Loonacy might sound like a somewhat embarrassing title, but this name originates from designer Andrew Looney and his publishing house, Looney Labs. Looney Labs is well-known for very titles like Zendo, Chrononauts, and the remarkably successful Fluxx series of games.
Despite the unusual title, and the apparent chaos and speed of the game-play, this small card game doesn't require letting go of your sanity. It's one of those speedy fillers that you can teach in under a minute, and that anyone can join in and play. So let's find out more about the components and quick game-play of Loonacy!
So what do you get? Well first of all there's a conveniently sized portable box. The back of the box indicates it's a game for 2-5 players ages 8+, and that games only last 5-10 minutes.
"Loonacy is a rapid fire game where players race to be the first to empty their hand of 7 cards by matching one of two images with the images on the open piles in front of them. Speed of the hand and luck of the draw determine the winner in this frenzied free-for-all!"
A single sheet explains the rules (download them from the publisher here), which are very easy to learn.
The box contains 100 bridge-sized cards. These all have identical orange backs (with white borders) with the game name diagonally across them. The card faces feature a domino style design, with two pictures on each card. Indices show these pictures in miniature, so that you can easily identify both images, regardless of orientation. Images include a range of wacky pictures, like the ones shown below. Most pictures occur around half a dozen times altogether in the whole deck.
Each player gets a hand of 7 random cards from a shuffled deck. The number of discard piles in play varies according to the number of players: 1 for 5 players, 2 for 4 players, 3 for 3 players, and 4 for 2 players. Once everyone is ready to play, you simultaneously flip a card face up to begin each discard pile and start the game.
Flow of Play
Game-play is real time, so everyone is playing at the same time. You can place a card from your hand onto any of the discard piles if it shows a matching picture. You must use one hand only, and can only play one card at a time, but you can certainly play multiple cards in a row if other players don't play a card on the growing discard pile while you are doing so.
At any time that nobody can play a card, all players draw another face-down card, simultaneously add these to their hand, and the game continues. When the draw deck runs out, you reshuffle cards from the discard piles to make a new draw pile.
How to Win
The game ends whenever someone gets rid of all the cards in their hand - they are the winner!
What do I think?
Components: The card quality is fairly ordinary, because it is a thin card stock. Like most real time matching games, the cards in Loonacy can expect to cop a bit of abuse. The faces of the cards are a nice clean white, however, which helps make the colourful images stand out, so visually they look fine. The icons also help the game work regardless of how you're holding the cards, which is a smart more that helps the game-play.
Rules: The game-play of Loonacy is super easy to learn. It can be explained in just moments, and people watching the game being played will immediately catch on. So that means that the entry threshold is very low, and anyone can play.
Interaction: This game is all about interaction! Because you're trying to beat other players to matching cards, playing is all about reacting quickly, watching what cards other players are playing, and trying to get your matches in before others. One strategy is to try to set up a chain of cards you can play in a row, and you're constantly have to be on the alert for this.
Luck: In Loonacy each image appears 6-8 times throughout the entire deck, so sometimes you are just waiting for a right match, which can depend on which cards show up. This is especially the case with 4-5 player games, where you only have one or two piles you're working with. A positive aspect of this is that it can level the playing field, and you won't just have the same player winning every game - which can happen in some similar games (e.g. Spot It! or Jungle Speed) which rely almost purely on skill and speed, and have less of a luck element than Loonacy.
Intensity: This isn't a game that you can play on auto-pilot, because there is no "chill" or "relaxed mode" in Loonacy. Right from the outset you have to concentrate carefully, watch closely, and play quickly!
Fun-factor: Due to the competitive nature of the game, it tends to be played in a very light spirit, with a lot of laughs, especially when one player just beats another, or when you miss an obvious match or match something incorrectly. The short game time also helps keep the fun factor high, because games don't drag and are quickly over.
Appeal: The easy rules means that Loonacy is a game that everyone can play, regardless of age. In fact, older kids may even regularly beat their parents, due to their quick reaction time! A real strength of this game is that non-gamers can really get excited about it.
Length: If this was a 30 minute game, it would quickly wear out its welcome. But because it's so quick and hard-hitting, each game is over in a matter of just a few minutes, which is perfect for this style of game.
Player count: Loonacy has quite a different feel depending on the number of players. With just 2 players, for example, you have four piles in progress, so cards are quickly moving from your hand to different piles, and it's just you and your opponent. Sometimes 2-3 player games can be over quickly, without ever needing to draw a card! With 5 players, however, there's just a single discard pile in progress, and the action is fast and furious! Typically 4-5 player games have a flurry of activity, then the game often stops and you need to draw another card, and this is repeated. This means you get much further into the draw pile, and the outcome can sometimes depend on just drawing the right cards.
