Updated: Aug 12, 2022
CLICK HERE for the Kickstarter page
Moonrakers came out in 2020 and is one of my favourite games. If you like negotiation games this could be the perfect game for you! If you like-deckbuilding too, then you should perhaps seriously consider this jumping right up to near the top of your wish-list. As a stand alone game I absolutely adore it. You can read more about my thoughts on the base game here.
But the team at IV Studio have not rested on their laurels. Not content with one smash hit game and perhaps one expansion, Moonrakers is getting a Big Box version, three new standalone expansions, AND a whole new free experience via a Steam powered game to play the Moonrakers in an entirely new (and spoiler alert, stupidly awesome) way. You can find more about it here, or read on. These expanions will be on Kickstarter from July 19th and the digital download available from Friday 15th July.
All copies of these expansions were provided for free for my unbiased opinion by IV Studio.
Each expansion develops upon one of the main mechanics of the base game. Deckbuilding, negotiation, and strategy.
Nomad is my favourite of the three regular expansions. It adds a new navigation board and makes the game feel quite different. It helps make finding suitable contracts a lot easier, and introduces global events which shake up the game for everyone!
On your turn you will move to one of the five sectors. Each one offers different contracts that align with their factions speciality. You must be careful as you can only align with other players and form a partnership for contracts with other players that are currently adjacent to you on the board. Knowing what type of contracts will come up at each sector allows players to build their hand and ship accordingly. You can focus on certain areas and then ensure you get contracts that will reward that skill-set. Something that was somewhat more luck dependant in the base game.
Nomad also introduces global events cards which change the rules of the game in some pretty interesting ways. Players can be forced to travel to certain sectors, or be allowed to draw extra cards, or even be forced to give cards from their hand to other players.
One of the core mechanics in Moonrakers is deckbuilding. Overload is all about expanding your options with this. In fact, it doubles your options in terms of the number of cards. There are new contract types, crew, ship parts, and supercharged cards to add to your deck that bring in increased powers. Some of the new crew cards use IOSpheres to give you powers that last beyond just one contract.
The IOSpheres are used on some of the new Crew cards, and are placed on them when first used, and removed one by one, each time you activate the card. What this means is that the cards will stay out in front of you between contracts, so you can start the next one with some powers already in play.
The other main change this brings are the new contracts and powered up cards. For example, you can buy Reactor cards now that give you three actions, or two actions and the ability draw a card. The combo powers are a real treat!
The additions to the contracts are a lot of fun. There are head to heads contracts which if a player choses to do, all other players can then decide if they want to join in or not. The person who plays the most of the two types of cards shown will win the points, credits or cards shown on the card. There are also new Flex contracts which show a new star shaped symbol which acts as wild. You can complete these contracts using any card, but you will need to get to much higher numbers in order to be successful.
Binding Ties Expansion
Bing Ties is all about bringing new options to the negotiations at the table. There are 40 new cards that tie in with these new options. Binding Ties brings in more structure and strategy, encouraging more alliances at the start of the game and more power for each player who does help their fellow players at the end.
The Binding Ties expansion brings in new player boards for each person around the table that introduces an entirely new concept. Faction reputation. Each time you complete a contract with another player you will gain reputation with them, move that p[layers coloured marker one space up your board. And reputation isn't just a nice thing to look at on a board. It can be used to buy new cards, crew, and even prestige points. It feels like this was the expansion that was made to make people who don't ever agree to help others play nice!
At the start of the game, each player is given one of the new player mats and a coloured marker for each other person playing. As you successfully complete contracts with other players, you will move the appropriate marker along one space. You can then trade these reputation points for the ability to discard a contract or armory card, to gain a credit one action or card, to draw one objective card, trash a card from your hand, gain prestige points, to block a hazard die, or the chance to subtract two from any one requirement.
As I say, it feels like it was designed to encourage more interaction and partnerships in the contracts but I have noticed it perhaps goes too far. Where previously players may not want to help others in contracts as they will just help them get points and money, now players sometimes look to see where others who have offered to help them are on the reputation track, and decide against letting them partner with them as the know they are about to get a massive benefit. It's gone from others not wanting to help to players not wanted others help. But, mostly this is not the case, and the concept does work. It also speeds up the game, making more contracts successful and more rewards being made available.
Now this is the big one! Luminor is a 1-5 player co-op PC or MAC based expansion that you load up alongside a vast majority of the base game components to play a digital hybrid mission based game. It's incredible. Everything just works so well. It's an incredibly slick operation that will take you through the core rules and mechanic changes with such ease it will make you question why more games don't do the same. But then, not many publisher put this much effort into the production of their games. Let's face it. IV Studio are a little different from the average.
The plans are for this to be mobile enabled soon, but for now it's just on computers and laptops. It brings a cooperative nature to the game and as a download, is completely free! That's right, FREE! And you don't need any of the other expansion to play with this. Just the base game. Although it is compatible with them.
In Luminor, players will move across a procedurally generated map, all powered by the games AI. This basically means it's a bit different each time you play! You will move through the map, planet to planet, completing different missions, similar to the contracts in the main game. You will purchase ship parts and hire crew just like the base game, but all along a narrative based arc that leads you to ultimately taking on an enemy general that you must defeat to collectively win the game. There are three end game bosses to take on currently, all quote tricky! But with more to come.
You have to experience this to believe just how well it works. I was sceptical at first. I am not a huge fan of video games and play board games to get away from screens. but this is just such a flawless, engaging, unique and fun experience, I could not help but cast all my doubts aside and just have a good time. The AI in Luminor essentially just replaces the contract cards in the game, and therefore the competitive nature of the game. Sadly this does mean the negotiating part has gone. But the deck building is still there, and the negotiating is replaced with the narrative arc, sense of adventure, cooperative play, and some really cool new ways to play. Such as one contract where you need to beat another character in a shoot out. Who can cause most damage. But there is an element of choose-your-own-adventure here too. At the start of this contract you are asked if you want to play it straight or try and hustle them. If you hustle them, then you need to try and loose the first match playing three miss cards, this then ups the pot for a larger match up second time round. If you play it straight, you don't have this option.
The game tracks all your upgrades and health and works just brilliantly. It really ramps up too. At the start. you will think it is a breeze, but the final few contracts do get very hard, and the amount of damage dice you will have to roll for the final battle is unbelievable at first!
These expansion's are amazing things. I love how the publisher has split the three core elements of the game, broken it down by the main mechanisms, and then focused on each one for the three physical expansions. And then Luminor... well, what can I say. I was blown away. It needs more plays, it's very early days, but my goodness was it cool! Everything just worked so well, and the introduction I played was just flawless in the way it guided you through it all. I loved Moonrakers already, but there is just so much content now, it is a hard game to ignore. More isn't always better. And I wouldn't say you need all of this, the base game alone is very good. But if you are a fan, and want to try the full experience then you are in for a treat.
I would expect most people will buy one or two expansions, based either on the parts of the gam they like the most, or the part of the game they think needs the more development. But having all three, I don't see myself ever playing this game now without at least one expansion. Overload will 100% always be shuffled in. It is so simple, and doesn't add any more time, complication or complexity to the game. Binding Ties also I think will be used probably 9/10 games. Perhaps just when I am playing with someone completely new to the hobby. And Nomad I would expect would be included 7/10 times, again based on the players I am with and how much complexity they want. It's my favourite of the three, but does add the most in terms of rules.
Go check out the Moonrakers instagram page here
And if you want to talk about it, join the Moonrakers community on Discord here.