The trick-taking genre is one of the oldest genres of board/card games that has been around for hundreds of years. There are a lot of people that love trick-taking games which has lead to hundred to thousands of different games in the genre including quite a few that we have reviewed over the years. I have to admit that I have never been the biggest fan of the genre. I don’t hate trick-taking games as I have played plenty of games from the genre that are enjoyable enough. I just wouldn’t consider it to be one of my favorites. This brings me to today’s game The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine. Despite not being a huge fan of the trick-taking genre I was intrigued by The Crew as it won the Kennerspiel Des Jahres in 2020 and is already regarded as arguably the best trick-taking game of all time. On top of that the game is entirely cooperative which is something that I love. The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine may not do enough to convert trick-taking haters, but it is a truly original take and arguably the best trick-taking game ever made.
How to Play The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine is a cooperative trick taking game. The game is based around missions which all of the players must work together to complete. You will start with mission one and continue to play through the missions which will become more difficult the further you get in the game.
This setup is performed whenever you start a new mission.
- Shuffle the large cards and deal them out equally to the players. If you are only playing with three players, the first player will get the extra card. This player will not play one of their cards during the mission.
- Each player takes a radio communication token and places it in front of them green side up.
- Each player will also place a reminder card in front of themselves.
- Place the distress signal token face down.
- Shuffle all of the small task cards and place them face down on the table. Place the task tokens near the task cards.
- Whichever player was dealt the four rocket card will be the commander. They will take the commander token and will start the first trick.
To setup each mission you will follow these steps:
- Each mission will show a number inside of a small card icon (top right corner). This is the number of task cards that you will turn over. You will place the first card drawn to the left followed by the rest of the cards.
- The mission will also show a number of task symbols. The corresponding tokens will be used for the mission. Starting with the first symbol shown, place one token under each of the task cards starting with the card on the left.
- The commander will get first choice of what task card they think they will be able to complete. The next player clockwise will then choose a task. This continues until all of the task cards have been taken. When a task card has an associated task token, it will move with the card.
The objective of The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine is to complete all of the tasks assigned to you at the beginning of the mission. If you can complete all of the tasks you will complete the mission. If you fail any of the tasks you will have to restart the mission.
To complete a task a player has to win a trick that includes the card (number and color) that is pictured on the task card. A player can complete several tasks with the same trick if they acquire several cards that they need.
The missions in The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine include a number of symbols which impact the gameplay. Here are a few of the symbols that are used in the missions (this list is not exhaustive).
The number task tokens indicate the order that the tasks must be completed.
The symbol shown below indicates that the corresponding task must be completed last.
Finally the arrow symbols indicate the order in which tasks need to be completed.
The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine plays similar to your typical trick taking game.
Each mission is divided into hands called “tricks”. Each trick begins with the first player playing one of the cards from their hand. The suit/color of the card that is played is called the lead suit.
Every other player must then try to play a card from their hand that matches lead suit. The player that plays the highest card of the lead color will win the suit. They will take all of the cards that were played, and they will start the next trick. The players can only see the cards won from the most recent trick.
If a player does not have a card of the lead suit, they can play any of the cards from their hand. By not following suit though, the player can’t win the trick.
There is one exception though. The rocket/black cards are “trump”. These cards will always win a trick unless another player played a trump card that is a higher value. You may only play a trump card though if you can’t match the lead suit. If a rocket card starts a trick, all players must play a rocket card if they have one.
During the game players cannot talk to each other about the cards in their hand.
During each mission all of the players will be given one radio communication token which can be used to give information to the other players about what cards that they have in their hand. These tokens can only be used before a trick begins. The tokens also can’t be used until all of the task cards have been given out.
When you want to use a radio communication token, you will choose one of the cards from your hand (can’t be a rocket card). You will place this card face up in front of you. This card is still part of your hand so you should take one of the reminder cards and add it to your hand to remind you that you have one of your cards on the table. During any trick you can choose to play this card like any other card.
You will then place the token on the card to give the other players information about the color of the card that you played.
If you place the token at the top of the card, it indicates that the card you are showing is the highest card that you have of that color.
If you place the token at the bottom of the card, you are telling the other players that the card you played is your lowest card of that color.
Finally if you place the token in the middle of the card, you are telling the other players that the card you played is the only card you have of that color.
If your chosen card does not meet one of these three criteria, it cannot be used with your radio communication token.
If circumstances should change about the card that you revealed (due to other cards that have played), you cannot adjust the positioning of the token.
Once you have played the card that you put the radio communication token on, you should turn the token to the red side to indicate that you used it.
My Thoughts on The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I have never been a huge fan of the trick-taking genre. I am not sure exactly why. I have always found the objective of these games to be kind of weird. Basically one player plays a card and all of the players have to follow with a card of the same color/suit. The player who plays the highest card of that suit wins the trick and starts the next. If you can’t match the color/suit though, you can play any card you want. Then there are trump cards that beat any other card. I just never really understood the strategy behind this genre. I have fun, but it always feels like there is something missing.
