Trevor Harron from Blue Heron Entertainment reached out to me several weeks back and asked me if I would be interested in reviewing a prototype of his upcoming game, Collectors and Capers. I said yes (natch, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this review) and while it took me a bit longer than I intended to play the game and then sit down to put this together maybe the timing works out better in the end as the Kickstarter for the game is now in full swing.
Collectors and Capers is a card game with two main mechanics at its core: set collecting and bluffing. The set collecting is obvious from the beginning and the bluffing portion becomes more obvious as you play.
The flavor layer baked on top of the rules involves competing collectors (the players) in a museum heist. Each collector accomplishes as many heists of priceless treasures (from both the museum and other players) as possible and bluffs when necessary when they don’t actually have the resources for a heist. Other collectors can challenge a heist to see if it’s legit or a bluff.
The treasures themselves are a bit tongue in cheek, with such fabled items as the Crystal Femur, the Priceless Painting and the Digital Guide being up for grabs.
The game design is solid and fun if not always unique, and to be honest I personally don’t think every game has to rip a hole in the space time continuum with amazing new game play that only the love child of Reed Richards and Doctor Doom could have conceived of. If it’s fun to play, it’s fun to play. Collectors and Capers has a nice pace and is fairly easy to pick up within a few minutes and the gameplay plus the flavor should have a wider appeal beyond just the hardcore board game set.
Where Collectors and Capers ups the bar is with its art deco design and “backstory” where you’re imagining yourself as a 1920s art collector attempting to not only pull off a museum heist but also outwit other collectors who want the treasures just as badly as you do. And as mentioned above there’s a bit of tongue in cheek thrown in, but not to the point were the game is farcical.
There’s also some nice touches such as symbols on cards that should be removed if you only have 3-4 players which makes setup quicker and more pain free, and numbers on the corners of the game box that help you count down the final three rounds of each turn (said rounds kicking off once all treasures have been stolen from the Museum).
And speaking of the number of players, that leads me into what I feel are potential areas for improvement in the game.
The group size for my test play of Collectors and Capers was three, which is the minimum size (it supports 3-6 players). I have a strong suspicion that the game gets more engaging as more players are added. At the minimum of three, challenging a bluff is practically a no-brainer and very easy to do because it requires the cooperation of other players. The more players you have, the harder it is to get consensus to challenge a bluff.
In addition, as with any game the smaller amount of players the easier it is to try to keep up with what you think other players have and what you suspect their strategies are.
This really feels like a game that flows best with 5 or 6 players.
Also, it’s feasible to play the game without bluffing and still potentially win but honestly it wouldn’t be as fun. I’d like to see Blue Heron find a way to make a tweak to the rules that makes bluffing more obvious as part of the strategic game play. As it is you really don’t understand how important it is until the first time you start counting up points (a successful bluff gives more points). It’s not a show stopper, just a druther.
At $15 to get a copy via the Kickstarter it’s a bit of a steal (ha ha see what I did there) and evidently full retail will be $20. For a freshman entry into the gaming scene, I think Blue Herron has done a rather good job with Collectors and Capers and I’m not bluffing when I say that.