Starship Captains is a space exploration worker placement game by Czech Games Edition, which has also published Deal with the Devil, Galaxy Trucker, Lost Ruins of Arnak, and Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar. The game is for 1-4 players and can be played in an hour and a half or so. Players control specialized crew members to perform different actions throughout the game, some of which might be necessary for completing different missions. Even kids can understand and enjoy Starship Captains, which makes it a great game for families.
What’s In The Box?
- 1 Double-sided main board
- 1 Central tech board
- 3 double-sided faction tracks
- 4 Ship boards
- 4 Double-sided tech-slot boards
- 50 Tech cards
- 12 Omega tech cards
- 2 Station cards
- 50 Mission cards
- 11 Event cards
- 18 Red ensign figures
- 18 Yellow ensign figures
- 18 Blue ensign figures
- 12 Cadet figures
- 8 Android figures
- 20 Promotion rings
- 4 Ship figures
- 32 Damage tokens
- 30 Pirate ship tokens
- 27 Artifact tokens
- 18 Medal tokens
- 16 Triangle tiles
- 1 Starting player marker
- 1 Pad of score sheets
- 3 Faction trophy tokens
- 12 Faction markers (3 of 4 different colors)
- 6 Passenger cards (solo)
- 7 Action cards (solo)
- 3 Solo event cards (solo)
How’s It Play?
Players play as captains who are trying to complete missions, manage their spaceships by gaining new tech, fighting pirates, upgrading their crew, and being diplomatic to the 3 different factions in the universe. Players choose to either activate a room with one of their crew members, or complete a mission.
Each player starts with one of each color ensign plus a cadet that can be trained to become an ensign of any color. When activating a room, you choose a crew member to activate their specialized action. A cadet can only perform the repair action, which consists of removing a damage token from their cargo slot or tech board. Any of the ensigns can also perform a repair action, plus the action associated with their color. Red is movement, yellow is attacking pirates, and blue is gaining tech. When activating a room, you take the figure you want to use for that action and place it behind the queue.
A red figure activating a movement action allows you to move your ship on the board twice following the paths on the board. You can move through a pirate but will receive a damage token. Movement lets you travel on the board, where there are spots to complete missions, space stations that give you the shown bonus, and empty spaces with number tiles which can later be a space where a mission shows up.
Fighting Pirates –
Whenever you are on a planet that has a pirate token on one of the paths leading to that current planet, you can choose to fight it using a yellow ensign. You automatically gain 1 damage. Damage is always placed on your cargo slots on your ship board. You then take the pirate token and gain its rewards: an artifact token and either a medal or an android figure. All the tokens are placed in the slots on your ship board, and if you gained an android its placed in your ready room.
Gaining Tech –
Blue ensigns are used to gain more tech. Tech is taken from the central tech board and placed on your own personal tech board. You will have to clear off damage to be able to place a card in its spot, and you’ll then gain the benefit shown on the tech card when its added to your board. Room tech shows a color and the matching colored ensign can be used to activate that action. Ability tech cards give specifics as to when the bonuses apply, some are ongoing while others occur during a specific situation. Lastly, omega tech are cards that give you extra ways to score end game points.
In addition these cards have icons on either side and when matched with the same icon from either another card or a slot, then you gain the shown bonus. These bonuses can help you perform a move action, help you to gain a medal, or lets you do a repair action. Be strategic in how you place your cards and take advantage of these extra possible bonuses.
When completing a mission you need a to be on a planet with a mission card. You take the mission card from the board and place it in the slot beside your ship’s transporter, then assign crew to the mission. For each line of the mission card, take one crew figure from your ready room and place it beside the line on the card. The crew member can be any color, but it will benefit you if it matches the color shown on the card.
You then resolve the mission from top to bottom. For each figure that matches colors on the card, you perform the shown action. If the figure doesn’t match the color, you ignore it. You then slide your crew into the queue. If you used any androids, which count as any color, you must return it back to the supply before sliding. You then flip the mission card over and you’ll gain the points shown on the bottom right of its card at the end of the game. Missions might be the best way to earn points in the game as well as take actions matching your crew.
Artifact Tokens –
Players receive these when successfully defeating some pirates, and for completing some missions. Each artifact has two colors on them. During the game, you can use 2 tokens that share the same color to activate that color room without using a crew member to do so. Essentially they help to give you more actions during the game and are also used with some tech cards to do even more things.
