A: TLDR: Officially, no… BUT, when playing in a version with Surprises, it’s good practice to play a little slower, so that your opponents have plenty of time to play a Surprise, should they so desire. Deliberately playing super-fast “shotgunning” as one fan put it, is just rude, and, rather than avoiding arguments about Surprises, actually ends up causing them. So if you have someone who insists upon playing that way, feel free to implement a requirement of a full one-hippopotamus silent count between card plays. We think those worried about their second-to-last winning play being foiled by a Surprise will find that others are not as psychic as they feared. Read on…
So here’s a typical Surprise situation, which can cause a bit of controversy:
I recently won when the rules called for Play 2. I played my first card, a Keeper, and then a moment later I played a Goal card that caused me to win. My opponent then showed me that he had the Surprise card in his hand that could have stopped me from playing the Keeper, and we had a brief discussion about whether I should have left him more time to consider playing it.
In my opponent’s defense, I didn’t leave him much time to play his Surprise card that would have allowed him to take my Keeper for himself. In my defense, he didn’t really have any reason to play the Surprise card and take the Keeper – until he saw that my next play was the winning Goal.
So… are there guidelines on timing between playing consecutive cards?
Slapping them down so quickly that no one has a chance to do anything doesn’t seem entirely fair – but it also doesn’t seem strategic after playing a card to wait and look around at other players to see if they have any game response before playing the next card.
(Related question: A player doesn’t have to “announce” or “report” their play out loud, right? They can just play their cards and if other players aren’t paying attention, that’s the fault of the other players? We all want to have good sportsmanship, but you know how games can sometimes get, in terms of either other players not paying attention, or in terms of being very competitive!)
Here’s our response:
While we don’t have any official guidelines about exact timing of card plays, We recommend a slight pause between a two-card play like this when the active player knows it’s going to make them win. It’s rarely the case that the person with the Keeper-stopper will intuitively know that the necessary Goal is coming… until it gets there (or vice-versa: if they had the Goal-stopper, and you’d decided to play the Keeper last, they couldn’t know you’d have the winning Keeper to play after the innocuous Goal), so playing slow is often to your advantage, as the player who’s about to win.
In fact, playing casually, even pretending you don’t know what you want to play next, can be a great move. Playing slowly enough to allow a possible Surprise doesn’t have to mean broadcasting your impending win. (For example, looking significantly around the table as if expecting a challenge). Of course, announcing your your play is in no way required, but could even be part of your nonchalant act, depending on how you do it. (“Hmm… Well, there’s this Small Moon… and… let’s see… That’s No Moon, for the win!”)
That said, one often doesn’t have the presence of mind to think about deliberately hesitating. In real life, you’re usually just taking your play, and winning, at regular game speed.
Here is where the question is really about what your opponent was thinking, and they have to be honest about it: did it only occur to them to play the Surprise after you’d played the winning Goal? If you’d just accidentally played the Goal first, and then the Keeper, their Keeper-canceling Surprise would have gone through and prevented your win. But just as they couldn’t know your next play would be the end of the game, you couldn’t know they had a Surprise. For all you knew, they had the Goal-stopping Surprise, and it’s just chance which order you chose to play those two cards in. It’s not as though you deliberately played in such a way as to deliberately thwart a Surprise on your first play.
The thing to point out here is that, had you stopped playing after the Keeper, would it even have occurred to them to use the Surprise? Probably not, if they’re being honest. It’s extremely rare that one’s opponent is prescient or observant enough to realize that this play might be your second-to-last. People rarely want to squander a Surprise on the off-chance that your next play will be the winning one*. In the kind of situation you describe, the Surprise-having player usually just shrugs, and says “Darn! I had [the Surprise that would have prevented your second-to-last play], and I could have stopped that play, but it’s too late now… Oh well. Let’s deal again…”
Because, in the end, if they didn’t get that Surprise in after the applicable card, that’s the way it goes, and that’s the official ruling if people get – ahem – unruly.
*I mean, imagine it. If they’d canceled your Keeper before you’d played the winning Goal, your best reaction is probably simply to shrug as if mildly confused by such a powerful play, apparently for nothing, and make them feel like they just wasted their Surprise on a random Keeper play… heh heh. You don’t have to let them know they totally blocked your win. Meanwhile… you don’t have to get upset about missing that chance… it’s just Fluxx, and victory is snatched away at all the time in the course of any given game – usually completely by accident. Or you can let them know their spidey-senses were working, or congratulate them on how observant they are. It’s up to you.
Now let’s return to that “shotgunning” player who’s deliberately playing quickly so that nobody can slip a Surprise in on that penultimate play… It is, as the fan above pointed out, not entirely fair, and, moreover, it invites the argument “But you didn’t leave me enough time to play my Surprise!” If, on the other hand they had played it slowly, as described above, their opponent has no excuse to challenge the win, on the claim that they “were going to play a Surprise.” The opponent had plenty of time, but in the vast majority of cases, they won’t play the Surprise, because they have no idea what’s coming next. That’s part of the beauty of Fluxx!