Monday, July 18, 2016

Quick Review - Collectors and Capers - Kickstarter Preview

Collectors and Capers
Designer: Trevor Harron
Publisher: Blue Heron Entertainment
Quick Review - Collectors and Capers - Kickstarter Preview

When you're in a museum what's the first thing you think when you see a cool, new, valuable exhibit?  Well, if it's "Maybe I can steal that," then Collectors and Capers might be the game for you. Even if that's not your first thought, you might still enjoy Collectors and Capers.

Collectors and Capers is a set collection and bluffing card game for three to six players and it's currently on Kickstarter right now! For $15 you can help the game get made and get yourself a copy when it's printed!

In Collectors and Capers each player is a thief in a museum trying to nab more valuables than any other thief.  They can steal from the museum or even each other.
Treasures that can be stolen include the Ancient Statue, Golden Fleece, Digital Guide, and more.
There are five or six target Treasures, depending on the number of players.  Each player will have two Secret cards that identify the Treasures they want to steal.  One Secret is chosen and one randomly assigned, and two players may have the same secret goals.  During the game you can swap out Secrets at the expense of an action.
Each player gets six Secret cards, two of which will be their goals for the game.
In addition to the Treasure and Secret cards there are Heist cards.  Heist cards come in two varieties, set cards that depict one of the items and action cards that give players special abilities (more on action cards later).  These are the cards that players will use in order to build sets of cards that allow them to steal and retain control of the items.

On a player's turn they will have two Heist Points, or HP, that can be used to perform several different actions.  Most only cost one HP, but attempting to steal an item (from the museum or another player) takes two HP.  For one HP you can add a Heist card to your hand (but your hand limit is seven cards, either from a lineup of five revealed Heist cards, or from the top hidden card from the Heist deck; you can add one card, face down, to a set you already have played; you can play an action from your hand; or you can choose a new Secret (and discard one).  All this is in an attempt to build your hand so that you can try to steal an item.  And this is where the real fun of the game comes into play.
Use your Heist Points wisely!  You only have two per turn!
To attempt to steal an item you use two HP, so generally it's the only action you can take in a turn.  You'll need to lay, face down, at least three cards (or one more than another player that already controls the item you are trying to steal).  Then announce what item you are stealing and how many cards you are using.  The Heist cards you use should match the item you are stealing, but since the cards are face down you can lie about what you placed face down.  
I've got two solid sets, but are they honest or dishonest?  If I'm stealing them, doesn't that make them inherently dishonest?
After playing your set of cards, each other player has a chance to challenge your claim.  Starting from your left, each player can wager one or more cards from their hand if they think the thief is lying.  If all the opponents' cards combined equal or exceed the number of cards used to make the claim, or if every opponent wagers at least one card, the thief must reveal the cards.  If any cards were a lie, i.e. not a match to the item stolen, the thief must discard the lies and the opponents get the cards they wagered back.  But if the thief was telling the truth all the opponents must discard the cards they wagered.  If the thief was trying to steal an item from another player then both players must reveal all their cards for that set, discard any lies, and then the player with the largest set takes the Treasure (if it's a tie the original controlling player retains control of the Treasure).
Have I grabbed the Golden Fleece with an honest set of four?
No!  Where'd that Crystal Femur come from?
Throughout the course of the game players can steal Treasure through honest sets or dishonest sets and the bluffing can get pretty serious.  There's also a strategy behind possibly wanting to get caught lying just so an opponent has to reveal their set cards.  And the aspect of wagering cards to call another's bluff adds some risk to weigh when deciding if it's time to call someone's bluff.  It also adds a level  of peer pressure to the challenge phase.  Since the first players may want to pressure later players to chip in to the challenge, even if those later players don't really want to.  So there are several levels of psychological gameplay going on in Collectors and Capers that make it pretty interesting.
Figuring out what your opponents are thinking is half the battle!
OK, back to those action cards that I mentioned earlier.  These are part of the Heist deck and can be collected along with the set cards.  There are three types of action cards: Case the Joint, Pick Pocket, and Spy on the Competition.  Each of these has one ability if you play one card and an enhanced ability if you play two at a time.

