We would like to thank Looney Labs for the review copy of Retro Loonacy used for this review. Other than receiving the review copy we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation. Receiving the review copy had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
How to Play
To be the first player to get rid of all of the cards from your hand.
Shuffle all of the cards and deal seven cards to each player. Each player looks at their cards and can rearrange them based on matching symbols. When everyone is ready, card(s) are flipped over to form discard piles based on how many players there are:
- 2 players: 4 piles
- 3 players: 3 piles
- 4 players: 2 piles
- 5 players: 1 pile
In Retro Loonacy there are no turns. All players play at the same time. Players can play cards onto one of the discard piles as long as one of the two items on the card matches one of the items of the top card on the discard pile. A player can play multiple cards in a row but they can only play one card at a time. Players can only use one hand to play cards. If two players play a card on the same stack at the same time, whichever card is played on the stack first gets to keep their card on the stack.
No One Can Play Cards
When none of the players can play a card, all players will draw a card from the draw pile. If a player can play a card but doesn’t want to, they can choose to draw a card instead of playing the card. All players look at their card at the same time and play continues as normal. If all of the cards from the draw pile are gone, the cards from the discard piles are shuffled to form the new draw pile. Either all of the cards can be shuffled with new cards being put out to start the discard piles or you can keep the top card from each discard pile and shuffle the rest of the cards played.
End of Game
When a player plays their last card the game ends and that player wins the game.
We at Geeky Hobbies have played quite a few free for all/quick reaction card games. In particular we have reviewed Blink and Ratuki. While there are a lot of games in this genre, I enjoy the games because of the quick action where all of the players play at the same time. When we received a review copy of Retro Loonacy we were excited to try it out since we generally enjoy these type of games and the game was created by Looney Labs creator of Fluxx, a game we have really enjoyed. Despite having a similar concept to several other games, Retro Loonacy has a distinct feel to it which makes it a highly enjoyable game.
A Unique But Familiar Feel
People familiar with games like Blink and Ratuki will immediately recognize that Retro Loonacy plays a lot like both games. The basic premise behind Retro Loonacy has been implemented in several other games over the years. Essentially you have to play cards that match the symbols/items on the cards laid out on the table. Before playing the game my biggest concern with Retro Loonacy was whether the game was going to be a unique experience from these other games. After playing the game I have to say that Retro Loonacy plays similarly but also feels unique at the same time.
The thing I have always liked about these type of games is that they are quick to learn and easy to play. The rules probably take a couple minutes to read and maybe thirty seconds to teach. You can easily finish a game in five to ten minutes. This makes the game perfect as a filler game or a game where you can quickly play several hands. In about a half hour we were able to play at least five games.
The main area where Retro Loonacy feels different than these other games is the speed of the game. Retro Loonacy is still a quick game that requires quick reactions, it seems more controlled and less chaotic than games like Blink. This is not necessarily a good or bad thing. It just makes the game play differently than other similar games. People who like the idea behind Blink but were always turned off by the chaos of the game may enjoy Retro Loonacy quite a bit more. I attribute the “slower” pace to a couple different things.
First is the number of symbols present in the game. Retro Loonacy features a lot more symbols than these other games. I didn’t count but I would guess that there is at least fifteen different symbols in the game. Most of the other games have around five symbols. Since there are a lot more symbols in the game this means that each player won’t have all of the symbols that they need so they can’t just play all of their cards right away. They need to wait for other players to play cards which gives players with slower reaction times more opportunities to actually have a chance at winning the game.
The number of symbols do lead to quite a few more stops in play though. At times this can get annoying especially when you draw three cards in a row and none of them can be played. At times I appreciated these breaks though. They give you a chance to take a short break which makes the game a little less chaotic.
The second reason the game feels less chaotic is that there is less that needs to be compared between cards. On each card there is only two different things that need to be checked which makes it quick to look through all of your cards for matches. Some of these games require you to look through so many different things that you spend so much time looking through your hand. In Retro Loonacy you can spend most of your time looking at the piles themselves.
Let’s Build Some Chains
The one area where Retro Loonacy really stands out is regarding chains. In a lot of these types of games you can build up a chain where you can play a couple cards in a row but that is it. In Retro Loonacy you can easily build up a chain of five or more cards. The key to a successful strategy in Retro Loonacy is to build up chains of cards that link together. With so many different symbols in the game you actually have to actively plan out your cards in order to take full advantage of linking cards together.
These chains are really important in the game since they were crucial for players that would eventually win the hand. These combos are so important because they let you get rid of so many cards from your hand quickly. While other players can interrupt your combo it is unlikely especially if you keep changing the items since you know how the cards are going to change and the other players won’t be able to adjust quick enough to beat you to playing the next card.
The chains/combos are so important that sometimes the luck of the card draw is more important than having the quickest reaction time. If you are dealt a lot of cards that can be chained together you are at a distinct advantage over a player that has a bunch of cards that can’t be played off one another. In fact in one game one of the players was lucky enough to have all of their cards work together and they ended up winning the game almost immediately. This does add strategy to the game as well though since you need to plan out how to best play your cards so you are able to play as many of them as possible.
Other Quick Thoughts
One of the things that stand out about Retro Loonacy is the artwork. It is hard not to recognize how great the artwork is. I loved the retro styled artwork of the cards and how the cards are designed making it easy to see both items on the card.
Retro Loonacy is actually the second game in the Loonacy series of games. The original Loonacy came out in 2014. It appears that the only major difference between Retro Loonacy and the original Loonacy is the artwork. While the artwork is great, if you already own the original Loonacy I don’t know if it is necessary to pick up Retro Loonacy.
Since the game is not as chaotic as other similar card games, cards in Retro Loonacy shouldn’t suffer as much as in games like Blink. Every time we end up playing Blink it seems that at least one card gets creased due to two players trying to play a card at the same time. After extended play your cards in Retro Loonacy will end up getting creased but they should last longer than most of the games from this genre.
While the game supports two to five players I would probably recommend playing with at least four players. I played the game with both three and four players and it was more enjoyable with four players in my opinion. The game was more enjoyable for two reasons. First these type of games are more enjoyable with more people. There are also less discard piles (two versus three). I preferred less discard piles because at times it is hard to keep track of a bunch of piles at the same time. We actually played the three player game with only two discard piles and it actually worked pretty well except that there was quite a bit of drawing because no one could play any cards.
When playing a large chain of cards players tend to start crowding the pile to make sure they are able to play all of their cards. You usually don’t even notice that you are doing it. Players need to keep telling themselves that they can’t crowd the discard piles because that gives them a big advantage over the other players.
At first I was worried that Retro Loonacy was going to play a lot like Blink and other similar games. While the game has similar rules, it does feel quite a bit different. While Blink is totally chaotic, Retro Loonacy tends to play at a more reasonable pace. Due to the number of different items in the game, players are more reliant on other players playing cards instead of just being able to unload their whole hand really quickly. Retro Loonacy also relies heavily on building chains which adds more strategy to the game than I was expecting.
If you have played one of these free for all type of card games before and hated it, I don’t think you will like Retro Loonacy either. Retro Loonacy is less chaotic than Blink so that may appeal to some people that didn’t particularly care for the chaos of Blink. If you already own a game like Blink and really enjoy it I could still see you enjoying Retro Loonacy since it plays a lot differently than I was expecting. If you have never played one of these type of games before but are looking for a quick fun filler game I think you will enjoy Retro Loonacy. I know I really liked the game and it will regularly come to the table on game night.
Retro Loonacy is being released by Looney Labs on October 2nd, 2015 and has a MSRP of $15.