Time: ~30 minutes
Times Played: 1
Awhile back we attended a Renegade Games demo at our local game store (shout out to Games and Stuff!). We went because we really wanted to try out Clank! The Mummy’s Curse! before it hit retail to see if we would be interested in the expansion. Unfortunately, so did about eight other people so we paired up with some strangers (who were the nicest guys) and played the unreleased Junk Orbit. I initially jotted my thoughts quickly on Instagram but wanted to dive just a little deeper while it’s still fresh in my mind.
As with other First Look games, the components in the photos below are prototypes and not indicative of the final quality of the game. I was not provided a copy of Junk Orbit or set up to play it and give my thoughts. I just showed up to a free demo and this was an option.
The premise of Junk Orbit is that you are the pilot of a scavenger ship that will pick junk up from orbit and deliver it to destinations on neighboring planets. What makes Junk Orbit different from normal pick-up and deliver style games is that your cargo is also responsible for your movement.
The basis of the game is that on your turn, you will propel junk from the your ship in one direction so that you can move an equal distance in the other direction. That junk that is released can interact and impact other players ships. The path of the ship and the distance you are moving may allow you to switch orbits into a neighboring planet. If you land on the destination of where you want to take your junk, you can make a delivery.
Also, depending on where your ship finishes its turn, you will pick up new junk to tote around the solar system and then replenish the destination with junk from the corresponding tile stack. When a destination cannot be replenished, players get one more turn before the game ends and the player that delivered the highest total value of junk wins.
If you would like to read the actual rulebook, you can access it here. I personally enjoyed revisiting the rulebook after playing as it has a very Galaxy Trucker-feel, with light humor interspersed throughout the text that adds to the feel of the game as opposed to distracting players from learning the rules. It also highlights the ‘tricky aspects’ with examples, such as switching orbit.
We played a four-player game and it took about forty to forty-five minutes. We had several initial questions (that were available in the rulebook but we did not read it) that elongated the experience. Junk Orbit should sit comfortably in the thirty to thirty-five minute range after an initial play. It might even be less with experienced players.
Without having played at two or three, an initial observation would be that the board might be too big for two. Players could move around with little to no interaction unless they chose to butt heads and as the game relies on a heavy bit of interaction to set it apart from other pick-up and deliver games, I think this will be destined to be played with more players. Three-players, with the same map that is used for two, would probably be fine and cause a few bumps in the road.
The rules are not terribly complex and there is an FAQ that answers most of the questions we brought up. The premise is familiar to players immediately; take ‘x’ and deliver it to ‘y’.
The game is very colorful and engaging. The vibrant nature of the game and its art does not detract players from being able to read the words, numbers, and symbols on the cards in front of them. Players are also granted their own unique wooden space ships so it’s clear who is who.
When playing with four- or five-players, the game will include two additional moons for further delivery opportunities and additional junk tiles. At two- and three-players, there will only be Earth, the Moon, and Mars available and less tiles to draw from.
Our game had a lot of player interaction and from the constraints on the board and the value of movement, I expect all games to have players constantly running into one another and hurling junk at another player. If you are not a fan of such interaction and having your plans derailed, Junk Orbit is not for you and honestly, I would only play Junk Orbit because of the interaction. Without it, the game seems like a standard pick-up and deliver game that is only noteworthy due to the unique movement. But with the interaction, the game clearly jumps up a tier.
If this type of player interaction is your forte, then Junk Orbit offers two different styles. There are A-side Ship Powers and B-side Ship Powers. The A-side is more friendly and relates more to the moving and delivering of goods. None of the five directly interact with the other players and their ships. We did not play the A-side.
The B-side is the more “advanced experience” and it results in direct interaction with players. This is much more targeted and creates a much more hectic game. Players will constantly be hitting other players ships or rerouting themselves so they don’t interact with a certain players powers. I personally loved the B-side and would never play the A-side but this will be group dependent.
After our two turns, we were really moving and grooving and when the game ended, there was a collective groan of “that’s it?” As soon as we finished playing I thought this was a negative as there was so much more I wanted to do now that I had the hang of the game but after some time to reflect, I think Junk Orbit has an ideal end game as it being any longer would stretch the game to the point where you want more strategic and tactical plays, which Junk Orbit only offers on your turn. What I mean by that is that you can plan to deliver something to Mars but other ships or junk hitting your ship might wildly alter your plans and to have to do that for longer than forty minutes wouldn’t necessarily be the greatest fun.
Junk Orbit feels like the second half that Galaxy Trucker was supposed to have. Your movements have meaning and other players ships and movements can and will be a hindrance to you. I personally feel like Junk Orbit fits in the complexity scale of something like Imhotep, where your decision making has some importance but you’re not always in control of your destiny.
My only real negative about the game is the storage container it comes in. The game is fitted in a cylinder that will make typical shelf storage awkward. Maybe this will change come time for the final product but I don’t know. Everything fits in the container so there’s no complaints there but as someone that struggles with storage for their collection as-is, I worry about adding non-box type games to my shelves. However, the uniqueness of the container makes it stand out and that’s how/why we were interested in it in the first place.
With the right group, Junk Orbit would be a great game that fills that space between light and mid-weight experience. The play time is short and succinct and while I wouldn’t plan a night around the game, it would definitely see the table when we play multiple games in one sitting.
Junk Orbit should be released later this year.