Origins 2010: “Back to the Future the Card Game” and “Pirate Fluxx” by Looney Labs

Origins is, without a doubt, the biggest convention for Looney Labs. Between a gigantic demo space (which this year you can follow a path of multicolored daisies to), a decent-sized booth in the exhibit hall, and dozens of excited volunteers in lab coats, this is the show to be at if you’re a fan of Fluxx or their other games.

I have a bit of an inside story with Looney Labs. I was the first paid employee they hired, giving me my first real break in the gaming industry. Even years after that summer job ended, I still regularly attend their game night, where we playtest some of their upcoming releases.

Thus, these two products aren’t necessarily new to me, but this Origins is the biggest unveiling of these two new upcoming games, and judging by the reactions of their fans, they’re likely to be another set of hit card games.

Back to the Future: the Card Game

Looney Labs dives into their second licensed game after Monty Python Fluxx. Just in time for the 25 year anniversary of the first Back to the Future film, the game uses a streamlined version of the game engine behind Chrononauts. The timeline depicts the span of time shown in the movies, stretching back to the 1800s (from Back to the Future 3) all the way into the far flung world of… 2015. Key points in the timeline can be altered by playing cards depicting the various time machines used in the game, which then cause certain ripplepoints to move into an alternate history. (Gone are the patch cards of Chrononauts). Each player has a hidden identity of one of the descendants of the characters from Back to the Future that wants a specific version of events to exist. Objects give bonuses to help influence the timeline, and a set of actions (primarily taken from Chrononauts) help move the game along.

Fans of the movie will appreciate all the references and little touches, and Chrononauts fans should definitely pick this one up as the game moves at a much quicker pace but features much of the same time-traveling back and forth. The only thing you might miss is killing Hitler, which for some reason Doc Brown and Marty never seemed all that interested in doing. Back to the Future: the Card Game will be available in September.

Pirate Fluxx

They’ve tackled Zombies, Monty Python, and aliens (Martians, to be precise.) What else do they need to cover in the geek pantheon with Fluxx? Pirates seem like an easy next step, and here it is.

The game at its base is the Fluxx you’ve come to know: there are keepers (of various piratey things, like booty, ships, a treasure map, and the coveted captain’s hat), new rules that change the game (like plunder that lets you steal regularly from the other players, or a rule that requires players to talk like a pirate… not that it seems to stop people when the rule isn’t out), action cards, and creepers (like scurvy, which is stopped by fruit.)

However, Pirate Fluxx introduces a new kind of card that may surprise long time fans: Surprise cards are cards that can be played out of turn, generally in order to cancel or otherwise affect someone else’s play. Yes, Fluxx is finally getting “counterspell” type cards. Each one affects a different kind of card, so it seems unlikely there will be any timing issues that will arise (except when using a Surprise on a Surprise, which seems straightforward).

With the Surprise cards, plus the tenor of the new rules and action cards, Pirate Fluxx is, as you might expect, a lot more “cutthroat” than other Fluxx versions and has a stronger “screw your neighbor” sort of feel, so in addition to it just being a theme gamers will enjoy, there’s also more for the gamer who enjoys that kind of game.

On the subject of Ninja Fluxx? No comment. Pirate Fluxx should be available in April of 2011.

About Dave

Dave "The Game" Chalker is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Critical Hits. Since 2005, he has been bringing readers game news and advice, as well as editing nearly everything published here. He is the designer of the Origins Award-winning Get Bit!, a freelance designer and developer, son of a science fiction author, and a Master of Arts. He lives in MD with e, their three dogs, and two cats.


  1. I can’t help it, but Pirate Fluxx makes me think of a joke…

    Why are pirates so cool?

    Because they just Arrrrrrre.

    Sorry, but I love that joke.

  2. @charmth says:

    April 2011? Sadface! For a moment I was all excited hoping I might pick this up at PAX this year and play it while waiting in ridiculously long lines! Oh well, I look forward to picking it up next year.

  3. Looking forward to the Back to the Future game myself. I’ve been a fan of the movies since I was a little kid.

    Does this version leave out any elements besides patches? Did artifacts and gadgets make it in? One of my favorite things in Chrononauts is to collect dinosaurs.

  4. Tyler: There’s still artifact/gadget-type cards (I’d have to double check what they’re called, maybe just Objects). You no longer are trying to collect them to meet a goal, but they assist you in performing certain actions. The examples off the top of my head are the Pie Pan and the Sports Almanac.


  1. […] very nice.) While it eventually worked out, it struck me how different an operation it was than the Looney Labs area, where there is a big team of easily-identifiable demo folks ready to teach and play any of the […]

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