It’s been almost 100 years since the Scorpius system settled. Sentients came from everywhere to start a new life, following their dreams of prosperity and adventure. The truth was less idyllic.
The Government controls almost everything. They control wages. They control prices. They control entertainment. They control information. They have transformed an idealistic colonization project into systemwide serfdom. Tens of billions of sentients live in Scorpius with no hope of advancement, no hope of escape.
Except that not everyone in the Government toes the line; some still believe in freedom. Operating from within the massive Government motherships, a few bold freighter pilots use the system against itself. They always handle their sanctioned job duties as well as a lot of extracurricular activities like smuggling restricted medicines, passing censored information, and facilitating transactions below the Government radar. They are fueling the revolution.
And the revolution is coming.
In Scorpius Freighter by designers David Short and Matthew Dunstan, you are trying to gain fame and fortune by moving goods and providing services to the people. This involves not only legal activities, like fulfilling contracts and increasing your freighter’s cargo holds, but also taking on side deals, smuggling items below the radar, and avoiding “official” notice.
Players take on the role of space-faring smugglers, each with unique crew and ship. Players take actions to improve their freighter and level-up their crew, in order to ultimately take on more lucrative contracts and side deals. This is done via a shipboard that each player has, and a unique set of four crew members, who each bring their own skills and strategic abilities. Some crews may focus more on money contracts or flexible cargo storage, while others are more adept at upgrading their ships or manipulating movement. Each crew gives a different focus, and the ability to try a different crew each game gives Scorpius Freighter a lot to explore.
However, where Scorpius Freighter stands out is in its action-selection mechanism. The main board, shared by all players, features three planets that have Government patrol ships in orbit. The orbit of each planet is represented by a ring of spaces, each dedicated to a single action type. Whenever a player wishes to perform an action, such as “Pick Up Cargo” or “Meet Informant”, you move one of the patrol ships clockwise to the next available action space of that type.
When a patrol ship crosses through a checkpoint on a planet, the government performs an audit of the current freighter and confiscates cargo from that player. Once any of the three patrol ships are full of confiscated cargo, the government is infuriated with our illegal activity and the game is over. The freighter captain with the most reputation points is the winner.
None of the actions are more than three spaces from any other, which means a player cannot “rush” the game to the end if they are in a winning position. However, most players will want the game to go on longer, to fight for a better position. In this way, Scorpius Freighter is a “push everyone’s luck” game since any action taken by any player moves the game close to its finale.
Managing the movement of the ships can be the real challenge in the game. Since all players have access to moving the patrol ships, planning out your strategy can greatly depend on reading your opponents’ intentions. If they have a specific strategy, they may move a patrol ship past your ability to reach an action you need for the next turn. You can only move the ships up to two spaces at a time, by using your crew members. You also have to watch your use of crew, because if they have been spent on actions, you may not have sufficient crew to move to the space you need. Being a captain is challenging!
And as if that wasn’t enough, each adventure in the Scorpius star system is unlike any other. When playing the game you can swap out different cockpits, freighter boards, or even draft crew members at the beginning of the game to offer up tons of variety. Will you be as effective with a mixed skill crew or one that laser focuses on a single strategy?