The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2019Players: 2-5
Designer: Thomas SingLength: 15-30 minutes
Artist: Marco ArmbrusterAge: 10+
Publisher: KosmosComplexity: 2.0 / 5

Space, the final frontier. We’re on a 50 mission journey to find a new planet in our solar system. We have to work together to seek out new theories, new experiments and new proof. It’s no trick and we have to boldly go, where no scientist has gone before. These are the adventures of The Crew by Kosmos.

After this rather average introduction, it’s time to look at this very much above average trick-taking game, that has taken the hobby by storm – or at least those people who love trick-taking games and want to share their love with people who don’t, or those people who have never played trick-taking games before, but want to learn and find out why this game is hailed as such a success.

Trick-taking is really a mix of several mechanisms and concepts, and it’s something that’s very hard to understand or teach. Trick-taking games have been around for centuries, if not longer and each trick-taking game has developed its own language, which takes years to learn and decades to master. Trick-taking games are all about subtle hints and conveying information through the cards you play. Timing can mean the difference between victory and defeat. These games may often seem to involve a large element of luck and guesswork, but when played by masters, virtually every card is played for a reason and with intent.

Trick-taking games also seem daunting and off-putting and are treated a bit like chess or modern heavy games, like 18xx or similar. People are afraid to learn them, because they don’t want to spend hours learning something that they might not even like.

So for Kosmos to release a trick-taking game into the hobby is daring. Yet, The Crew has achieved something that even Skull King hasn’t quite managed. It’s a trick-taking game that you can learn within a couple of games, each of which will take less than half an hour. So within an hour, you will know how trick-taking works – even if it will take you a lot longer to master it.

Where Skull King assumes that you know how trick-taking works, at least in principle, The Crew assume you know nothing about it. The rules are pretty easy to follow and even if nobody in the group has even heard of trick-taking before, you will be playing a few tricks and starting to understand how it works. Play a couple of games, or missions, as they are called in The Crew, and you will all get it and start to develop strategies.

The real clincher here is, that The Crew is the only trick-taking game, at least that I know of, that is fully co-operative. So even if all of you start from nothing, you will all help each other and you will all learn together, because you all want to succeed and beat the game together. That’s a really amazing achievement and is what makes it possible for you to learn trick-taking without having to watch someone else play and learn from them.

Yet, even though the game is fully co-operative, you will still learn many of the things you would learn in any other trick-taking game. You will learn about suits and trumps, you will realize that emptying your hand of a suit can be beneficial for the team and you will start to learn the language of how playing a specific card at a specific time will tell everyone else something very important.

Speaking of telling others information. The Crew is one of those co-operative games where you can’t communicate, just like in The Mind. However, all of you can share one piece of information during each mission: whether a card is the only one you have of that suit, whether it’s the highest or whether it’s the lowest of that suit. That can be critical sometimes, but sometimes may be better conveyed by learning the language of trick-taking games and playing specific cards at a specific time.

As you can see, I’m enthralled by The Crew. Yet, there is one more thing that is amazing about the game. You can play it 2-player. Now, that is an amazing feat, because most trick-taking games require at least three players, or if you only have two, you rely on a third dummy player, which usually plays their hand randomly and which really spoils the experience.

In The Crew, there is also a dummy player, but this one actually works really well. You basically see half of their hand face-up, while the other half is face-down. That means both of you know some information, but not all of it. One of you controls the dummy player and as you play face-up cards, you then flip over the face-down card underneath it, so that you reveal more information.

The dummy player does create a certain luck element, but because you have some knowledge of their cards, you know enough to be able to deal with the randomness, just as you deal with the randomness of the cards your dealt as a real player.

So The Crew is a really clever game and even though it won’t teach trick-taking everyone, it’s the best game to do so that I have come across. It’s great for someone who knows trick-taking and wants to teach it to others and it’s just as great to learn trick-taking if none of you know anything about it.

Useful Links

Transparency Facts

I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I was influenced in any way.

  • I bought and paid for the game myself.
  • At the time of writing, neither the designers, nor the publisher, nor anyone linked to the game supported me financially or by payment in kind.

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (
Star Trek original series opening theme
A New World by Purple Planet Music (

Planet Unknown (Saturday Review) – Tabletop Games Blog

Release Date: 2022Players: 1-6
Designer: Ryan Lambert, Adam RehbergLength: 60-90 minutes
Artist: YomaAge: 10+
Publisher: Adam’s Apple GamesComplexity: 2.0 / 5
Plastic (by weight): 75%Air (by volume): 25%

It was inevitable. After decades of exploiting our home, Earth has finally run out of resources. It is time for Plan B. We have to leave and settle on a new planet. Potential targets have been selected and planeteers will be sent to develop them. Each of these adventurous heroes will be tasked with preserving the future of humanity and preparing one Planet Unknown by Ryan Lambert and Adam Rehberg from Adam’s Apple Games.

What a grand and now very cliche setting. Yes, it is up to us, one of up to six adventurous players to take on one unknown planet and make it ready to receive Earth’s refugees. No small feat indeed, but luckily, Planet Unknown translates this gargantuan task into a much simpler game. In fact, you’re faced with a Tetris puzzle rather than the much more difficult challenge of terraforming an unknown planet. That’s a good thing, because none of the planets that you can choose from is anything like Mars. Given the current AI discussion, we definitely don’t want to talk about making the planet named after the Roman god of war habitable.

