History of the Looney Labs Annual Holiday Gift

Updated November 2020

Every year around the holidays, Looney Labs creates something new to send out to their fans. This tradition dates back to the late 1980s, before Looney Labs even existed. It even pre-dates Andy & Kristin's first date, originally starting with the photocopied booklets of short stories Andy gave to friends and relatives as Christmas gifts starting in 1986. One of those inspired the first pyramid game, and another year the holiday gift was Fluxx, so in a very real sense, the company was founded because of this tradition.

Since 2016 (and many times in earlier years) the holiday gift has been the rules for a new game for the pyramids. But you never know what the next year might bring... other holiday gifts have included promo cards, gameboard coasters, and even the original edition of our version of Werewolf. Typically these items become regular products for sale after the holidays are over.

In the years before starting Looney Labs, the holiday gifts were opportunities for Andy & Kristin to practice creating new products. Produced in very small print runs under the name Geronimo! Industries, they weren't sold, just given away to friends and relations.

Here's a look back at each year's official holiday gift!

2020: Bowler Rink

Our 2020 holiday gift is a new dexterity game for the pyramids. It uses the lid from Pyramid Arcade (or a suitable similar-sized box) as an arena into which players toss dice, one at a time, trying to knock over the stacks of pyramids without making them fly out of the box. You need to "bowl" with careful aim and just the right touch! Rules for the game are free online, and a new PA-style info card is being included free with every order from the LooneyLabs webstore throughout the holiday season!

2019: The Closest Ghost

Our 2019 holiday gift was all about the holiday of Halloween. You and your best friend are trick-or-treating when a ghost scares you, causing you to drop your bags of candy! The first to pick them all up first wins -- and what makes it extra fun is that it uses actual pieces of candy! It started as a new game for Pyramid Arcade, but pyramids are necessary, so the rules are available in two styles: For pyramids, and without pyramids.

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2018: IceToids

Our 2018 holiday gift is a new game called IceToids. It’s a quick little strategy game for small Icehouse pieces and print-and-play tiles. The free download also includes token pieces in case you don’t have pyramids yet. For those who would prefer a deluxe set of IceToids tiles, we’ve made them available from the GameCrafter as a print-on-demand product.

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2017: Lava Flows

Our 2017 gift was another new game for the pyramids, this one inspired by one of the design challenges included in Pyramid Arcade, called Lava Flows. Move your pieces into set positions on the other side of the board, but don’t forget whose pieces are hidden under whose. This game requires black and white pyramids and a 3x3 grid to play. We also made a Pyramid Arcade card available, which is still for sale!
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2016: Sandships

Our 2016 holiday gift was a new pyramid game called Sandships, in which pyramids become either the cyrstals towers of the cities of Mars, or ships sailing the sands between the cities and the canals. The holiday gift mailing included a paper game board, instruction sheet, a Pyramid Arcade style info card, and stickers to convert six-sided dice into lightning dice (for those who have pyramids but not the special dice).

The Sandships kit is still for sale!

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2015: Ugly Sweater

In 2015 we mailed out Ugly Sweaters to over 5000 fans in the form of a postcard Keeper. Though made for Holiday Fluxx, it can be used in any Fluxx deck and is a pretty powerful card! It reads, "During your turn you can exchange this for any Keeper another player has in play."

The Ugly Sweater is available as a reprint!

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2014: Fruitcake Fun Pack

Our 2014 reflected our recent release of Holiday Fluxx, which contained no creepers.  We thought fruitcake would make a great creeper and from there realized there were actually several games that could use a little bit of everyone’s favorite holiday dessert!  So we created a card for Choose One, several for adding to your Loonacy deck for the holidays and Martha Washington’s Great Cake for Early American Chrononauts.  These promo packs were mailed out to over 5000 fans and included in outgoing holiday orders as well as offered in participating retail stores!
 
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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.

The Mammoth Fun Pack is still available!

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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!

 

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2011: Pyramid-Sham-Bo

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

The PDF also includes a recipient-printable holiday card!

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2010: Pharaoh

The 2010 gift was new game for the Treehouse set, called Pharaoh. The digital release included a valuable coupon code from LooneyLabs.com.

The PDF of the original version of the rules included a holiday message from the Looneys.

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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 from LooneyLabs.com.

 

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2008: World War 5

WW5 is a fun new game for 2-4 players that uses 3 Treehouse sets, dice, and a cool little world map gameboard. The 2008 gift was a paper version of this gameboard, with the rules printed on the back. A deluxe version of the board was also released as an expansion product.

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2007: Larry the Zombie

In 2007 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.

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2006: The Fifth Martian Coaster

In 2006, we released Martian Coasters, a new game for the Treehouse set 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 came with 5 colors. To play with 5, you'd need a fifth coaster.

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!

Martian Coasters was renamed Looney Ludo when it was feeatured in Pyramid Arcade, with enough mini-boards for up to 6 to play at once.

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2005: Fluxx Holiday Promo Cards

2005 was the year we published EcoFluxx, so for the holiday gift that year we finally made a Keeper called Earth, which could be added to regular Fluxx along with a Goal called Peace on Earth!

