Trick-taking games are like a warm blanket that remind me of playing cards with family. Most people have some experience playing this style game, like Hearts, Spades or Euchre, as a kid or teen.
Each year I usually end up playing a new trick-taking game and the formula remains the same. The Crew intrigued me when it was released in early 2020 as a cooperative trick-taking game with a space theme. Let’s dig in and see what this game is all about.
The Exploration Team
The Crew is a unique spin on the trick-taking formula because everyone is working together to accomplish goals during a hand. Like traditional trick-taking games, a player will lead with a card of a specific suit. Everyone else must play off that suit, play a trump card, or play another suit if they don’t have the original suit that was played. The trump cards in this game come in the form of four rocket ships numbered 1 to 4.
Each of the four suits contain a color and the numbers 1 through 9. I love the artwork on the cards that depict astronauts working on a space station in the color of that suit. Like most trick-taking games, the theme doesn’t actually matter. The element that makes The Crew different is that you must work as a team. It doesn’t feel like “space” but it does make you feel a like a cohesive team working toward a goal.
At the start of a hand, players are assigned or pick a mission card that gives them a goal. It could be to win the yellow 6 card or maybe win the green 2 card. You must find a way to win the trick that contains this specific card. This can be tough, especially since communication is minimal.
Instead of having those “aha” moments where you win a trick and one up your opponents, players are more likely staring one another down. Without saying the words, your eyes are asking “Are you holding the yellow 6?”
Players are not able to share what card(s) they have in their hand or tell others what they should or should not play. The Crew has a very cool communication system that allows players to share information that the other players may need. Using a little communicator token, you can lay a card in front of you and use the communicator to share whether it’s the highest, lowest or only card you own in that suit. Using this system well is a key to getting through some of the tougher card combinations or “missions.”
Each hand ends when players collectively achieve the goals they have in front of them.
Just a couple weeks ago, The Crew won the Kennerspiel des Jahres award, which I honestly feel was a good fit. The Crew is, at its core, just another trick-taking game. The hand to hand play of this game isn’t much different than other games in this genre.
The cooperative aspect of the game and the way it limits your teams communication is what sets The Crew apart. Players are more hesitant as they look around the table during a hand. The card you play no longer affects your score as an individual. The card you play can make or break the current mission and that hand for the team. In many ways The Crew is more of a puzzle than anything else. It has elements of card games like The Game and The Mind. You have to deduce what others might be holding and pay attention to what has already been played.
All this can definitely put pressure on players as they try and pick just the right card to lead with or play off during a round. The saving grace here is that restarting a new hand in this game is quick and easy, so the time commitment is only a couple of minutes.
A Cooperative Classic?
The Crew is a novel, creative take on trick-taking games, a genre that has been around for a long time. I really enjoy the way this game makes the players feel like they’re solving a puzzle together. I’m a big fan of the “Log Book” in the rule book which attempts to guide you through 50 different scenarios. It’s a really cool way to guide players into more challenging scenarios.
The cooperative nature of the game will attract some players and deter others. Nothing about The Crew will change your mind about co-op games or trick-taking as a genre.
While the cooperative gamplay felt like a gimmick in the beginning, it actually changes how you play this style game. I have to think about ways to draw out specific cards of other players and know when to play what I have. I have to pay attention to every card played, not for my own benefit but for the benefit of the team.
If you’re a fan of cooperative games and classic trick-taking games, this is a must own. The Crew can even be a great way to help build team work within families or with co-workers. There are layers to this game and plenty of missions to keep this card game coming back to the table.
You can find The Crew – Quest for Planet Nine at your local game store or purchase it on Amazon today.
- Cooperative gameplay brings players together
- Mission log book brings variety
- Great artwork and symbols to assist players with color blindness
- Winning a tough mission feels like solving a puzzle
- Earlier missions can feel too similar
- Learning curve can be steep for players unfamiliar with trick-taking games