Looney Labs is a game company with a creative model everyone can get behind: high replay value through wildly interactive, adaptable game play. Perhaps best known for their card game Fluxx, Looney Labs games are designed for portability, packing a lot of punch into smaller, more efficient packaging.
They offered us the opportunity to try out three of their games for the Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide, each with its own unique flavor and playing style, and we put them to the full PuzzleNation Blog test.
The set-up for Pink Hijinks seems simple enough. Three stacks of pink pyramids (small on top of medium on top of large, like a little tree) occupy the middle row of a 3×3 grid.
Based on the roll of the die, you and your opponent maneuver your pieces with one of two goals in mind: either trying to either fill your home row with all three pyramids of a given size, or pushing all nine pyramids into your opponent’s row.
It’s a miniature chess game, allowing for offensive and defensive strategies. After a few rounds, we started improvising new rules and different gameplay styles, and discovered how much fun you could have with nine little pink pyramids. Pretty good for a game that fits in your pocket.
Pink Hijinks is part of Looney Labs’ multi-colored Looney Pyramids series, an ever-expanding line of puzzle games built around their signature pyramid game pieces. Not only can you buy individual games, but the company is constantly releasing new variations on their games through their website, allowing players to combine pieces from multiple Looney Pyramids products and play brand-new games. (They’ve even compiled a listing of fan-designed games using Looney Pyramids!)
As far as I can tell, the Looney Pyramids series has the loftiest of goals: to offer as many unique playing experiences as a deck of cards, arguably the most adaptable tool in a gamester’s arsenal. And based on their lineup thus far, Looney Labs is well on their way toward reaching that goal.
Time travel isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would do it. And Looney Labs takes that idea to the next level with Chrononauts, a card game where multiple time travelers are manipulating history, capturing artifacts, and racing to return to their own time with their missions complete.
Chrononauts is all about the cards. You’ve got mission cards, ID cards, timeline cards that make up the playing space, artifact cards, cards that change history (and others that change it back), as well as cards that can help or hinder your fellow time travelers.
The history-changing aspect is the most puzzly part of the game, as you determine what moments to change (and which to protect from your opponents) in order for your timeline to come to pass, but ensuring you don’t accidentally end the game by creating too many temporal paradoxes. The designers did an impressive job figuring out how major points in history were interconnecting, and watching the effect ripple down through the cards after making a bold history-altering move is arguably the best part of the game.
My one caveat regarding Chrononauts is that the game goes far too quickly with only two players. It’s a game designed around consequences, and the more consequences that are out of your hands, the more engaging and challenging the game becomes. I’d recommend you always recruit as many players as possible to make the gameplay last.
There are certain things you take for granted when playing a board game. You pick your game piece, and that’s yours for the duration of the game. You draw a given number of cards per turn. The board itself is static, so you can strategize.
But in Fluxx: The Board Game (titled to distinguish it from Fluxx: The Card Game), all of these givens are up for grabs, making for easily the most gleefully chaotic board game experience I’ve ever had. The board is made up of nine individual tiles, which can be shifted or rotated by your fellow players. The rules can be changed, affecting the number of spaces you move per round, how many cards you can hold, and even how many goals you must achieve before the game is over.
[A simple punch card helps players keep track of the ever-shifting rules.]
It’s mind-melting fun, a game that demands constant awareness and a strong ability to think on your feet, since the rules can change in an instant. (One game, a card was played that made the players switch game pieces, so I went from little blue men to little green circles, and the swerve threw me off for at least two rounds.)
Fluxx is the perfect example of the Looney Labs creative model: high replay value through wildly interactive, adaptable game play. Every game of Fluxx is different, not only because the rules are so malleable, but because with multiple games under your belt, you and your opponents become craftier, more adeptly manipulating the board and the rules to your advantage. It’s a great time.
I think puzzle fans and board game fans alike will find quite a bit to enjoy with the games from Looney Labs. So if you’ve got some Christmas cash burning a hole in your pocket, check them out!
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