100 cards/$18.95/November 2021
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Looney Labs continues to expand their Fluxx empire with the release of Wonderland Fluxx, based on the novels by Lewis Carroll and using the original artwork by John Tenniel. Although it may seem odd to say about a game with the basic idea that the rules and goals are constantly changing, the play for Wonderland Fluxx is as identical to the play of other versions of the game as it can be. Apart from formatting, 85% of the cards included in Wonderland Fluxx could easily be found or combined with other versions of the game, but, as with the other themed versions of Fluxx, it is that small remainder that makes teh game different and appealing.
In the case of Wonderland Fluxx, the cards that really give the game the feeling of Lewis Carroll's masterpiece include a new rule card that provides an extra draw and play option if the character speaks in rhyme. Other keepers allow extra plays or draws simply by being played, but do so with a Wonderland gloss, such as "Cake Labeled 'Eat Me'" or "Bottle Labeled 'Drink Me'." Of course, the Vorpal Sword can be used to dispatch the Jabberwock, the only creeper in the deck. The Crown keeper, meanwhile allows a player to get in touch with their inner (or not so inner) Queen of Hearts. There is also an action card that causes the players to emulate the Mad Hatter's tea party by shifting to the seat of the player next to them, and another that forces players to gift one of their keepers to another player.
A relatively recent addition to Fluxx gameplay is having keepers that provide the holder with special benefits, like the Vorpal Blade or the Cake and Bottle cards mentioned above. In Wonderland Fluxx, The Crown keeper, especially, bestows power on the holder, sometime providing them with extra plays or draws, other times allowing them to make the decision about something rather than the player who normally would make the decision, and always allowing the holder to be referred to as "your majesty." It also makes the playe ra bit of a target since anyone with the King or Queen keeper can steal the Crown (and attendant powers) on their turn. In the wrong hands, the Crown can also unbalance the game slightly. The Alice keeper is also a bit unbalanced, being part of eight winning combinations, while most cards are only part of two or three.
Wonderland Fluxx does offer the feel of Carroll's work in the actions and logic that applies throughout the game. This is reinforced by the use of Tenniel's original drawings which help to evoke the original stories whenever a keeper or goal (and some actions) are played. One way using the Tenniel illustrations helps reinforce the topsy-turvy nature of Wonderland is that many players will probably be more familiar with the Disney images of the characters, so for them, the cards will be a constant reminder that things are not always as they seem.
Although Wonderland Fluxx has a few issues with balance, on the whole it plays well, introducing some fun and different actions to Fluxx. There is a sense of whimsy in the keepers and goals that belies the gameplay that can be cutthroat with various actions that require the player to make a decision to target another player, rather than allowing the cards determine who will be the victim of a negative play. Wonderland Flucc is a nicely crafted alternative version of the long-time favorite game.
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