5 Questions with Game Designer Andrew Looney

In honor of the 20th anniversary of Looney Labs this weekend, as well as the launch of the LooneyCon event today, we’re doing Follow-Up Friday a little differently today.

And so, welcome to another edition of 5 Questions, our recurring interview series where we reach out to puzzle constructors, game designers, writers, filmmakers, musicians, artists, and puzzle enthusiasts from all walks of life!

It’s all about exploring the vast and intriguing puzzle community by talking to those who make puzzles and those who enjoy them! (Click here to check out previous editions of 5 Questions!)

And I’m excited to welcome Andrew Looney as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!


[Image courtesy of BoardGameGeek.com.]

Andrew Looney is the chief game designer and co-founder of Looney Labs, a company specializing in games with serious replayability and dynamic rules that make every session a new experience. Founding the company in 1996 with his wife and partner-in-aerospace Kristin, he has gone on to launch such innovative games as Fluxx (and its many variations) and the Looney Pyramids series.

With two decades of experience in game design, he has presided over the growth of a major brand in games, one whose homegrown roots and values are still very much a part of the company’s fabric today.

Andrew was gracious enough to take some time out to talk to us in the days before LooneyCon, so without further ado, let’s get to the interview!

5 Questions with Andrew Looney

1. You’re celebrating twenty years of Looney Labs innovation and game design this month, and you’ve really cemented a reputation for fun games with a high replay value. How do you know when a game is right for your brand? And what role do you play in bringing these games to market?

I design everything we make myself. So I play a pretty big role. But the decision about what we publish next is not up to me… Ultimately, Kristin makes that call (although she gets input from everyone in the company and beyond).

When I feel that a game design is working, I’ll declare it ready for consideration, at which point it goes into the pool of possibilities. And some of my designs spend a lot of time waiting around in the pool before the company decides to publish them. In other cases, such as when I’m asked to create a game on a specific subject or when I come up with something particularly exciting, I have more deadline pressure.

But the ultimate test of when a game is ready is when everyone who plays it says, “This is great! Let’s play again!”


[The heart and soul of Looney Labs, Andrew and Kristin Looney.
Image courtesy of WindyconBlog.]

2. In the last year, Looney Labs released more games than ever before, with new licensing deals for Fluxx variations like Batman Fluxx and Firefly Fluxx, a Mad Libs game, and a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign for Pyramid Arcade, a relaunch of sorts for your Looney Pyramids series. How is Year 20 of Looney Labs different from Year 1, and what lessons have you learned along the way?

Wow, the difference is so vast. Twenty years ago we were still working at our day jobs in the aerospace industry, and learning how to start a company in our spare time. We’re still living in the same house, but the similarities end there. For many years, we ran the business out of our house, but now it’s just our house again, since our company has an 11-room office suite up the road, where our 8 full-time employees work.

Twenty years ago I had an idea for a wacky new card game… now there are almost 20 different versions of that game on the market, that have sold almost 3 million copies, and our games are in about 20 different languages.

Twenty years ago, we were struggling to find a way to manufacture the little plastic pyramids needed for our first game idea. Now we’re about to release an incredible boxed set featuring twenty different games I’ve invented since then for the pyramids.

Plus we have a bunch of other cool games I’ve invented along the way! It’s amazing, I never would have believed it. Where will we be in another twenty years?


[Sample cards from Firefly Fluxx, one of many games
released under the Looney Labs banner.]

3. You’ve created games of your own and helped others bring their games to life. What puzzles and board games, either in game-play style or in the experience of producing them for sale, have most influenced you?

I grew up on the old-school classics, so they were my obvious first influences. Sorry was an early favorite. Another was a sixties board game about the Civil War called Battle Cry. I think my first real game design effort was a small-scale, simplified version of Battle Cry I made as a kid, small and fast enough to be played at a restaurant during a meal. (Sadly, I lost that prototype long ago.)

