Fly me to the moon and let me play among the cards in Rocket Squad, a game about reaching the heavens in a cardboard rocket.
I think it’s safe to say that a huge number of kids from my generation wanted to go into space. I’m not sure if that’s still the case, as most of the kids I work with want to be Twitch streamers these days. At any rate, there would have been a time when I pretended to be an astronaut in some way, imagining that cardboard boxes were spaceships. Rocket Squad turns the idea of making rockets out of boxes into a card game in which kids (and adults) compete to get their cardboard constructions to the cosmos first!
Rocket Squad is a hand management game with take-that elements for two to four players, in which you try to build the biggest cardboard rocket you can in order to earn the most points and claim the title of king of the backyard! In a typical turn, you will play the four cards in your hand to either increase the size of your rockets or mess with your opponents, as well as launch any completed craft. At the end of your turn you draw back up to four cards and the play passes to the next player. The game ends once someone has launched four of their rockets, at which point everyone else has one final turn before scoring takes place and a winner is determined.
Cards take the form of either a coloured rocket base or an action card. Rocket bases form the base of a rocket, surprisingly. These are either red, blue, green or yellow and are placed on a launchpad of the matching colour. They also include a number which denotes the size of the completed rocket, as well as the number of points it is worth. You need to decide the size of rocket you want to go for carefully, as you can only place on base of each colour and once you’ve started building you cannot change the base! After you’ve reached the requisite size, you launch the rocket — complete with a rocket launch sound effect of course — and claim a moon rock token as a hidden bonus score for the end of the game.
Action cards allow you to give yourself benefits or attack your opponents and all take the form of something related to being a kid in your backyard. Perhaps you’ll throw water balloons at opponents constructions or send your cat to sit on their rocket to block further building. Then again you might want to use duct tape to add some more boxes to your rockets or have your imaginary friend defend your spaceships for a turn. There’s even a ‘Mom’ card that blocks and attacks, with her telling you kids to play nice. Even more amusing is the ‘Grandma’ card that blocks a ‘Mom’ by overruling her. I loved this aspect of the game as it adds a little strategy into what you do on your turn. Do you build, defend or go on the offensive? In addition, the theming present here is a lot of fun. Everything ties into the idea of kids playing in the backyard.
I have yet to mention how you go about construction your space vehicles. All of Rocket Squad’s cards are have cardboard boxes printed on the back, meaning that every card you have is a potential building block. In theory, you could play a base, and then spend your next two turns building a launching your rocket because every card can be used. But that might leave you open to attack or perhaps allow your opponent to play a card that builds their own rocket faster. Some cards give you bonus points if you play them as you launch a rocket, so maybe you’ll decide to hold onto that card until you need it, but you’ll slow down your building whilst doing so.
Once the game is over, everyone counts up the points on their launched rockets, adds on anything from any bonus cards, and reveals their hidden moon tokens to get a total. In our experience, being the first to launch all four rockets is a pretty certain way to win, but it’s not guaranteed. Launching four size five rockets isn’t as valuable as launching three size seven ones and those moon tokens, whilst only worth one or two points each, can sway the game. Victory is often by only a handful of points, so making the right decisions on rocket size early on can be crucial. There’s an element of luck, of course, because if you’ve only had a size four yellow base in your hand each turn for the first three rounds, you may just have to cut your losses and go for it.
In spite of the slight over-reliance on luck, Rocket Squad is a lot of fun, and it’s a really enjoyable light filler game that we keep returning to. It’s quick, clocking in at around twenty minutes, and is very easy to teach, to the point that our six-year-old is able to play it (albeit with a little help reading what the action cards say). A fun family game at a very reasonable price. My first experience of Rocket Squad was at UKGE this year, where I enjoyed the game so much I picked up a copy of my own. I’d highly recommend you try the contents of this cardboard box!