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Game Overview: The Crew: Mission Deep Sea, or Life's Full of Tough Choices, Isn't It?

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: The Crew: Mission Deep Sea
Board Game: The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
I have written a lot about The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine, starting in November 2019 and continuing in December 2019, and the only reason that co-operative trick-taking game from designer Thomas Sing and publisher KOSMOS stopped hitting the table was thanks to a disease that kept crews from gathering in real life to play. (We have since resumed playing the game on Board Game Arena, while chatting on a group phone call.)

When The Crew: Mission Deep Sea was announced in November 2020, I assumed the game would be more of the same, yet with a twist...but how would Sing twist such a simple format to create something new? Now that I've played 18 times on a review copy from KOSMOS with three and four players, I'm happy to share the magic of that twist.

The base gameplay of The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine and The Crew: Mission Deep Sea is the same: You have a deck of 40 cards, with four colored suits of cards being numbered 1-9 and one white trump suit being numbered 1-4. At the start of a mission, you deal those cards evenly to all players. Whoever receives the 4-trump is commander, and they lead the first trick. Players must follow suit, if possible, and whoever plays the highest card in the led suit wins the trick, unless someone plays a trump, in which the highest trump wins the suit.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
The original

Your challenge each game is to complete tasks, and in The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine those tasks are mostly represented by a smaller deck of 36 cards that consists of four colored suits of cards numbered 1-9. These tasks are drafted by players, and in the case above my challenge is to win the pink 3 in a trick, which should be straightforward given my hand. The fifty missions in The Crew present lots of wrinkles in this formula — collect these cards in this order, collect this card last — but many of the missions have a similar feel to them since the tasks focus on individual cards.

For The Crew: Mission Deep Sea, the task deck is now much larger — 96 cards — and each card has a difficulty level on the back based on whether you're playing with three, four, or five players. A mission will have a difficulty level (along with other possible wrinkles), and you draw and reveal task cards until their sum equals that difficulty level, with you skipping any cards that would make the level too high. As an example, here are the two cards we had in a four-player game for mission #7, which has a difficulty level of 6:

From gallery of W Eric Martin

These two tasks differ a lot from those in The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine, and they are representative of many of the tasks in The Crew: Mission Deep Sea in that they present the table with a holistic challenge that plays out over the entire hand instead of being something that is mostly the concern of a single person. I was commander for this game, and my hand had only three cards that weren't yellow or green, so I took the "win a trick with all cards <7" task as I thought I'd be able to contribute better to the completion of the other task by voiding the non-green, non-yellow cards from my hand, then throwing in yellow or green as needed.

The challenge of that "green=yellow" task, of course, comes from multiple players needing to void themselves in various suits — which will differ for each player — so that we can end up with 2 green/2 yellow OR 1 green/1 yellow/2 other stuff in a single trick that is won by the player holding the task. That's a lot of hoops! And along the way we need to ensure that I can win a trick that completes my task, so we need to play out high cards and submarines at the same time that we're trying to get the colors in the right arrangement.

Instead of giving players single-target tasks, The Crew: Mission Deep Sea presents the team with larger challenges that create a unique Venn diagram for each game based on whichever tasks come out. The task deck still contains a few low-challenge tasks such as "I will win the green 6", but it also has "I will win exactly three 6s", which involves everyone far more than the single-card task — and should both of those tasks be in play, but in the hands of different players, well, that would add an additional twist for players to overcome.

Other task cards that provide more holistic, game-long challenges are:

• I will win exactly one pink card and one green card.
• I will win all four 3s.
• I will win no yellow or green.
• I will win a trick that contains only odd-numbered cards.
• I will win as many tricks as the commander.
• I will win more yellow cards than blue cards.

We started a four-player game at mission #1 with that final card, and while it's a simple challenge, you need to play through the entire hand to ensure that you make it. The commander might win one trick or several tricks, which means you have more openness in how to play out the hands as long as you keep the goal in mind. (And should that task have come out at the same time as others, the simpleness of that challenge would intersect in different ways with each other task.)

Here was another pair of task cards that came out:

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Okay, so winning as many pink as blue is the same task as the one above, but now another player must win an 8 with a 4...which also means you need to engage in off-suit shenanigans, but in a different way than before.

Needless to say, I'm a fan of this new release as it requires the same spirit of working together with others, but overcoming these challenges seems to require you to connect on a broader scale rather than just not getting in one another's way. You can communicate in the same way as in the first The Crew, with you revealing a non-trump card and indicating whether it's the highest, lowest, or only card of that color in your hand, but what you need to communicate isn't as straightforward as in the earlier game. Often you're not even sure what to communicate until several turns have passed and you see — based on the cards that have been played — a possible avenue for you to contribute to one task or another.

I talk much more about the game and reveal many more tasks in this overview video:

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