Play Time: 20 minutes
Age Recommendation: 10+
Difficulty to Learn: 3/10
Mastery Curve: 5/10
Luck Variance: 4/10
*This game is 3-5 players but includes a 2-player variant in which one of the two players controls the hand of a dummy player
Awards & Honors:
Golden Geek Best Cooperative Game (2019)
Deutscher Spielepreis Best Family/Adult Game (2020)
Kennerspiel des Jahres (2020)
Theme and Overview
In The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine, players embark on a series of fifty cooperative missions detailed in a mission log book included in the back side of the rule book. Each mission involves a round of a trick-taking (a la Hearts) during which, each player has different tasks to complete. These tasks, assigned at the start of each round, include winning tricks that involve specific cards in them and sometimes doing so in a particular orders determined by numeric game pieces that are placed on the associated task cards as they are dealt. If the team is unable to do that at any point, the mission is lost.
Player communication is limited to the use of one communication token each round, in which players can use a non-verbal procedure for signaling whether a card they have in their hand is the highest, lowest, or only of its type.
Depending on the mission, different stipulations will be placed on the crew. This will include modifications to the number of tasks that players need to complete, who is to complete them, the order they are to be completed in, they ways in which the players can and can’t communicate, and more.
The intention is for the game to be played with a consistent group through missions 1-50 as the logbook includes a blank space for each mission to mark the number of attempts it takes to complete. This is your score and can be compared to other groups who have been brave enough to make it through the “Project NAUTILUS” mission before you.
In the two-player variant of The Crew, you are granted the help of JARVIS, an unmanned player who is dealt 14 cards at the start of the game. Seven of those cards are dealt face down and seven face up (one on top of each face down card). The player who is appointed captain for each mission (whoever has Rocket 4 card in their starting hand) is in charge of playing cards from JARVIS’ hand. When a face up card is played and a facedown card beneath it is exposed, that card is turned face up and can then be played in the subsequent tricks. JARVIS is assigned task cards just like any other player but does not receive a communication chip as many of his cards are already public knowledge. JARVIS has one additional card in his starting hand than the other two players and will end each mission with one left over.
Thematically, the game is intended to give the feel of the crew overcoming setbacks on their long mission to the ninth planet. The logbook includes a bit of flavor with each mission to help achieve that. That said, you could certainly just open to any mission within the book or choose one based on an appropriate difficulty level for your current party and get a game going.
The Crew contains 45 large playing cards (57 x 89mm) and 36 Task cards (44 x 68mm)
Corey: I love The Crew! I’ve always been a big fan of trick-taking card games like Hearts so I was excited to hear about this cooperative, sci-fi themed take on the genre. Rules to traditional trick-taking games only needed small tweaks to be adapted to suit the needs of The Crew but the changes that the game’s designer, Thomas Sing, made make a significant impact on the way things play out. The role of communication (or more like the lack thereof) plays into the challenge big time and careful and tactful use of the communication token can be so crucial to your success.
Additionally, I really love the two-player version of the game. Nikki and I have had some good times with our new buddy, JARVIS. It is certainly stressful, though! The most intensive decision making moments of the game occur when you’re deciding what card to lead off on and involving a dummy hand (sorry JARVIS, I’m not trying to call you “dumb”) means that you have to make that decision more often while your team mate stares at you judgingly. Nikki has a hard time with this and occasionally will break the communication rules to tell me how poor my decisions are.
That said, we have a lot of fun playing this one together and feel such a great sense of accomplishment when we manage to eek through the toughest missions. It’s especially awesome that we can get a round in rather quickly (some of them can be finished in just a few minutes) so we can usually manage to advance our campaign in spare time between other activities.
COREY POINTS: 8.5/10
Nikki: Growing up playing classic trick-taking games like Hearts and Sheepshead with my family, I was excited for this game, though I was not really sure what to expect, especially with this being a cooperative game (aren’t trick-taking games supposed to pit you against your opponent?). Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised by how successfully the new rules for each mission turned a competitive game model into a cooperative one. The varied rules for each mission are fun and engaging and the stipulation that there is no table talk really does increase the difficulty of the game (but sometimes it is just so hard not to talk when your crew mate is doing something that will kill the whole mission). It’s a fun game and I hope we can successfully get through all 50 missions relatively unscathed!
NIKKI POINTS: 8/10
Corey: Surprisingly, this game does A LOT with what seems like just a few modifiable elements. The logbook includes 50 playable scenarios that are intended to be played in sequence with the same party. Each one involves a different variation on the rules including stipulations on which tasks cards must be completed in which order, delegating a player who is not allowed to win any tricks, further limitations on communication, and more. Some of these things can make the game REALLY challenging and all the more rewarding because of it.
COREY POINTS: 9/10
Nikki: Upon first hearing the rules of the game I was not sure if this would have great replay value. After seeing the 50 different missions in the logbook and learning about all the different ways to play with different numbers of players (ie. standard rules for 3-5 players, two-player variant, 3-player variant), I can see us coming back to this game, especially when we can finally play games in person again with our friends and family.
NIKKI POINTS: 8.5/10
Corey: Surprisingly, the theme is fairly well-embedded considering that, at its core, The Crew is just a spin on a trick-taking game. Where this really shines is the logbook. The Crew could very well have been created with the same thematic sterility as something like Uno and it would have played the same but it’s the flavor of the campaign’s story that makes this game so fun and unique.
I think it would have tempting to do more with the cards to really bring the space exploration concept home (such as including additional function than their numeric value and suit) but to so would disturb the balance of what is just a pure and awesome game.
COREY POINTS: 8/10
Nikki: I love the space theme and the missions are a perfect proxy for changing the game rules each round. The only thing that makes me sad is that the subtitle of this game, “Quest for Planet Nine,” reminds me that Pluto is no longer considered a planet. When I was a kid we had a planet nine…
However, that downgrade did result in the absolutely fantastic song, “Pluto”, by Clare and the Reasons. So I guess it’s not all bad!
NIKKI POINTS: 8.5/10
Quality of Components
Corey: There’s not much to talk about here. The Crew is pretty simplistic in terms of components but the benefit to that is this game is very affordable. We got our copy for just $15!
COREY POINTS: 8.5/10
Nikki: There might not be a lot of components to this game but everything that is included in the box feels sturdy and durable. The plastic-coated playing cards and task cards are thick and have a wonderful texture which is great for a game that requires the almost constant use of the cards. The task tokens, distress signal tokens and captain token are all made of thick cardboard and have a nice texture as well.
NIKKI POINTS: 9/10
Corey: The art in The Crew isn’t jaw-dropping by any stretch but it is perfectly suited for this game. Most of the art depicts astronauts floating around in space, completing their tasks and is repeated for each card of the same number value for each suit. There are plenty of fun references to look for, such as one image showing an astronaut holding up a screen that reads “42”, the meaning to life in Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.
COREY POINTS: 7.5/10
Nikki: I find the aesthetics of this game to be quite pleasing. All of the images feature bright colors contrasted with stark, black starry backgrounds further evoking the space theme. I appreciate that the colors used for the suits in this game are not the standard primary/secondary colors (red, blue, yellow, green) which gives it a different look from other card games that use four colors (think Hero Realms, Star Realms, and Seasons). The art on the face of each card is on theme without being too busy and many of the cards provide little fun easter eggs – so be sure to look at the cards carefully!
NIKKI POINTS: 8/10
Our overall score based on the responses of both reviewers in five different categories (10 points possible for each).