Moonrakers — Dream for some, nightmare for others

If you like deck-building and negotiation, then I have a game for you! Moonrakers, from Lucky Duck Games and IV Games, fuses classic deck-building mechanics with hard bargaining. 1-5 players manage their own spaceship and crew to fulfill contracts and reap the spoils. Players may choose to work together and split the rewards, or pretend to work together only to sabotage. Difficult contracts pay points, and the first to ten points wins.

The loop of Moonrakers is rather simple. The active player picks a contract to fulfill or stays at base for various small bonuses, then they negotiate help for completing the contract at the cost of the spoils. The player(s) get one attempt to play their hand of cards and fulfill the contract. If they fail, the turn simply passes, and if they succeed, the rewards are plundered and the active player has a chance to purchase ship upgrades and crew members.

Decks in Moonrakers function much like the trend setter Dominion. Players start with a deck of ten cards and draw five to play each turn. The card types are as follows: reactor (+2 actions), thruster (+2 draw), shield (block 1 hazard), damage, miss (does nothing), and crew members (special). Each player has a default of one action per turn.

Contracts vary in completion requirements, rewards, and danger. Some require tons of damage cards while others require thrusters. Players meet these requirements by playing enough cards on their attempt. For each hazard level of a contract, one to four, players must roll an equal number of hazard dice which each may roll zero to two hazards. Any hazards rolled not blocked by shields subtract points from the player that rolled them, even if the roller is not the active player that turn. Anything goes when negotiating contracts. Hazard dice, money, and even points are all on the table.

If a player cannot find an available contract worth attempting, they may instead stay at base. In doing so they gain one coin, draw two objectives and keep one, purchase upgrades if they wish, replace one available contract if they wish, discard their hand, and draw a new hand of five. Objectives are secret conditions a player must meet on their turn to score additional points. Only the owner of the objectives can score them and they must be scored on the turn their conditions are met, or the player will have to meet them again on another turn.

Despite Moonrakers leaning heavily into negotiation, it provides a decent single player and two player experience as well! Both modes utilize a mercenary deck similar to players’ decks, which players can temporarily use at the cost of money.

On negotiation, I’m not much of a fan in general, but Moonrakers manages to make it really shine. Rather than trading currency or resources, players trade promises. A player may offer their help on a contract for a cut of the reward, but they may still fail. Or that player might intend to sabotage. Lies are well within the rules. The pace of negotiation dictates the pace of the game, thus, all players must feel similarly about negotiation to enjoy themselves. Endless arguing and bargaining could easily push a two hour game to five hours. If some love it and some hate it, then no one will have a good time.

One last note, the production quality is phenomenal. The coins are solid metal and the overall aesthetic is sleek. The rulebook showcases exemplary organization, including color coding on the edges of the pages to help players find a specific section. Best of all, the box includes an entire comic to establish the Moonrakers universe!




Review Guidelines

Moonrakers is overall well crafted, but the experience heavily relies on the players. If you and your friends hate negotiation, pass this one up. Love negotiation? You’ll probably enjoy it. Love negotiation and deck building? This game could be a perfect 10.

Ellis is a fledgling table top hobbyist with a passion for finding and sharing novel experiences. Always on the hunt for a good laugh or competition, Ellis hopes to draw deserved attention towards any conduit of positive memories, small enough to fit on a table.

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