The Trick is finding people to play it with
The Crew: The Quest for Planet 9 is a Trick Taking card game with a twist. A normally competitive style of card game with a coat of space paint and tasks to complete. These tasks manage to turn what is competitive into cooperative. A genre swap of a familiar franchise could elevate or tarnish, but a genre tweak can try to add further depth with keeping the core gameplay the same. Is the Trick Taking genre built too competitively to become a game to work with a team for? Or is it possible to completely flip this genre?
The Crew sets up a fictional timeline, a new celestial body has been found between Neptune and Pluto that needs investigating. You and your fellow players are all part of a crew that has been specially picked to head out on a named mission to learn the truth of this 9th planet. The players will work through this adventure by completing the 50 missions. Each mission dictates the number of Task cards to get completed, an order the Tasks need to get completed in, and any other special rules.
The deck of cards that you play with gets broken up into 4 different suits: green, pink, yellow, and blue. There are also four rocket cards that work as trump cards. For each of the colored suit cards, there is a matching smaller Task card for it. At the start of each mission, the player with the number 4 rocket card will start as the Commander. It's their job to start picking from the available Task cards. Task cards get picked one at a time moving clockwise from the Commander until none remain—this is when the core of the game begins.
The Crew is a Trick Taking game, meaning players will deal in one card from their hand each. Whoever starts it will decide the suit of the Trick, and whoever places the card with the highest value of that suit wins the Trick. It's the team's goal to make sure that each player with a Task is able to win the Trick that has that Task's card in it. For example, if a player's Task is the Green 7 then they need to win a Trick that the Green 7 is a part of. This is where the cooperative part of The Crew comes in. You might have a whole round of burning high cards to ensure you can't accidentally win someone else's task. As soon as someone else wins a Trick that has your card in it, the mission has failed. Strict rules include you must play the same suit where you can, otherwise, you play any card or a Rocket.
Before you start thinking that it sounds easy enough don't expect to be coordinating too much with your team. At any point in the game, you're unable to discuss your cards with any other player. You might have a Pink 9, victory for any Pink Task, or even the exact Task you need, but you won't be able to inform your friends. The only communication you can do is by showing one card from your hand and signaling if it's the highest, lowest, or only card of that suit. Some missions don't even let you say its position, just letting players know you have it. Without talking, if you do manage to complete all Tasks, then that mission is a success.
Depending on the mission, you can also have other modifiers added. This can include an order that the Tasks need to be completed in, a Task being completed last, or even that you're not able to use your communication token. While the core Trick-Taking mechanic doesn't change, the modifications keep the gameplay refreshing while adding difficulty. Each Mission should only take you a few minutes once your party gets the hang of things, but once the difficulty starts racking up, expect to be repeating them a lot.
The Bottom Line:
It's easy to see that with players ready for a more mature and methodical board game The Crew might go off without a hitch. The Crew takes an already strict game and adds more rules to restrict the player. You're not allowed to talk, not allowed to plan, not allowed to strategize, and yet it's a game that needs cooperation. If any of that doesn't sound appealing, then you're likely going to move on from The Crew pretty quickly. There will be a time and a place for The Crew, but it will be few and far between sessions when you have anything more exciting to play.
Get this game if:
- You have people that are into restrictive gameplay types
- You're a fan of other Trick Taking games
Avoid this game if:
- You're into a more animated tabletop experience
- You want to plan out strategy with friends
- You want an entertaining experience