Fluxx, the edumacational versions (Boardgame)

The somewhat silly, chaotic game of Fluxx comes in a huge variety of themes. Math Fluxx and Chemistry Fluxx are now options that make a fun little game that combines learning with quick (chaotic) gameplay.

Chemistry Fluxx or Math Fluxx
Publisher: Looney Labs
Ages: 8+
Players: 2-6
Time: 5-30 minutes
(Review copy provided by Looney Labs)

Fluxx cards come in four main flavors, New Rules, Goals, Keepers, and Actions. The object of the game is to play Keepers in front of you in hopes they eventually match up with the current Goal card (which always lists the 2-3 Keeper cards needed to win.) The game begins to get chaotic as the Goal card is always changing, and so are the Rules!

The game starts out with a single rule: Draw 1 card, then Play 1 card. This could be playing a Keeper in front of you, placing out a new Goal card (displacing the old Goal card), putting down a new Rule (adding to the current rules), or playing an Action card (a one and done card that lets you steal other Keepers, redistribute some cards, etc…)

The most entertaining part of the game lies with the new Rules cards. These typically either change the number of cards you draw, change how many cards you can play, or change the hand limit (the number of cards you can hold at the end of your turn.) This can result in situations later in the game where you’re drawing three cards, playing four cards, and have a hand limit of 2. A few other rules cards change the game in more unique ways (like play all but one card, etc…)

At the start, there isn’t any way to win the game, because there hasn’t been a Goal card played. Once played, players attempt to collect the the two or three Keepers on the Goal card. (Of course, often a player already has most if not all the listed Keepers in play when the new Goal is placed.) A new Goal card replaces the previous one so there is only one in play at a time.

As one can imagine, the game is spent in a continual struggle to both place (and keep) Keepers in front of you while simultaneously getting the right Goal card into play. Meanwhile, all the other players are doing the same thing. Add in some Actions and changing Rules cards, and winning the game relies on some strategy, but also a healthy bit of luck.

I would typically steer clear of a game with so much uncontrolled randomness, but these two new editions intrigued me as they have an educational component. As with all good “educational games” these were games first and any educational bits added later. This results in an entertaining pastime that also contains bits of science or math.

The Keepers in the Math deck are all numbers (single digits and a ten) and the Goal cards consist of number values. Some are math-related questions such as Three Cubed or One Hundred Pi, while others are more festive like Your Age or Today’s Date. The game includes the flavor of some Math concepts (Pi, exponents, etc…) and then includes math operations (like plus/minus/multiply/divide) through Rules cards rather than Keepers or Goals.

The Chemistry deck consists of keepers made up of common elements.and the Goal cards are molecules. Collect Carbon and Hydrogen to win the Natural Gas goal and Calcium, Carbon, and Oxygen are needed to win at the Limestone goal. My favorite is the Diatomic Goal (get two O’s or two H’s…) The keepers also include a test tube, lab coat, and goggles so one Goal is “Safety First” (lab coat and goggles.) As with the Math deck, the game doesn’t add in much in terms of laws or properties of Chemistry, but it does introduce common molecules seen in basic chemistry.


Fluxx is chaotic, almost uncontrolled – more of a pastime than a game. Thus, the game lives or dies according to the experience brought by the theme. As a science nerd, I do enjoy the themes. They aren’t going to teach an entire subject (Chemistry/Math) but they do serve as a great way to familiarize players with common concepts. Normally, I would avoid Fluxx as a “game” as I would rather play something where I have a bit more control over my own destiny. However, I could easily see playing either title (Math or Chemistry) with younger folks in order to expose them to common Math and/or Chemistry ideas.  As a Chemist myself, I like how the Chemistry deck gives a bit of exposure of the topic without being heavy-handed.  The Math version can be played in a “standard” way, emphasizing Goals and Keepers, but standard math operations can be brought in by emphasizing those specific Goals and Rules.


Fluxx of a Different Flavor:
I can’t end without commenting on the many, many other themed versions of Fluxx. You can get Batman Fluxx, Firefly Fluxx, Dr. Who Fluxx (coming soon), Adventure Time Fluxx, Cthulhu Fluxx, and Monty Python Fluxx (as well as a few other more generic ones like space or nature.) I haven’t played most of them but they center around Keepers and Goals with the appropriate theme. However, there are a few fun bonus cards and ideas for each set. For example, there is a rule in Monty Python where you get advantages for quoting from the movies. Fans of the appropriate theme will find a fun little diversion, but any given theme isn’t going to make the game into a “winner” if you’re not already a fan of Fluxx. (*Note, there are a couple more “Adult” themed games – Stoner Flux and Drinking Flux – under the “Fully Baked Ideas” label if you want something with a more grown-up theme.)


Kid Factor:
Not a lot of text here, and the Rules cards are pretty straightforward. The action cards do have some text, but the Keepers and Object cards all have graphics which make them easily recognizable. (Just avoid the “grown-up” themed games mentioned above.)


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