Artwork: Part of the appeal of Loonacy is the unique artwork, which is inspired by artwork from other Looney Labs games. You don't need to be familiar with these games, mind you, because Loonacy is just about matching pictures and patterns. So even a complete newcomer to Looney Labs can play this game and enjoy the artwork. But many of the images also appear in Fluxx: The Board Game, and if you've ever played the card game Fluxx, you'll recognize Keepers like Bread, Toaster, Cookies, Chocolate, Time, Love, The Brain and more.
Alternative art: It's worth mentioning that different versions of Loonacy have been produced with alternative artwork, such as Retro Loonacy, Mary Engelbreit Loonacy, Uglydoll Loonacy, and Pyramid Arcade Loonacy. So if you find that the artwork in the standard game isn't to your taste, you might want to consider one of these alternatives instead.
Similar games: There are quite a few speed games on the market, with titles like Spot it! and Jungle Speed also being very popular, along with games like Blink. But each of these games does offer something different, and Loonacy is no exception. Games like Spot It always have a match and the challenge is to be the first to find it. In contrast, Loonacy's "domino" style cards mean that there are two patterns on each card that are a potential match and you have to wait for a right match to come up. The game-play of Loonacy also encourages you to compile a string of cards that you can play one after the other, and you always have to be on the alert for your opponents starting a burst of activity, ideally trying to get in a match of your own in the middle of their planned chain.
We've also found that a couple of house rules have made the game more fun for us:
1. Name your match:: The first is that while playing a card, players call out loud the name of the picture they are matching (this is probably something we've inherited from Spot It!). For some reason, it just seems more satisfying to shout out the name of the matching picture when playing! For more discussion on this, see this thread: A fun way to play Loonacy
2. Real time draw: With this variant, you don't have to wait until everyone can't go, but can draw a card at any time you are stuck. This prevents the game from slower moments. And if you miss an obvious match in your hand, well, that's your own fault. We've found that this variant helps reduce the luck element of the game, makes it faster paced, and more fun. For more discussion on this, see this thread: Recommended variant: Real-time drawing
What do others think?
Loonacy isn't for everyone, and if you're not good at speed games you may find it a tad frustrating. But on the positive side, it's likely going to be a hit with your non-gamer friends, and for once they'll have a chance to beat you, which means that at least it will get to the table! Other critics who do enjoy speed games find this style of game to be a competitive niche, and so some gamers simply have a preference for similar titles like Spot It, Geisteblitz, or Jungle Speed. And if simple games aren't your thing, then this isn't likely going to be a game for you. Having said that, a real strength of Loonacy is that non-gamers love it, and that it plays so quickly, so even gamers who don't find it to be their preferred cup of tea can tolerate it, given the small doses it comes in.
At the same time many gamers do love Loonacy precisely due to its simplicity and speed. Here are some of the positive comments people have to say about Loonacy, which confirms that it does get a lot of love:
"A fun, light filler." - matthewjhoskins
"Lots of random fun, great to show to guests. Easier to explain, play and jump into than Fluxx, does not overstay its welcome." - greedyorc
"It's like Speed on... well, Speed." - JadedAria
"Great fun! Lots of slapping of hands and laughing. The more players, the better." - TracieV
"Cardboard caffeine!" - cerulean
"I love this game! It is really easy to teach and it has that infectious quality where you keep wanting to play just one more hand." - agirlthats4corners
"A quick, easy to learn and fun filler game." - MillicanDarque
"My 6 year old can't get enough of this game even after a couple months of playing." - Jmichaud
"Quick, fun family game." - OleMissGirl1968
"Much better than Ligretto. Love to play it." - armourer84
"Fun Factor: High. Complexity: Very easy. A great filler!" - citizenjcf
"A favorite in our house - it is fast paced and chaotic, and just right for getting everyone involved." - DemonSpawn
"Very easy to play. Fast paced competitive game." - DarthVal
"This is a quick game that's easy to learn and it easy to transport. It's a good party game." - RichardNeal
"Great game. Good for family events. No learning curve." - agentofdoom
So is Loonacy for you? Looney Labs is known for games that are easy, quick, light, and even a bit silly. Loonacy fits all of these criteria, and like so many games in the Looney Labs lineup, it's great for families and non-gamers. This may come in a small box, but it can produce a lot of high octane fun.
If you enjoy speed games, this is definitely one I can recommend as worth checking out. It also makes a great gift for non-gamers and families.
Where to get it? Loonacy is available from most game retailers. For more information about the game, see the publisher's official page about Loonacy here.
The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
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