GTM #218 - Creating Anatomy Fluxx
by Andy Looney, Looney Labs


Last year we published Math Fluxx and Chemistry Fluxx, and they were both very successful. These joined with Nature Fluxx to establish our educational series of Fluxx titles. So what’s next?

The answer, anatomy, might seem surprising to my close friends, who know how squeamish I can be. I’m usually not a fan of seeing the insides of people’s bodies. So how could I ever do this design?

I doubt this version would have happened at all, and certainly not this soon, were it not for my very good friend, Dr. Leila Zucker. As a serious Fluxx fan as well as an ER doctor, Leila had just the right skills necessary to help me create this game.

It’s a lot like the story behind Cthulhu Fluxx. Our fans were crying out for a Cthulhu version but I didn’t have the Lovecraft expertise necessary to create it. Fortunately, my friend and fellow game designer Keith Baker succeeded where I could not.

I should also give a shout-out to I Heart Guts, a company that makes internal organ plush toys. A year ago, I was looking at one of their business cards, which features cartoon characters based on body parts, and it got me thinking. What if I made a Keeper out of each organ?

As soon as I shared this idea with Leila, she was off to the races. She very quickly had a list of all the organs and goals that connected them, which she’d brainstormed one night when things were slow in the ER, bouncing ideas off her PA, Clarence Chan.

I built a prototype deck using her list and clip art, and we started playtesting it. I was pleased to be able to suggest a couple of cards she had not thought of, my favorite contribution being the appendix. She’d left it out because it has so little (known) usefulness, but I thought it would be more fun to include it as a Keeper with no Goals that call for it.

We got great reactions to that prototype, so much so that we decided to go ahead and make it our next educational version. 

Around this time, during episode 126 of The Download (the podcast I do with Keith Baker), we had a conversation about the process of creating themed versions of Fluxx and the need (or desire at least) for each new version to bring something new to the table, gameplay-wise.

When Leila heard this, she realized Anatomy Fluxx needed more. Even though we’d greenlit the project and even chosen an artist, Yauhen Paleski, it was pretty much just standard Fluxx but with organ-related Keepers and Goals. It needed a twist that would add uniqueness as well as educational value.

What we came up with truly takes Fluxx in a new direction. First, Dr. Leila researched and compiled a series of short, informational tidbits about each organ, and we added these “factlets” to the bottom of each Keeper. Then we added several New Rules, plus a Meta Rule to make one always be in place. 

First there’s Name That Organ! which requires a player to read the factlet at the bottom of a new Keeper before revealing it. If the next player can correctly state the Keeper being played, they get to draw a bonus card! 

This rule can be replaced by Knowledge Bonus, which turns the challenge around: Now when a new Keeper is played, the next player must state the factlet on the card in order to get the bonus card. Yet another rule, Alternate Factlets, provides rewards for players who know factlets beyond the printed ones.

As we continued to playtest it, Leila felt something else was really missing. “It just BEGS to have Creepers added,” she confided. I had been shy about suggesting such an addition because I prefer to include Creepers only when the design really demands it, but as soon as she made the case for them, I had to agree. I had also figured that the range of possibilities would be too vast, but as I discussed it with Leila, she made me realize that everything which can go wrong inside the body (not counting trauma) pretty well falls into one of 3 categories: Bacteria, Virus, and Mutation. 

We quickly realized these new cards should be attaching Creepers, so that a specific organ can become “infected” so to speak, by the Creeper that attaches to it. A New Rule we added later called It’s Spreading can cause additional Keepers to become attached to a Creeper, and we added two Ungoals which can cause Creepers to end the game with no winner. We also added various Actions which help get rid of Creepers in an educational way, such as one called Antibiotics which works only on Bacteria.

So there’s a peek at what’s inside Anatomy Fluxx. It’s gamer-tested and doctor-approved!