Another early effort was combining the missile and warhead cards from Nuclear War with the board game Risk. Another of my earliest efforts was coding my own text adventure games, like Colossal Cave, a game so inspirational to me that it also first motivated my desire to program computers.

Kristin and I were independently inspired, during our high school days, by the dice game Cosmic Wimpout. Indie game companies like them are everywhere now, but at the time it was a revelation that such companies could exist. We were particularly inspired by their occasional newsletter and their grassroots approach to marketing.

My favorite card game from way back is Hearts, and certain elements of that game still inspire me, most notably the way it has two paths to victory (avoid taking points vs. take all the points).

Lastly, Fluxx was inspired by a conceptual game engine called Nomic, in which the game rules are created by the players as the game is played. I found Nomic to be an interesting idea, but felt I could do better…

I think a lot of game designers, and indeed inventors of every stripe, are driven by this sort of inspiration, the desire to improve on what someone else did, to go even further with the idea.


4. What’s next for Andrew Looney and Looney Labs?

Well, the very next thing is LooneyCon, a micro-convention for fans of our games which we’re running this weekend! And as mentioned, this fall we’ll be releasing Pyramid Arcade, the culmination of everything we’ve been doing with the pyramid system these past 20 years.

Well, almost — it doesn’t include Zendo, which is too big to fit in Pyramid Arcade. But a new standalone edition of that game is something we’re planning separately, and we have some pretty neat ideas for that, too.

And I’ve got other exciting stuff planned for the future, including 3 completely new board games I’ve been developing for the past few years. Sorry, I can’t even tell you their names yet, let alone when they will be released, but I’m pretty satisfied by each one.

5. If you could give the readers, writers, aspiring game designers, and puzzle fans in the audience one piece of advice, what would it be?

“Don’t get left behind when the car goes into town.”

This is something my mom used to say (which I actually only learned at her funeral). It was a lesson she’d learned as a kid in rural Kansas, and it literally just refers to the limited availability of opportunities to catch a ride from the farm into town.

But I love it as a mantra for every fleeting chance we get at doing something fun. Pay attention to everything, because doors sometimes open and close quickly, and always say yes to travel and excitement!

Life is one big game, and whoever has the most fun wins!

A huge thank you to Andy for his time. Be sure to check out the Looney Labs site for updates on all things Looney, and check out their Facebook to keep up on all the activities for this weekend’s LooneyCon event, which starts today and runs through Sunday July 24, the actual 20th anniversary! I cannot wait to see what he has in store for us next!

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You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: PUZZLES…IN…SPACE edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’m posting the results of our #PennyDellPuzzleSciFi hashtag game!

You may be familiar with the board game Schmovie, hashtag games on Twitter, or@midnight’s Hashtag Wars segment on Comedy Central.

For over a year now, we’ve been collaborating on puzzle-themed hashtag games with our pals at Penny Dell Puzzles, and this month’s hook was #PennyDellPuzzleSciFi, mashing up Penny Dell puzzles and anything and everything having to do with cartoons, animated film and television shows, characters, catchphrases, famous lines…anything!

Examples include The Day The Earth Stood Syll-acrostic, Captain James T. Kirkuro, Keep ON Asi-moving, or Mystery Person of Interest.

So, without further ado, check out what the puzzlers at PuzzleNation and Penny Dell Puzzles came up with!

Star Wars!

Obi Wan & Only KenKen-obi / Obi-Ken Kenobi

Star Words: Attack of the Pine Cones

Star Words: The Empire Strikes Blackout!

X-word fighter

Anagram Skywalker

“These Three aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” / “These aren’t the Drop-Outs you’re looking for”

“Do or do not. There is no Try-Angles.”

”May the Fore ‘n’ Aft be with you”

Star Trek!

“Beam me Ups and Downs, Scotty!”

“The Double Trouble with Tribbles”

Deep Space Nine of Diamonds

Captain Jean-Lucky Star

Captain Kathryn Right of Way

“Make the Connection so.”

“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of A Few Choice Words.”

“Live long and progressions”

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kenken


Simon Says: In space, no one can hear you scream.

