Caper is a two to four player game in which the players assume the role of jewel thieves or cat burglars who roam a square city block in search of precious gemstones. Players race to be the first to steal a gem from its protected area and then secure it by getting the gem safely to the thief’s hideout. Whoever holds the most valuable total of gems when all are secured is the winner.
The game board represents a square city block. Once assembled, which takes just a few seconds, the playing board resembles a square city block with one, two and three story buildings. Each thief has a starting point on one side of the board and a hideout on the opposite side. The outskirt streets are color coded to match the colors of the thieves. Red, green, blue and yellow are the colors used in this game.
Each player starts the game with a colored pawn, four Caper Cards, and a set of the tools of the trade: a ladder, screwdriver, wire cutter, pipe wrench, and a knife. Each has the ability to help the thief bypass a particular obstacle on the board which stands between him and the prize gems.
Caper Cards: The Caper Cards are player aids. Depending upon how they read, some Equipment Cards allow the player to take additional tools of the trade from the general supply, or the board, and even from the stockpile of other thieves. There are Roll Again Cards which give the thief an extra move, and Park Auto Cards which, as police cars, can make it difficult for a thief to enter his hideout and secure a gem.
Player movement is determined by rolling the two dice. Roll to see who goes first.
Each Turn: To begin his turn the thief roles the dice. A role of doublesalways allows the player a second role. He then has many options. If he is going to use any of his cards, he must decide that now and turn in any or all of them to the discard pile. He also decides which of his tools of the trade he will be using this turn. The thief then sets out on his Caper. He moves he pawn along the board in any direction he chooses, no diagonal movement allowed. Each time he meets and obstacle he can bypass it with the appropriate tool. Placing a tool counts as one space movement. Once a tool is placed it remains on the board until it is stolen by use of the appropriate Caper Card. A thief must always use the entire count on his dice in his turn. Should he cross a square which contains a gem during the course of his turn, he removes the gem from its safe and places it in his hideout. The thief may have as many of the four gems as he can get his hands on in his hideout. But the gem(s) are not his to keep until he reaches his hideout which then secures them. At the end of his turn a thief may discard any/all of the Caper Cards which remain in his hand. He then replenishes his hand to four cards and his turn ends.
Tools of the Trade: Each tool has a specific purpose and can bypass one type of obstacle. A Knife is used to pry open a door, the Cutters get the thief through barbed wire, the Pipe Wrench opens the window and bars, and the Screwdriver neutralizes the alarms. As these are played, they stay in place on the board. Other thieves can go through these newly created openings, or can borrow these tools if they play the appropriate Caper Card. The Ladders give access to the upper stories of the buildings and can only be used ONCE. If a thief goes up a Ladder, he must get a second ladder to get himself down. No one else can use this Ladder, though it may be stolen and then used. An option would be to allow multiple uses for the ladders, all the more reason for someone to steal one, leaving the poor thief stuck on a roof top.
Each gem has a particular value. The more valuable the gem, the more obstacles that guard it. The lowly Sapphire, value $400, has only barbed wire, a door and a glass case between it and the thief. The prized Diamond, $1,000, is on the third floor, protected by Barbed Wire, a Barred Glass case and three Alarms each of which must be disabled before the thief can liberate it. The Ruby, $600, and the Emerald, $800, fall in between these extremes in difficulty.
Intrigues: Just because a thief has taken the gem from its safe does not give him permanent possession. For now the gem is placed in the thief’s hideout and he must get there by exact count to secure it permanently. Any other thief can snatch it from him by landing on his square by exact count. Should the Red Thief have the Ruby in his hideout and the Green Thief lands on the Red Thief’s square by exact count, two things happen. The Ruby is now placed in the hideout of the Green Thief and the Red Thief is returned to his own starting point. Of course any other thief could now snatch the Ruby from the Green Thief, put the gem in his own hideout and force the Green Thief to return to his starting point. There is no honor among thieves after all.
Another way to make it more difficult for an opponent to secure a gem is by use of a Auto Placement card. If an Auto is placed on one of the seven labeled streets, that street can only be entered from the adjoining street and not from the grid area where the buildings are. In effect, the police are watching these streets for now. This severely limits a thief’s ability to reach his hideout by exact count since he cannot backtrack on the grid and just drop into his hideout. And if the other thieves are willing to cooperate, however temporarily, they can place the three autos on one Thief’s hideout street and the ones to either side, seriously disrupting his movement options.
