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Moonshot - The Next Giant Leap

Game Shuttle Labs developed Moonshot to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing. By pre-ordering our board game on Kickstarter in July, you can relive one of the most complex and epic feats of humankind on your own table. Try the game out live at limited events with pre-registration.

“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard."
John F. Kennedy

Moonshot - The Next Giant Leap

Game overview video

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Game rules

Game design: Balázs Almády
Game development: Vera Atala Enyingi, Dorottya Milánkovich
Art design: Fanni Eke & Bia Földi


Two teams of players take on the roles of two Space Programs (NASA, RosCosmos) in the Cold War space race, competing to be the first to deploy their nations' (USA, CCCP/USSR) astronauts to the Moon. Both Space Program teams consist of a Politician and an Engineer who need to cooperate to win.

Goal of the Game

The first team to complete a successful Moon landing mission wins the game. The game also ends if the budget or popularity of a team falls below the level indicated on the board, resulting in a win for the other team.

Game Overview

You can play the base game with 2 or 4 players (a separate rulebook will be provided for games with 2–6 players). When playing with 4 players, you play in teams of 2: one team member selecting the Politician role, the other one selecting Engineer. With 2 players, Moonshot is a 1 vs. 1 experience where each player takes on both roles.
The game is played in rounds until one of the end game conditions is met (successful Moon landing mission, critical budget or popularity loss). A game round has four consecutive phases (A , B, C, D).The first phase (1), strategic discussion, is only used with 4 players. Teams have two minutes to discuss their strategy for the current round; use any timer.
In the second phase (2), the two roles act at the same time, i.e. the roles play actions simultaneously. Engineers spend money to develop their rocket blueprints or do testing on possible risks during launch. Meanwhile, Politicians use their influence to support their Space Program and prevent the opponent from achieving their goals.In the third phase (3), players follow the rocket launches and the results of the missions.
In the fourth phase (4), players do end-of-round administration: Politicians evaluate their actions and players determine the resources available for the next round.


Put the two Level 0 Missions between the two teams and place two randomly chosen Level 0 Risk Cards next to them.
Start tracking the budget and popularity for each Space Program.The Space Program Budget has no limits and starts at 30 , while Popularity moves on a scale of 1 to 12, starting from 10.
If either team’s popularity decreases to 0, they lose the game. If the difference between the two teams’ budgets is at least 15, the team with the bigger budget wins the game.
Place the different tokens—Testing, Spies, etc.—within reach on the table. Prepare the Mission and Risk decks by shuffling them and placing the decks on their designated spaces.
Politician players should face each other on opposite sides of the politics board; at setup they shuffle their Maneuver decks, draw four cards, then collect their own Influence and Bluff tokens.
Give 30 money each to the Engineers.
The two Engineers also face each other on opposite sides of the table with the Research Center between them: this part of the board shows how much their Technology Tiles cost and how they can be acquired. On one side of the Research Center, form a deck from the shuffled Module tiles and place four of them face-up in the designated places. Add two more Modules randomly to the last position of the two Engineer Suppliers lines. Shuffle the Technology Tiles by type (Structure, Electronics, Code) and form three decks on the other side of the Research Center. Put one Tile from each Technology deck into the Engineers’ Development line. The two Engineers examine the Rocket Blueprint and the Rocket Parameters sections on the board. Set the values of the Rocket Parameters to 0.
Give the First Player Marker to the CCCP/USSR Politician.


A game round consists of four consecutive phases (1, 2, 3, 4)

1) Strategic discussion

Teams have two minutes to openly discuss their strategy for the current round. Topics can include which Maneuver Cards the Politician will use and where, which mission is achievable, etc. Communication is NOT restricted in later phases.

2) Simultaneous Actions

(in two player games, start with the Politician Actions and proceed to the Engineers after deciding about the launches)

For the Politicians

2.1) Preparations subphase
Both Politicians receive four Influence and four Bluff tokens. The player with the First Player Marker gets +1 Bluff token and starts the round.Beginning with the First Player, the Politicians alternate either placing Maneuver Cards on one position on the Politics section or passing. If one player passes and the next player plays a card, the player who had previously passed is allowed to play a card in response. Once both players pass consecutively, this subphase ends.

