The History of Looney Labs
...as seen through our annual holiday gifts

By Andrew Looney
November 30, 2012

To understand the history of Looney Laboratories, go back 3 companies to a fictitious corporation called Empire Publications, which I thought up back in 1986. I'd just gotten out of college and was eager to break into print as a writer. But I had no patience for the usual routine of sending manuscripts off to publishers only to get a rejection months later; so I published a booklet of my stories on my own, and gave copies away as my Christmas presents that year. This started a tradition of creating and giving something new away each year. In 1989, I joined forces with Kristin, and this merging of talent was the true beginning of Looney Labs. With my ideas and her ability to figure out how to get stuff manufactured, we started producing a wide range of unique gift products as Christmas gifts for our friends. For many years, our gifts were manufactured under the company name Geronimo! Industries, but in 1996 we closed out that company (as well as Icehouse Games, founded with several others for the purpose of making Icehouse game sets) and started up our fourth company, Looney Laboratories. Everything we'd done up to that point was basically practice; with Looney Labs, we set out to make our living creating cool new stuff.

This document describes the complete set of custom made holiday gifts we've concocted over the years.

Note: Quite a few of these items were for sale once, but are now are out-of-print. But some are still for sale!


 

1989: Icehouse Piece Ornaments

In 1989, Icehouse Games produced a run of 100 hand-poured Icehouse game sets. When we were done, we used the molds to make a small run of two-tone icehouse pieces, red and green, which we then strung onto loops of string and gave away as ornaments.

 
 

1990: The Enchanted Tiles

I wrote a Christmas story for children that embodied a mixture of our families' holiday tradtions, and published it under the Empire Publications imprint; Kristin created a simulation of the little bag of tiles I'd described in the story, and we gave away these little bags of tiles with each copy of the book.

The text of The Enchanted Tiles is available here online.

 
 

1991: The 1992 Calendar T-shirt

One of our most popular gifts was the t-shirt that doubled as a calendar. Each side covered 6 months, and each month was filled with detailed information on upcoming events, holidays, and anniversaries. The extensive fine print included lots of humorous information, jokes, and tiny cartoons. Of particular note are the anniversaries of famous events that never happened.

In 1999 we made a totally new calendar T-shirt...

 

1992: The Crossword Coffee Puzzle Mug

The coffee mug with a crossword puzzle on the side, which you can solve with the provded grease pencil.

This gift is the origin of the WTS; when designing the puzzle, the clues fell such that we needed to make the letters "WTS" into a word. So, 21 down became Wunderland Toast Society. Then everyone said "Wunderland Toast Society, what's that?" and we said "We don't know, we just made it up!"

 

1993: The Ace of Spades deck of playing cards

The cardback on this unique deck of playing cards looks just like the Aces of Spaces. It's great fun to be playing cards at a cafe or other public place, and watch for the bewildered looks on people's faces that these cards generate.

A new version of this nifty deck of cards was available for awhile in the Short Run Depot, but it too is now out of print.

 

1994: The Icehouse piece jigsaw puzzle

A fun size (100 piece) jigsaw puzzle. The design features a jumble of transulcent icehouse playing pieces of various colors.

 

1995: The Human Game Board T-Shirt

The rules for the game are printed on the front of the shirt, and the gameboard itself is on the back. The game itself is just a fast and simple move-your-token-along-the- path-to-the-victory-space sort of game, but what makes it unique is that you can play it while someone is wearing the shirt. You just have to lie on your stomach in order to be a human game board. The design of the gameboard is also an homage to numerous classic board games.

 

1996: Fluxx

The company that printed the First Edition of Fluxx promised us over and over again that we'd have our finished cards in time for Christmas; however, it turned out that they were just lying to us. They were going bankrupt, and had used the money we gave them to pay off other bills, with our job being only half done. So, most people got this Xmas gift in March, when we finally managed to get our job finished up and delivered, by paying the packaging costs a second time. (About 25 close friends and family members did get their Fluxx decks on time - from a batch of hand-cut samples we'd received, with square corners.) First Edition Fluxx Decks are still for sale!

 

1997: The Pyramid Hat

A sturdy baseball cap made from industrial hemp, with a mysterious blue pyramid on the front, and our URL on the back. The hat came with a slightly explanatory short story attached.

 

1998: Proton

The Retro-Futuristic, Self-Contained, Abstract Strategy PocketBoardGame for 1 or 2 players.

 

1999: Q-turn

The Little Wooden Nickel Game! Q-Turn is a fast and unpredictable little game played on a dynamic board made up of 16 wooden nickels. The game is packaged very efficiently, in a small clear plastic tube, along with a rules sheet and four small flat tokens. Q-Turn is thus highly portable, and can be played on any flat surface, from the lunch counter to an airline tray table.

 

2000: Cosmic Coasters

A ten minute game of interplanetary invasion for two, played using fleets of seven coins on real bar coasters sporting NASA images of the moons of Jupiter.

Cosmic Coasters is still for sale!
 
 

2001: Are You A Werewolf?

A Game of Deception, Paranoia, and Mob Rule in which a vengeful group of villagers must find out who among them is a werewolf (before it's too late...) for 8-15 players.

Are You A Werewolf? is still for sale!

