer training (In 2000 I think) and we all got hooked. It took a while to track down my own deck, but I’ve brought it everywhere from pint night with friends to rainy days at the camp I used to work at. After a few rounds everyone has caught on and become equally enamored with the game. Glad to see it’s getting some love on BB.

  45. Flux is a fine game if you play it fast and loose. I’m pretty sure this was the manner in which it was intended to be played. I hate introducing it to AP type personalities who agonize over what card to play. Just play a card – you don’t really have any control, you just think you do. I like to think of Flux as an allegory for life, actually.

    That said, I do regularly play and enjoy some of Looney Labs Icehouse games like Zendo, Homeworlds, and 3House. Those little plastic pyramids have great “curb appeal” as well.

  46. Buying from the listing at the Amazon link in the post is a BAD IDEA because you will be ripped off. Really, that Amazon link should be removed or replaced with a reasonable seller. It’s $45 from that Amazon partner (Toyzz), but $18.50 from the official site and (after a quick search) similar prices from other Amazon partners.

  47. I have to agree with Yehuda, Tonamel, and Shrinkwrap on this one… 1000 Blank white cards does appear to be a much more fun and superior game.(Check out the wikipedia entry here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1000_blank_white_cards)

    Why would I spend any money on a game like this when I could spend virtually no money (a dollar or two for a pack of index cards)and create a personalized game of “1000 BWC” that is most likely way more fun?

    Seriously, I think the post should be about 1000 BWC instead.

  48. I’ve got to second the recommendation for 1,000 blank white cards for a “true” card-Calvinball. That’s one of the most fun games I’ve played.

    Apples to Apples is another fun party game along Fluxx and 1k BWC lines– like 1k BWC, it changes dramatically when different groups of people are playing, which I think is a good sign.

  49. *heh* I learned to play Fluxx after a day at the Oregon Brewers Festival. I have loved it ever since. It’s fun precisely for the reasons that “gamers” hate it. Strategy can be planned and formulated and then you have to scramble to reformulate it. Primarily, for me, the game doesn’t seem like work. One of the reasons I don’t enjoy computer RPG games is the grinding tedium of them that makes them ultimately seem like very complicated but nevertheless tedious factory work. Fluxx is more like backgammon than anything else that I can think of. You can have a strategy, sure, but one little dice roll can keep you bumped and ruin everything you were working on for the whole game. That tends to be why chess players don’t care for backgammon. :)

  50. Not to nerd out too much, but most of the rules in Magic: The Gathering are flexible too. The winning condition is fairly stable, but there are a few options even there. Fluxx sounds a little too short on structure, just like Calvinball never sounded like any fun to me.

    Also, if you feel like customizing any card game, talk a sharpie and write on the face of an unloved card: taa-daa, new card!

  51. I like Fluxx. It’s a fun, light game for when you don’t have enough time or brainpower for something else. However, I only own the original, and I wanna get my hands on the Eco and Zombie variants (which have interesting mechanics).

    Andy makes great games, Chrononauts and the Icehouse system being my personal favorites. My biggest complaint is that Andy Looney seems to be a one-trick pony these days. All he announces for new games are variants of Fluxx. Although there might be some hope that he’s going to put something original out:


    After he talks about Martian Fluxx, he mentions another “secret project”. Of course, this could turn out to be another Fluxx variant, but hey, Andy could surprise us…

    Anyway, for people looking for a place to buy Fluxx, try 1) your local games store, and 2) the Looney Labs online store at http://www.looneylabs.com/OurStores/LooneyLabs.html .

    Full disclosure: I am a demo person for Looney Labs, though I am currently inactive. The above was not approved by Looney Labs, nor am I a representative of them.

  52. Let me chip in with the other Fluxx owners: just go buy this, it’s fantastic. It happens to be a great family game, too; I had my son and nephew playing it when they were only 6 or so.

  53. Here’s the trick behind Calvinball:

    You have to be six years old and play with an imaginary friend. Otherwise you’re really just *pretending* to play Calvinball.

    And like others have said: almost every card in Magic: the Gathering is rule-altering in some way.

  54. It may say something that the board-game most loathed by Andy Looney (of Looney Labs) when I was in a gaming group with him was Civilization. Very long, with complicated rules and deep strategy, it is the antithesis of the Looney Labs style of game

  55. Fluxx is a great social game. Just played Montey Python Fluxx with my family over thanksgiving.

    Those of you who like the concept, but want a little bit more strategy should check out Munchkin.

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