I played and very much enjoyed a card game called "Red Shirts" the other night. I enjoyed the experience enough that I went out to Amazon and added the game to my wish list after playing it.
Amazon reviews of Red Shirts are quite mixed. It seems that the rules sheet for the game is confusing to completely nonsensical and that more than one reviewer declared the game unplayable as a result. My group played using some rules found on Board Game Geek and even with that we found ourselves making a few quick judgement calls at the table, but ultimately a good time was had by all.
This review is going to speak to playing the game with the rules and interpretations of our group of experienced gamers. Who knows maybe someone reading this will have a better experience playing the game as a result.
The game has 2 decks of cards. The first deck is comprised of "Red Shirts." Each Red Shirt card depicts a single crewman that is a parody of a character or extra from the TV series Star Trek. The art on the cards is funny and attractive. The characters seem to all be inspired by either the original series or Next Generation. I didn't see any characters that seemed specifically inspired by DS Nine or Voyager or Enterprise.
Usually a "Red Shirt" has at least one skill. The skills are: engineering, diplomacy, infiltration, science, medical, and tactical. These skills are used to complete missions listed on other cards.
To begin each player is dealt 4 "Redshirt" cards. These cards are placed face up in front of each player for all to see. This is the player's crew. Now each players is dealt 5 cards from the other deck. This deck, "the Captain's Log" cards contains 4 different kinds of cards. There are missions, locations, equipment, and events.
Completing missions will get you more Redshirts. Fail a mission and you lose a Redshirt. What's brilliant about the game? The goal isn't to win the missions but to lose them. Your goal is to be the first player to kill off all your Redshirts.
You play a mission that requires the Engineering Skill and then send the Nurse Redshirt with Medical Skill to complete it. There's no way she can succeed. But, wait! All the other players around the table are given the opportunity to help your poor doomed nurse on her mission. Maybe another player gives your poor Nurse a toolkit that grants her the Engineering Skill. Now she has succeeded at her mission, and she will have that toolkit and the engineering skill from now on unless you can play a card that allows you to get rid of it.
The way we played is each player can play one mission each turn to try to kill off some Redshirts. If you have extra missions in your hand that maybe you don't want to use yourself then you can play them on other players. No player can have more than one mission at a time played on them and if you have a mission waiting in front of you when your turn starts then you have to play it out.
When a Redshirt is sent on a mission, their character card is "zapped" (That's turned on its side to show it's been exhausted for the turn. It's "zapped" because the term "tapped" is trademarked by another game company.) and can't be used for anything else until the player's next turn. You can also "zap" a Redshirt to fetch resources which allows you to discard and redraw cards once per turn.
Once you play cards to undertake (and hopefully fail) a mission everyone at the table has a chance to respond adding cards to try to help your Redshirt and keep you from winning the game. You in turn can respond to this to play cards to unravel the plans of your opponents. Card play may go around the table several times before everyone has exhausted their options. Once every one has played all the cards they wish to play the outcome of the mission is resolved. With any luck, your Redshirt has bought the farm and will be sent to the discard pile.
Card play around the table reminds me quite a bit of Munchkin and the banter and interaction during play was quite enjoyable. The cards are funny and the artwork appealing. I found the game very playable, but this may be partially attributed to past experiences with similar games.
If you are interested in the game, be sure and grab the alternative rules sheet at Boardgame Geek. And have a blast!