How to Play
The objective of Pocket Rockets is to acquire the most victory points by the end of the game.
Find the six assembly plant cards and lay the cards out in a circle. The order is not important except that the launch site and the recycling workshop have to be on opposite sides of of the circle.
To begin the game each player will receive one rocket base card. This card is placed in front of each player to denote a rocket being built. The rocket base given to each player is determined by the number of players:
- 2 players: one gray and one yellow
- 3 players: one gray, one yellow, one red
- 4 players: two gray and two yellow
The rest of the cards are shuffled and are divided into four equal sized piles. These piles are placed face up next to the four assembly plant cards that are not the launch site or conveyor.
Each player chooses a player token which they will use for movement around the game board. Each player gets to pick the space they would like to start their token on. More than one player may choose the same spot.
The fuel tokens are placed by the launch site card in numerical order (red, orange, yellow, white).
Whoever daydreams the most gets to start the game and play proceeds in a clockwise fashion.
Without upgrades, each player starts their turn with four action points. A player uses their action points in order to perform actions. The player can perform the following actions (each action costs one action point):
- Move their token: A player can move their token one space in the direction the conveyor belt is pointing in exchange for one action point. A player can move multiple spaces in a turn but each space uses an additional action point.
- Draw a card: A player can spend one action point to draw a card from the stack of cards next to the assembly plant card that their token is currently on. Each player may only have three cards in their hand at a time without any upgrades.
- Perform an Action: A player can use one action point to perform the action associated with the card their token is on.
- Assembly Line Cards: A player can use one action point to assemble a part of their rocket that matches the color of the card their token is on.
- Conveyor Card: A player can switch the direction of the conveyor to point in the opposite direction. This means that every player (without the upgrade) has to move the opposite direction around the game board.
- Recycling Workshop: The player can take one of their cards from their hand and add it to one of the draw decks around the game board. The player can then take any card from one of the other three decks (not the deck they put their card in). The player is able to look through the entire deck to pick the card that they want. Once they have picked their card, the deck is reshuffled.
- Launch Site: This action can only be taken if the player has completed a rocket that doesn’t currently have a fuel token. The player takes the highest valued fuel token (red 4, orange 3, yellow 2, white 1) and adds it to one of their completed rockets that don’t already have a fuel token. These tokens will be worth points at the end of the game.
Building A Rocket
When building a rocket a couple of rules must be followed:
- All parts of a rocket must be of the same color.
- Each rocket must consist of one base, at least one fuselage, and a tip.
- Each rocket must be built in the following order: base, one or more fuselages, and finally the tip. Once the tip has been added to a rocket no additional parts may be added.
A player may have multiple unfinished rockets being built in front of them at the same time.
Rocket Tip Bonuses
Most of the rocket tips have bonuses that go into effect on the turn after their rocket is completed. The bonuses include:
- +1 bonus victory point at the end of the game.
- +1 action point for the rest of the game (five action points).
- +1 card to the player’s hand limit until the end of the game (four cards total).
- Being able to ignore the conveyor card. With this bonus the player is able to move in either direction on the game board for the rest of the game.
Other than the +1 victory point bonus, none of the other bonuses are cumulative. For example no one can get six action points or have a five card hand size.
End of Game and Scoring
When the last fuel token is taken the game ends. Each player will then add up their victory points. Any uncompleted rockets are worth zero points. Players score points in the following quantities for completed rockets:
- Two points for each fuselage. Example: A rocket with three fuselages would earn six victory points.
- One point for each bonus victory point rocket tip.
- Victory points based on the value of the fuel token. Four points for red. Three points for orange. Two points for yellow. One point for white.
Whoever scores the most victory points wins the game. If there is a tie, the player with the tallest completed rocket will win the tie. If this does not break the tie, the game ends in a tie.
Do you love rockets? Are you looking for a game that you can fit inside your pocket? Well the game Pocket Rockets may be for you. Despite being small in size, Pocket Rockets is a very solid fun card game.
Easy to Learn and Play
Pocket Rockets greatest strength is the fact that it is quick to learn and play. The instructions probably take around five minutes to read and understand. The game takes just a couple of minutes to explain to someone who has never played the game before. While the game has a recommended age of 10+, I think the game could be enjoyed by kids a little younger than that. The game only takes around 15 to 20 minutes to complete so it would work great as a filler game.
Despite being such a small and simple game, Pocket Rockets still has quite a bit of strategy to it. Pocket Rockets is far from a brain burner but I would classify it as a light to moderate strategy game. Luck does have an impact on the ultimate winner of the game since a player could get lucky and the cards that they need could fall into their laps. There is enough strategy in the game though that you feel like your actions actually have an impact on the overall outcome of the game. Usually the right decision is pretty obvious but there are times where you actually have to make a decision which will have a big impact on the game.
Pocket Rockets has three distinct strategies that all seem to have a pretty similar chance at success.
The first strategy is to try to build as many different rockets as possible and complete them as quickly as possible. Each rocket will only earn the player two victory points but the key is to build them quick. With this strategy you will be focusing on getting the most valuable fuel tokens. If you build the rockets quick enough you will be able to claim the most valuable fuel tokens. The early fuel tokens are worth considerably more than the later fuel tokens so a rocket with only one fuselage can be worth as much as a rocket with three fuselages if the player is able to grab the more valuable fuel tokens.
