Moonrakers Review – IV Studios – Board Game Review

Moonrakers Main Box Cover

Moonrakers is stylish eventual malevolence in a box. Best considered as a multi stage rocket used on the original Apollo missions. A blast off launch that at the beginning plays with your competitive streak  before forcing you to consider bitter cooperation as one of your only choices going forward. You’re forced to go through different stages of negotiation as you attempt to climb up the prestige ladder and win.


The backbone of Moonrakers requires players try to fulfil space contracts, by picking the missions and using their hand of five cards to play what is required in terms of thrusters, shields and eventually crew. You can only ever play one card, and unless that card is a reactor which allows a further two plays, your turn is going to stop there. Missions also have a potential hazard level where dice are rolled to decide potential damage and can only be negated with shields. Take damage and you’ll lose prestige and keep you away from the goal of reaching the magical ten required to win the game.
The choice of missions where the requirements are low are extremely slim pickings and expansions to your deck cost money so sometimes it makes sense to stay in base, adding coin and the chance to buy additional cards. It’s not very long before you realise the limited folly in trying to achieve any kind of rewards going alone and the only way to make progress is to grit your teeth and form alliances.
Moonrakers Review - Moonrakers Centre Board with buyable cards

Alliances are formed before missions are attempted, with players deciding the level of potential risk that they’re willing to take on in exchange for a greater slice of the reward. While anyone can contribute cards towards achieving the missions goals, each player takes the hazard risk alone and so you can have these delicious moments where the mission can be successful, but because hazards were high, and shields were limited, your allies can end up losing out on any gains from your agreement. It brings in delicious hesitation to potential future partnerships.

Moonrakers wouldn’t be a true deck builder without building the deck, and part of the game is about purchasing parts for your ship and additional crew members, both of which offer the chance to increase your deck with cards, or grant you special powers that you can use when you attempt to take on a mission.

Moonrakers Review - Moonrakers Player board and main board picture
It is all represented by artwork that is gloriously abstract, almost approaching an art deco feel with simply shapes and lines representing the additional crew and ship parts that you can add to your vessel. Overall the quality of the components and attention to detail that has gone is high, except for the card stock which is too thin for my liking, and overall is difficult to pick up from the table. I’m very surprised by this, because if anything IV Studios have always veered towards the indulgent in terms of their component quality.
I’ve played a few games where alliances were an option, but not with such a ferocious necessity as it is with Moonrakers. Some of the contract cards are designed to be impossible to complete as a single player, regardless of how many additional ship parts or crew you have, it’s unlikely you’ll ever be able to overcome the potential damage you may incur, therefore making the mission pointless.

Moonrakers attempts to push you towards the other side of cooperation as well, which is the consideration of betrayal of your allies. It states very clearly in the rules that in any alliances, the other players are not tied to telling the truth, but can even deny you the resources you require, forcing a failed state that can have you falling back down the prestige track. While it may not happen because you are all ‘best buds’, it delivers a delicious undercurrent of potential betrayal.

Moonrakers Game Set up - Moonrakers Review
Occasionally towards the final rounds of the game, the potential bane of kingmaker might rear its ugly head which is to be expected in a race to the top. Moonrakers provides solid framework to deliver an experience to the table that places negotiation as the main course and not some optional side dish. It offers moments in the form of discussions and bargaining where players promise the earth for one more prestige point.
Grudges are created and uneasy alliances form, only to be broken quickly as someone approaches that magic Ten. It offers entertainment for those who just sit there and are taking in the spectacle. Downtime demands attention and potentially merits popcorn. For that alone, it separates it away from so many other cooperative games and forces delicious interaction which will have you doubting the very cardboard itself.
Your memories might not include the card art, or the chunky coins or even the miniature spaceships that climb the prestige ladder but that of bargaining and smack talk with good friends, which in itself is always better than something as vulgar as points. Moonrakers is interesting in what it offers and clever in how it delivers it. A potential classic in the making.

This review is based on the retail version of the game provided to us by the designer and publisher. We were not paid monetary compensation for this review. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned.

The majority of the games that we are play are going to take a reasonable number of sessions and playthroughs to fully understand every possibility that they offer. We hope this write up gives you an idea of whether or not this game is something that you will consider playing or even add to your collection. 
Even if we don’t like something, hopefully it helps you to decide if it is something that you should find out more about. We always suggest you check out a gameplay video to give you a better understanding of the game as it is played. 

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