[Note: I received a free copy of this game in exchange for a fair, unbiased review. Due diligence, full disclosure, and all that.]
There are plenty of games that center around space, whether you’re forming constellations, repairing your ship, traveling the galaxy, escaping a black hole, or building a civilization. But while you’re worrying about air supply, celestial objects, or other aspects of life in space, you’re rarely reminded of the incredible wonders that can be found beyond the Earth.
It’s unusual indeed for a game to evoke that sense of awe, no matter how fun the actual gameplay may be. Which makes Astronomy Fluxx, the latest offering from the crew at Looney Labs, such a delight.
For the uninitiated, Fluxx is a card game where you collect keeper cards and put them into play. Different combinations of keeper cards complete different goals, and each player has the chance to put different keeper cards and goal cards into play in order to win. So you might find yourself working toward completing the goal at hand when suddenly somebody plays a new goal, and the object of the game changes.
Along the way, players affect how the game is played by utilizing action cards and new rule cards which alter what players can and can’t do. Suddenly, you’ll have to trade your hand with another player, or start drawing three cards each turn instead of one.
In Astronomy Fluxx, the gameplay is simplified from previous editions of the game — there are no ungoals or creepers complicating play this time around — but the gameplay doesn’t suffer in the slightest.
Before I get into the rule cards and other ephemera of the game, I have to mention how blown away I was by the art. Using NASA images as photographic source material (instead of the usual charming drawings usually seen in Fluxx games) really infuses the theme of the game into every aspect of the gameplay. The planets burst to life in every keeper card, and the goal cards are eye-catchingly gorgeous.
Some of the goal cards reference specific events from the history of space exploration — from the first man in space and the moon landing to more recent endeavors like the New Horizons spacecraft flyby of Pluto — which certainly brings a smile to this astronomy buff’s face each time I play.
In addition to the usual rule change cards regarding how many cards to draw, how many to play, hand limits, and so forth, they’ve introduced rules to make use of bonus educational information at the bottom of each keeper card. One card allows you to draw additional cards if you can name the year certain events happened, and another offers a bonus card per turn for a constellation you can name. These cards continue the tradition of Math Fluxx, Chemistry Fluxx, and Anatomy Fluxx of rewarding players for learning about the subject of the game.
Astronomy Fluxx also incorporates the planets into the gameplay in a unique way with certain rule cards that involve planetary orbits and centers of gravity that move from player to player during the game. Each adds an intriguing mechanic that I’ve never really seen before in a Fluxx game, and it really creates a fresh challenge, even for experienced Fluxx players.
All in all, I was absolutely wowed by the depth of creativity that went into the latest offering from Looney Labs. This is a game that lives up to the chaotic, replayable spirit of Fluxx, but with innovative gameplay, solid educational information, and a game-changing shift in artistic style. Their educational Fluxx series continues to impress.
Astronomy Fluxx is available now from Looney Labs and select retailers!
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