The second strategy is the slow and steady approach. This happens to be the strategy I ended up implementing which helped me tie for first place. In this strategy you need to try and focus on building fewer but larger rockets. You need to try and make the rockets as tall as possible in order to maximize your points for fuselages used. While it might not look as impressive as building a bunch of different rockets, taller rockets can quickly net you points. I actually only built two rockets but since both contained three fuselages I ended up scoring quite a few points.
Finally you can take the long term approach and try to go for the rocket tips that give the best special abilities. I will address this in the next section but some of the special abilities can be game changing since they give players huge advantages that will help them score a lot of points at the end of the game. Using this strategy you will probably fall behind at first but will catch up quickly at the end of the game. Once you have the special abilities you can begin focusing on one of the other strategies.
Powers are Key
The special rocket tips have a big impact on Pocket Rockets.
What I like about the special rocket tips is that they can actually form a player’s strategy. I like when games give players more choices in how they want to go about playing the game. While most of the special abilities don’t directly help you win the game by giving you points, it is definitely a valid strategy to go after the special abilities early in the game. I like that the game gives players the ability to plan ahead and make moves that will help them later in the game.
My problem with the special rocket tips are that they are not at all balanced. One type of rocket tip doesn’t even give you a special ability. You might as well avoid this tip unless you need it to finish a rocket to claim a fuel token. Otherwise these rocket tips are pointless since you might as well go after one of the special tips since it will either give you a benefit or prevent another player from getting the benefit.
While reading through the rules I could tell that the special abilities were not going to be very balanced. I thought the extra card and extra action point cards were going to be the two most valuable since these abilities are typically quite powerful in most games. I was right about the extra action point bonus since it does give you a huge advantage over the other players. I however was wrong about the extra card limit. After the bonus point ability, the extra card ability has to be the second worst. You just don’t run into many scenarios where having one extra card is that valuable. Either you need more than one extra card or you don’t even need the fourth card. The special ability helps but just doesn’t have enough uses.
The most powerful ability though is the ability to move any direction. Before playing the game I thought this was not going to be that valuable. I just didn’t realize how important movement flexibility is in the game. While having an extra action point allows you to take an extra action, movement flexibility can save you several action points by allowing you to move directly to wherever you want to on the game board. If you need a special rocket piece, you desire a special fuel token, or need to reach a spot to build a rocket; you will likely beat all of the other players to that spot.
These special abilities do a good job compounding as well. The movement and five action point abilities in particular work really well together. With both abilities you can take almost any action you would like on a turn. This power is extremely valuable when people are rushing to the launch space in order to claim fuel tokens. In the game I played one player was actually able to get both the extra action and the movement bonuses. As soon as both bonuses were put into play you could tell that player was at a distinct advantage. That player ended up tying for the victory but if they had gotten both abilities a little earlier in the game they would have easily won.
With a name like Pocket Rockets you would assume that the game is quite portable. That is true to a point. The game’s box is only a couple inches in both directions so it could indeed fit inside a pocket. The cards are quite small as well (maybe a little too small at times). With the easy to understand gameplay and quick playtime, Pocket Rockets would work great as a filler game or a game you could bring along while traveling.
The portability does have some limitations though. While the game can be easily taken anywhere, you will need a decent amount of space in order to play the game. Pocket Rockets is not the type of game you can play in a cramped space. You will need a decent amount of playing space in order to allow for the game board to be set up and for each player to have enough room in order to start constructing their rockets. When all spread out the game is not huge but you will probably need at least a medium sized table in order to comfortably fit all of the cards.
Well That Was Quick
The biggest problem I had with Pocket Rockets had to deal with the flow of the game. I would say that the average game probably takes 15-20 minutes to complete. I like that the game is in the 15-20 minute range since the game may have started to drag if it lasted too much longer. Pocket Rockets is the type of game that is best served in short doses and is not the type of game I would play for hours at a time.
My problem with the flow of the game is that the game seems to just suddenly end. In a four player game it just ends before you are able to accomplish much. The game I played was moving along smoothly and then it suddenly ended. You probably can only build between two and four rockets before the end of the game. This is disappointing since I feel the game would have been better with more chances to build rockets. With two or three players I am guessing that this is not much of an issue since each player will be able to get more cards and have more turns so each player will be able to do more in the game. I think the game should have added some additional rocket pieces for the four player game.
Here are some extra tidbits I had about the game:
- The recycling workshop space is kind of overpowered. Players could end up just picking up random cards, heading to the recycling workshop, and then trading them in for the most powerful cards in the game.
- I think the game should have had a second tie breaker in place. The game I played ended in a tie. With the current tiebreaker it just seems too likely that games will end in ties since the tied players’ tallest rocket will likely be the same height. I think the second tie breaker should have either been who had the second/third tallest rocket or the player who had the most completed rockets.
Overall Pocket Rockets is a very solid filler card game. The game does a good job blending an easy to play game with enough decisions that you actually feel like your decisions are having an impact on the outcome of the game. With it’s portability and quick/easy gameplay, Pocket Rockets would work well as a travel or filler game. Pocket Rockets is not perfect though. The game seems to end kind of abruptly and some of the special abilities seem to be overpowered. Pocket Rockets is the type of game that I would bring out every so often as a good filler game but it is not the type of game that I would play for long stretches of time.
If you like more complex board games or you don’t particularly care for the theme, you can find better games than Pocket Rockets. If you like the theme and you like quick filler games that provide just enough strategy, I think you will like Pocket Rockets.