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Subject: An innocent race game that is perfect for total bastards rss

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Lowell Kempf
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Cape Horn first came across my radar because when spoken out loud, it can sound a little rude, if you know what I mean Sound a bit naughty, eh?

However, eventually, I did a chance to play Cape Horn and found, quite frankly, that in addition to some juvenile innuendo, it is also a good game, one that I will cheerfully play whenever I have the chance. However, there is one provision I have to make. The game only works if the players are complete bastards

Cape Horn is an older game by modern Euro standards, first printed in 1999. In fact, one of the first hints I got that it might get a good game was that it was still in print. In some ways, it shows signs of being an early euro. You see, I’ve noticed that Euro games tend to come in trends. There was an auction trend and a tile laying trend, Caylus brought in a worker placement trend, and we’re already starting to see Dominion influence new games. Cape Horn, while it does have tile laying, doesn’t really remind me of any other game.

Cape Horn, in short, is a race game. The players are trying to sail around the southern tip of South America. The board is a grid broken down into three zones with each zone having three nautical stations (red, green, and yellow). Okay, one the first zone’s nautical stations is really in the second zone but it’s really obvious and shouldn’t cause any confusion. The object of the game is to either reach two nautical stations and cross the finish line or reach a nautical station in all three zones.

The real meat of the game is wind tiles. These are the actual tiles that you place on the board. They do not create the landscape, the way tiles do in Carcassonne. The wind tiles, instead, create the paths that your ships can travel on. There are two very key points about wind tiles. First, a ship can never be on an empty square. They can pass over empty spaces but they must always end their movement on a wind tile. Second, wind tiles tell you where you’re going to go.

Every wind tile has arrows on it, along with numbers next to them. The arrows tell you which direction your ship can move and how far it will move in that direction. You can never go less than that distance. You also can’t just place the tiles any which way. The tiles are always oriented according to what zone they are in.

Wind tiles also can never be orphans. They need to always be adjacent to another wind tile. However, diagonal does count as adjacent. You can place more than one wind tile on a turn but you only draw one new one, unless you use your sail points.

Sail points? Yes, sail points. Those are action points that you collect each turn. You can turn them in to break the rules in different ways, including drawing more wind tiles, simply moving one space (but always onto a wind tile) and even making two moves. Sail points give you a bit more control and they can help make up for some of the vagaries of luck and other players mucking in your business.

Each player gets a combination player’s aide and resource marker called a captain’s log. It lets you track your sail points and mark which nautical stations you’ve hit. It is actually quite handy. In fact, you could practically learn the game from it.

Okay, just to finish off the mechanics side, here’s what you actually do when you play. On your turn, you first add a sail point. You then place any wind tiles you want to. Then, you actually move your ship. Finally, you draw a new wind tile.

As I already mentioned, you win the game either by hitting two nautical stations and crossing the finish line or you hit three nautical stations. You can never go to two nautical stations in the same zone, though, and you can only hit each color once. So, there’s no sneaky winning the game in the first zone.

Cape Horn does feel a bit different than a lot of Euro games. First off, it is a blatant race. That’s something you don’t seem to find very often. Second of all, it’s set in South America, or at least off the coast of it. Again, that’s a bit unusual. It is also set in the era of the tall ships, which is something else you don’t seem to see a lot of in Euros. Not sure why, though. Tall ships are cool. It’s not unique in any of those things but you don’t see any of those elements nearly as often as you see trading in renaissance Italy.

Cape Horn also wins some points in my book for being very easy to teach, fast to set up and fast to play. It’s more than just a filler but you can easily fit it in on a work night and first time players will pick up on it quickly. Heck, it plays quick enough that it’s easy to fit another play in.

HOWEVER, I have to add one qualifier to Cape Horn, one provision that can really affect the game.

If everyone plays nice and no one interferes with anyone else, the game is boring and whoever draws the best wind tiles is going to win. However, if people are bastards and do everything they can to mess up other people’s plans, then Cape Horn rocks.

You see, when you land on a wind tile, you are blatantly telegraphing your next move. People know where you can move to in your next turn. And everyone can also track what nautical stations you’ve been to so they know which ones or, if you might be going for the three station winning condition, which one you need to get to.

So people can place wind tiles to mess you up, to completely hose your plans. More than that, you are even allowed to place a wind tile OVER another wind tile. If you do that, that will be the only wind tile you can place that turn but it can sometimes be worth it. If people are cruel enough, you can even find yourself stuck going in circles, unable to get out without using sail points.

If you want to play nice, give Cape Horn a pass. The game honestly doesn’t work if you play nice. However, if you want to stab someone in the back and twist the knife like it was a corkscrew, you’re going to have a great time playing Cape Horn.
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Tomasz Potocki
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Wonderful review! I wanna get this!
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Andrew Finke
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Gnomekin wrote:
...
However, eventually, I did a chance to play Cape Horn and found, quite frankly, that in addition to some juvenile innuendo, it is also a good game, one that I will cheerfully play whenever I have the chance.
...
However, if you want to stab someone in the back and twist the knife like it was a corkscrew, you’re going to have a great time playing Cape Horn.


Juvenile innuendos... back stabbing bastard plays... SOLD!!
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