Tetris Unknown

Anyway. Planet Unknown is a giant game of placing polyominal shapes onto a grid representing your planet. You’re trying to seamlessly cover up the whole planet that way, ideally leaving no gaps. That’s where you get a good chunk of points from. However, it’s not quite as simple as that. You also want to improve your resources to slowly rev up your engine and make your turns more effective.

Every Tetris shape has two different resources on it. As you place the tile, you go up on the relevant tracsk. At least, that’s how it works in principle. There are a couple of exceptions, but let’s not worry about that now. Different resources give you different benefits. The tech track for example enables rule breakers that can really make your life a lot easier. Certain spots on the tracks also give you immediate one-off benefits as you reach or go past them.

There are also tokens, the so-called life pods, on your planet that you should try and collect. For that, you have rovers that you move by placing tiles with red rover resources on them. The problem with having stuff on your planet is that it will get destroyed when you place a tile over it. So you need to get your rovers to collect the life pods and then return to the safety of an already-placed tile. That way you clear the planet’s surface, ready to receive another tile.

the tiles, rovers, life pods and meteorites covering up the planet
your planet can get very busy very quickly

Timing It Right

It might sound very complicated, but soon makes sense as you start playing. During your first game you will probably not be very effective, but the more you play Planet Unknown, the better you’ll get. Ultimately, it’s all about timing. You can line up really powerful combos for one mega turn and impress your fellow planeteers. Not only that, if you plan ahead and find the perfect moment, you can also put yourself in pole position for a lot of points at the end of the game.

There is another timing element in Planet Unknown. Even though play passes around the table in clockwise order, everyone actually plays at the same time. There is a Lazy Susan in the middle of the table with six sections, each of which has two compartments to hold all of the tiles of two different shapes. The active player rotates it so that the section with the two compartments that they want to choose from is in front of their player marker. Then, all players at once, choose the top tile from one of the two compartments in front of their player marker and place it on their planet grid. Then play passes clockwise to the next person who is now the active player.

It’s a really clever little mechanism that means there is never any downtime. You’re not waiting for anyone to think about which tile to take, how to rotate it and where to place it. The active player gets their choice, but everyone else still gets to place a tile. Everyone has to do the thinking at the same time to work out their best option out of the two in front of them.

the Lazy Susan in Planet Unknown with its different sections and compartments
the Lazy Susan is the central component in Planet Unknown

Planet Multiplayer Solitaire or Solo

Of course, this mechanism also emphasises how much of a multiplayer solitaire game Planet Unknown really is. Even though you do keep an eye on what other people are doing, you can’t really influence anything outside of your own planet and resources. You do want to make sure that other players can place one of the tiles on their planet, because if they can’t, the game ends. However, that’s really only a concern near the end. Most of the time, you’re just trying to work out which tile is the best option for you. Whether other players get a really good tile or not is by the by.

Saying that, it did surprise me how much table-talk there was when playing Planet Unknown. If you’re with the right group, someone will curse the active player when they rotate the Lazy Susan to a section that leaves terrible options for the other player. Likewise, people will celebrate when the active player accidentally gives them the perfect tile. So despite everyone concentrating on what they’re doing, it’s usually not so taxing that the table falls silent. There is enough bandwidth for people to rib each other and enjoy each other’s company.

The other advantage of being such a clearly multiplayer solitaire game is that it also is possible to play solo. The game works pretty much the same, except that instead of choosing which compartment you want, the Lazy Susan just moves one section along. That still allows you to plan ahead, but can mean that sometimes you’re left with a choice between two terrible options.

Unknown Possibilities

There is a lot to discover in Planet Unknown. Your first few games should use the standard planet and corporation board for every player. However, as you get more adventurous, you may decide to look at the back of these. The reverse sides have unique planets and corporations on them that offer different levels of difficulty. These create new challenges and allow new players to play with seasoned planeteers. The beginners use the starting setup, while the experts can choose more difficult planets and corporations to level the playing field.

There is even more variability. The compartments in the Lazy Susan can be swapped around. That way, you won’t get used to certain shapes being next to each other. There are also optional modules included in Planet Unknown. These introduce events and objectives that vary the game even more. So, between the planets, corporations, mixing up the Lazy Susan and adding events and/or objectives, you are unlikely to get bored with this game for quite some time.

I certainly am always happy to play this fun game that scratches my tile-laying itch. I know that I can choose whether to have an easy time with the standard setup or challenge myself and my brain with one of the unique planets and/or corporations. It’s the perfect game that can adapt to every player’s mood, while allowing everyone to play at the same time.

The production quality is also very good. Yes, there is a lot of plastic. The Lazy Susan is the main plastic component here, but there are also plastic cubes. While I reckon the cubes could have been wood, I can’t imagine the Lazy Susan being made of anything other than plastic. As much as it pains me, I think using plastic was the right choice.

Planet Unknown Forever

I guess you can imagine what I think of this game. I really like it. It’s perfect for people who love multiplayer solitaire games. People who like to place Tetris shapes will love Planet Unknown. People who love puzzling out how to play a mega turn will enjoy the resource tracks. It’s an all-round wonderful game that I will always enjoy playing. I suggest you don your spacesuit and go out to find your own Planet Unknown.

Useful Links


Transparency Facts

I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I was influenced in any way.

  • I played a friend’s copy of the game.
  • At the time of writing, neither the designers, nor the publisher, nor anyone linked to the game supported me financially or by payment in kind.

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (

Music: “Mission”, “Destination” and “Inspiration” by AShamaluevMusic.


These are the songs I listened to while I was writing this review: