Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Saturday 13 April 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Caper

Game: Caper

Publisher: Jumbo Games

Designer:  Unai Rubio

Year: 2018

Caper is a beautiful reprint of a 2015 game, It's Mine, from designer Unai Rubio. The new edition has fantastic artwork that comes straight out of the 1940s, with engaging characters and equipment that comes straight out of a retro catalog, with fantastic illustrations of all sorts of hair-brained contraptions.

Recruit a quirky crew of thieves and equip them with colorful gear to steal from famous places across Europe! Caper is a tactical 2-player card game of set-collection, tableau building and area control where thieves are equipped with equipment to make them sneakier or more successful in their endeavors.


Caper is a 2-player drafting game that takes place over 6 rounds. At the start of the game 3 locations are randomised and then each player is handed 4 thieves. These thieves are drafted, each player taking one then passing the deck on to the other player who will pick one etc. Each placed thief is assigned to one of the 3 locations until each player has drafted 3 thieves, the final card being discarded. Next there will be a gear round, where players will take turns drafting gear to add to your thieves. Gear is a little more complicated as it often needs money to be placed and can only be placed onto a thief and each thief can only carry 3 gear at the most. These drafting rounds will then repeat, with less thieves each thief round, until the 3rd gear round ends. At which point the game will end and scores are calculated.

The goal in the game is largely to earn the most capers in each location. The person who has the most capers at a location will score it's end of game scoring bonuses, which are unique to each individual location and often affected by the thieves/gear that is present there. Thieves themselves only offer a caper if they are fully equipped, but each thief and gear card has their own special rules which may offer addition capers, end game points or money to buy gear with. Winning locations isn't the only way to win the game though, collecting sets of stolen artworks will reward you with big point bonuses, as will fulfilling the special rules on your thieves. Sometimes it's worth surrendering a location if you can guarantee that it will score a low number of points.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

Caper is a fun two-player game, while it is directly competitive in nature there is relatively little take that in the game (though this does vary on which of the 3 country-themed card sets you are using). and what little there is can be protected against or even used to gain points if you play your cards right. The winner always came as a slight surprise, it was easy to feel you were doing well at winning locations only to realise that an opponents combo was getting them far more points than you thought.

However you may have noticed some trepidation in my admittance of Caper being a good game. This is solely due to the thrice-damned symbology on the cards! I guarantee you first game of caper will involve you reading trough the included manual of card abilities trying to work out what exactly is going on. Your second game will be better, but since you'll probably be using a different set of country cards you'll still be drawn back to the manual again. By the third game the speed of play should be really increasing with only one or two manual checks. Tell you what, if a game takes me 3 plays before I feel comfortably playing it without reading the rules then it had best earn that right by being a massive beast of a game. Caper is a filler, no more than 30 minutes long, but I guarantee your first game will be closer to and hour and you won't feel it's earned it!

Once you get past the symbology (which I swear are simply wrong on a couple of cards, that or the manual is) then the game actually becomes a really interest drafting game. Two-player drafting is always an interesting experience as each and every card you hand back is a potential thorn straight in your side. The thief drafting does end up feeling a little rushed as the thieves aren't passed back and forth in 2/3 rounds, but this is made up for with the gear cards. I did enjoy the different countries each with their own theme that changed up the gameplay, even if it meant more trips to the manual to learn the new cards.

Overall Caper is a good 2-player filler, but it is a game you need to invest a few plays in to get it going. If you are the kind of person to play a game repeatedly over a long time then Caper could be a great game for you as there really is an interesting amount of depth to the game. For me the game failed to grip me until too late so I doubt I'll be coming back to it soon.

Fi’s Final Thoughts

Caper reminds me of a cross between Smash Up and Race for the Galaxy, with a bit of card drafting thrown into the mix. I'm not a big fan of area control and it does frustrate me when games like Smash Up, Caper and others try to disguise area control in a 'who wins the base' style card game rather than the more typical dudes on a map, which is instantly recognisable. This doesn't immediately run me off a game, but that tug-of-war type mechanic needs to be baked up with some more pleasing elements for it to pass through my net.

Race for the Galaxy, on the other hands ticks many boxes for me with the engine building, tableau building and combo triggering nature, and I definitely get some of this out of caper too - I particularly like the set collection of antique items and try to gets the right colour sets at different locations to trigger location and card abilities or scoring. Unfortunately what Race for the Galaxy is also known  for is complex symbology that many find to be a barrier to entry. I would say that the iconography in Caper is significantly worse and harder to grasp for me. Very little about it feels intuitive and there is still barely a single card that I don't have to look up in the manual - a process that really elongates what is a 15-20 minute game.

Caper scratches a lot of itches with it's interesting card play and the fun of a t5wo-payer draft that is as much about denial as it is about your own strategy, but I just don't have the time for games where my head is still in the rulebook after three plays. If you're enchanted by Caper's artwork and you love these mechanisms then you'll get to grips with the iconography eventually, but for gamers like me, who play a variety of board games rather than selecting a few favourites, then Caper isn't going to become second nature and will always be a struggle to get back to the table.

You Might Like...
  • The super charming artwork really brings the theme to life.
  • The two player draft works really well as you are able to watch and manipulate the tableau of your opponent.
  • The game isn't an aggressive two player game, although you're very much trying to outwit the other player.
You Might Not Like...
  • There is too much complicated symbology which hampers the flow of the game.
  • A 2:1win on the three locations can result in a very large points difference and the level of whitewash victory can be punishing.

The Verdict
6.5/10 Caper is a great game design with interesting mechanisms that is let down heavily by excessively complex symbology. For a 20-minute game, the barrier to entry is unfortunately too high, unless you are going to be playing the game on a very regular basis. If you're looking for one two-player game to really get your teeth into, then Caper is perfect for some intense gaming among game aficionados.

Caper was a review copy kindly provided to us by Jumbo Games

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