English language edition
List Price: $32.95
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(Worth 2,595 Funagain Points!)
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Before the opening of the Panama Canal, ships sailed from the east coast to the west coast of North or South America via Cape Horn. It was a long and dangerous journey, but it was the only way. There were regular races from New York to San Francisco for those daring enough to test their skills against the elements. Now players can relive those races in this game. Movement is governed by placing wind tiles along the route. Players can place tiles to either help themselves or to hinder their opponents. First one to collect three station tokens or cross the finish line is the winner.
This is a terrific game! I'm not going to talk about the rules since they've been explained by others. This game is all about planning ahead. Even if your tiles are not useable by yourself, they can be used as devious misdirections for others. The sailing points are crucial to your strategy: they can help you avoid tiles by sailing in another direction, buy tiles and move your vessel again. If your gamers take too long to lay down their tiles, I suggest a timer. I didn't mind waiting for my turn because this game forces you to constantly rethink where you want to go. My friends and I have put this in our regular game rotation, along with [page scan/se=0482/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Wizard, Settlers of Catan and [page scan/se=0949/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Cafe International to name a few. If you like strategy games, this is the one!
The concept of this game is rather intriguing, but the gameplay with 3 players seemed a bit, well... bland. Perhaps this game would be ideal for 4 or 5 players, but when I played a 3 player game with friends, the play, like the waves around the Cape Horn was rather 'choppy'. We decided that the game concept was a cross between Mississippi Queen and Streetcar. M.Q. in that you manipulate the speed and/or coal burning points much like you manipulate sailpoints, and Street Car in the abstract tile laying to reach pre-set 'destinations'. I would rate this game on the lines of M.Q. It's moderately fun, but nothing to write home about. There are interesting differences from both of these games like the diagonal tile play options and the winning conditions. Maybe my thoughts will change with more players but for the 3 player game I'd give this game a so-so on my 'top games' list.
I have always wanted to design a game. I have ideas, but cannot piece together a completed project that works, so I envy Thorsten Gimmler's 'Cape Horn', as it is his first published game. 'Cape Horn' is an interesting game, but not without its faults. First is the 'racing' marketing of the game. This is NOT 'Formula De' on the high seas. 'Cape Horn' plays much more like 'Steetcar' as a tile laying game with sailing ships.
Players navigate around Cape Horn using tiles with wind/distance directions printed on them. You must place tiles adjacent to exsisting tiles (an excellent way to get rid of unwanted tiles) belonging to any player. The tiles are neutral, so you may play/move on anyone's tile, even replace an exsisting tile within certain conditions. The true decision making of 'Cape Horn' is saving and using your 'sail points' at the right time to pounce ahead of your opponents.
The second flaw in the game is the ending. Players may win by collecting two different colored navigational points and crossing the finish line, or collect three different naviational points and end the game. The latter victory condition left my players feeling like the race never ended. There was no big 'finale' of sailing across the finish line. I highly recommend playing the game to the finish line after collecting two nav. points, and for advanced players, collect three nav. points AND continue to the finish line.
'Cape Horn' overall is a good game with nice, easy to read tiles, wooden pieces, and easy to learn rules. Just remember to play to the 'finish line' or you may have a mutiny on your hands!
Being slightly romantic with history, I looked forward to our first three-player game of Cape Horn. It did not disappoint; however, I agree with the Internet reviewers who said it was not a true racing game. The old Avalon Hill game of yachting (Regatta) probably came close to the racing end. However, we agreed the game was more complex than Mississippi Queen, which I also enjoy.
Soon we settled into the routine of the game. First, you advance your sailing point one notch in the beautifully designed log book. The log book also tells you the different phases you may use in the game. Next, you place your suitable number of wind tiles for moving your ship (at the beginning, each player receives three wind tiles). It is important to remember the tile you are on governs how far you may move in a turn. For example, at the beginning, my tile read '1' on the second starting space. That meant I had to place a wind tile where the move was to be finished. I could move only one space. Wind tiles have to be placed adjacent to other wind tiles.
As the phases evolve, after wind tile placement, you then move your ship (if desired). The treachery becomes apparent as other players decide how to place wind directions to cause your ship to be becalmed or run in circles. One player attempted that with me, but my additional wind tiles saved the day. You may place only one wind direction tile over one already placed on the board to avoid that other player maneuvering. You may also spend three sail points to avoid the wind direction altogether.
