Quick Look: STARSHIP SHUFFLE
Designers: Curtis Arends, Kyle Arends
Artists: Art Potions
Year Published: 2021
T-minus 10….9….8….7….(go for engine ignition)…6…..5….4…..
With the recent news of SpaceX – Dragon and Virgin Galactic
along with what ever Jeff Bezos is doing with his play money, my excitement for adventures to the stars and journeys to far distant planets gets a little tickle from this new release. Starship Shuffle by the Arends Brothers is a well crafted strategic and cooperative game that landed safely on my game table for a few rounds of play.
On initial set up, the game immediately delivers a control room feel and look to the table. (I recommend adding some random cards with buttons on them just so you can pretend to push them for added effect:) You will need the room on a decent size table for the layout given the card size and play area required…. A 3×3 card table would be tight if you added any astronaut ice cream or TANG beverages to your mission. All card backs are very well identified and the rules accompanying the game provide a decent diagram for arranging the numerous decks and specific card placements associated with the process.
With the inclusion of both a cool blueprint card and reference card, that process is very easily taught and managed through a simple TWO phase mechanic. Phase One: The Build. The sound of steam pressure and clouds of vapor within the hanger bay began to take hold in our imagination as we all gazed at each others hands. Yes, Starship Shuffle includes the unique mechanic within card play of revealing your hand to others while being completely in the dark on what you have available to play. The game requires limited cooperative communication to successfully complete the assembly of the rocket(S) throughout play. A player is given ONE action per turn to perform 1 of 4 standard options. (Others may present themselves from the added development card deck you draw as you successfully place a rocket part down on the area of the game table accurately labelled “the Production Yard”.
Available actions include:
Option 1: Give a Hint. This associates with the ability for other players to inform the active player of a GENERAL idea of what parts they have in their hand to help them know if they are in a good or poor position to contribute to the build of the rocket or hurt the team with a potential fail that could jeopardize the mission and waste their INVESTORS money. ( Assuming this is a private corporation build mission – Thanks Elon! )
Option 2: Discard a Rocket Card. A mechanic in the game that limits the number of hints you can offer each other is found in the maximum SIX status cards you get at the start of each game. Upon requesting a hint, you are required to flip one of these cards from “On time” to “Delayed”. Upon all cards being flipped, no additional hints are permitted in the game. This second option refreshes one card and provides the team with another opportunity to learn where their next part should come from. “Tiiii iiii iii ime isn’t on your side – no it ain’t!”
Option 3: Play a Rocket Card. This is the main focus of the game where each players works to lay down the right part at the right time and contribute to the completion of the blueprint card set before them and finish the build of a complete rocket to launch into space. ( I see expansions of this game coming with new ship blueprints and cards to associate with that specialized rocket like say… Dragon from SpaceX! ). This action of building gives the active player the opportunity to either simply play a card in hopes it is the correct one at that moment and place it in the corresponding location, but they can also chose not to play a card and perform 1 of 2 actions: JOIN and MOVE. Join gives the player the option to combine two rocket builds into one if all the parts fit together like that LEGO set on Christmas morning. Move provides the player the ability to place a rocket with a set number of parts or “barrels” to a launch pad that matches that number to quickly finalize the build. Note that each rocket must be built upon two preset development cards labelled “Mid Bay” or “Pavement Area” that provide a number at the top left corner signifying the weight load it can take or better explained; the number of part cards it can have stacked vertically above it. This feature adds a level of difficulty to the game that was well designed. It ensures that the team may be forced within the game to use one of these actions to move their build to a different area of the production yard for a chance to complete their rocket. However, the rules do not provide an in-depth example of this and requires you to get a feel for the overall process to see the value and unique addition of this mechanic within the game.
Lastly Option 4: Play a Development Card. This deck not only gives special twists to the game that either enhance your ability to finish your rocket builds OR provides setbacks that reduce your chances of finishing and winning the game. ( I found myself enjoying the flavor text of each of these cards as they provide geeky statements that seem like they are actual milestones reached in real rocket design as well as pivotal issues that have happened historically to either cancel launches or worse yet caused disastrous outcomes to space exploration. ). To obtain one of these cards, you must have successfully placed a part down in the production yard and contributed to the build of the rocket on your turn. This card is immediately drawn after such placement and either is played immediately, saved for play at a later turn to enhance the build, provide another area on the production yard to start a new build, or give a much needed second chance in the launch phase of the game.
Play comes to an end if at any point all THREE Accident Cards are flipped over due to misplacement of rocket parts or development card mishaps occur. This game-ending element forces you to interact and utilize the HINT and DISCARD actions throughout the game to ensure you do not hit the third strike that puts you OUT of the space race.
The Launch. I now see the early morning dew settled on the launch pad with a cool brisk morning breeze fluttering your nations flag with pride and the anxious excitement you could see in the eyes of every spectator on-site that fateful day….. ok back to the game review:
If you successfully complete the Starship, you move immediately to this phase. However, if the rocket build deck is depleted (Referred to as the timeline to build) and no Starship is completed, the game ends in a loss with no opportunity to move to this stage and the opportunity to “Light this Candle!” (Note that they offer an easy version of just building the starship and a more advanced version to build both the starship and the super heavy rocket). If you successfully build the super heavy but NOT the starship – the game also ends. You have got to get your PROS up in space before you can take rich passengers in THE SUPER HEAVY up for a joy ride.
This launch phase has no strategy but simply a randomness that you draw cards to ensure each stage of the launch goes off without an O-RING FAIL or a COUPLER detachment hang-up caused by a nitrogen leak raising the temperature to a level that caused a molecular melt-down…. I just made that up but thought it sounded good! The deck of launch cards are used which contains 3 fail (RUD) cards and 7 success (NORMINAL) cards for a 5-stage sequence. Do those odds! Not good, BUT you get to add a success card for each development card you have in place on the corresponding launch stage on the timeline. This means you should definitely have someone or as a group focus on drawing and adding these cards during their turn to the timeline for future assurance of a successful launch and return of your rocket. Though, I found the inability to change the outcome of the card draw a little frustrating given the time you spent building and developing the rocket(S), it does give that sense of anticipation I often felt watching an actual lift off and flight of every space shuttle launch as a kid, always worried for the heroes buckled up within the cockpit and wishing the best for a safe return.
Starship Shuffle holds true to the timeline of play after you give it a game or two. It definitely is one that will entice you to want to make multiple attempts during the night and provides a great evening of entertainment for your gaming group. The artwork and text is basic but does deliver the early feel that reminds us of the greatness within the Apollo missions, the sacrifices of those lost, and the victories we earned. All of which has moved us forward in the pursuit of continuous learning and reaching the great achievements we see now with Mars and beyond. You can tell it was well thought out and that each element was created by individuals who truly love the science and the process of aerospace engineering. The best part is that they have delivered it to us in a commoners-consumable form that allows us to enjoy that same process within the gaming world.
Whether you live in Houston, Orlando, Chicago, Toronto, or anywhere this game can be delivered, you will have no problem enjoying the complexity of it’s theme with simple mechanics at your gaming table returning time and time again. You will ignite your game nights and reach mission success with your family and friends. So the saying goes, you don’t have to be a ROCKET Scientist to learn and play Starship Shuffle (I am proof of that!). So take a small portion of the student loans you saved by not becoming one and purchase this game from two brothers who do have the education and have delivered it to your table!
Ignition success…3….2….1….. Lift off of the fully funded rocket building game Starship Shuffle by Kyle and Curtis Arends.
Be on the lookout for a GIVEAWAY coming SOON!