You think space junk is bad now — thousands of objects floating and hurtling around our home? Well, imagine it in the future. Scary, huh? Maybe for some, but not for you! As captain of a space scavenger ship, you make your living picking up and delivering this space junk to locations across our solar system!
What Is Junk Orbit?
Junk Orbit is a wonderfully enjoyable pick up & deliver game for 2-5 players, aged 10 and up. It is set in near(ish) space, plays in about a half hour, and is from designer Daniel Solis (Kodama: The Tree Spirits, Plume, Koi Pond, Wonderland) and published by Renegade Games. The retail price is $35.
Junk Orbit Components
In the oddly shaped box, you’ll find:
- 5 Location boards
- 5 Ship tokens
- 5 Ship cards
- 128 Junk tiles (15 starters, 37 Earth, 29 Moon, 47 Mars)
That’s it! The location boards represent Earth, our moon, Mars, and Phobos and Deimos, the two natural satellites orbiting the red planet. Each of the location tiles has a day side, for easier play, and a night side, for more challenge. Phobos and Deimos don’t come into play except in a four- and five-player game. Each also has a number of city locations on its perimeter. It seems we’ve done some serious colonization in the future. Maybe that explains all the junk?
The ship tokens are all unique and fun spaceship representations.Their corresponding cards also have an A and B side, depending on the challenge your players want. While each side has a rundown of turn order and spaces for cargo and deliveries, the true difference between sides is the power a player is able to use. Side A is beneficial to the player, while side B has a bit more “take that.”
Junk Orbit is GeekDad Approved!
Junk tiles all have the same information types on them, regardless of their source (Earth, Moon, Mars). Each of these tiles has a value, a destination city, and an icon that shows both the junk’s source and the destination for delivery. These icons are small representation of the planet or moon. Finally, on the back of these long hexagons is art that shows the junk’s source. Some of the junk tiles are only used in certain games, so there is a small number in the lower right that designates which player count the tile is for. Additionally, there are starter junk tiles, which don’t have a destination, but only a value.
The odd thing is the box, which is cylindrical. It will be interesting to see how stores deal with the box, as it will in people’s collections. It is certainly is unique and helps the game stand out, but I’m not a fan. It makes carrying the game a bit of a pain and stacking it in my Ikea shelving a huge annoyance; it takes up the space of at least two (maybe three) other games. I’ll probably make my own box for it because I really enjoy the game, but I wish it were just in a standard box.
How to Play Junk Orbit
For a basic game, the location boards are set up close to each other, with the Moon situated between Earth and Mars. the planets should be rotated so designated spaces face each other. For four and five players, Phobos or Deimos should be added, per the setup instructions. Junk tiles should be separated and shuffled by source. make sure to remove 4+ or 5+ tiles if playing with fewer players. Tiles should then be stacked, face-down, near the board. Random tiles should then be placed around the Earth and Mars before filling in the Moon. Each city should begin the game with a single tile next to it. Players should get a ship token and the corresponding card. All players begin on Kepler, on the Moon. Players additionally receive a single 2 starter tile, two 1 starter tiles, and a random token from the Earth, Moon, and Mars piles. These tiles are placed on the Cargo side of the player’s card. Play is now ready to begin.
On every turn, each player will follow three steps: Launch Junk, Move Ship, Pick Up Junk.
To launch junk, a player selects a tile from their cargo area and notes the tile’s value in the upper left. The player then launches the junk to a city in a clockwise or clockwise direction away from the player’s ship token. After the junk has been jettisoned, one of three things happens. If it comes to rest on a destination that matches the destination on the tile, congratulations! You have made a remote delivery and that tile is placed face-down in your delivery area, to the right of your card.
If the final destination of the junk tile does not match the destination on your tile. It simply rests there, along with any other junk that is currently calling that destination home. If the junk tile comes to a rest at a location where another player’s token currently site, that player is hit. The player must choose a junk tile from their cargo or delivery area and place it on the board, at their current location. This applies to each ship at that location.
The player then moves the opposite direction from where the junk was launched, in a number of spaces equal to the value of the junk that was launched. Players may move through spaces occupied by other players and, when they arrive at their destination, they should check the tiles in their cargo area. If they have a tile that matches the destination they have stopped on, they may make a direct delivery and move that tile to the delivery side of their card, placed face-down. They may delivery multiple tiles at once, as long as they all match the location where the player has stopped.
Pick Up Junk
When the player comes to a stop, they take all of the tiles from the location where they have stopped. These tiles are placed in their cargo hold (there is no limit to the tiles a player can have). The player then considers the location tied to their spot and refills one tile (from the Earth, Moon, or Mars stacks) in the location where they are stopped.
(Note: Some ships have powers that may affect one or more of these steps.)
Play continues until a city needs to refilled, but the corresponding stack is empty. Each player gets one more turn and the game ends. Delivered tiles are turned over, their values counted, and the person with the most points wins.
Why You Should Play Junk Orbit
We love Junk Orbit so very much. It’s easy to teach, although the way orbits work may trip up people who don’t play many games at first. Not to worry though, after the first round, everyone gets it. The orbits and using propulsion as a means of movement provide a fresh take on the pick up & deliver game mechanic.
Each turn is its own unique little puzzle, trying to figure out how to move through orbits to deliver junk … without launching (and sacrificing) the junk you wish to deliver. You will also need to riddle out how to pick up new junk to move you across the board — having a variety of tile values is imperative, so you can stop and deliver where you want. Highly valued tiles can be a pain because they are obviously worth the most, but getting to a distant location can be nearly impossible if your cargo bay is filled with low values tiles.
Players can be somewhat limited by the cargo tiles they have, and finding (and reaching) a destination that has a big stack of junk tiles can sometimes be more important than making a delivery, since possessing junk represents your ability to move across the board. Oftentimes, players must map out two to three turns in advance, so that they can arrive at a destination they need to make a delivery, and a clever player will be able to make remote deliveries when launching junk and also make direct deliveries when arriving at a city. If you can gather multiple tiles for the same city, their delivery can be the key to victory.
At first, we did feel like some of the player powers were overpowered, but changing your strategy to match the capability of your ship nullifies some of the discrepancies in power. However, in the hands of experienced gamers, some ship powers do seem stronger to get past than others.
By playing the B side of player cards, which offer more opportunity to hit opponents, and the night side of locations, which offer additional ways to score at the end of the game, Junk Orbit has lots of replay. I can certainly attest to this, since I have about two dozen plays in the past month. I should qualify the B side cards, also, and say that I’m not normally a fan of “take that” mechanics, but the way they are implemented in Junk Orbit isn’t overly mean, so it’s still very enjoyable.
Since showing up on my doorstep, I have played Junk Orbit more than any other game in the past couple of months. It is bright and cheerful and nicely illustrated. It is lightweight enough that the whole family can play or you can flip the location and ship cards for a more challenging experience. As the box says, one planet’s junk is another planet’s treasure — go get rich with Junk Orbit!
Junk Orbit is from Renegade Games and is available beginning today.
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.