Thursday, September 12, 2019

Board Game Review - Cabo (2nd Edition)

As a family we play a number of games with a standard deck of cards. In fact, my daughter often prefers the simplicity of these card games over a full board game. Cabo is a game that has the feel of some of those games, most notably a game called "Golf" (or as my family plays it "9 Holes").

Cabo is played with a deck of cards ranging in value from 0-13. Each player is dealt 4 cards face-down and allowed to look at and replace 2 of them. Then players take turn drawing cards and either discarding them or putting them in place of one of their cards. Turns continue until one player thinks they have the lowest card values in front of them and that player "calls Cabo." Every other player gets one more turn and then cards are revealed and players get the score of the cards in front of them. If the person who "called Cabo" has the lowest score, they get 0 points. If they didn't have the lowest score, then they score the points on their cards plus a 10 point penalty. The game continues with new rounds of the same gameplay until one player's score goes over 100 and the person with the lowest score wins.

All in all, these are pretty standard rules and nearly identical to the games we've played before but there are a handful of small changes and additions that set this game apart from those. Most notably, there are special "Peek", "Spy" and "Swap" cards that let the player look at a card (either their own or of an opponent) or swap one of their cards with that of another player. These special actions let a player strategize a bit more and makes gameplay a bit more interesting.

This game has been a hit so far. It's quick to learn and plays relatively quickly as well. It has a feel of classic card games with some fun actions that keep players planning ahead. The "Swap" action also adds to the player interaction which is sometimes a gripe of games like this. The art is fun and whimsical while not being distracting. As a super minor gripe, the font on the numbers felt slightly odd in that once or twice we've mistaken a 9 for a 6 (in spite of the underline on the number). It's only happened a couple of times but by different people so I figured it's worth noting.

My only real complaints have nothing to do with gameplay. First and most minor is the score pad that comes with the game (which is a nice component although totally unnecessary since you really just need a scrap piece of paper). The score pad is super tiny and the paper type was a little odd. The biggest complaint though is the choice of a tuck box for the game. I acknowledge that many simple card games come in tuck boxes but I've been very pleased to see large portions of the industry start moving away from tuck boxes in most situations. Firstly, it's awkward to align the rules, score pad and cards in such a way that they slide into the box without getting caught/crumpled on the bottom flap. Even worse is the problem that happens with almost every tuck box in that the flaps will eventually tear and that tear will expand down the box. I've had to be super careful to avoid any rips thus far but the more the game gets played, the more likely it is to get torn. Almost all of my card games that came in tuck boxes are stored in alternative methods now. It just seems a shame that such an established game company like Bezier opted for a solution that's the bane of many gamers.

Overall, I really enjoyed Cabo. It's a nice, light game to pull out and quickly play with just about any group. It's got enough thought and strategy to make it engaging while not being so deep as to turn people away. If you're a fan of classic card games and looking for a simple addition to your repertoire, you should give Cabo a try.

4 out of 5 stars

NOTE: Bezier has recently released a game called Silver which takes the general rules and concept of Cabo and adds a supernatural (werewolf) theme to it as well as adding actions to (nearly?) all of the cards. I haven't tried it yet but apparently they're putting a lot of effort behind this new game and are developing an entire "line" in the world of "Silver." So if Cabo sounds good but you're looking for something with a little more 'bit' to it, you might check out Silver.

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