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To Boldly Go (and Not Come Back): ‘Redshirts’ Reviewed

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Redshirts BoxGame Name: Redshirts

Publisher: Weaselpants Productions

Designer: Jonathan “Skippy” Schwarz

Year: 2012

Players: 2-7

Ages: 12+

Playing Time: 30-60 Minutes

Retail Price: $24.95

Category: Humorous Sci-Fi Card Game


  • 108 cards in two decks (Captain’s Log and Redshirts)
  • Rule book

From Weaselpants Productions:

Everyone in the Galactic Space Corps knows that the most successful starship Captains go through junior-enlisted crewmen like a fat kid goes through cupcakes.

Assemble and lead an away team of heroic yet disposable characters at a variety of locations, such as A Strange Energy Field Never Before Encountered or the Planet of Beautiful, Utopian, and in No Way Suspicious Women.

Examine missions such as Kielbasa Maroon, Poke This Slime With A Stick, and Fix the Exhaust Port Before Some Redneck Drops a Torpedo Down it to determine the crewman with the very best chance to succeed. And then send someone else!

In Redshirts, you play an intrepid space captain, sending away teams off to attempt a variety of exciting (and hazardous) missions. The key word being “attempt.” As you may have guessed from the name, your goal in Redshirts is to send your hapless away team members to certain doom by assigning them to missions they are not equipped to accomplish. The first player to kill off their entire away team is the winner.

Redshirts CrewThere are two decks of cards: the Redshirts deck, which contains the pool of away team members, and the Captain’s Log, containing Missions, Locations, Equipment, and Events. A player starts with four away team members face up on the table, and five Captains’ Log cards in their hand. Away team members have one or more skills, such as Tactical, Medical, and Engineering, and some have special effects associated with them. On their turn, the player may play any Mission cards in their hands, either on themselves or any other player. The Missions have skills necessary for success, and some have requirements to even attempt them. Locations and Equipment cards add or subtract skills, and Events can change skills, change victory to defeat, or other wildcard actions.

You play a Mission card on yourself if you have a crew member who can attempt it, but will fail it, resulting in some awful fate. You play Missions on other players if it looks like they will succeed. Success, for an away team member, means bad things for you. Often extra crew being added, putting you further away from victory. Your opponents can provide your away team member with the equipment or skills they need to complete the mission by playing cards on you, unless you can cancel them out in some way. Redshirts is, at its core, a take-that, screw-your-pals kind of game that can be really fun with the right people, or descend into chaos, fistfights, insanity, and possibly death.

Redshirts ComponentsRedshirts is essentially a filler game, light and uncomplicated, suitable for a casual gaming group, or a semi-dysfunctional family that likes to screw each other over, at least symbolically. The art, drawn by David Reddick, is a fun parody of Star Trek, and good for a chuckle or two. The Vulcan analogues, for example, are called Nemoyans, and the “Mirror, Mirror” card makes a crew member have only the skills NOT printed on the crew member’s card. In some ways, Redshirts reminds me of Star Munchkin. You’re going on missions rather than knocking down doors, but the flurry of cards that can go on as players attempt missions is very reminiscent of fighting monsters in Munchkin, with players adding and subtracting skills, canceling cards, canceling the canceling, and so on.

If Redshirts has some gameplay similarities with the Munchkin series, it also has some of Munchkin’s flaws. Luck can play a significant factor, and you’re almost certain to have at least one moment where you wished you had a card that could save you, but it didn’t come up in the deck. At least not until the next round when you’ll get it but not need it. Likewise, the game can go on a bit longer than it should. When you’re replenishing your hand, you only take as many Captain’s Log cards as you have crew members, which means if you’re ahead, you’re punished with fewer cards, leaving you weak and vulnerable. That can lead to mission failure, which means more crew members, and you’re back to where you started. You may want to consider adopting a house rule to mitigate this, like having a certain number of dead or discarded crewmen as a victory condition. And while the game may SAY it can handle up to 7 players, only the most patient (or masochistic) players should play with more than three or four.

RedshirtsHeroOne other flaw is the rules are not always as clear as they need to be. For instance, when an away team member fails a mission, the failure condition may be to discard the character, or it may be to kill the character. These are not the same thing, and some cards specifically affect one condition or the other. My gaming group also had some difficulty wrapping their heads around the game’s particular definitions of success and failure. To succeed in the game, you must fail at the missions, and your opponents try to make you succeed so that you fail. This tripped us up probably longer than it should have, though that may be on us rather than the game.

It’s possible some of the issues may be addressed when the second edition comes out. Last year, Weaselpants had a successful Kickstarter drive for the Deluxe edition, which is actually where I heard about Redshirts. I backed it but the game I’m playing now is a first printing that I found used at a bookstore. Why is that? Well, designer Schwarz’s success appears to have attracted the eye of Sauron Paramount’s lawyers, who apparently thought he was going a bit beyond acceptable parody rules. I say “apparently” because while Schwarz has been making semi-regular updates, he’s not really able to say much at the moment. The game is on hold until all the legal issues are worked out whatever that winds up meaning. The first printing is still available until then. Hopefully Schwarz will be successful in his mission, and not meet the same fate as the crew he created. Redshirts is a fun game, despite its flaws, and my gaming group is always happy to play it. That’s a good sign a game will live long and prosper.



Redshirts is a fun game, despite its flaws, and my gaming group is always happy to play it. That's a good sign a game will live long and prosper.

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