Battleships Galactica

Nineteen Eighty-Foursomes

Slaughterhouse Fancy Fives

A Wrinkle in Rhyme Time

Piggyback to the Future

Triplex Machina

The Frame-inator

“May the Solicross be with you” [Glenn’s note: I know this sounds like Star Wars, but it feels more Spaceballs to me.]

“Now that’s the worst disguise ever. That guy’s gotta be an Analog.”

Double Trouble in Little China

Garth Marenghi’s Darkplaces, Please

Flower Powers for Algernon

WordbEnder’s Game

Penny’s next puzzle…The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything (answer on page…42)


Heads & Tails from the Darkside

A Clockworks Orange

Galaxy Word Quest

Face to Face/Off

3rd Rock from the Sunrays

Tales from the Crypt-ograms

Two at a Time Lords

Doctor Who’s Calling

Close Encounters of the Three of a Kind

“Curse your Sudoku but inevitable betrayal!”

“You can’t Give and Take the sky from me.”

Doomsday Bookworms


Weird and Wacky Science Words


When Word Games Collide

The Puppet Mixmasters

Godzilla vs. Guess Who


E.T. the Exchange Board

“E.T. Phrase Craze”

Flash Grand Tour

War of the Word Quest


And the PuzzleNation readership got involved as well! @HereLetty delivered the terrific Galaxy Quotefalls and War of the Wizard Words!

Have you come up with any Penny Dell Puzzle SciFi entries of your own? Let us know! We’d love to see them!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

PuzzleNation Product Review: Firefly Fluxx


[Note: I received a free copy of this game in exchange for a fair, unbiased review. Due diligence, full disclosure, and all that.]

Looney Labs is celebrating 20 years of puzzle-game goodness this year. From Pink Hijinks and Just Desserts to Retro Loonacy and Chrononauts, they have built a reputation for games that endlessly reinvent themselves every time you play, maximizing both fun and replayability.

And their newest edition to their flagship Fluxx series typifies the spirit of Looney Labs: it’s bright, chaotic, stylish, and entertaining as all get out.

Firefly Fluxx makes the most of the much-beloved fan favorite one-season wonder, utilizing the characters, tropes, and best lines from the show to place their particular spin on the shifting rules, goals, and actions of earlier editions of Fluxx. (And you won’t even need to brush up on your Chinese expletives!)


Now, anyone who has played Fluxx in the past is familiar with action cards, goal cards, keeper cards, new rule cards, and surprise cards. For those unfamiliar with the game, the basic idea is to collect keeper cards in the hopes of completing a goal and winning the game. But since every player can change rules (like how many cards you draw during your turn, how many you drop, etc.) as well as what the current goal is that will allow you to win the game, you have to be on your toes.

Firefly Fluxx capitalizes on the outlaw spirit of the show to encourage players to swap out goals, play diabolical creeper cards, and spring devastating surprises on their opponents, all while sharing in the collective fandom with references like “Shiny!,” “I’ll be in my bunk,” and my personal favorite, “Curse Your Sudden But Inevitable Betrayal!”


[The crew of the Serenity reunites to elude the Reavers,
gather some loot, and escape unscathed, Fluxx-style.]

The art is delightful in a cartoony way, visually bringing home their larger-than-life adventures. Even the backgrounds of each card get a washed-out, Old West-style color palette to compliment the game and its fictional universe.

Although they’re not reinventing the wheel here with this newest edition of Fluxx, they are providing another terrific example of what they do best: marrying fun pop culture properties with great puzzly gameplay. It’s a winning combination.

You can pick up Firefly Fluxx here, and to check out all of our reviews of Looney Labs games and products, click here!

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You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

PuzzleNation Product Review: Retro Loonacy


It has been a banner year for the folks at Looney Labs. They’ve already released Just Desserts, Fluxx Dice, Batman Fluxx, and Adventure Time Fluxx, all to excellent reviews, as well as announcing the upcoming Nature Fluxx (a redesign of their environmentally conscious Eco Fluxx) and Firefly Fluxx (for all the Browncoats in the puzzle/game audience).

