Fluxx Strategy: Controlling the New Rules

As gamers there are several quintessentail games we all know. Munchkin, Catan, Ticket to Ride, Cards Against Humanity, and Warhammer – all of these are games that most gamers know of even if they haven’t played. Most of these games can be considered Entry Level games, or games that help bring people into the fold from outside the gaming world. All have their own feel, and each is different to all the others in more than just namesake. One game that is particularly close to my heart is Fluxx, a game created by Andy Looney, in all of its iterations. Most gamers have played it or own a version (of which there are many) and this is because of how varied, easy, and sorbet game-esque it is.

At its heart, Fluxx is a really interesting game, with one very simple mechanic that makes it different to all other games. That mechanic is that the rules in Fluxx are constantly fluctuating. The game starts off with players picking one card and playing one card, which is simple enough. The cards each player can pick up include events, keepers, creepers, goals, and, of course, new rule cards that add additional rules to the game. Soon you find youself with turns that go along the lines of:

Pick up five cards, trade in a goal for two additional cards, pick two and play them straight away, steal a card from an opponent’s hand, and then play all.

Needless to say, this is one of the reasons Fluxx has become a household game (in gamer households at least), however, it has also given a way to a question that is a popular one to ask on Board Game Geek and Reddit: Is there such a thing as Fluxx Strategy?

Fluxx Strategy: Does It Exist?

Due to the randomness of the rules, it is easy to see why Fluxx strategy may seem somewhat elusive at times. It has remained a hot topic as gamers search for an answer in a game where the rules can change 10x within a round. One player may be drawing one and playing one, and the next thing you know you are drawing four, playing five, and doing the Hokiekokie. If the rules constantly change, is there any way of giving yourself an advantage over the other players? Well, Fluxx strategy fans, there may be.

The trick to Fluxx strategy comes with controlling the rules. If you really want to play a competitive game then you need to maintain control, not over keepers (just collect those as and when you can) but over other rule cards, especially those that force your hand. In other words, keep cards like rule resets, and cards like Play All as long as you physically can. This will mean that whenever a card comes that will force you to discard your hand you can reset the rules to mean that isn’t the case and, when you need to, you can play all by simply using that as an endgame tool.

With that in mind, the rest of the game is about playing your cards right. Build up goals and keepers, and encourage new rules that allow for you to churn through the deck.

Gather Your Resources

If you want to play Fluxx in a competitive way, you need to encourage cards that allow you to pick up as many cards as possible each turn, whilst ensuring you are not being forced to discard too many cards in return. This means the ideal scenario would be to get the Draw Five card out whilst only having a Play Two card in return. This would allow you to gather as many resources as possible, ready for the Play All to come out once you are ready.

If this is a strategy that you want to try, it is important to keep in mind that it is wise to keep your goal, and your keepers for that goal, in your hand for as long as possible. That way, when you Play All you can place your keepers first, then your goal, and then you win.

There is of course, a downside to this strategy, and this is ultimately one of the biggest questions when it comes to Fluxx strategy. The ability to control a couple of given cards is as strong a personal strategic advantage you can get when playing Fluxx, as the only way to strengthen your own game is by also strengthening other people’s. The only way you can draw three cards and play two, is if everyone else is doing the same. The only strategy you have to make your hand different is to be careful about which cards you keep in your hand compared to your opponents. Of course, once you set this strategy in motion you need to complete it as fast as possible before your opponents can. That will always be a risk.

The Maths Behind Fluxx Strategy

The strategy, to control certain cards within the game, is not a great one. It relies on being able to draw a few cards that are within every deck of Fluxx, and maintain them within your hand until the exact moment you want to play them. This means you have to rely on one of the high end “Draw Many” (ie. Draw 3/4/5) cards coming into play to be able to churn through the deck for victory conditions.

The questions are : What do the maths tell us? And is it worth trying to control a card type?

To be blunt, depending on the specific version of Fluxx (the variants have different numbers of cards, from 84 to 100) there are incredibly low odds of drawing one of those cards off the bat, and a higher chance your opponents will. In all, there is a 3/100 chance, in an 100 card deck, that you will be able to get one of the “Draw Many” cards in your hand. There is a 3n/100 chance (if you like algebra, where n is the number of other players) one of your opponents will get one if you deal out all the starting hand cards at once. This, for any game of more than two players, is more. Of course, someone getting one is as good as you getting one assuming they play it. It could also come out in later rounds, in fact it is more likely to; however, it is also more likely a competitor will pick it up as well (unless you are playing a two player game). There are a lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ but essentially it boils down to you (probably) picking up fewer cards than your collective opponents. That being said, ignoring the “Draw” cards, it is more important for you, as the player, to retain and control Play All. If you can get that then it doesn’t matter if someone else plays the “Draw” cards, so long as you are ready.

To get the Play All card is far more difficult. To get it as the first card it is a 1/100 chance, then 1/99-n for the second card, and so on. The odds get better that you will pick it as the deck gets used; however, it also massively increases that one of your opponents will also pick it. They have a “n” times higher chance (collectively) of drawing the card than you do, and that kind of sucks.

The only way to counteract this is by using cards that allow you to go back into the discard pile to retract cards. These are also just as hard to get, from an odds perspective, and so it doesn’t bode well from a strategy point of view.

So, is it worth it? Well, yes, it would be worth it, or worth trying at least. It is very unlikely to work, but it could definitely still be worth it.

So Does Fluxx Have A Strategy?

I have to admit, from a guy who write about a lot of board game strategy, Fluxx is difficult to talk about. Ultimately, where the above strategy could work if all the cards lined up there is an incredibly high chance that it won’t. This is because, when we’re Just control what you can. about strategy, we tend to think about longterm strategy and that may not really exist in a game where the rules are constantly changing. Thus, Fluxx strategy needs to revolve around short plays. It needs to revolve around some card control, and focusing solely on your game. Don’t worry yourself with whatever others are doing as it will only be one more thing to think about in a game of chaos. Just control what you can.

No matter what, real power in Fluxx can come from the new rules, and so that is worth exploring.

So, what do you think? Could this work as a strategy for Fluxx or is there no such thing as Fluxx strategy? Let me know in the comments below.

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