22 March 2022
A perfect heist?
Unsurprisingly, Caper: Europe is a beautiful game in all of its aspects – the card art, the pieces, the green felt effect GameTrayz – all of it. This is the team that brought us the incredible looking Parks after all. This time, however, we’re hoping to Ocean’s 11 our way into the most desirable locations in Europe and nab us some sweet loot. (Although it’s more like Ocean’s 9, as there are only so many slots for thieves on the board.)
Caper: Europe mixes card drafting, set collection, and area control to interesting effect. Three locations are drawn from the deck and added to the shared board, each of these can be fought over using the caper track next to each – certain cards will drag the little thief-mask-meeple towards you, showing your ownership. Players then start playing thieves into each location – itself its own little tableau for effects – when you can then add gear and other useful items to gain points, steal goods from the location, or move the caper tracker towards you. All of this is sorted out by a pick-and-pass drafting mechanic at the beginning of each round.
And it’s pretty magical really. For a game with nearly no hidden information – after all, you know which cards you didn’t pick – there’s so many minor touchpoints for conflict. While controlling a location is great, you can score points for matching colours within a crew, and their gear – each which can (for some cards) be triggered when added to the tableau. Your choices, like how to spend your money, and which locations are dead to you now that the opponent has them locked down, or picking a stolen good to take, are all micro tug-of-wars. For those that like a game to have the essence of that kind of Olympic wrestling or martial art where combatants apply pressure to one another in a series of imperceptible moves, until the last one, Caper: Europe is perfect for you. There is a certain amount of fiddliness in the learning of the game, but that’s because to get good at Caper: Europe you need to see it as its fullest picture, not as its parts.
The part of the game which makes this Europe is the location cards and decks, which are shuffled into the shared deck at the start of the game. Each location comes with an extra set of rules. London for example, offers bonus points for collecting coins – making spending them a harder choice. Rome on the other hand gives you points for the cards you’ve discarded of certain types. These minor twists on the core mechanic make each location an entirely new kind of game. And despite these variable set-ups, it’s a game that cries out for repeat plays over a long period of time. It’s a deep game that rewards respecting that depth – whether you buy it knowing it’s going to be a sleeper hit, or whether you want to sleeve the cards straight away. We think Keymaster Games have got away with it again.
Christopher John Eggett
PLAY IT? YES
As two-player heist-offs go, there’s little better than this.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED Villagers…
While naturally more confrontational, the building up of a crew for your next big steal is reminiscent of Villager’s tableau building.
Designer: Unai Rubio
Publisher: Keymaster Games
Time: 30 minutes
What’s in the box?
- 2 Player aids
- Round tracker
- 3 Caper trackers
- 10 Coins
- 113 Cards
- 12 Stolen goods tokens
- Score pad
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