This is why I was intrigued by The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine. In recent years there have been a few cooperative trick-taking games released, but I had never played one before. At its core trick-taking feels like a competitive game. You are trying to win the best tricks in order to score the most points. I was really curious how the game would add in a cooperative element. This is mostly accomplished through the tasks that you have to complete in order to have a successful mission. These tasks consist of each player being given certain cards that they have to win during the mission. If all of the players accomplish their tasks you win. If not you have to restart the mission.
I found this to be a really interesting twist on your typical game from the genre. Instead of winning hands in order to earn points, there is a tangible goal to the game. At the beginning of the mission everyone knows what tricks that they need to try and win. Thus the gameplay revolves around trying to figure out a way for each player to win the tricks that they need to win. In a way this kind of feels like a puzzle. If a player has a high number in the color that they need to win, they can usually win their needed card just by playing their high card. It gets a little more complicated if you only have low cards in the needed color/suit though. In these cases you need to win these cards by having them played where they don’t match the current suit as that is the only way to really pass them to the player.
Those who play a lot of trick-taking games will probably think that doesn’t sound all that difficult. The catch in The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine is that communication between players is really limited. You can’t directly tell the other players what cards that you have in your hand. If you could that would make the game pretty easy as you could plan ahead how you would play all of the cards from your hands. Each player is only able to give the other players one hint during each mission by playing one of their cards face up on the table with a token indicating if it is the highest, lowest, or only card of that color in their hand. This might not seem like much at first, but if you use this piece of information at the right time you can actually give the other players a lot of information especially if players can infer why you chose to reveal that card.
Outside of minor changes, most trick-taking games don’t really differentiate themselves all that much. The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine feels different though. The basic gameplay is the same. Thus if you absolutely hate trick-taking games it likely won’t be for you. Those that aren’t huge fans of the genre though may find something about the game that really appeals to them. I think the combination of the missions along with the cooperative elements really make the game stand out. At least at this point The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine is the best trick-taking game that I have ever played.
Lets move past the gameplay and onto the game’s theme. I had some mixed feelings about the theme. I always love a good space theme. The artwork on the cards is great. The game deserves credit for creating a whole story around the different missions as well. The problem is that the theme is not all that important to the game. I will say that it is hard to attach a theme to a trick-taking game. The space theme really has nothing to do with the actual gameplay though. The story and theme are a nice touch, but you could remove it from the game and it would have no real impact on the gameplay. This wasn’t much of an issue for me, but those looking for a good implementation of the theme may be a little disappointed.
I enjoyed my time with The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine. It is not a perfect game though as some people probably won’t enjoy it. The game still has some of the finicky elements present in all trick-taking games. While it is the best game from this genre that I have ever played, it still doesn’t compare with some genres that I prefer quite a bit more. Your opinion of trick-taking games in general is likely to have a pretty big impact on how much you enjoy The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine.
Other than this, the biggest problem with The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine has to deal with the game’s difficulty. Honestly I found the game to be quite difficult. The game is pretty easy to play as it can be taught to most people within a couple minutes. It will be even shorter for those familiar with trick-taking games. Whether you can succeed though is another story. The game is structured in a way where each successive mission should be more difficult as players will have to deal with more tasks in order to succeed. Maybe it was just that my group doesn’t play a lot of trick-taking games, but we started having troubles pretty early in the game. This could partially be due to not being great at the underlying strategy to trick-taking games.
I think part of it had to deal with the fact that there is quite a bit of luck to The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine. How the cards are shuffled and dealt out plays a pretty big role in how well you will do. The tasks that players must complete might work well together or they could make it really hard to even have a chance of success. How the cards are dealt out will have an impact as well. Some tasks will be really easy as the cards will be dealt out in a way where it is really easy to get cards to the right players. Other games will basically be over as soon as the cards are dealt out. The game has a decent amount of strategy as smart play of your cards is important. There will be situations where you really don’t have a chance at success no matter how good your strategy is though. The game even alludes to this in the rulebook. There really isn’t anything that the game could have done to prevent this, but it still really sucks when you lose a mission due to no real fault of yours. The good news is that it is quite easy to reset things to try again which will likely happen quite a bit especially in the later missions.
Should You Buy The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine?
I wouldn’t consider myself to be a big fan of trick-taking games, but I still had quite a bit of fun playing The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine. At the most basic level the game isn’t much different from any other game from the genre as you mostly just play cards in order to win tricks. What really makes it stand out though are the cooperative missions. Basically the whole game is built around players working together in order to get each of the players to win certain cards in tricks. This kind of feels like a puzzle as you have to use some indirect methods in order to accomplish some of the tasks. Making things even more complicated is the fact that communication is limited. This creates a really interesting and satisfying gameplay experience as players have to work well together in order to succeed. The game can be quite hard at times though mostly relating to the distribution of the cards. Some of the missions will take quite a few attempts in order to successfully complete.
My recommendation for The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine comes down to your opinion of trick-taking and cooperative games. If you absolutely hate one or both of the genres, the game likely won’t be for you. Even if you aren’t the biggest fan of trick-taking games though, you can still get quite a bit of enjoyment out of The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine as it has a lot of interesting and fun ideas. If the premise sounds interesting to you at all, you likely will really enjoy The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine and should consider picking it up.