  • Case the Joint allows you to draw three cards from the Heist deck and keep one, or if you play two Case the Joint cards at once you can keep two of the cards.
  • Pick Pocket lets you draw two cards at random from an opponent's hand and keep one, or if you play two Pick Pocket cards at once you can keep both stolen cards.
  • Spy on the Competition seems to me to be both the weakest card and strongest card, depending on how and when you use it.  It lets you look at either another player's hand or their face-down cards.  This is only marginally useful, but if you have two Spy on the Competition cards to play you get to look at an opponent's cards and get a bonus HP.  So you can potentially see an opponent's face-down cards that are controlling a set and know if they are lying or not, giving you an edge if you want to make your own attempt at stealing an item from that opponent.
Action cards keep things interesting and allow for some adaptive strategies.
 These action cards keep things interesting between theft attempts.  They allow players to interact and mess with each others' strategies a bit, without throwing a huge monkey wrench into one's plans.  They can even be used when bluffing or challenging a claim.

The game ends when all the Treasures are stolen from the museum.  Then there are three more rounds for players to try to steal treasures back and forth in a final scurry for some final points.  At the end of the game players are awarded points for every set they have.  Then they get bonus points based on if that set controls a Treasure, if the set is dishonest, and if the Treasure is one of their secret goals.  The way the scoring is described in the rules I have is a little confusing, but after some discussion with the designer I think the final description of scoring will be a little clearer.
Collectors and Capers is a solid, fun bluffing game! 
Final Thoughts:
Collectors and Capers was quite a bit of fun to play, even though we missed the rule about a seven card hand limit for the first game.  There is quite a few different levels to the bluffing aspect of the game.  If you really like bluffing games this is one to check out.  Personally, I think I prefer Sheriff of Nottingham for bluffing, but the main reason for that is the sheer number of cards in Sheriff of Nottingham.  In Collectors and Capers there are exactly ten of each set card, which makes it a little easier to determine if someone is lying or not.  And if someone gets an honest set of five cards there's no way to steal the item away.  It might be outside the budget for Collectors and Capers, but if there were 2-3 times the number of cards it would be a lot harder to get larger honest sets and I think the bluffing and lying would become a bigger part of the game.  If the game had a more cards then I think there would be a lot more depth than Sheriff of Nottingham.  That's really my only criticism of the game, and it's more of a personal preference than an issue.  With fewer cards the bluffing aspect of the game becomes more like poker, but with a lot more player interaction.  There were a few hiccups in the rules and some clarification needed on some of the card text, but that's all stuff that is easily remedied and doesn't really affect the overall gameplay.
The end of the game is triggered when all the Treasures are stolen from the museum.
Then there are three more rounds for players to try to steal the Treasures from other players to secure victory. 
I do one small issue with the endgame, too.  Since payers can use one HP to swap out one of their Secrets for a set aside Secret at any point in the game it often makes sense to change your Secrets on your last turn so they match any Treasures you control.  This feels a bit odd, like you have a turn to just grab points, regardless of how well you did throughout the rest of the game.  I wonder if the swap a Secret action should be more expensive (maybe two HP) or not allowed in the final rounds.

The artwork is simple, but effective.  The Treasures you have to steal have some subtle humor that will likely enlist a chuckle the first time you play (like the Crystal Femur or the Priceless Painting that is a picture of a ketchup bottle).  I really liked the art deco look of the card backs and artwork.  The game won't likely win any art awards, but it'll look nice when you pull it out.
Simple, clean art deco styling on the cards fits the theme of the game well.
So if you're looking for a fun, fairly quick bluffing game Collectors and Capers will not disappoint.  It offers several different levels of psychological play between players, is pretty simple to learn, and brings a lot of player interaction to the table.  Collectors and Capers is available right now, through the morning of August 11, 2016, on Kickstarter.  Be sure to check it out!

Preliminary Rating: 7/10
This review is of a prototype game.  Components and rules are not final and are subject to change.

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GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games.  Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play).  I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game.  Quick Reviews will only get a single rating of 1-10 (low-high) based on my first impressions of the game during my first few times playing.  Hopefully I'll get more chances to play the game and will be able to give it a full review soon.

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