Review – The Crew: Mission Deep Sea

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Designer Thomas Sing

Artist Marco Armbruster

Publisher KOSMOS

Category Trick-Taking, Cooperative Play

Length 10-20 minutes per scenario

Release Date 2021

Player Count 2-5

The Crew: Mission Deep Sea is the follow-up to 2019’s The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine. Using the same basic trick-taking system as the original game, Mission Deep Sea provides new versatility and new challenges. Let’s see what lies beneath the water!

Review

From my first play of The Crew, I knew it was something special. I even predicted it would get a Spiel des Jahres nomination! (Turns out I was almost right—it ended up winning the Kennerspiel des Jahres.) The Crew is a fantastic game, a completely fresh spin on trick-taking.

Enter The Crew: Mission Deep Sea. This game builds on the formula of the original. The central mechanisms of the game remain virtually the same, but there are a few key differences.

[NOTE: Since we have covered the first Crew game on this site before, this review won’t go into the specifics of gameplay. Our initial review contains descriptions of how the core system works, so this review will instead be more comparative.]

The main difference introduced in Mission Deep Sea is dynamic tasks. Whereas the tasks in the original game were simply “X player needs to win the trick containing Y card,” the tasks in Mission Deep Sea are far more varied. They include challenges like:

  • Win no cards of a certain color/number
  • Win X card using Y card (e.g. win a 5 using a 7)
  • Win a specific number of cards of a particular color/number
  • Win/lose specific tricks (e.g. win only the first trick)
  • Win a certain number of tricks as compared to other players (e.g. win the least amount of tricks)
  • Win all the cards of a single color
  • Win an equal number of cards of 2 colors

And so on and so on. These new challenges hardly add any extra complexity, but they significantly deepen the decision space and replay value. They give players much more to think about and necessitate even more careful planning than before.

The other difference in Mission Deep Sea is the way tasks are distributed. In the original game, a specified number of tasks are distributed each round, but in the new version, each task has a difficulty rating, according to the number of players. Players draw task cards until the total difficulty equals the mission’s difficulty level (e.g. a level 5 mission might use tasks with difficulties 3, 1, and 1, or with 2 and 3, etc.). This means that a given scenario might involve 2 tasks during the first run-through and 3 during the second; it’s not that the scenario got harder, it’s that the task difficulties changed.

Mission Deep Sea takes the core of the award-winning Quest for Planet Nine and adds new versatility. The original Crew is one of favorite games in recent memory, but I like this new version even more. Though Mission Deep Sea has fewer logbook scenarios, it feels like a “bigger” game due to the variability of tasks. In essence, it takes everything that made the original great and expands upon it without bogging down the gameplay.

Newcomers to the series should be fine beginning with either game. The original is a hair simpler to understand since all tasks are basically the same, but in both cases, the logbook helps ease players in scenario by scenario, so either version can be a good starting point.

For fans of the original, a question that will undoubtedly come up is “If I have the first Crew game, do I need this one as well?” To me, it depends how often you play. If Quest for Planet Nine is a game night staple, then Mission Deep Sea will keep things fresh with new challenges. On the other hand, if it is more of a “once in a while” kind of game, then it is probably fine to stick with the original (which, again, is a fantastic game in its own right). Either way, The Crew is a series that should be represented in every game collection. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend doing so.

A review copy was provided by KOSMOS.

The Bottom Line

Mission Deep Sea takes everything that was great about the original Crew and expands upon it without bogging down gameplay. Excellent.

 

9.5

Author: Stephen Hall

A bard pretending to be a cleric. Possibly a Cylon, too. I was there when they dug up the "E.T." cartridges.