 

2002: The Empty City

The dream of a real published edtion of this book was finally realized in time for the holidays of 2002. Featuring the color painting Dawn Petrlik painted for us back in 1990, and illustrated with two dozen beautiful new drawings created for this edition by Alison, the book was included (just as we always envisioned it) along with a set of Icehouse pyramids (which were first imagined in these stories) in the IceTowers boxed set, which is out of print now.

The print edition of The Empty City is still for sale!
 
 

2003: Looney Pads

In 2003 we made a set (two sets actually) of really cool notepads, featuring artwork by Andy and Alison. We made a small run of these pads in our at-home production facility, to give to family and friends at holiday parties, but we never managed to follow through on our plans to get more printed and sent out to all our Rabbits. Finding a source for affordable, professionally made pads proved harder than we expected... hopefully we'll find a way to make these available someday.

Pad set #1 included 4 pads with artwork by Andy:

  • Starship Memopad
  • Decision Worksheet
  • Zoltar pad
  • Thought Residue pad

Pad set #2 included 4 pads with artwork by Alison:

  • Animelds pad
  • Brainstorming pad
  • Squiggly Doodle pad
  • Nanofictionary pad

2004: Peace Puzzle

This was a 7"x7" 100-piece puzzle, featuring a striking and colorful peace symbol created by Alison using the card art from 2 Aquarius decks.

It's not huge, but it's reasonably challenging for its size. Comes with a zip-top plastic bag to store it in.

 

2005: Fluxx Holiday Promo Cards

For years we've been wanting to make a Keeper called Earth to add to regular Fluxx so that we could also make a Goal called Peace on Earth... we decided that this was the year to do it after publishing EcoFluxx and realizing the Earth could also be fun when included in that game.

Then, having decided to make a set of Holiday promo cards, we couldn't resist the idea of making a Christmas Tree for our newest game, Family Fluxx, which includes the new Keepers it requires, the Gift and the Tree. This card makes Family Fluxx the perfect game to play with your family on December 25!

Lastly, the mailing includes a newly updated version of our Micro-Catalog, and a holiday greeting card featuring our broccoli Tirade.

It's a bit less extravagant than our holiday gifts have often been, but it had to be for us to send it to 9000 names on our mailing list!

 

2006: The Fifth Martian Coaster

Martian Coasters is a Treehouse game in which each player is assigned a gameboard of a particular color. The set includes 4 colors: Red, Yellow, Blue, and Green. Thus, only 4 can play, even though the Treehouse set (which the game requires) comes with 5 colors.

This problem-statement is presented in cartoon form on the front of the 2006 Holiday Card. (You can see those cartoons by going to the WWN article for December 14, 2006). Inside the card was a free copy of the thing you need to make that fifth color work: a Black coaster!

The Black Coaster is included in the Swag Bag
 
 

2007: Larry the Zombie

In '07 we debuted the Zombie version of Fluxx and our gift that year was the 3rd of a series of postcard-based promo cards we mailed out to everyone in our datebase.

While Larry is first and foremost a card for Zombie Fluxx, you can get a taste of the Zombie mayhem by adding him into any type of Fluxx deck.

This card was later included in the game itself.

 
 

2008: World War 5

WW5 is a fun new game for 2-4 players using dice, 3 Treehouse sets, and a cool little world map gameboard. The '08 gift was a paper version of this gameboard, with the rules printed on the back. If you missed out on getting one that way, a deluxe version of the board is also available.

Deluxe WW5 Boards are still for sale!
 
 

2009: Nothing Beats a Large

The 2009 gift was another new game for a Treehouse set, called Nothing Beats a Large. Since the game is so easy, the rules were provided simply as a downloadable PDF file. The holiday mailing consisted of this beautiful greeting card announcing the new game and a valuable coupon code for money off a purchase from LooneyLabs.com.

 
 

2010: Pharaoh

The 2010 gift was another new game for a Treehouse set, called Pharaoh. As before, the rules were provided simply as a downloadable PDF file, but this time we didn't even do a physical mailing. We also gave out another valuable coupon code for money off a purchase from LooneyLabs.com.

Rules, an extra die, and a cloth board for Pharaoh are included in the game set for Treehouse. 

 

2011: Pyramid Shambo

The 2011 gift was another new game for a Looney Pyramids called Pyramid Shambo. This was another digital release, which again included a valuable coupon code from LooneyLabs.com.

The PDF also includes a recipient-printable holiday card!

 
 
 

2012: Pink Hijinks

For 2012, we once again released a new game Andy created for the pyramids. As in previous years, we've made the rules available as a free download, so that anyone with some pyramids and a D6 can play the game. (It's designed for the pyramid die included with the IceDice set, but you can make it work with a regular D6.) However, this game is so cool that we're releasing it as an actual product! It comes complete in a cute little pink pyramid carrying bag! We sent out a postcard providing a discount on the published version of the game, and we gave free copies to our biggest pyramid fans who helped us do a promotional push on the pyramids game system.

Pink Hijinks is still for sale!

 

2013: Mammoth Fun Pack

In 2013 we made a packet with a promo card for each of our releases (or re-releases) that year: Fluxx: The Board Game, Choose One, Monster Fluxx, Early American Chrononauts (promo also works for original Chrononauts).  We sent out a massive email blast to almost everyone we have contact info for, and invited them to opt-in to the free gift, and update their address.  For those who might have missed the email, we made an online form where people could sign up to get it.  We sent out a record number packets (over 5000) with a very cute card.