Fluxx Meltdown: A Warning
It must be stated, in all honesty, that I don't actually know what it is that I'm going to be warning you about, specifically, but there's definitely a danger in our fluffy little world of Fluxx that bears watching out for.
I've seen what I'd never thought to see: a grown, not unintelligent man losing his temper over a simple game of Fluxx; not because he lost, even repeatedly (this would at least fall into a category I could classify, I've known a few sore losers...), but because he COULDN'T UNDERSTAND HOW TO PLAY THE GAME! I confess myself baffled.
It started simply enough. My wife's oldest friend is down from Canada, over the weekend, where she lives with her husband. It was not a question that this would bring us together. Each was in the other's wedding, and as it's through the extended family that I originally got to know my wife (although I met her independently), I consider them all as family myself. Even Jared (the Husband), although we occasionally clash as two people who don't really understand one another are prone to do. But it's only occasionally, and we're both reasonable men, so that passes with no hard feelings (as, I assure you, this episode will).
We know the family to be gamers, after their fashion (they played Risk extensively, as a family, in their early years (which was the first I'd ever heard of people doing that as a family 'togetherness' activity...)) who these days favor LIGHT Euros, think Settlers, or card games, even dominoes. Consequently, not knowing how many of the clan would join us, my wife suggested Fluxx. You can pick it up (we assumed), in five minutes, you can play 3 games in an hour (we apparently haven't advanced to the impossible-to-win stage), and it's fairly light-hearted. I thought.
Here's where the confusion comes in: there were several factors at work, one of them (or more) would ultimately end our evening of Fluxx (though not, entirely of games (enter the Bigger Sister)).
First, although to our way of thinking, that is my wife's and my own, we explained the rules relatively clearly (what's to explain?) my wife, who was doing the talking, was attempting to keep the game light. That's what it's for, right? A good time WAS being had by all, let's keep it rolling with something insubstantial to play while we talk. Consequently, we didn't go into any examples, but jumped right in to what would otherwise have been called a 'practice hand'.
'Just follow what it says on the cards', my wife said.
'The point of the game is that you're not supposed to worry too much about it', I said. Just sit back and watch things happen, and try to adapt. (Note: We'd only ever played this with three. Mostly we play as a couple. This time we had five... a huge difference? I didn't think so.)
Second, there's the fatigue factor. They'd had a long drive in from Canada, the night before, and Jared was just (before a relaxing dinner) home from a day's work. This might have been the issue in question... although I've never known anyone to swing so far into 'forget THIS' from simple tiredness who would willingly agree to play in the first place, STILL...*shrug*
Third, and finally, there were the 'rules questions'. These, perhaps didn't get as much attention as they should have. (Ex: When my wife (it had to be her) played a NEW RULE: Draw 5 card, and proceeded to (apparently in the middle of her turn) draw extra cards--- in hindsight I should have grabbed the card and showed everyone where it specifically tells her to do this. Things of that nature...)
Honestly, I thought 'Draw Cards work differently' was going to be sufficient. They were all bound to run across one of them sooner or later, when they could be examined at leisure without slowing the game down.
But Things were going so well... The aforementioned 'Older Sister' won round 1 on a rather cunning (I thought) MORE THAN 10 CARDS IN YOUR HAND goal. She took the time to read the card, noted that it mattered who had more cards, then proceeded to ask Jared and I how many cards we had (9 each), victory goes to Big Sis who had eleven.
Round Two went to me. Straightforward WINNING THE LOTTERY goal. I'd played both the keepers in my two proceeding turns (the basic rules were virtually unchanged), and played the goal to match them on my third. Game lasted all of ten minutes.
Everyone's still getting their bearings for round three, but Jared has begun to run into the limitations of his cards. A DRAW 4 card, for instance, has nothing to do with how many cards you play that round. (stepping back: is 'How You Play a Card' something that needs to be covered with someone who plays Canasta often? How about 'What Is a Discard?' *shakes head* ) These two issues each came up somewhere between the middle of game two and the beginning of game three, and it falls to me, as 'nitpicker' of the group, to correct him.
Now, granted, some of the girls (alright, just Older Sister) were just putting cards down in front of them, and waiting for me to move them either into the New Rules section, or onto the Discard pile... but I thought that wasn't too out of line, given newness to the game.
Here it comes. Now, I'm not blind... Despite the fact that he'd told HIS wife earlier (in order, I think, to get her to move faster...) that it was 'just a game', I could tell Jared wanted to get a handle on the game, that he was getting frustrated, somewhat, by the shifting rules, and that he wanted to win one. In order to advance (?) that goal, he played the following card:
New Rule KEEPER LIMIT: 4.
