Cape Horn: First Impressions

Cape Horn Box Art

Game Info

Publisher: Rio Grande Games, Kosmos

Year Published: 1999

Number of Players: 3 to 5

Play Time: 45 to 60 minutes

Set-up Time: Less than 5 minutes

Ages: 12 and up

Table Size: Small to Medium Table


Cape Horn is a sailing game based on a historical race that took place in the 1800s, in which clipper ships set out from New York to sail to San Francisco in the fastest time possible.  One of the biggest obstacles they faced along their route was Cape Horn — the bottom tip of South America where the seas are some of the most windy and treacherous in the world.

In this game, players will take the roll of one of those intrepid sailors.  Each player must place his “wind tokens” to both improve his speed and hinder his opponents.  There are two conditions for winning the game: be the first to collect a marker from two way points and then race to the finish line, or be the first to collect markers from way points in each of three different game zones.  It is nice to see games with multiple winning conditions, which add an extra element of strategy to the game.

When first unboxing Cape Horn, you will appreciate the high quality game pieces that are typical of Rio Grande Games.  The game board and wind tokens are made of glossy, high-quality cardboard, and the ship tokens and counters are made of glossy wood.  Each player gets their own crib sheet which serves as a reminder of the game’s rules.  These are especially helpful because they ensure players don’t have to constantly refer to the rulebook to be reminded of the actions they can take on their turns or what the game’s winning conditions are.

The ruels themselves are about two to three pages long and are a light and easy read.  The rulebook presents the game in a way that makes it easy to understand and almost makes the crib sheets superfluous, since the simple nature of the game mechanics makes it easy to memorize what you can and can’t do during play.  Despite the simplicity of the rules, the game has plenty of complexity when in motion, so don’t be alarmed if you’re in to games that require a bit of thought.

One final thing to note is that the set-up of Cape Horn is incredibly fast and painless.  Simply unfold the game board, put the 9 way point markers on the designated spaces (each one looks different, so it’s easy to match them up) and have each player draw 3 wind tokens.  Perhaps the most difficult part of set-up is agreeing upon which player should go first!

Overall, Cape Horn looks like it’s shaping up to be an exciting game with plenty of strategy but little complexity.  We look forward to doing an in-depth review after playing this a few more times.


3 / 5 stars