Moonrakers Board Game Lets You Manipulate and Negotiate Your Way to Power

Kickstarter board game Moonrakers by IV Studios is a Nashville-based sci-fi card game that puts your trust of friends to the test.

You know the standard science fiction trope of faction wars sending out fleets of ships to mine resources from other planets? What eventually gets everyone on the ship stranded or attacked by parasitic aliens? An emerging new board game by Nashville-based team IV Studios is letting you be those ship leaders in a semi-cooperative attempt to become the head of a rebel group through strategic decision making, cunning negotiation skills, and the luck of the draw. Welcome to Moonrakers.

Emerging as a breakthrough Kickstarter project (with still just under 24 hours left to go!), the game has made waves across the small-but-passionate Nashville tabletop gaming scene. Almost an hour after the project’s launch, the game fully funded their $40,000 goal comparatively instantly. In a short 29 days, Moonrakers is now sitting at over 935% funding rate and still growing.

Before I continue, let’s get a quick primer on the game’s setting and mechanics:

Distilling that message even further, Moonrakers is a deck-building hand management board game with a bit of team-based wrinkles, ship-building customization, and resource management. The goal of the game is to (as faction members) establish prestige until you are the de facto leader of the Moonrakers.

The game revolves around the contract system — the best means of earning the prestige that will launch you to the top of the Moonraker faction. Each contract will have a mission to complete with collected resources, as well as potential risk and guaranteed reward.

While in a perfect world these contracts would be completable on their won, some are simply too difficult to do on your own. Through this, Moonrakers will make you cooperate with other faction leaders (everyone playing with you) to share the risks or rewards of each contract. Even more engaging, you can negotiate the terms of that agreement yourself — perhaps you let the prestige go to the other faction, provided they take the possible ship damage and you can keep the resources. Even more hectic, each player will have their own goals beyond building prestige, and they may not always be honest in negotiating.

Though IV Studios’ Relationship Direct Austin Harrison admits this isn’t the first time negotiating has been implemented in a board game (they grew their inspiration from a 70’s era board game Cosmic Encounter), it spoke to exactly what they wanted to do. “We play a lot of co-op games like Pandemic or Gloomhaven, but in the end, we are super competitive and want to have a winner too.” Negotiation strikes the balance of going on missions with friends and undermining those same friends for bragging rights and supreme authority.

IV Studios has an interesting history to tell, starting as an animation studio but quickly branching out into personal projects in both the video game and tabletop space. According to IV Studios’ Harrison, “we have a lot of creative people on staff who really like making things and we try to use the studio as a way to funnel that creativity.”

While Moonrakers is their first foray into building a board game, Harrison noted that the team took that into account during their Kickstarter. While many studios are overly-ambitious about capabilities and stretch goals, IV Studios instead focused on offering the best quality components from the start and not nickel-and-diming small improvements in the name of hype. Especially onerous are stories from first-time creators who end up losing money through stretch goal components. “It was a very intentional choice for us” in order to focus on high-quality components for everyone and keeping the tiers understandable to first-time backers.

“…IV Studios instead focused on offering the best quality components from the start and not nickel-and-diming small improvements in the name of hype.”

While there has been plenty of coverage of Moonrakers at other board game outlets, few have talked about some of the expertly navigated balance and replayability. Despite only having 57 crew and ship part cards to customize the ship, it creates about 184.3 billion permutations. With the two-hour play sessions, you will almost never see the same combination of cards no matter how much you play.

Additionally, the lead up to the game had Creative Director Zac Dixon talking about game balance — not always the ‘sexiest’ sales tactic, but arguably the most important to replayability and keeping the game fun. In a six-minute video, Dixon discusses creating an algorithm to balance the in-game system economy. It’s a complex bid that showcases that the animation studio is able to stretch well beyond their artistic roots and can speak to more complex analytical engineering behind their title.

Even better, the Moonrakers universe is here to stay. According to Harrison, while their next move as a studio will be an expansion, they are already considering next steps into the Moonraker lore — be it video game, board game, visual novel, or animation. The fact of the matter is IV Studios has a ton of creativity, and you never know which direction it will go.

Moonrakers is available to pre-order now via Kickstarter (but you only have less than a day left to do so), starting at $55. If all things go according to plan, the game is expecting to launch in July 2020. If you want to watch the game in action, feel free to check out a full gameplay session below (via Geek and Sundry):

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Lou Contaldi

Lou Contaldi specializes in both reviews and the business behind gaming. He began writing about tech and video games while getting his Juris Doctor at Hofstra University School of Law. He is maybe the only gaming journo based in Nashville, TN.

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