Full disclosure: A review copy of Capturing Cage was provided by Big Cat Games.
Alright, another day, another doujin game review. I’ve been getting through these at a decent pace, but I got another five in recently that I’ll want to talk more about, so I may be adjusting my schedule a bit to talk more about them at a variety of junctures. That’s exciting stuff. In the meantime, let’s talk about Capturing Cage, another doujin game out of Japan.
In Capturing Cage, you’ve done it! You’ve built the perfect android. Strong, fast, impossibly smart, and maybe a tiny bit evil? That last part doesn’t worry you, because you’ve also built the perfect cage. Nothing can get out of it. What’s that, you hear? It escaped? Well, that’s going to be a problem. Now, you and the other scientists need to hide and power down the servers it relies on before it becomes too powerful and escapes. I think it’s also got some ideas for new occupants for its cage. Best of luck with that.
Setup is pretty straightforward. Choose a player to be the Android; they get the Android token:
Set the red and yellow cubes near the Cage, once you lay it out. The other players get these player sheets:
Take the Start Cards and put them at each corner, forming space for a 6×6 grid. Shuffle the remaining cards and fill out the rest of the grid:
Place the Android Token on the Cage location. Each Scientist should secretly, without communicating, choose a starting location and write it on their player board. Do not indicate it to the Android.
If playing with fewer than 4 Scientist players, the Android must now also choose servers to flip over, before the game starts:
- 2 Scientist Players: Flip 2 Servers face-down.
- 3 Scientist Players: Flip 1 Server face-down.
- 4 Scientist Players: Do not flip any Servers.\
Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to begin!
A game of Capturing Cage takes at most 12 rounds, as Scientists try to stop the Android and the Android tries to capture the Scientists and use them for energy. It’s a tough business. The Scientists will have to stay hidden, as they stupidly made the Android faster, stronger, and angrier than they are. If the Android can outlast the Scientists or gain enough energy, it will escape and destroy the world probably. If the Scientists can shut down the servers, they can drain the Android’s power and take it offline.
Each round has five phases. Let’s go through them.
During the Scientist Phase, each Scientist chooses a place to go or an action to take. Generally, you have 3 Action Points (AP) you can use in a turn, but once per game you can Sprint to use 5 AP instead, provided there is at least 1 energy on the Cage card. Scientists may not talk to each other, but must write their destination on their boards. You must use at least 1 AP per turn. Each turn, you may Move, Shut Down a Server, or Rescue.
- Move: Spend AP to move onto cards. Each card costs 1 – 3 AP to enter. You cannot enter a room with a shut down Server. If you enter a Transporter, you may transport to any other Transporter room for free. Your destination would then be that Transporter. You may move to any orthogonally adjacent card, but you cannot move onto the same space as the Android.
- Shut Down a Server: For 3 AP, you may shut down a Server. Once all Scientists have performed their actions, announce that you’re shutting down a Server and flip it face-down. Good news, though: the Android can’t enter a shut down Server room either, so you’re safe for now.
- Rescue: If you’re on the Cage and a Scientist has been captured, for 2AP you can get them out. Announce that you’ve rescued them once all Scientists have stated their action.
Naturally, if you’re captured and not rescued, you write down the Cage’s number on your player board, since you stayed there.
If you are a Scientist and you got Rescued this turn, you may now take a full turn (with 3AP). You may only Move, however.
Now, it’s the Android’s turn. Not only is it stronger than you (5 AP to your paltry 3), but it can use powerful machine learning algorithms and all sorts of computer-based trickery to do something you thought was impossible — it can move diagonally. Fear it. Thankfully, the Android can’t use the transporter. Note that the Android doesn’t just jump to its destination — players need to keep track of what spaces it moved through.
If the Android has 2 or more Energy cubes on the Cage, it can spend 2 of them to restart a downed Server, as well. It doesn’t cost any AP, but it can only be done once per round. Note that if you’re playing with fewer than 5 players, this can bring the total number of Servers above what you started at (since some started shut down).
Players call out their relationship to the Android’s whereabouts, now. It goes like this:
- “Forsooth, I have been captured by yon Android.” This is a thing you can say, but generally you have to tell all players if the Android finished its turn on the same location as you. You are moved to the Cage for, uh, “energy production”. Also, move the energy marker on the Cage up once level (to symbolize the Cage’s increased energy production each round).
- “I have been passed over.” You can say this or something equivalent if the Android passed through your square but didn’t end its turn there.
- “I am close, but you’ll never catch me!” You can say something like this if you are in one of the 8 spaces adjacent to the Android’s final location.
- “I have neither heard nor seen this ‘Android’ you speak of.” You can say this or something similar to this if none of the three previous conditions apply to you.
During the End Phase, the Android gains energy equal to the number indicated on the Cage’s Energy Track.
The game can end a few different ways.
Scientists win, if:
- At the end of a round, there are two or fewer active Servers.
The Android wins, if:
- The 12th round ends with no Scientist Victory.
- There are 6 or more Energy cubes on the Cage.
- All Scientists have been captured.