2.2) Actions subphase
Starting with the First Player, Politicians alternate turns by taking one Action selected from below:

  • Supporting Maneuvers: Put Influence or Bluff tokens face down on your own or the opponent's Maneuver Cards. At least two tokens must be placed at a time on the same or different Maneuver Cards.
  • Announcing a new Mission: Select a random Mission from one of the Mission decks (the last deck has only one Mission, the Moon landing), and place the Mission Card on the board, then add Risk Cards according to the icons on the revealed Mission. There cannot be more than three active Missions on the board at any given time.
  • Increasing Influence: you may decide once a round to reduce Popularity by X. In this case, you get the +X Influence token for that round.
  • Decision to Launch: you must decide, as your last Politician action in this phase, to either place your team’s Rocket on an active Mission thus initiating a Launch in the next phase, OR abort rocket launch for this round by toppling your Rocket.

For the Engineers

Engineers simultaneously take as many Actions from below as they want, but they must always be able to pay their respective Action Cost first and finish one Action before starting another.

  • Installing Technology Tiles from the Development Line (7 money): install one of the Tech Tiles discovered in your own Development Line to your Rocket Blueprint.
  • Technology from Research (10 money): Pick two Technology Tiles from the Tech Tile decks (the same or different decks), then install one Tile onto your Rocket Blueprint and place the other on top of the discard pile in the Research Area.
  • Technology Tile installment from the Research Area (10 money): install the topmost Tech Tile from the Research Area.
  • Technology Tile Placement on the Suppliers line: If there are no items in the topmost space of the Suppliers line, the Engineer may place one of the Tech Tiles in their Development line into that space free of charge.
  • Ordering a Module: One of the discovered Modules can be placed for 8, 13, or 20 money in the first, second, or third place of the Suppliers line.
  • Testing (4 money): Place your own Test token on a Risk Card.
  • Anti-Sabotage (10+X money): remove X Sabotage Markers from your Rocket Blueprint.
  • Preparing payload: pay the appropriate price and place a payload marker on a Mission Card for the next rocket launch there. (Astrodog 2 money, Satellite 5 money, Astronaut 7 money)

To utilize Political Opportunities, yell ‘STOP,’ let the other Engineer finish their current Action, then execute one of the following Actions:

  • Stealing Test Results: Spend a Test Steal token, as an Action, to replace one of the opponent's Test tokens with your own.
  • Stealing Technology: Spend a Tech Steal token, as an Action, to install a Tech Tile from your opponent’s Development Line for free.
  • When an Engineer does not want to or is unable to take further Actions in the round, they yell ‘PASS.’

    Game concepts for the B) phase

    Constructing a Rocket Blueprint with Tech Tiles

    Each team develops their own Rocket Blueprint on their designated board space. The Technology Tiles are installed on the Rocket Blueprint (rotating them freely), marked with Tech Icons in the middle and along the edges. Icons on the tiles include Structure, Electronics, or Code. The full icons in the middle will immediately contribute to the values of the Rocket Parameters. Icons on the edges only add value to the rocket if they match the icon on the edge of an adjacent Tech Tile.
    Different icons can also be put next to each other, but they don't add value to the Rocket Parameters. When the Engineer installs a Technology Tile, they must immediately place it on their Rocket Blueprint next to an already installed Tech Tile, and register the new values for the Rocket Parameters. The Technology Tile can be placed on top of an installed Tile, but the replaced Tile will be lost and the change of the parameters must be immediately registered on the Rocket Parameters.


    The Rocket Blueprint also has places to install Modules. Modules give you conditions for one or two rows (or a column containing three spaces), which, when fulfilled, give you different bonuses that should be registered by changing the values of the Rocket Parameters. When a new Module is acquired, it must be placed in an empty space or on an existing Module (in which case the existing Module must be discarded). Modules can give a Rocket Blueprint Adaptivity which gives the Engineer extra “wild” values that they can divide freely between icons before each launch.

    Testing the System

    Engineers can run tests on hazards (shown on the Risk Cards) that can occur during Missions to ensure that no element in the rocket system is causing a malfunction.Each time you test a Risk, place one Test token on it. Each Test token on that particular Risk adds 2 to the result of a roll with the Risk Die.The Risk level is determined by rolling the 8-sided Risk Die. The higher the rolled result, the easier the Risk becomes, so you will improve your chances even if you only test once. Example: If there is a Test token on the Risk Card and you roll a 6, then the Parameter Check Value is 8.