After moving your ship the required space, you then draw one wind direction tile to finish your turn. You may also spend one sail point for each additional wind direction tile you desire up to the maximum of six tiles. After spending for the additional tiles, you may place them on the board the next turn. It soon becomes necessary to hoard sailing points to spend for additional wind direction tiles.
I particularly liked the quality of the wind direction tiles with a lightly colored blue that had to be placed a certain way for North, South, and West. The map is divided into these three zones. You have to acquire two differently colored weather stations (green and yellow, for example) and race for the first one to reach the finish line. Another way to win, as one of our rules lawyers pointed out, is to acquire three differently colored weather stations before the other players. That happened in our game and brought the game to a swift finish.
After acquiring my first weather circularly colored marker, I proceeded with the clipper ship to the Southern part of South America. The going became tough, because the wind directional tile draws did not yield helpful arrows. At this point I was behind the lead ship that had already acquired two weather stations of different colors. One frustration became the weather station placed on the border of zones North and South that could not be obtained because of its incorrect color. I liked the feature of the weather station remaining permanent so all players could acquire the needed color. Arrows were placed to harass the lead ship, but that ship headed nicely for the final West zone and ultimate victory.
The game box and rules said the game would take about 45-60 minutes' playing time. That level held. It seemed impossible to catch the lead ship, although I placed a backward wind direction to create some chaos. The lead ship player simply placed one of his wind directions to counteract that force. The lead ship reached his third weather station and won the game. That player showed me how the placement of certain laterally left or right arrows would bring second place more quickly.
Would we play the game again? Yes, indeed. As more strategy develops about harassing other players with faulty wind directions, the game becomes more spirited. The Roaring Forties may never be the same, because we learned the importance of wind directions and what it must have felt like to man those yards in the glorious days of clipper ship travel.
Full steam ahead? Not in this game, which evokes those distant pre-Panama Canal days when clippers raced around the Horn. Basic turns consist of placing adjacent tiles with directional arrows to permit ships to move. Tiles must be laid in specific orientations depending on the area of the board. You win by collecting three tokens from nautical stations in different zones, or by obtaining two and crossing the finish line. Players start with three sailing points, receive another at the start of each turn and earn an extra for not moving the ship. Points may be spent to ignore directions, draw extra tiles, or move twice. Placing tiles with backward-pointing arrows ahead of enemy vessels, which slows them down and frustrates their owners, is a cruel but important ploy. How shrewdly can you manage your points and anticipate the tack-tricks of your opponents? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.
I thought that the game was all up (literally) when I was designated as Counter sailing expert (the burden of living by the seaside) and given Cape Horn to review. Not that there's much wrong with it, and for a first-time published design shows some ability. But it is based on a theme which I believe has failed to produce a single ``stayer'' in my four+ decades of gaming, apart, possibly, from Regatta. Furthermore, it involves tile-laying, which I though was now the private ruse of Reiner Knizia.
So, is Cape Horn ship shape or shapeless? Let's pipe it on board:
Firstly, you will need to remember that this is a race game, but with only one of the two alternative victory conditions requiring the completion of the course. The board is segmented into three zones, each of which contains three nautical stations. The winner will have acquired two different coloured tokens from two different zones and crossed the finishing line OR have retrieved a different token from each of the zones. I suspect some finite maths were necessary to calculate the ultimate winning strategy.
The nicely detailed boats, sorry, Clippers, are moved by way of wind cards, of which there are 90 in total and all marked with a specific orientation (north, east and south). These tiles must be placed adjacent to each other, any number in a turn. The ships are then moved the distance and direction marked, and must end their move on another tile. This part of the game is quite intriguing, as you can cause havoc amongst your opponents with a strategically placed card, and also plan well ahead (you hope).
The game's other main option is use of sail points, which allow double moves (costs five), the right to ignore a wind card and simply move to any adjacent tile (costs three), or stay still (becalmed), which earns additional sail points -- one is automatically added to your log book at the beginning of each turn.
Cape Horn plays reasonably quickly, but assessing the best route to a particular nautical station is not quite as straightforward as sometimes seems, and caused our group a few cranky moments. You certainly do not want to be stuck with ``Mr. Prevaricator'' who takes an eternity to work out an optimum move.
Author Thorsten Gimmler was probably born of the sea, and Cape Horn might be his lifetime's work. He earns zero for originality, but a solid ``seven'' for development. If the subject matter appeals, or if you enjoy dressing up in sailor's clothes, then this game will provide decent enough entertainment.