The original Star Trek television series forever impacted our world. It gave us the cold, logical perspective of the Vulcans to question ourselves and the universe. It described new dreams of technology that science (sometimes) rapidly pursued to make reality. And, most of all, it gave us those poor, innocent graduates of Starfleet who served as cannon fodder aboard the mighty Enterprise, sacrificing their lives so the Federation could learn of a few new murderous civilizations and the captain could meet a few more green-skinned girls. The term “red shirt,” originating from the uniform color of said cannon fodder, has worked its way into the English language to mean anyone who is not-so-regrettably expendable.
Weaselpants Productions has taken the concept of the red shirt and turned it into Redshirts, the “lighthearted game of space-exploration, betrayal, and murder.” Each player is given a collection of red-shirted victims to send on epic space adventures, and the player whose characters are all killed off first wins. The art from David Reddick of Legend of Bill (itself a parody of pen-and-paper fantasy RPGs) suits the game well with its epic cartooniness. The science-fiction aspects shine with technological details alongside familiar costuming and, of course, green-skinned girls.
Redshirts all have a series of Skills that allow them to participate in certain missions. Players then have a hand of Commander’s Log cards that act as locations, events, missions, or equipment, all of which affect the redshirts’ Skills. A player declares a Mission, hoping to lose a few of his or her own redshirts to horrible alien monsters or vicious sci-fi overlords or planning to force success on an opponent. Every other player has the chance to affect the Mission, adding their own bonuses hoping to keep the others’ redshirts alive longer than their own. Each Mission comes with success and failure results, typically killing a redshirt or drawing a bonus card. The game continues contrary to logic, players competing to wipe out their own crews in the most hilarious ways possible.
Redshirts is a must-have for any science fiction enthusiast with a sense of humor. It deftly lampoons great Star Trek tropes such as the plucky young commander, the telepathic diplomat, the SiBerg (Jewish Borg), and so many more. The references even go beyond Star Trek to a huge number of other franchises, including Alien with chest-bursters, a Doctor Who-style blue box, Hitchhiker Guide’s whale and a pot of flowers looking for friendship, and even the obligatory cowboy-riding-a-bomb nod to Doctor Strangelove.
Redshirts is recommended for two to six players, ages 14 and up. The rules may require a play through or two to get straight in everyone’s minds, but the game has excellent replay value with so many hilarious cards in the original as well as an expansion pack, Red or Alive. With the near-endless combinations of cards forming wacky adventures, Redshirt-lovers will play again and again.