Orbit: Rocket Race 5000 Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 4 and up (publisher suggests 8+)
  • For 2 to 6 players
  • About 15 minutes to play

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Hand/Eye Coordination & Dexterity
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Jump in your rocket and push the peddle to the metal! Well, abstractly speaking, that is.

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

In Orbit: Rocket Race 5000, the players jump behind the wheel of a racing rocket ship and play an abstract strategy game where the final goal is to play your cards as fast as possible. Combining elements of Uno, tile matching, and special abilities with card combo playing, this game provides a fast and engaging light abstract strategy game.

Orbit: Rocket Race 5000 is comprised of 1 really big game board (measuring 27″ x 39″ ), 120 Orbit cards, and six Challenge Coins. All the component of colorful and excellent quality.

Game Set Up

To set up the game, unfold the game board and give each player 1 Challenge Coin. The Challenge Coins are two-sided and depict a rocket ship  going in either a clock-wise or counter clock-wise direction. The Challenge Tokens are numbered 1 through 6 (one for each player).

Here’s where the Hand/Eye Coordination & Dexterity element of the game comes into play. At a chosen distance agreed upon by all the players, each player takes a turn and tosses their Challenge Coin on the board. The object of this exercise is to attempt to get the Challenge Coins as close as possible to the center of the game board. Any Challenge Coin that does not land and stay on the game board should be tossed again. When all the Challenge Coins are on the board, the Challenge Coin closes to the center indicates the first player.

The first player takes their Challenge Token and places it on the game board in one of the two Challenge Token spaces. If you recall, the Challenge Coin depicted a rocket ship flying in a clock-wise or counter clock-wise direction. These images indicate the direction of play. The first player chooses which direction they want the game to start playing and places the corresponding image on the Challenge Coin face-up for all to see. All other players take back their Challenge Coin.

Take the Orbit card deck and shuffle thoroughly. Deal 7 cards to each player, face-down. Place the Orbit deck in the middle of the game board, also face-down.

You are now ready to play!

Racing That Rocket!

On a player’s turn, they can take one of two actions by default. These are as follows:

  • Place an Orbit card on the game board
  • Choose to pass and draw a card

If the player places an Orbit card, it must be played so it is at least touching one other Orbit card and all touching sides have matching colors (red to red, for example, or black, which is considered “wild”). The player will also be required to play on the same orbit track until it is full. A player can place a card on any empty space in the orbit track. Orbit cards must also be tilted the same direction. There is a space for the Orbit card deck in the middle of the board that serves as a visual reminder for which way the cards should be placed.

It is important to note that a player is never required to play a card, even if they have a card that would fit on the board. There are tactical reasons for holding cards back as timing can be an issue and you need cards to play combos. However, if a player chooses not to play a card (or can’t) then they must draw a card from the Orbit card deck.

Orbit Card and Player Interaction

The basics of card interaction are very, very simple. To play a card, it must always be touching another card and the touching sides must be of the same color. Again, the color black is considered “wild” and can touch any color. There is more to this game than just color matching, however.

Orbit card placement can provide the player with extra turns, more cards (again, sometimes that’s a good thing), and penalties against their opponents.

  • One Card Match: the Orbit card played matches only one Orbit card on the game board. This is the most simplistic of matches and does not result in any additional card interaction results.
  • Two Card Match: the Orbit card played matches two Orbit cards on the game board at the same time. This allows the player to pick any other player and force them to draw a card out of turn.
  • Three Card Match: the Orbit card played matches three Orbit cards on the game board at the same time. This allows the player to immediately take another turn.
  • Wormhole (Regular): the Orbit card played creates three Orbit cards all with the same color surrounding an empty card space on that orbit track of the game board. This allows the player to take the top card from the Orbit deck and place it, face-down, in that empty card space. The player also gets to take the Challenge Coin and flip the direction of play.
  • Wormhole (Wild): the orbit card played creates three Orbit cards all with the black (wild) color surrounding an empty card space on the orbit track of the game board. This allows the player to take the top card from the Orbit deck and place it, face-down, in that empty card space. The player also gets to take the Challenge Coin and flip the direction of play. Additionally, all the other players draw one card from the Orbit card deck.

A visual example of some of the ways the Orbit cards can be placed - shown is Two Card, Three Card, Wormhole (Regular) and Wormhole (Wild) card placement

It should quickly become apparent that Orbit: Rocket Race 5000 is more than just a color matching game. If you play your cards right, you can do multiple chains of card play and add cards to your opponent’s decks to make it all the more difficult for them to win. But the player and card interaction doesn’t stop there. There are also three special action cards.