    The Politics Board

    Politicians play their cards in the Politics Board. They can place their cards in four different places with each empty place having a different effect. These effects are categorized into three categories, depending on when they are rewarded:

  • Per Round: Bonus in the D phase of each round.
  • Successful Mission: Bonus in the D phase if a successful Mission was achieved that turn.
  • Obstruction: takes effect when preventing an opponent's Political Maneuver, meaning the opposing side has more Influence tokens on the card after evaluation.
  • Maneuver Cards

    The iconography on the Maneuver Cards explicitly tells you what bonuses you will be given when you evaluate and win the Maneuver on a given level.

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    Game rules

    3) Rocket Launches

    Launches must be resolved in the order of the announcements. Before launch, check if the payload required for the mission is on the rocket. If not, delay the launch (-3 popularity).

    The participating team’s Rocket miniature will either move to the next Risk if the current Risk was completed successfully or explode in case of an unsuccessful parameter check.

    If both Space Programs announce a Launch on the same Mission and the first team successfully completes it, the second Space Program must delay the launch (-3 popularity)

    After each launch, the teams will immediately receive their reward for the accomplished Mission or experience popularity loss for the exploded rocket.

    Game concepts for the rocket launches

    Mission Cards

    Mission Cards include Payload Requirements (eg. satellite, astronaut). If the Rocket has the appropriate payload and meets the Risks marked on the Path, the Space Program will be rewarded. The reward is determined by the Mission Card. When announcing a Mission, place the appropriate level of Risks next to it, face up.

    The Risk Cards

    The Risk Cards are placed next to the announced Mission Cards in the amount indicated on the Mission Card, face up.
    Each Risk Card indicates a technical error that can be solved or made less likely by testing. It also has three ranges, each listing the minimum parameters that are needed for the Rocket to remain functional.
    Testing on the Risk adds 2 to the result of a roll with the Risk Die.
    In the case of sabotage, the value on the die is reduced by X where X is the number of Sabotage tokens on the Rocket Blueprint. If the value rolled with the die is 0 or negative after factoring in sabotage (before counting tests), the Rocket explodes immediately.

    The Risk Die

    The game has an 8 sided die referred to as the Risk Die.

    Eliminating Risks

    After the Launch, the Rocket is exposed to various dangers and risks. Risk Cards must be eliminated in order. To eliminate the Risk, roll the Risk die, add in any Testing bonuses, and compare the resulting value to the Risk level table. The Rocket will fulfill the conditions if the values of the Rocket Parameters are greater than or equal to the value for the appropriate level of risk indicated in the table.
    If the Risk is eliminated, continue with the next Risk Card until all Risks are eliminated and the mission is  a success (Spacewalk, Attempt at Docking, Moon landing etc.) or the rocket is destroyed.

    An exploded Rocket does not only cause material damage: if carrying astronauts, the Space Program loses popularity.

    Aborted Launch - minus 1 Popularity
    Successful Launch - No change in popularity
    Explosion - minus 2 Popularity
    Explosion with lives on board (dog or human) - minus 3 Popularity
    Delayed launch* - minus 3 Popularity

    *(because the teams raced for the same mission and the first one succeeded, or because no necessary payload present)

    4) End of round administration

    4.1 The Budget of the Nations decreases by 3 at the end of each round.

    4.2 The Engineer slides every item on the Supplier lane down by one space. A Module or Tech Tile sliding off from the Supplier lane is installed into the Rocket Blueprint for free.

    4.3 The Politicians, starting with the First Player, decide the fate of their own Maneuver Cards. They can choose from the following:

    • Evaluation: In this case, the tokens placed on the Maneuver Card are revealed and counted. If the owner of the card has more Influence tokens on it than their opponent, they will receive the reward of the card. The level of the card is the lowest visible level. If the opponent nation has more Influence on a card, the card will not take effect and the opponent Politician will receive the values shown on the Politician's table for Obstruction. If each player has an equal number of Influence tokens, the Politician owning the Maneuver Card gets to decide to either pay 2 Popularity and win the card, or pay nothing to allow the opponent to succeed in an Obstruction.
    • Escalation: If you are at the highest level (level 3) of the Maneuver Card at this phase, you can decide to escalate. In this case, the evaluation is postponed to a later round and the Maneuver Card is left with the tokens on it in the Politics Board. For the first escalation, the Politician must cover the escalated card with one card still in their hand; for the second escalation, just slide the extra card already on the Maneuver.

