Some people may be wondering why I am reviewing a game that won the prestigious Duetscher Speilepreis award in 2020 for the best board game. It should be obvious that this is a great card game, and the fact that it is now available in so many different shops around the world beyond the typical board game stores should make it a game that will soon be in everybody’s home. Why would I need to throw in my two cents, when people don’t really need to hear it anyway?
Well, it is a great game worth talking about. It only takes five minutes to learn how to play, but the amount of time that you will play, and how many times you will want to come back to the game makes this game worthy of being talked about again.
The Crew is a collaborative trick taking card game where communication is limited. When I heard about it, I couldn’t wrap my head around a collaborative card game that used the trick taking mechanic. But it works. Basically, there are four suits of nine cards each, and a trump suit that has four cards. After dealing out all of the cards, cards from a smaller deck is selected from depending on what part of the adventure you are on. People take turns around the table selecting which card it is they will take on a trick, and without speaking game play begins.
There are ways to communicate a little bit of what is in your hand to help with that urge to work together, and there are a couple of special challenges that happen along the way to your voyage to planet nine. A hand can take anywhere from five to ten minutes, and from my experience, the moment you finish one hand, you want to scoop them up and play a new hand, whether that is to repeat the challenge you did no win, or move on to the next one. The game play is very addictive, and we found ourselves playing late into the evening with the promise of this being the last hand over and over again.
It also solves one of the biggest problems of collaborative games, the quarterback. I love playing collaborative games, and I always want to manipulate the board the way I see it so I can beat the game. This happens so much that I have the Pandemic app on my tablet so I can play the game over and over again without having to find others to play it with. This becomes a problem when I play with other people because I want to tell everybody what they should do. I have to remind myself that they are playing as well, and I need to keep my mouth shut. The communication rules written into The Crew will not allow one person to take control of the game, and creates some tense moments during the game play.
Rating – 10
On the back of the rule book, you will see this hook to the adventure you will go on if you choose to continue to open the pages. It tells the story of a group of astronauts who go through training, blast off from Earth, and the problems they encounter along the way as they pass the various planets of our galaxy. Each challenge comes with a little flavor text that you have to read before you try to overcome the challenge. The flavor text is about all there is to the theme of the game. Yes, there are some that work better with the challenge as opposed to others, but for the most part, they don’t really add much to the overall experience of the game. Yes, we would take the time to read the flavor text before each challenge, but most of them end up being pretty forgettable as you spend more time trying to get over the challenge rather than think about why you are getting over that challenge. For the most part, they could have tagged any story to the game play and it would have felt exactly the same, and this is not why you play the game over and over again.
Rating – 6
Even though the theme feels a little tacked on to this game, designer, Thomas Sing, and artist, Marco Armbruster, made sure that the artwork bought into this theme. The pictures on each of the cards lends itself to the story and each highlights another problem that could be encountered along the way to Planet Nine. But this is not where the genius of these cards lie. Marco Armbruster understood that many people would want to play this game, and he designed the artwork on the cards to be all inclusive.
It started off with the colors of the four suits. Sometimes in low light, the colors of blue and green can blend together making them hard to tell apart, especially when the only color used on the card is for the number. By making highlighting the picture in the same color as well, it makes it easier to distinguish between them. There is nothing worse than accidentally playing the wrong card especially in a game that every card played eventually becomes important.
This inclusivity continues to people that can’t see color at all. Each of the four suits of the game are also designed with easy to distinguish symbols underneath each of the numbers, allowing people who are color blind to play the game just as easily. It was a great way to bring the fun of this game to more people, and just adds to the enjoyment.
This game could have easily been created with a two regular decks of cars, and couple of quarters, but because of the artwork, you really want to play with this deck. It makes it feel more like an event and less of just playing a game of cards.
Rating – 9
You wold think that a game whose key rule is no talking between the players would not have a lot of interaction, but this is where you would be wrong. Just because you can’t talk about the cards you have in your hand does not mean that you can’t talk. The game presents this wonderful opportunity to get together with friends and just talk.
But the best interaction with this game happens when the play stops. Whether you win or lose the round, you are going to want to talk about what happened during the gameplay afterwards. Every time I have played, we have discussed what moves worked really well, and mistakes that we made along the way. Even with the limited amount of communication, you find that it gives you enough information to make good decisions with the group. You also find that you start to trust your teammates to do the right thing, and you can even start to anticipate what your teammates will do next. The group I play with on a regular basis has gotten so comfortable with each other that we have named our What’sApp group after the game and our the trust we have built extends beyond the game play itself. The interaction in this game is so surprising that it always becomes a part of game nights because people find that they enjoy themselves that much because of that interaction.
Rating – 10
There is not an expansion to this game, but that does not mean that you cannot get a lot out of this game. With the fifty missions that come in the log book, it will keep any group busy for a long time, and I have found myself returning back to earlier missions that were really fun to play and replaying them.
There is another version of this game that has been released that is its own stand alone game called The Crew: Mission Deep Sea. The game introduces its own set of rules and game play, but still has the same feel as the original. It only comes with 35 missions, but they are a little more complicated in game play. I would recommend playing The Quest for Planet Nine first because it is a little easier to digest, and if you wish to continue with the collaborative game play, get the second installment of this game. It is a little easier to find the first one, and it has become a staple at Target stores now, selling for around ten dollars; whereas, the second version is a little harder to find.
Either way, you will not be disappointed by picking up this game.
Rating – 8
The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine is a really fun game that I come back to time and time again. I have started three different quests with different groups of people and each time I introduce the game, we spend the whole night playing and laughing. It is a great shared experience, and I can see why it won the Duetscher Speilepreis award. The best part about it is its price. It is not an expensive game which is becoming a rarity in this market where publishers keep on creating bigger games with more components. It is nice to know that there are affordable games still out there.
It is also an easy game to teach, especially if people know the trick taking mechanic from card games such as Hearts and Spades. Each time I have taught this game, we have been up and playing it within five minutes. The early missions are exceptionally easy, but they get people into the game. But don’t worry about it being too easy of a game. By the time you reach the eighth mission, it is difficult enough that it will take you multiple times to get through that mission.
If there is any complaint to the game, it is that the theme does not really contribute much to the overall enjoyment of the game. Basically, it is nothing more than flavor text, and it could have just been a list of challenges that is tied to any other theme. The game is still so much fun that it is a minor complaint that is quickly forgotten about as you play. I definitely recommend that you go out and form your own crew today. You will find yourself wasting hours playing this memorable game.
Overall – 4.3 out of 5 stars