Special Action Orbit Cards

There are three special action Orbit cards that are played using the same rules as the normal Orbit cards that add additional effects in addition to whatever effect that was created using the normal Orbit card interaction rules. They are as follows:

  • Gun: in addition to whatever Orbit card interaction effect is generated by this card placement on the game board, the player chooses one player to draw 2 cards
  • Satellite:  in addition to whatever Orbit card interaction effect is generated by this card placement on the game board, the player gets to look at one other player’s hand, choose a card, and place that card face-down on the game board.
  • Robot:  in addition to whatever Orbit card interaction effect is generated by this card placement on the game board, the player gets to take another turn

Orbit card and special action card effects do stack. This means a player could place the Robot special action card and create a Three Card Match. This would allow the player to take an additional 2 turns. Or, if the Gun special action card is played and creates a Two Card Match, they can either have one player draw 3 cards or one player draw 1 card (from the Two Card Match) and another player draw 2 cards (from the Robot).

Again, we see that Orbit: Rocket Race 5000 is much, much more than a simple card placement and color matching game. There are a number of devastating combos that can be played but only if the player has the cards. This is why it is sometimes a very good thing to collect cards versus playing a card on your turn.

The Challenge Coins

All but he player who lost the Challenge Coin toss should still have their Challenge Coin with them when the games starts. On their turn, a player can use their Challenge Coin to cause the play order direction to shift. Only one Challenge Coin can be played per turn and each Challenge Coin can only be played once per game.

Once played, place the Challenge Coin back in the game box.

The Orbit Tracks

The game board has a total of five orbit tracks. All Orbit cards must be played on the same orbit track on the game board until that track is full. Once the orbit track is filled, the next track can be used, moving out from the center, until all the tracks are filled. The only exception to this rule is if all the players choose to pass. If everyone passes on their turn, the next person who would start a new round takes cards from the Orbit card deck and fills in the remaining empty orbit track spaces with the drawn Orbit cards, face-down. That same player then flips the Challenge Coin to indicate a new diction of play. The player then takes their turn as normal.

Empty Orbit Card Deck

It is possible that the Orbit card deck is depleted before the game ends. If this ever happens, the game continues but there are a few rule changes that are worth noting.

  • If you initiate an action that would require another player to draw a card from the Orbit card deck, you give that player cards from your hand instead
  • If you pass, you do not draw a card
  • If everyone passes, players take turns placing their cards, face-down from their hand until there is a winner
  • If a Wormhole is created, use a card from your own hand to place a face-down card on the orbit track

Calling “Orbit” and Ending the Game

When a player has only one card left, they are required to say “Orbit” to the table. If they fail to do so and another player calls “Orbit” on them, they must reveal to the table how many cards they have left. If they only have one card, they must draw an Orbit card from the deck. If they have more than one card, the player who called “Orbit” on them must draw an Orbit card from the deck. In this way, Orbit: Rocket Race 5000 is very much like Uno, and like Uno, the players must keep their card hand above the table at all times but they can choose to hold it anyway they wish.

As soon as any player has played their last card or has the last card in their hand removed, they win the game!

Prediction

If you have been reading Father Geek in the past you know full well that my little geeks love a good card game. Orbit: Rocket Race 5000 is like nothing they have played before but does share a number of game mechanics that they are already familiar with. As previously mentioned, the color matching aspect is very much like Uno of which my two oldest little geeks are familiar. They are also familiar with the tile placement like aspect of Orbit: Rocket Race 5000 having played games like Mow ‘Em Down and City Square Off where they have to pay attention to how the pieces are placed. Also, there is simply no doubt that both of my older little geeks have played more complicated games than Orbit: Rocket Race 5000. I can think of nothing in the game that would cause confusion, which is a very good thing.

In fact, my little geeks were very excited to play the game because they immediately felt they understood how it was played. Well, not immediately. I did have to show them how the cards interacted a few times, but they picked it up quickly and had a funny look of annoyance on their faces when I insisted I go through all the rules with them.

After having heard all the rules, given several examples, and any questions answered, I let each little geek choose a Challenge Coin. My two oldest little geeks would be playing solo and my youngest little geek (2-years old) would be my partner. Before we tossed the coins, I asked each of my sons what they thought of the game so far.