Also, since we'd also just published Family Fluxx, we couldn't resist the idea of making a Christmas Tree goal, requiring the Gift and the Tree, both of which are cards in that game.

So, the mailing consisted of those 3 new promo cards, plus an updated version of our Micro-Catalog, and a holiday greeting card featuring our broccoli Tirade.

We sent these cards to over 9000 names on our mailing list!

 

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2004: Peace Puzzle

In 2004 we made this 7"x7" 100-piece puzzle, featuring a striking and colorful peace symbol created by Alison using the card art from two Aquarius decks.

It's beautiful and it's reasonably challenging for its size. Comes with a zip-top plastic bag for storage when unassembled.

 

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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... perhaps someday we'll find a way to make these properly available.

 

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

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2002: The Empty City

In 2002, we finally realized the dream of a real published edtion of Andy's book. 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!

 

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2001: Are You A Werewolf?

In 2001, we released our first version of the werewolf game, which we made by printing onto business cards and simply gave away as our holiday gift. Later we republished it using regular playing cards, and sold it in several different packaging formats. (We also did a deluxe edition featuring necklaces with little viewers.) However, at this point Are You a Werewolf? is in The Vault, since the game is in the public domain and is now being sold by many other publishers.

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2000: Cosmic Coasters

The gift for the year 2000 was this simple game of interplanetary invasion for two, played using fleets of seven coins on real bar coasters sporting NASA images of the moons of Jupiter.

This game won the Origins Award for Best Abstract Board Game in 2001!

Cosmic Coasters was the basis for the Pyramid Arcade game called Lunar Invaders, although the game design was signficantly changed.

Cosmic Coasters is still for sale!

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1999: Q-turn


In 1999, we gave everyone a 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.

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1998: Proton

In 1998, we made a special edition of one of those sliding tile puzzle games, replacing the 15 numbered tiles with red & white pathways, thus turning the puzzle into a 2-player game! We called it the Retro-Futuristic, Self-Contained, Abstract Strategy PocketBoardGame.

This game is long out of print, but Mike Fogus created a version you can play online

 

 

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1997: The Pyramid Hat

The gift for 1997 was 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.

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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.)

The above story is told in detail, with video recreations, in the drunken history of Fluxx.

First Edition Fluxx Decks are still for sale!

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1995: The Human Game Board T-Shirt

In 1995, we made this shirt for our friends. 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.

The front of the shirt had the rules, and on the back was the board.

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1994: The Icehouse piece jigsaw puzzle

 

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In 1994 we made a fun size (100 piece) jigsaw puzzle. The design features a jumble of transulcent icehouse playing pieces of various colors.

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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 as product called 53 Spades, but it too is now out of print.

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1992: The Crossword Coffee Puzzle Mug

This year we made a 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!" And that's how our game group got its name.

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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!

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1990: The Enchanted Tiles

In 1990, Andy wrote a Christmas story for children that embodied a mixture of Kristin & Andy's families' holiday tradtions, and published it under the Empire Publications imprint; Kristin created a simulation of the little bag of seven mystical tiles 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.

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1989: Icehouse Piece Ornaments

In 1989, everything changed. After several years of working together at NASA, in February, Andy & Kristin started dating. By September, they were engaged, and in December, they moved into Wunderland, the new house they'd just bought.

Meanwhile, they were also busy starting to publish games together, making the first 100 Icehouse game sets by hand that fall. And when they were done making the pyramids for those set, they used the molds to make a small run of two-tone Icehouse pieces, red and green, which they then strung onto loops of string and gave away as Xmas tree ornaments. And at that point, the holiday gift tradition became something they were doing together.

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1988: Saturn Cafe

In 1988, Andy released his 3rd volume of short stories, called Saturn Cafe, again with a cover illustration by Steve Hauk.

Saturn Cafe featured 8 stories, 4 of which Andy later turned into chapters of The Empty City. Two of the other stories (Beneath the City and The 5000 Year Legacy) were simple fiction, but the other two were autobiographical: Henlopen (Andy's recollections of his first Boy Scout campout) and On Weekends, I'm Somebody Else (his description of the world of LARP gaming at that time).

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1987: Open 24 Hours

In 1987, Andy made a second book of his stories to give away during the holidays. This time it contained seven stories, including Icehouse, the story containing the 5 paragraphs that inspired the Looney Pyramids game system, and which eventually became Chapters 2-33 of Andy’s first novel, The Empty City.

Open 24 Hours also included Andy’s autobiographical story, When I was a Little Guy, and four stories that were later included in My Secret World. The cover illustration was done by Emp Comix creator, Steve Hauk.

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1986: The Forgotten Future

In 1986, Andy put together a staple-bound, photocopied book called The Forgotten Future, containing 25 short stories he’d written while in college. He got 100 copies printed, using the made-up company name of Empire Publications, and gave most of them away to friends and family as his Christmas gift that year.

Most of the stories in The Forgotten Future can now be found in My Secret World. A few stories, most notably the one entitled The Empty City, would later become chapters in Andy’s eponymous novel.