Tools to Tame the Rule Monster: A Review of Fluxx


It was a number of years before children that I was first introduced to Fluxx. A good friend brought the game out at a party (the kind of party where everyone ends up watching old Dr Who episodes until the early hours). I remember it being a blast, but didn’t really think about it again for many years.

Then my son fell in love with board and card games, and my DH remembered ‘this old game that was kind of cool’. We now have 4 different versions of the game and they get played regularly. It has become an essential part of our homeschool.

Tools to Tame the Rule Monster: A Review of Fluxx, IMages: A game of Fluxx being played, boxes of different versions of Fluxx

So how does it work? The game starts very simply with one card that sets up the basic rules: everyone starts with 3 cards; and each turn, a person gets to draw one card, and play one card.

And that’s the last time anything about this game is predictable.

You see, the game lets each player change the rules – from simple rule changes like drawing or playing more cards, to random plays, card limits in your hands, through to rules that only apply to grandparents or on special occasions.

It also starts with no way to win – players have to play cards to set the winning conditions, called goal cards. There are then keepers (mostly good) or creepers (mostly bad) and the possession or lack of possession of these cards usually determine the winner. Notice I said usually? Yes, it’s that kind of a game.

So what is so great about Fluxx?

One of the best things about it is that it is funny. It has a quirky humour that gets giggles again and again. Whether it’s a play on old cliches like ‘Death and Taxes’  as one of the many winning conditions, or the whole premise of Starfluxx (I recommend you go and watch the Tabletop episode on this one), it keeps us entertained.

But as fun as it is, one of the things that make it a powerful addition to our home education setup is that it gives my son the opportunity to deal with chance and disruption in a controlled, non-threatening way.

To play Fluxx well, a player needs to become good at making plans – and good at throwing those plans away when the rules or goals change. You never know when disaster might strike and you end up with a keeper-eating death or forest fire creeper … but even a disaster might be turned to an advantage if you have the right goals.

Fluxx is a powerful tool to help my rules-loving son come to terms with the idea that sometimes the rules change. Sometimes creepers strike and we have to change our plans. Sometimes our daily goals have to shift. Sometimes our keepers get trashed and we have to start again. And you bet I use those exact phrases when the unexpected happens. Miraculously, it works. By putting our life into the framework of a game, he has become better able to cope with unexpected change. He has developed the beginnings of flexible thinking – of finding the silver lining in a ‘disaster’ – and the ability to pivot his thinking in a new direction. Every time we play reinforces this way of thinking. I know it’s a powerful tool in our arsenal. In fact, the few OTs I have mentioned it to have become quite enthusiastic about its possibilities, which is a plus and inspired me to write about it here.

As far as I’m concerned, Fluxx is one of the greatest examples of the gamification of learning.

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