Off the Grid reviews Zombie Fluxx

Every other week Scott Jon Siegel contributes Off the Grid, a column about card games, board games, and everything else non-digital.

I'm a little late for Halloween, but that shouldn't mean I have to miss out on all the spooky fun. Luckily, Looney Labs have sent along Zombie Fluxx, a standalone expansion to their ever-popular card game with the ever-changing rules.

Zombie Fluxx isn't just a clever re-skinning of the original, but rather a new set of rules and cards built on to the existing mechanics. The base game remains the same: 2-6 players amend and append the game's starting rules, while attempting to win by collecting Keepers to meet the conditions of the goal, which is constantly in a state of, well, you know.

This time around, Looney Labs have included some new mechanics to spice up the gameplay. Zombies enter the fray as "Creeper" cards. Unlike the helpful Keepers the Creepers can actually prevent players from winning, as some goals dictate that a player needs to be zombie-free to claim victory. Unlike all other cards, Creepers go immediately into play once drawn, rather than into the player's hand, making every draw from the deck a possible immediate zombie encounter.

Combating Creepers are special Keeper cards, such as the baseball bat, or the car. While these Keepers can be used to win the game, they can also be used as weapons to eliminate zombies, provided the right rule card is in play.

And therein lies the primary problem with Zombie Fluxx: as potentially exciting as the new features are, most of the game plays out very similarly to the original. While some Goal cards clearly state that the winning player can not have any zombies, other Goals simply don't, meaning that having an army of zombies can often have no consequence on who wins. And the Keeper cards that double as weapons are only usable once one particular rule card comes into play -- why bother having a baseball bat if you're not allowed to swing it?

The zombie features are great in theory, but in practice feel poorly executed. A special "un-Goal" card in the deck dictates that if a certain number of zombies are in play, the game ends and everyone loses. This could add an interesting cooperative element, except that no player would willingly play that card if it were in their hand, and the un-Goal could quickly be vetoed by any other Goal card.

Normally a purely competitive game experience, the introduction of zombies into the Fluxx equation seems to be a conscious step in the direction of collaborative play. What if the game-ending un-Goal card were always in play? What if, amidst trying to claim victory, all the players had to cooperate to make sure they don't all lose? Sadly, with the current (and constant) rules that ship with Zombie Fluxx, the game is still Fluxx as we all know it, albeit a little greener.

Final Verdict: Those who liked the original Fluxx are going to enjoy Zombie Fluxx just as much. Those who weren't fans of the first, however, won't care for this undead iteration much either.

Scott Jon Siegel is an fledgling game designer, a professional blogger, and a mediocre cook. His words and games can be found at numberless, and he promises to review something non-Looney next time. What will it be? He's not telling.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.