    4.4 The Popularity and Budget Changes received as a result of the Maneuvers are immediately recorded and the Engineer receives any extra resources - money, Tech Tiles, tokens, etc.

    4.5 Discard every evaluated Maneuver Card (together with the cards used for their potential escalation) and unused Bluff or Influence Markers.

    4.6 The Politician’s hand size is four; at the end of each round, they draw Maneuver Cards from their decks until they have four cards in their hands again. If there are not enough cards in the deck, the discarded cards should be shuffled in.

    4.7 The Engineers receive money equal to their current budget.

    4.8 The First Player marker shifts to the other team.

    4.9 Continue with the next round until an endgame condition is met.


    Continue with the next round until an endgame condition is met.

    • Nation / Space Program: A team of 1 engineer and 1 politician.
    • Engineer: The player who is responsible for rocket design.
    • Politician: The player who is responsible for setting goals and supporting the space program.
    • Popularity: The degree of public support for a space program, from which the politician can (if necessary) gain influence.
    • Budget: The budget for a space program that determines how much money an engineer will get for research and development at the beginning of a round.
    • Technology Tiles: Components defining rocket parameters (Structure, Electronics, Code), that enable the engineer to build a better and more robust rocket.
    • Modules: Certain complex rocket elements have to be procured for a longer period of time (Long Lead Items) and are more complicated to assemble.
    • Maneuver Cards: Cards that allow the politician's actions
    • Missions: Goals for rocket launches that are announced by politicians. Each mission comes with associated risk level, required payload and reward for completion. Moon landing is the ultimate mission.
    • Risk Cards: Cards that represent problems during a rocket launch.
    • Maneuver Cards: Cards that allow the politician's actions

    Round summary

    1) Strategic discussion: Teams have two minutes to discuss their strategy for the current turn.

    2) Simultaneous Actions


    • 2.1 Preparations
      2.1.1. take 4 influence and 4 bluff tokens (+1 bluff for first player)
      2.1.2 Taking turns, play a maneuver on your board or pass (until 2 consecutive passes)
    • 2.2 Alternate actions between Politicians, starting with the First Player. On your turn, choose one from below:
      A) Put Influence/Bluff tokens secretly face down on Maneuver Cards, using at least two tokens per action.
      B) Announce a new mission (3 open missions max, choose randomly from the prepared mission decks).
      C) Once per round: pay X popularity to gain X influence tokens.
      D) Announcement: rocket launch or abort launch (as your last Action)


    Always choose and execute one action in full at a time (simultaneously with the other Engineer):

    • Get a Tech Tile from your Development Row and install it ($7)
    • Draw two random Tech Tiles from the Tech Tile Decks, install one on your blueprint, discard the other face-up to the Research Area ($10)
    • Install the topmost face-up Tech Tile from the Research Area ($10)
    • If the first module space on the top of Suppliers line is unoccupied, place a Tech Tile from your Development line there for free.
    • Order a module (price on the board, $8, $13 or $20)
    • Testing on individual Risk Cards ($4/test)
    • Get rid of X sabotage markers on your rocket board ($10+x)
    • Get payload for the next launch (dog $2, satellite $5, astronaut $7)
    • Use technology steal or test steal token (yell STOP and let the other Engineer finish their current action, then execute this action)

    When an Engineer is finished with their actions, they yell PASS.

    3) Launch phase

    Launch rockets in announcement order and follow their path, one launch at a time. Politician rolls the Risk Die.

  • no launch -1 popularity
  • explosion -2 popularity (-3 if there was a dog or human on board)
  • delayed launch -3 popularity, if launching for the same mission and the other side succeeds, or if not fulfilling the payload requirement
  • 4) End of round administration

  • Each team’s budget declines by 3.
  • Long lead items slide down one space on the Development Line.
  • Politicians go through each Maneuver Card and choose evaluation OR escalation (if available).
  • Teams gain every effect, resource, or token indicated on the Politician Board.
  • Discard all evaluated Maneuver Cards and remaining Influence and Bluff tokens.
  • Politicians draw up to 4 cards from the Maneuver deck (shuffle back previously discarded Maneuver cards if necessary).
  • Engineers get money equal to their budget.
  • Pass the First Player token to the other Team.
  • Continue with the next round
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