Shuttle freight across the solar system in this card game for 2-4 players, where rocket jockeys attempt to deliver the most valuable cargo with flair before aliens show up to spoil the fun.
|Rocket Jockey||Mayfair Games||Card Game|
In The Box
If you were releasing a first game and wanted to create something that would be playable but not overly risky from a production standpoint, it might look a bit like Rocket Jockey. The model of simplicity, Rocket Jockey includes 90 cards and a small plastic rocket ship. Nine of the cards are immediately set out on the table to form–you guessed it–the solar system. These are the nine planets you’ll be shuttling cargo between to earn points and win. The art style on these and the other cards are colorful and minimal, a bit reminiscent of Uno if you squint at them from a distance.
Four cards are devoted to scoring, to help interpret how many points are earned after each player’s turn. You can scratch accumulated points down on a note pad, but our group generally lives by the rule that no pen or paper will be harmed so long as we have poker chips on hand. Any set of tokens you can use to track points makes a great addition to the game. The box is good if you’re just moving Rocket Jockey from shelf to table, but it’s likely to end up one big jumble of cards if you aren’t careful.
How It Plays
The playing area consists of nine planet cards with a cargo card placed immediately below each planetary body. A cargo card is always marked with a destination planet, including a number representing that planet’s position from the sun. You keep cargo you successfully deliver and can earn points for delivering to more planets than your opponents. Cargo is refilled from a supply, until you trigger the “Aliens Arrive” stage of the game. It’s at this point that the game winds down, symbolizing the introduction of cool new tech that makes your interplanetary delivery services obsolete.
Rocket Jockey gives you a hand of Maneuver Cards that can be played alone or in a sequence so long as they end up moving a cargo from its current planet to its destination. So, a cargo on Venus (2) could move to Mars (4) with one maneuver card, or you could hop from Venus to Saturn to Pluto to Mars. The first scenario would be a card reading 2 – 4 and the second scenario would be one card reading 2 – 6 and a second reading 6 – 4. Playing more cards to deliver cargo earns you more points, so stringing together longer combos is always a good thing.
Elements that add complexity to Rocket Jockey include special maneuver cards that let you hop longer distances, the addition of Co-Pilot cards that can modify other cards or reserve shipments for you, and the presence of Express Cargo that earns additional points on delivery. The casual and luck-driven elements of Rocket Jockey make it easy to learn, but there’s plenty of strategy in setting up big combos and delivering to a variety of planets.
The illustrations remind me of classic sci-fi paperbacks from the 1950s and ’60s, which is fitting considering that classifying Pluto as a planet is already nostalgic! Parents or any mixed group can easily handicap the older gamers by taking away their co-pilot cards, or by letting kids hold onto co-pilots that would otherwise be removed from play.
At first Rocket Jockey seems like a simple number-matching game, but the combos required to deliver cargo make it more difficult. It ends up being more strategic than a typical fast-paced family game, but it is really fun.