“Cool! I like it! Can I be the first to toss the coin?” ~ Liam (age 7)

“Yeah! Rocket racing spaceships!” ~ Nyhus (age 4)

“Yay! Gaaba fffrrt ba!” ~ Ronan (age 2)

It is clear that my two oldest little geeks are excited about the game. As far as my 2-year old goes, whatever he said he said with a smile…and a little bit of drool. I think it’s safe to assume he is also excited and possibly hungry. Maybe both.

Final Word

First, let me tell you it is a bad idea to give a 2-year old a solid plastic disk and tell him to “throw it”. After many attempts to get it on the board (and much laughter), I just picked him up, held him over the board, and told him to drop the Challenge Coin. This worked brilliantly.

Other than the extra 3 or so minutes it took to get the Challenge Coin portion of the game resolved, the rest of the game went very smoothly and surprisingly fast. At first, to be truthful, my little geeks were putting a lot of time and energy into placing their cards. Good on them, is what I say! I want them to really think about what they are doing and learn how card placement affects the game as a whole.

I was also very happy to see my two oldest little geeks work on their hand management skills. My 7-year old is doing very well in this area and is paying attention to the cards being played around him and what he needs to play to win. My 4-year old is getting there but showed several times that he just wanted to play a card because he could. When I asked him why, he said he didn’t want to draw a card unless his older brother did. Fair enough.

In about 12 minutes, my oldest placed his last card down on the table for the win! Admittedly, I wasn’t pay as close attention as I would normally thanks to a squirmy 2-year old on my lap who insisted on playing with cars. However, I doubt I could have stopped him anyway as I had 3 cards left in my hand when he played his last.

What I did not see a lot of was the more complex card interaction, but the special actions cards were used exceedingly well. So well, in fact, that I got the very strong impression that my two oldest little geeks were ganging up on their old man.

I couldn’t be more pleased.

The rocket racing theme is pasted on. There is nothing in the game play that suggests rockets or racing other than the pictures on the cards and some on the game board. This should not be viewed as a negative, however, as there are many good to great games available today that have their themes pasted on, too. Just don’t go playing this game thinking you are going to be experiencing robots, rockets, and avoiding intergalactic speed-traps; it simply is not there. What is there is a very fun and fast game.

You don’t need a theme to create that.

Early in the game and every little geek wants to play! Sorry, littlest geek...not yet...but soon!

Gamer Geeks, you owe it to yourself to try this game out, but I warn you, it is light. Not so light as to not have any real substance, however. The game plays fast, does promote strategy and tactics, and hand management. In truth, the game is an excellent “gateway” game. All the basics are here and are used very well to provide a solid fast and fun game experience. Orbit: Rocket Race 5000 would be great for a game night starter and don’t let the game’s Uno like qualities scare you off, either. There are a good number of ways to play this game and combos to be created. Plus, it’s just good clean fun. When you get that five-card combo on the table and see your opponent’s eyes bulge and mouths dangling open, you’ll know what I mean.

Parent Geeks, this is a very entertaining family game you will have a lot of fun playing. The game play is challenging without being overly heavy or complex. Because of this, the game is accessible to a very wide age range. My 4-year old did very well and my 7-year old even better. This is also a neat game to put on the table for family get-togethers or at smaller parties. Not to mention a great game you could teach your non-gamer friends and get them interested in the gaming hobby.

Child Geeks, you are going to love this fun and fast card game where you match colors. You will have a great time playing on such a large board that makes the game feel epic but not so large as it cannot be played by you and played well. Do expect to be challenged with some of the card interaction and slightly confused at times when turn order shifts, but everything you need to play is in your hands or on the board for you to read. You’ll be racing your rocket in no time!

Admittedly, I like Uno. I think it is a fast and fun game where luck of the draw plays second fiddle to basic hand management. The same could be said about Orbit: Rocket Race 5000, but this game provides more depth and allows for some interesting strategy and tactics while still being highly accessible to young and new players. I found the entire game experience to be a great deal of fun and surprisingly challenging when I attempted to play as many cards as possible.

I collected cards with the single purpose of putting some serious hurt on the other players. This strategy works but only if another players is taking the approach of playing as fast as possible. The end result is a game that allows for different play styles and tactics with excellent balance and game play speed.

Orbit: Rocket Race 5000 is an excellent family game and a great addition to the gaming table for geeks of all ages and game play skill levels.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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