But, somehow, that’s not all. They’ve also launched a companion game to their pattern-matching game Loonacy, which brings us to the subject of today’s product review. Let’s take a closer look at Retro Loonacy!


Retro Loonacy replaces the wacky, more cartoonish illustrations of the original with a more subdued assortment of images, evoking sentimental stirrings for trappings and technology of the past (Polaroid cameras, rocketships and rayguns from Golden Age science fiction films, etc.).

It almost feels like looking through one of those old issues of Popular Mechanics that purported to predict the future. Everything is hard angles and earth tones, carefully repackaged nostalgia given form.

Now, I am focusing quite a bit on the art instead of the gameplay, and there’s a reason for that. Unlike each new version of Fluxx, which seems to bring something new to the table — whether it’s a new type of card like the creeper or simply a few clever innovations in the rules tailored to that specific brand — Retro Loonacy is played exactly the same as Loonacy. You’re still trying to empty your hand of cards as quickly as possible by matching one of the two images on your card with one on the board. There are no new wrinkles or variations. This is a repackaging, plain and simple.


[Retro Loonacy side-by-side with the original Loonacy.]

And, quite honestly, it’s for the better. Retro Loonacy‘s artwork is charming in the extreme, and the game feels more suitable for adults than the bright, silly, madcap images you must match in Loonacy. It presents itself as a game for adults, even if the frenetic gameplay might appeal more to younger players.

The style and execution elevate Retro Loonacy above many contemporary card games, placing it in the same aesthetic upper echelon as 12 Days (which features the most beautiful cards I’ve ever seen in a card game) and some of the more ambitious decks of Pairs offered by our friends at Cheapass Games.


In short, Retro Loonacy is a strong pattern-matching game with oodles of style. Another terrific offering by the game masters at Looney Labs.

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PuzzleNation App Review: Paper & Light

Welcome to the sixth edition of PuzzleNation App Reviews! Today we continue our quest to explore the world of puzzly games and apps for your tablet or smartphone!

Our resident App player and puzzle fiend Sherri has another intriguing game for us today, so let’s get down to business and dive into her review of Paper & Light for iPad and iPhone!

If you enjoy mazes, then Paper & Light is the game for you. It is an iOS game in which you are a cardboard box who must navigate your way around obstacles to the exit.

This is a very cute game. You play a cardboard box, and your friend is a bright firefly. Your goal in each level is to find your way around other boxes, toolboxes, and various other obstacles to the exit. The firefly is quite helpful, as it’s your only source of light. While you only have a narrow range of light from the firefly, you can switch between the cardboard box and the firefly as needed.

The game is divided into chapters and there are 15 levels in each chapter. As the firefly, you can scope out the area to plot your route to the exit. You earn stars for not using the firefly, but you can redo the level to get the star. For collecting 12 stars in each chapter, you earn a special reward.

I played through the first chapter, The Basement. To open later chapters, you need to complete a certain number of levels. I was pulled in by the cute graphics. I enjoyed playing the game. The levels were laid out in a pleasing manner and became increasingly more difficult. A big drawback, though, is that you can’t move the box very quickly. My wrist became quite sore as I was playing.

[Pictures courtesy of Yahoo.]

The mazes became more and more challenging as the game progressed. It did become a bit monotonous, and my wrist hurt after a while, but it was still an enjoyable way to pass the time. Figuring your way out of the mazes really worked the brain.

Ratings for Paper & Light:

  • Enjoyability: 3/5 — If you enjoy mazes, this is the game for you.
  • How well puzzles are incorporated: 4/5 — This is quite a puzzly game. You need to plot your path around the obstacles well.
  • Graphics: 3/5 — The graphics are simple but cute. The eyes on the cardboard box move when you move it, and the firefly flutters. The obstacles have some nice detail.
  • Gameplay: 2/5 — The box doesn’t move very quickly, so your wrist can get quite sore trying to reach the exit.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!