“Back” to Moonrakers – A thematic deck-building negotiation #boardgame from @Moonrakersgame of working together—until you backstab one another for the win (with mentions of @Academy_Games & @worth2004)

For the first time in a long time the RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself got a boardgame to the table for a weekend Family Game Night. I chose Moonrakers (IV Games, 2020). This is a highly thematic, deck-building negotiation game where players are individual ship owners attempting to complete contracts for Prestige and Credits. The first player to 10 Prestige is the winner. Credits can be used to buy Crew or Ship Parts which come with different powers. Contracts award various amounts of Prestige, Credits, or Bonus Cards but the more “profitable” contracts come with more Hazards which must be blocked with Shields of you risk losing Prestige instead of gaining it.

In the early stages of a Moonrakers game the problem is you often can’t complete contracts without help. This is the negotiation part where the active player (Team Leader) negotiates with the others for help and splitting the rewards. The game notes are very up front that early on you need to ally often, but be wary of when a player is sufficiently independent to attempt contracts solo (thus gaining all the Prestige for themselves).

Moonrakers is also more of a thematic game than I initially realized. It was not until this session that I realized the thematic connection between the colors of the Contracts and the various Action Cards. In Moonrakers there are four different Contract types—Kill (Orange), Rescue (Green), Explore (Blue) and Delivery (Yellow). Each contract type usually calls for playing more cards of the related color—Damage for Kill, Shields for Rescue, Reactors for Explore and Thrusters for Delivery. In my case I built a ship with an “extra” Reactor (reduce requirement by 1), extra Shields and extra Damage. Problem was it was not quite balanced; I was often able to generate extra Shields or Damage but not often both at the same time.

Put together, in a game of Moonrakers all players work together until one gets too far out in front, then the others work against that one. Or, all work together until one player maybe unveils a completed secret Objective Card which then thrusts them ahead. Which is exactly what happened in our play of Moonrakers. On one contract, RockyMountainNavy T “failed” to live up to his end of the bargain (and he sold it very well with a lost look on his face) and the contract attempt failed…after which he revealed the Objective Card “Sabotage” which awarded him a Prestige for being part of a failed contract (as well as showing us a big smirk). Not to be outdone, RockyMountainNavy Jr. ended the game by cashing in not one, but two Objective Cards and taking himself across the finish line after he had “very reluctantly” taken extra Hazards (needed for his Objective Card). I love my Boys but (sigh) they can be vicious game players.

The deck-building, negotiation game Moonrakers is different from our normal family wargame selection—or is it? We often play family-lite wargames which pit the Boys against me. Be it 1775: Rebellion – The American Revolution from Academy Games or Enemies of Rome from Worthington Publishing (still available at half-price!), the Boys like games where they get to backstab their Dad. Bottom Line – Moonrakers has just enough backstabbiness to make it well liked by the RockyMountainNavy Boys meaning it will land on the gaming table again.

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