The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine

COVER ART - The Crew The Quest for Planet Nine
Exploring deep space, you and your crew are on a mission to discover the rumoured Planet Nine.

The format is a little different for this kind of exploration game though. Exploration and missions are done in a trick-taking format, where missions are represented by specific cards.

Specific players need to win specific cards. The complication is in space, you can't just talk to each other. So The Crew is similar to a campaign cooperative trick-taking game with hidden information.

That's the dry technical description. The Crew is a simple cooperative campaign game that begins deceptively simple and quickly begins challenging you with clever puzzles to solve.
BGG Link
Designer(s) Thomas Sing
Publisher KOSMOS
Player Count 2 - 5
Estimated Playtime 5 to 20 minutes depending on how far in you are
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Journal Entries

March 14th, 2022

I am not usually one for trick-taking games. There have been exceptions, but on the whole, I usually need something more to go with a game than ‘win hands’. That’s why The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine popped onto my radar when it first came out. And no, I won’t call it by its full title going forward!

The Crew is a game where the trick-taking aspect is turned into a cooperative puzzle to solve. The increasing difficulty occurs over a 50 mission campaign of sorts, giving a goal. And there is the crowd splitting rule of no shared information. In The Crew this is thematically more appropriate than in most games, though.

The way to win each mission is that specific players need to win hands with specific cards. The card play is standard trick-taking – there are four suits with cards 1 to 9, and 4 trump (rocket) cards. What people need to win is shared information. The catch is you can’t tell other players what you have in your hand.

20220314 - The Crew - It begins so easy
It begins so easy

There is a communication of sorts in the game. It’s a limited burst of radio communication, where you can display one card. The information you can share is if that card is the highest, lowest, or only card of that suit.

Some players hate this hidden information aspect of a lot of games. For The Crew, it makes sense to me. If you can freely discuss who has was, there is little to no puzzle to solve. People talk openly about cards and search what is played in The Game for example. A lot of these players then complain there is no challenge to it.

At first, the missions are simple, such as one player wins one card. But going forward things get harder. Specific cards must be won in order. One player cannot win any hands. The already limited communication is messed with. Things like that.

20220314 - The Crew - Things then get complicated
And then things get complicated

If you like the idea of a shared puzzle, The Crew may be a good game for you. And with it being available on Board Game Arena, it’s a great way to try it out for yourself!

March 28th, 2022

Rabbit requested we give The Crew another go last week, so this week we jumped back into the campaign. Board Game Arena lets you pick which mission you want to start on, so I started on Mission 4. Sure we had already played a couple more in, but I couldn’t remember where we got to last time.

While setting up The Crew, there is a feature that is confusing me though. You can select the Mission Length, which I assumed was how many missions you want to play. It seems that while you play, you can ignore this stat though and blast through. I need to pay more attention next time we play.

Speaking of attention, mine wandered a fair bit this gaming session. I had a long week, and some basics such as confirming what I was trying to communicate for some reason eluded me. I would pick a card to communicate, then spend a couple of minutes wondering why no one was playing!

20220328 - The Crew - I need to confirm communicating
For some reason, confirming my communications eluded me

Making our way through the campaign missions, the tasks slowly became more complex. We had seen cards won in a particular order already, but I rolled my eyes at winning a trick with a 1 that isn’t a trump. How do you win a hand with the lowest value card in the game?

Like most problems, what sounds difficult can be dealt with without too much fuss. If you are the only player with that suit and your teammates don’t trump you, it’s not hard to win with that 1.

But then came a limitation that you couldn’t win any tricks with a 9. The Crew threw more of a curveball here, as we had spent the previous hour using 9’s for easy hand wins!

20220328 - The Crew - Cannot win with the 9s in a trick taking game
Don’t win a hand with the card that basically guarantees you win the hand

Again, it’s only a matter of thinking for a little bit. Play 9’s on suits you can’t play, and use trumps to let others dispose of the dangerous 9’s. Not too difficult, players just need to pay attention.

Yeah, I failed here a couple of times. A couple more missions in, you not only had to not with a trick with 9’s, but players had to win specific cards again. I fell back into the “I need this card, so I play the 9 and people can give it to me” trap.

The Crew has managed to balance subtle changes in the challenges so far. Nothing enough to throw players into a loop, but add enough differences to trap the unwary.

Well, that’s what I had been thinking. Then the game asks who thinks they can achieve two goals without telling you what they are!

20220328 - The Crew - New job interview edition
Can you do any task we throw at you? Well this time, yes I can

I lucked out here on Mission 20. With all the 9’s, I was in a good position to win most cards. But that was a lucky deal – I don’t know if that will happen again later! Only being able to answer ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ and not convey what’s in my hand can make missions more difficult in the future.

I am interested in making our way through the rest of the campaign in The Crew, but not in a rush. Next week, play something else and then come back to The Crew sounds like a good pattern. See how we go over the next few weeks!

May 9th, 2022

We haven’t played on Board Game arena for a couple of weeks, so I floated continuing The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine. I am pretty sure I have worked out how the campaign settings work in the options, and we could always drop out. Rabbit is only feeling mostly better, and The Crew requires more brainpower than it seems.

We settled in pretty quickly again. Alpal made a comment that made me laugh. I can’t remember her exact words, but I can sum it up as “The Crew is so much easier when you cheat”. That said, we played within the spirit of the rules, and took the couple of looses on the chin.

We played from Mission 20 to 26, so we are halfway through the campaign. The mission objectives are getting more complicated, and we are getting new formats.

20220502 - The Crew - Pick objectives one at a time with limited info
Assign objectives evenly without knowing what all the objectives are. Yep, no pressure.

This one took my a little while to get my head around. It’s pretty simple. Crew members can say if they think they can do each item or not, and the commander assigns the visible one as they wish. Normally this is done once for everything on offer. Above was a new twist.

You assign each item as you progress, but you only see the task on offer. No information on later tasks. And everyone has to have an equal split of tasks – for us, 2 each. The Crew seems to revel in making sure any losses were your fault. Setting up a mission like this seems to be the peak of this cruelty though!

And then we ended on a ‘simple’ mission. We only had to win 2 rounds with the 1 card, except trumps.

20220502 - The Crew - Winning hands with 1s is hard
Win 2 rounds with the worst cards in the game, without communicating. This can be very frustrating!

When you can freely talk about what is in your hand, simple. When you can’t talk about your hand, tense is an understatement! The path is simple – play a 1 when no one else has that colour to win. Maybe bleed trumps first if you are concerned.

But when you have to guess what suits others don’t have without asking, it’s a time. There are times that a ‘relaxing’ play session of The Crew has had me more stressed than a horror game!

Either way in a couple of weeks (roughly) we will continue on from Mission 27. 50 missions total in the campaign, so plenty more The Crew is on the cards! (No, I will not apologise for that Dad Joke 🙃)