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BGG.CON 2019 Game Preview: The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine, or Tricking Your Way Through the Solar System

W. Eric Martin
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Thomas Sing's Die Crew: Reist gemeinsam zum 9. Planeten was the surprise hit of SPIEL '19, the one title about which people most frequently asked me "Have you played it yet?"

Honestly I hadn't even paid attention to the title when I added it to the SPIEL '19 Preview, it being one of 1,200+ games on the list with me having little time to think about actually playing any of these games. I just needed to post info on them and move on.

Once I heard people talking about the game — a co-operative trick-taking game in which you're trying to complete certain tasks each hand — I made sure to buy one. I finally played it the day prior to leaving for BGG.CON 2019, with playing seven times that day and four times during my first day at the show. It's the game I'm interested in playing right now, mostly so that I can do a decent video overview of it, with "decent" meaning that I've played the game enough to know what I'm talking about beyond the simple "do this, then do that" aspect of a rules explanation.

For now, though, let me run you through the simple "do this, then do that" rules explanation:

The deck consists of five suits of cards, with four colored suits numbered 1-9 and one white rocket suit numbered 1-4. You deal these cards out evenly to the 3-5 players, and whoever has the 4 Rocket becomes commander for this mission, which is what the individual games are called. The game — which will be called The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine when Thames & Kosmos releases the English-language edition in Q2 2020 — includes fifty missions, with the first mission being incredibly easy, and others being less easy.

For the first mission, you shuffle a tiny deck of cards that includes all of the colored cards and none of the rockets, then the commander places the top card face up in front of themselves. The commander must win the depicted card in a trick. If the team makes this happen, they win; if anyone other than the commander captures this card, they lose and must play the mission again.

In our first game, the mission was simple as you can get: The commander revealed a blue 3, and he held the blue 9, which he led on the first trick since he didn't also hold the blue 3. You must follow suit, if possible, and one of us played the blue 3, with the blue 9 winning the trick and therefore the game. Boom!

With each mission, whether new or repeated, you shuffle both decks of cards and deal out new hands. For mission #2, the commander reveals two mini task cards, takes one of them from themselves, then passes the other one to the player on their left. Now the commander must capture one specific card and the player on their left another specific card. For mission #3, you again reveal two task cards, but now the first card revealed must be captured before the second card revealed. For mission #4, you reveal three task cards — and that's as high as I've advanced to date.

The commander assigns me the remaining task; should be easy, yes?

The randomness of the tasks can make a mission easy or difficult. In the game I described above, mission #1 could not have been any easier — but what if you're the commander and must capture the blue 3 and that happens to be the only blue card in your hand?

The Crew has straightforward rules for how you can communicate with fellow players. After the tasks are assigned or between tricks, you can place one card from your hand on the table, then mark it with your green communication token:

• If the revealed card is the only card you have of that color, place the token in the middle of the card.
• If it's the highest card you have of that color, place the token at the top of the card.
• If it's the lowest, place the token at the bottom of the card.

That card is still in your hand, and you can play it following the regular rules. If you hold that blue 3 that you need to capture, you might choose to communicate that info to your partners because then you can craft a plan — without talking! — so that you can win it, namely other players need to void suits so that they can then ditch all their blue cards higher than 4, then somehow get you to win a trick so that you can then lead the blue 3 and win that trick.

One complication to these types of plans: the rocket cards. If you lead a rocket, all players must play a rocket if they have one; otherwise you can play a rocket only if you're void in the suit led. If a rocket is played in a trick, it's trump and wins the trick, with the highest rocket winning should multiple rockets be played. All too often in my first eleven games, people can't or don't play rockets early, which sometimes complicates who wins a trick and who will lead next instead of everyone following the plan you might have had for who was going to win what. Other people can be so troublesome!

You also can't communicate a rocket, so you just have to read people the right way and sometimes hope they're holding one and can grab the trick you want them to.

More thoughts on the game later, but for now I'm heading back to the convention floor to see whether I can rope in more players to join my crew...
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