He had already, on his turn, played one card out of the PLAY 2 Rule, which was on the table at the time... This card allowed him to play more than one card as a result (it was the "Let's Do That Again!" action, followed by (he chose) "Draw 3, Play 2 of Them"). I explained to him that these cards didn't count against his PLAY 2, just the first Action card. He had one more to go, chose the card above... THEN proceeded to try to lay down more keepers. 'No, no', I told him 'you've already played your two for this turn.'
BINGO: We've got Meltdown... Jared's getting steamed. I think he must have thought/felt I was trying to keep him from winning. It's the only thing I can imagine. So...
He counters with 'But it says right here "you may play new Keepers during your turn...". I'm kinda stumped for a second. O.k., I guess in some odd way that makes sense... but it's clearly not what the card is talking about. How to make this clear?
Older Sister (who should have seen something was up) chimes in with 'That one's about playing GREEN ones. How many green ones do you have (she didn't add, like I think she meant 'on the table') so he starts dropping KEEPERS, one after the other, out of his hand I should add that he ended up with more than four by a fair bit, there were 7 on the table, when he was done. He'd started with three.
Big Sis isn't helping, so I try to regain control (??? in a Fluxx game? Really?) of the situation with 'that doesn't matter, you still can only play the two cards on your turn. That one WAS your second card. It's not an action card, and there's nothing there that says 'do this now' so you'd be done.'
Jared impatiently retracts the KEEPER LIMIT: 4 card, and says (belligerently, at this point) 'Fine, I'll play THIS one, then...' and chooses instead the "Discard and Draw" action. Discard all the cards in your hand, and draw all new ones to replace them.
Then he threw his whole hand, including all the KEEPERS he'd just dropped, face-down across the table, angrily. (Also, not bothering to count.) AND grabbed a random hunk of cards (again, no counting) which he's going to claim as his new hand! I'm speachless. My wife jumps in with something on the order of 'O.K.! Apparently, Jared doesn't want to play THIS anymore, so let's do something else'. His wife hasn't reacted, but Older (somewhat more mature) Sister is still trying to salvage the game. I don't know why, but... it's
"How many cards did you have in your hand?" (O.S.)
He replies "I don't know. A bunch." (The Draw had been 5 for a while, the Play 2)
"Well," says my wife "how many do you have there?" (indicating his new hand.)
"I don't know. (flips disinterestedly through them, still not counting) "A lot."
Honestly, that's why it's a direct quote. That part I remember spot on.
I can't see a point, but I don't want to be a bigger jerk and say something about the game being screwed because of Jared (Who'd already been called a "Poopie-Head" by O.S., who was trying to make light of it all)... so I counted for him. Paged down to the last card discarded (from his Draw 3, Play 2), and counted everything above that. Ten cards. My wife asks again, and Jared (WHY?!) counts this time. He's got nine.... there you go, one more card, and we're still playing.
He got one more turn after that, in which Older Sister mistakenly tried to guide him through, step by step (After two games and an outburst, my wife was having none of it (GO Sweetie!) "He's a big boy, let him play his cards.") He did so, sullenly.
As the unhappiest of us all, I wish he'd have just gotten up. Fluxx isn't one of those games you should feel duty-bound to see through to the end.
Fortunately, In the 12 cards I had in my hand, there was a way to win. Rather an involved one, for Fluxx, I thought, I had to change the Play to 3, Play "Steel a Keeper" action, to add my wife's LOVE to my PEACE, then play the HIPPYISM goal to match them.
"The Player with PEACE and LOVE on the table" it doesn't say anything about 'in the game' "wins."
And that was the end of that...
(Me, My Wife, and Sis played Carcassonne instead. Sis loved it. Guess who's coming to our house next week for game-night?
Like I said, we're almost family. In fact, we might go up to visit those two in a couple of months... but you can guess which game won't make the trip. And no mention, other than this session report, which who knows how many people will actually read, will ever be made of the 'Great Fluxx Meltdown', ever again.
There are those who "get" the game and those who don't. Good thing the "dont's" are somewhat rare, since all the cards have pretty clear instructions on them.
I once introduced the game to a group of about eight or so people. With the "Draw 5" rule that would not leave play. We ran out of both the discard and draw piles. I guess it was just the difficult circumstances that led to one player stating "I don't get the point to this game." It made no sense to me. The Goals are clearly labeled as such.
The most difficult thing I've run up against in "ideal" games is having to tell people how many to draw and play on their turns, though, so I guess I'm lucky. Thanks for sharing your meltdown story.