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In his House at R’lyeh, Dead Cthulhu Waits Dreaming: Cthulhu Fluxx Reviewed

by September 8, 2012

Game Name: Cthulhu Fluxx

Publisher: Looney Labs

Designer: Keith Baker

Year: 2012

Players: 2 – 6

Ages: 8+

Playing Time: 10 – 30 Minutes

Retail Price: $16.00

Category: Card Game

 

Components:

  • 100 Cards
  • Instructions

From Looney Labs:

Follow the wild-eyed Poet, the obsessed Artist, and the expeditions of the Professor, as they investigate Eldritch Secrets no mortal was meant to discover. Someone has stolen the Necronomicon from the library at Miskatonic Univeristy, and a Farm in the hills is undergoing a horrifying Metamorphosis.

Meanwhile, unspeakable abominations stir in Penguin-riddled Tombs beneath the ice. Are you Inevitably Doomed to a lifetime of Nightmares in the Sanitarium, or are you, in fact, a Secret Cultist, worshiping the Minions of Darkness? Gaze upon the ever- changing face of Madness with Cthulhu Fluxx!

This is my third trip into the Fluxx universe, and this time I’m headed into a world filled with eldrich horrors, forbidden tomes, and the first version of Fluxx where every player can lose. If you are not familiar with the works of H.P. Lovecraft by now, I’m not going to explain it all to you here. Suffice to say that Lovecraft created short stories filled with terrifying tales to chill your very soul.

The game itself is as chaotic as are all Fluxx games, so I understand why some people don’t like it. Everything is up to the luck of the cards for the most part, but frankly most card games are like that so who cares.

As stated in my earlier reviews, here are the basics. You play the basic rule card to start the game, which states “Draw 1 Card” and “Play 1 Card”. Each player gets three cards each and then the first player to make a move and draw a card gets to go first.

Initially there are no rules for winning the game. The winning conditions are called goals and they are played on the table as you play the game. If a player satisfies a goal’s conditions, then that player instantly wins. The problem is that there can only be one active goal card at a time, and the other players can replace the goal card with a new goal card whenever they want. In the Cthulhu version of Fluxx you have a new problem to deal with. There are several “Ungoal” cards and if an ungoal is played, and the conditions on it are met, then all players lose the game and evil wins.

The conditions on the goal card involve having two other cards, called keeper cards, in play. You play keeper cards in front of you on your turn. If you get the right combination of keeper cards that match a goal card, then you win, even if it isn’t your turn.

Then there are the rule cards. There are rules cards that everyone can play to change the basic rules. You might end up drawing four cards, but only playing one. Then you might get a hand limit of two cards and thus end up discarding cards every turn. The rules change constantly. Other players can steal your keeper cards too, or make you discard cards, or turn you into a shuggoth (well, not really). This version features a new card called the “Meta Rule”. The meta rule is only used if all players agree before the game starts. The rule allows you to declare a winner even if Cthulhu wins the game. If the game ends with all players losing, the player with the greatest number of doom points on their played cards wins the game by default. Beware, the “Secret Cultist” card trumps this win, and can pull defeat from a victory that was earned by defeat.

Doom points you may ask? Yes, some of the cards have icons on them which can help or hurt you in one way or another. There are doom icons, anti-doom icons, and investigator icons. Each of these can help or hurt you in reaching certain goals or playing action cards, and usually come into play by counting the number of icons you have on the cards you have played in front of you. Cthulhu for example has three doom icons on his card. Ouch.

This is why the game is called Fluxx, because the rules and winning conditions are constantly changing. There are surprise cards that allow you to screw up another player’s turn. One of these allows you to steal a keeper just played by another player, thus preventing a potential win, but you can also use them to cancel another surprise card. This part does come in really handy in stopping someone from screwing you over just as you are about to win. There are a few other types of cards, like creepers that are bad and can prevent you from winning until you can get rid of them; keepers that you play in front of you and are used to fulfill winning conditions on goal cards; and action cards that are used for some special ability and then discarded. A note about the creepers, there are some goals that require you to have one or two of the creepers. If you can get that goal played, then you can actually win with creepers on the table. Its a good thing, because there are a lot of creepers in the game. It IS Cthulhu Fluxx after all.

The main difference between this and all other versions of Fluxx is of course the theme. If you are a Cthulhu Mythos fan, then this version is right up your alley. I have enjoyed this version most out of all the versions that I have played, not only for the theme, but also for the way that Looney Labs tried to “Mix it up” this time. For example, if you can get your hands on the Wilber Whately keeper card, and the conditions of the Dunwich Horror ungoal are met, then you win the game.

The ungoals really add to your options and cut the game length down so you don’t really have to worry about a never ending game of Fluxx. The last game that I played I was able to win by getting the other players doom points down by forcing them to discard various keepers and creepers. Then I played an ungoal, made sure evil won, and won by default because I had the most doom points on the table. If someone had had the Secret Cultist card this would have backfired, but they didn’t and I pulled it out for the win.

The game is fun, and Looney Labs went for a darker feel with the artwork this time, completely appropriate for the theme. This isn’t the whimsical Fluxx that you are accustomed to. The horrors are horrible, and the heroes mean business. As with any version of Fluxx you will either like it or you won’t. It does get a bit harder to win with more players, as the “screw the other player” cards come up more often. A surprise card could have foiled all of my plans at any time.

Cthulhu Fluxx is the best version of Fluxx I’ve played. It’s still appropriate for families but it has a bigger draw for the teenagers than Oz Fluxx, which was more appropriate for a younger audience. I’ll admit that I am biased because I am a huge Mythos fan, but I still think that this will be a tough version for Looney Labs to beat.

Pros

Cthulhu Fluxx has a dark theme, and unlike other versions of Fluxx all of the players can actually lose in this game, a very thematic touch; The artwork adds a lot to the darker feel but the basic Fluxx game is still there

Cons

You can’t really plan much strategy wise, you have to think and react quickly to an ever changing environment; Some people will thrive in this kind of environment, and some will just hate it; The more players that you have, the more likely it becomes that everyone will eventually lose

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Elliott Miller
Elliott is well versed in all subjects and brings his expertise to bear on strategy, family, and Euro-style gaming.

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