The Crew: Cooperative space discoveries card game [Review]

A short disclaimer before you read my board game analysis

As an avid euro gamer and hardcore Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) LCG player, my reviews may reflect a preference for these styles, and I may not cover solo games/variants extensively. Please note that my personal remarks are based on my gaming experiences, and I aim to provide honest insights within the scope of my preferences.

At last, we got one copy of The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine (will shorten it only as The Crew from now on) from a local game store in Germany. We were looking for this game because it won the Kennerspiel des Jahres 2020, beating Cartographers and The King’s Dilemma in the process.

The Crew’s first print was in German before Kosmos published its English version, more accessibility for international consumers. I have tried some trick-taking game, but none of them was co-op. Hence, this game was quite intriguing.

Do you know that Kosmos is currently working together with Devir Games to distribute Ratzzia? It is a game with heavy reliance on dice. We have also reviewed it back then here.

During my research, I stumbled on this thread in BGG that listed trick-taking, non-competitive card games. Mind you, this species is rare. Do I think this game really deserves the Kennerspiel des Jahres’ prize? Let’s take an in-depth look at The Crew with us!

How to play

The set up in The Crew is simple! All playing cards should be distributed to all players. Who gets Rocket 4 takes the Commander marker. Distribute the Communication token and place its green side in front of you. Also, flip the Emergency signal token’s back. The Commander will then distribute the Mission cards depending on the current mission played.

It’s a matter of winning or losing together. All players win by helping each other to fulfil the mission (will be explained later). Just like the usual trick-taking game, this game involves a set of cards in different colours and numbers.

The active player plays the trick. Other players…

…have to follow the colour suit played by him/her, if possible. The biggest card that matches this colour wins the trick.

If there is no card with matching colour in our hand, we can play other colours or the Rocket card. The latter can act as a trump card and will always win the trick.

Higher trump card beats the lower trumps. The played cards that don’t match the initial colour are not considered, even if it has a higher number.

The Mission cards

They consist of the number and colours of cards that should be won in a trick by the player who gets that Mission. If all Mission cards are successfully fulfilled, then all of us win the game. Be aware that when someone else wins the trick assigned to another player, we all fail the Mission and lose the game.

There will be 50 campaigns in The Crew. Gradually, the difficulty gets higher. If you guys still find it hard to win the game, the Emergency signal token can be used. By activating it, we can pass a card to the neighbouring player. We can only give information by using Communication tokens. You can get more detailed rule explanations below, a video from Meeple University.

Our remarks on The Crew

We haven’t played all campaigns yet, but I think we’re eager to finish them all. Nevertheless, The Crew got a mixed response in my group. The reason was not that the game was not good. It’s because most of my players are competitive. Hence, I recommend The Crew for those who feel that most trick-taking games available in the market are too ruthless.

After reading the rulebook, we underestimated this game’s difficulty a bit. Well, the first campaigns were not that hard, but most of them got harder exponentially. Anyway, the rulebook is really clear, and it gives a concise summary on each side of the page for better accessibility. You’ll not encounter any hardship when you need to revisit the rulebook during the game.

Thomas Sing is my new favourite board game designer, though. I was really excited about the co-operative nature he successfully established in The Crew. The gameplay is really smooth, and it offers high replay value from its various campaigns. Albeit recommended, we don’t have to play the 50 missions in order. You can pick whichever you want to try and start!

Components, artworks, and accessibility

The cards are printed in a linen finish, which exceeds my benchmark for the word ‘good’. However, I still prefer to have them in European’s standard card size. The artwork, on the other hand, is terrific. The illustration for the card back really gives the impression that we are looking into the unknown abyss in this mission for Planet Nine. What’s even better is the accessibility for the colour-blind people to enjoy the fun. If you cannot differ the colour, there are symbols on the card as your cue.

More about gameplay

The sole communication through the token needs to be timed accurately to help other players guess and decide which card they need to play in order not to fail the whole mission. When the timing is correct, the information on the highest/lowest value and the only cards in that colour is adequate to win the game.

We never activate the Emergency signal, because it will be too easy and kills the fun. However, I don’t judge if other groups use it when they find the situation dire. Some claim it’s almost impossible to win later campaigns without this function. Well, The Crew’s success rate on each mission really depends on the combination of cards you get, so I may vouch for it later.

This game is designed for 2-5 players, but I recommend to play with four players. The two-player mode requires the presence of an AI, something I don’t find appealing. The lack of competitiveness does not spoil the fun in this trick-taking card game. In fact, I found it really innovative. It makes me curious. I want to try other similar games out there.

Final thoughts

The Crew is a simple game suitable for your filler. If you like a co-op, then don’t think twice to bring this one into your arsenal. It is compact but still offers a high replay value. Are you a fan of a trick-taking game with no competitive aspect? Or do you seek a fast-paced, easy game to play with your family? Maybe you are just curious and want to try an impressive and innovative game? The Crew may be the answer to your questions.

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