Welcome aboard, captain! Are you ready to hop behind the helm of your first space cruiser and embark on an unforgettable journey through the stars? Your crew is eagerly awaiting your command.
Starship Captains, the newest spacefaring game from Czech Games Edition, is a love letter to the sci-fi classics from the 80s and 90s. This medium weight euro-style action selection and engine building game for 1–4 players puts a vibrant, lighthearted spin on a genre that tends to skew dark and gritty. If you grew up geeking out over sci-fi, you don’t want to miss this playful homage to the starfaring days of old.
Captain on the bridge!
In Starship Captains, each player takes on the role of a new captain eager to prove themselves in a sprawling galaxy full of missions to tackle, pirates to overcome, and factions to help. Of course, without a skilled crew to help you keep everything running smoothly, you’d just be stuck floating around in space. How well you manage your small team of cadets, ensigns, commanders, and androids is the key to being a successful captain.
“The crew has always been the core of the game for me,” says designer Peter Hoffgaard, adding this unique focus is what makes the game feel special and fun to him. While many sci-fi themed games tend to aim for grand scope, delivering a birds-eye view that puts you in control of fleets of ships, planets, and empires, Starship Captains really focuses its lens on your crew itself.
On your ship, each of the three main colors of crew members have distinct roles. Red crew are your diplomats and ship navigators, and they’re used to move your ship around the galactic board. Yellow crew are your security detail and tactical analysts—they are useful for shooting down pirates that block your route. Blue crew are your science and engineers responsible for developing and installing new technology on your ship. Gray cadets are unskilled and less effective until trained into a specific role, while androids you pick up in your travels can be used solely for missions or end-game point bonuses. Crew of varying color combinations can also be sent out on planet-side missions, earning bonus rewards and end-game victory points for a job well done.
Exploring the Crew Queue
Each round you’ll slide all but the last three crew member miniatures along the track on your dual layered ship board from the “queue crew” into a usable pool to draw from when selecting actions. As you use each crew member to take an action on your turn, they’re returned to the back of the line. The last three crew you use in a given round aren’t available to use the next round, so the order you use them is also important.
“Mechanically, it’s a nice twist on how deck building and pool building works, but just as important it sets the tone for the game thematically,” notes Peter. “You are the captain of your very own starship that you can get all kinds of cool technologies for, but the crew is what allows you to do everything in the game.”
Spending earned medals lets you train cadets into ensigns, change the color of a particular crew member’s uniform, and promote ensigns to commanders, which are doubly effective and worth more at the end of the game. “Essentially, the better you are at taking care of your crew—the more cadets you train and ensigns you promote to commanders—the better you’ll do in the game,” adds Peter.
The real crux of Starship Captains is in the balancing act of using your available crew each round to juggle the basic critical ship actions while navigating to and completing missions to score points in an ever-shifting galaxy. With a finite number of crew at your disposal each turn, you have to weigh your decisions carefully to put them to best use, while taking into account what other players are doing on the galactic playing field.
An Engine Building Delight
As the game progresses across four rounds, it’s important to stretch your turns as far as possible by eeking out more actions than you’d be able to from your crew alone. You can accomplish this in various ways by completing missions, progressing your reputation on the faction tracks, combining matching artifacts in your cargo hold, and more, but Starship Captains’ powerful tech cards are an essential piece of the engine building puzzle.
Using a blue engineering and science crew member on your ship lets you gain one of the technology cards on display and add it to an available slot on your ship. Some tech cards have passive abilities that trigger bonuses based on certain conditions, while others provide end gaming scoring bonuses or act as rooms you can play crew members to for enhanced effects. These cards can rapidly boost your productivity at the helm, but you can also gain additional one-time bonus actions when you place a tech card next to another card or slot with aligning symbols. Matching the symbol placements on the left and right of each card lets you combo even further, which can be an effective and satisfying way to squeeze more value out of your turn.
Going Solo and Beyond
Starship Captains plays great at 2-4 players, but for those who prefer the option to explore the galaxy alone, we’ve created a unique and scaleable solo mode that replicates the fun and tension of the multiplayer mode. The base solo mode utilizes a special deck of action cards that change the state of the board and mirror the behavior of human players after you take your turn. These action cards focus on having the most impact on the solo player, affecting elements near you on the board. For more flavor and extra challenge, we’re also adding character cards that add new special actions to the solo deck, scoring modifiers, and challenge-centric tech card layouts.
Whether you’re flying solo or going up against a group of friends, we can’t wait for you to settle into the captain’s chair and blast off on interstellar adventure. Be on the lookout for Starship Captains, warping into your friendly local game store this winter!