Finishing/Winning: The game ends when any one thief has secured a total value of gems which the other players cannot top. In a two player game if one secured both the diamond and the emerald, [total $1,600] the game would be over because the other player could only get $1,200 for both the Ruby and the Sapphire. A four player game could come down to whoever secured the Diamond. Each thief has to keep an eye on the others, lest one get too far ahead. Keep your friends close; keep your enemies closer.
Review: I bought this game back in college in 1970. In fact I have a bilingual, French/English version because I was a student at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. As geeky as it might sound, it quickly became a Sunday night favorite among my college buddies, both make and female. We’d gather at Don and Al’s apartment, move the table top hockey game from the one table, and set up for an evening of Caper. Maybe it was our ages, early twenties, the fact that it was near the end of our college years, or the mix of people, but the games were always riotous. Seldom did anyone run away with a game. Most came down to the last gem with a mad dash ensuing as he who had either the diamond, or one gem already secured and now the emerald in his hideout, trying to get home while the other three chased him trying to snatch it, or parking cop cars to block his hideout, while we then tried to snatch the prize. And another chase would then ensue.
Just because it is a limited to four players, that never controlled the number of people who could horn in. Others would be gathered round offering strategy, tips, or just screaming for their favorite thief of the moment. Once a game ended, the board would be turned to change which thief you were, low man/woman sat out, and someone took that place for the next game. There was never a shortage of players. Some never took part, they had too much fun watching or/and criticizing the rest of us.
There are many fun parts to the game. It seems to start quiet simply with the Green Thief having almost instant access to the Sapphire if he rolls a ‘9’ or higher on his first roll. But what seems so simple and advantageous becomes quickly complicated. Opponent(s) might just let him have it while they race to squirrel away the more valuable gems. Or they may immediately take chase because he does have to cross their territory to his hideout to secure it. It can become a case of the dog and the bone. One thief has a gem in his hideout but can snatch temporarily delay his own return by trying to snatch a gem from another thief. Will he then be able to secure both, or will someone else now snatch both?
As the directions suggest, after each game the board should be turned. Each thief is faced with different starting and finishing obstacles, so each game is different. As mentioned the Green Thief has quick access to the Sapphire, but his hideout is up and over a building. The Yellow Thief has an imposing stat by facing a building immediately in front him. But, the diamond is on the upper floor of that building. Once up there it is all downhill, so to speak. The Caper Cards allow other players to steal tools from the board, so a thief could find himself trapped inside the vault which he just broke into.
There is, therefore, no one strategy that secures consistent victory or relegates someone automatically to the loser pile. A clever thief can sit back and wait for the others to do the dirty work and then make a snatch and run for it. It pays to be in good shape. A daring thief can go for the diamond from the get go.
Repeated plays are guaranteed to be different and the dice bring the element of luck into play. There is no such thing as the perfect crime after all. With two players it can be rather cut and dry, but with three or four, and a group of hangers on, it is guaranteed to bring out the temptations in us all. Good for an afternoon or evening of laughs.
Bottom Line: Caper is a throwback game to the free spirited, open and somewhat more fun days of the late Sixties. Would not surprise me if some group or other today would protest this game as it encourages theft. Playing this with impressionable young minds would no doubt be construed as politically incorrect, but one heck of a lot of fun.
Then there is the problem of the many small metal pieces, the mini tools of the trade. No doubt if this game were produced today it would have to come with a warning about the potential for choking, and would end up being featured as a danger on the Today Show around Christmas time.
But for teenagers and young adults who are not in the mood for heavy strategy and more than a hour before someone wins, Caper can still bring out some smiles, get the blood boiling and the pulse racing. Fans of role playing games might find this an alternative as they could act as the rogues many of them like to portray. Or this game could be brought out during a role playing session as a visual aid for the rogue’s activities.
To get people in the mood and proper frame of mind for some games of Caper, I suggest a viewing of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic To Catch a Thief, 1955, with Cary Grant and Grace Kelley. It will certainly give players something to think about as they scurry across the rooftops of Caper.
I had this games as a kid - now I wish I still had a copy!
My son and I played this for the first time today. At first it seems like a boring roll/move game but then it quickly hits you that you must plan your heist. Turning in your cards to get the equipment you need in time is vital to your success. You can rush to your objective but if you run out of tools you're just making things easier for another thief to yoink away your loot. You also have to plan the way Hudson Hawk would. Every action costs a point of movement so you need to coordinate all your movements and acquisitions.
Another surprise is how the game changes once players start taking gems. You'll find yourself deploying cars to block their escape and even contemplating mugging your opponents for their loot.
It's not a deep game but it does require some planning and and offers some surprises you wouldn't expect at first.