Upgrade Crew –
Cadets can be turned into an ensign of any color by spending 1 medal. Any ensign can change its color to another color by spending 1 medal. Any colored ensign can be upgraded into a commander by spending 3 medals. When upgrading to a commander, you take one of your white rings and put it on an ensign of your choice. When played, commanders can either do extra work and perform its action twice when used, or can command a subordinate of the same color to get out of line in the queue and be placed in your ready room to be used in a later action. Thus, commanders help you be more efficient and they also score you a point for each at the end of the game.
There are 3 faction boards you try move up on. This resembles your time trying to meet with the other factions out there in space. As you move further on these tracks, you gain more points. There are random bonuses awarded as well when passing certain areas of the board. Once any player makes it to a certain spot, an event triggers. This event is only ever done once, but they can help or hurt players, so planning is key. After 2 events from 2 different factions are performed, the last faction decides you’re spending more time with the other factions and its event is discarded. Once this occurs, you can continue around the remaining two faction boards, and gain more points by doing so.
End of Round –
Players continue until they run out of crew members in their ready room and artifact tokens that could be used to perform an action. Once everyone has done so, which might be different from one to another player, everyone moves their queue forward, pushing it from the end so that the figures begin to file into the ready room. When there are only three crew members left in the queue, which stay in line for the next round.
There are 4 rounds in the game, and at the beginning of the 2nd round, each player gains a medal. At the beginning of rounds 3 and 4, everyone gains a cadet. After each round, if a player visited a space station and the triangle token was placed off the board (because their actions could only be performed once per round), you place these tokens back out, unless someone is currently at that location. If so, that token is added back on the next round.
End of Game –
The game ends after 4 rounds. Players score points for mission cards, points from the faction boards, points from their omega cards, and then 1 point for each commander, android, and pirate token in your ship. Additionally, you score 1/2 a point for each medal and artifact on your ship, and -1 point for each damage taken by your ship. The player with the most points wins the game.
The game is great, but not amazing. The thing that should be known is that this game does use strategy but it’s not a very complex game. You do make choices as to how you use your crew members, but when limited to a small number of figures in your ready room, you can math out what might be the best move. I don’t consider the game amazing because the game really doesn’t add anything “new” that I haven’t seen already in a game.
It does use a little queue mechanic to get your workers back, and the order in how you use them can mean you don’t get certain ones back for the next round. But besides the track of how you get your people back, nothing else says “wow” to me.
Usually you want to try to take advantage of all your actions. This means using the correct type of crew matching up their colors on your missions as much as possible. When needed, you can always spend a medal to change a crew member type. When in tighter situations you can still use other crew members, mostly to secure points from the mission itself, just not gaining the bonus actions.
The game includes little moves that can help you in the game, and I like figuring some of those things out after I have played a couple times. Some of these smaller things are how you use your medals, how and when you upgrade to a commander, or what faction track you might want to focus on, as each has a bigger bonus right before you get back around the track. Androids can help you be more flexible, and many times I will decide to fight a pirate that rewards an android because then I gain a worker to use toward a mission.
Managing your board is a fun mechanic as well. You need to keep taking damage away as you gain things, and then you need to plan out teach cards so you can gain some free actions when placing them down.
The game to me feels like it might end too early, but if it went longer the game might feel more boring as it doesn’t ramp up much, you just continue doing the same stuff with better benefits and possible actions. But when you upgrade a worker to a commander and then use it once, It feels wasted. It doesn’t feel that good to invest in something just to get the benefit once.
After saying all that, we really enjoyed the game. My kids were able to pick up how to play, and playing a bigger game like this with my kids is many times more enjoyable for me than some of the smaller lighter games. Me personally, I would enjoy it more if it had some more things and it was a little more complex, but then I wouldn’t be able to play it with my kids. So it definitely has its place in my collection and on my table, and I know we will be playing it a lot. Does this seem like something you are looking for?
The components are great and worked well with the mechanics. The details in the game were designed with these components in mind and it comes together very well. Lastly, the theme is popular and fun but maybe overused as its another space themed game.
You can currently grab Starship Captains at Amazon, Miniature Market, or your FLGS at an MSRP of $59.95.
Images via Czech Games Edition
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