Play until someone wins!
Player Count Differences
The major differences are just around how many servers you have to take down. At higher player counts, the game kind of manages that itself because the players can’t necessarily coordinate, so you’ll have some turns get wasted because two players shut down the same server or neither player thought to go after the closest one. If you spread out, though, there are more locations the Android can go to and capture you. At lower player counts, it’s easier for the game to get away from you but there aren’t as many spots where at least one Scientist could be at any given time. Personally, I think the game is funnest when you have those flubbed turns and there’s more tension, so I’m more inclined to recommend the game on the higher end of the player count spectrum. That way, you’ve got all sorts of people stressed about the uprising of our new Android overlords.
- Scientists: Behave erratically. Just like real life, their mechanical brains aren’t used to illogical behavior. End your turn on expensive spaces. Teleport short distances. Don’t go for the closest Server (or do!). Try to throw the Android off your scent so that you don’t get captured.
- Scientists: Sprint to shut down a Server, if you can. That has the added bonus of not requiring you to be on the Server card the previous turn. Usually the Android will comb those pretty quickly, so you should be careful if you don’t want to end up in the Cage.
- Scientists: Try to predict where the other Scientists are going. If you can do that then you won’t make the same mistake I’ve made several times, where I end up on the same Server as another player and end up wasting a turn. Wasting a turn is terrible in this game.
- Scientists: Don’t go for a risky rescue. You may need to if you’re going to otherwise lose the game, but if you end your turn in the Cage and Rescue another player, you’re probably going to end up in the Cage yourself. That’s not super good for anybody. It may be best to Sprint in to get someone, if you can, or otherwise, you may have to leave them behind. Naturally, they’re going to hate that, and they’re justified.
- Scientists: You don’t need to use all of your AP. This is a good tactic for confusing the Android. If you only move one space, they tend to think that you moved as far as you could. That’s not necessarily always true, and it’s important for you to let them make that mistake.
- Android: If you get to shut down Servers at the game’s start, shut down ones that make movement difficult. The Scientists can’t move diagonally, but you can, so if you make it harder for them to get around and create choke points, you may be able to trap them and capture them for your energy production. Or at the very least, you’ll slow them down.
- Android: Use your Server Restart as soon as you get them. If nothing else, use it right before you get the next one so that you don’t have to worry. You should always keep one in reserve, just in case you need to bring up one Server so that you don’t lose the game.
- Android: Move efficiently. You have 5AP; cut diagonally across the board if you need to get somewhere. Don’t waste time trying to figure out if you moved through a Scientist if you can just capture that Scientist. Easier said than done, sure, but try to avoid Transporter rooms, for instance, since you can’t use them anyways.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Game creates a nice sense of dread. You never know when that bad boy is just gonna sneak up on you and throw you into a massive cage. That’s good! The dread is important.
- Pretty easy to set up. Just shuffle some cards, run off some sheets, and you’re ready to go. That’s always nice.
- Very portable. The box is very portable, but I will at least say that I have to bring the English rules and my extra sheets along with me, as well, so it does lose some points there.
- Neat concept. I don’t play a lot of 1 vs. many games, but I do like the idea of them. I just need to find some other good ones to play. If you know of any, let me know in the comments?
- The cover art is neat, too. It’s got a very like, old-timey sci-fi feel to it, which does a good job of conveying that we’re about to get very serious and potentially, if we mess up, very dead.
- I think I have a slight antipreference for games where communication is disallowed, since it leads to most people playing in silence. This is to contrast against, say, Magic Maze, where you can’t talk but you can communicate via the Do Something Pawn, so I end up feeling like I can still express myself when the game’s happening.
- If the Servers are all right next to each other it’s going to be a silly game. It’ll just get weird, especially if they’re far from the Cage. Having a few recommended setups in the rulebook would be pretty fun, I think.
- You really need to have the sheets with you, since they don’t super fit in the box. I’m generally a big fan of compact and portable boxes, but this can’t super fit a required component, which I think is pretty not-great. I’d rather it have a box with Railroad Ink-style foldable boards so that you wouldn’t need to run off copies every time you played.
- Being Captured is kind of a drag. There’s nothing you can do until you get rescued, which might be the rest of the game. That’s generally pretty annoying. It would be nice if there were something the captured player could do.
Overall: 7 / 10
Overall, I think Capturing Cage is fun! I think if it were to get localized to the US, there are a few things I’d want to change. While I’m not usually pro-bigger-box, a larger box would make it easier to store some sheets (hopefully foldable dry-erase boards, rather) so that players didn’t have to carry those separately, which I think is kind of a pain. I’d also love a fix for players that are Captured, but that might just be the name of the game, I think. Either way, it’s a very nifty atmospheric game that shoots for a mood, and then sustains it every turn. You’re legitimately nervous as you turn corners that the Android is gonna find you, and there’s no way to tell which Scientist the Android is going to go after at any given time. I like that aspect of the game, and I think more 1 vs. many games would be fun to try, given how that creates an interesting cooperative tension. I want to help you, my friend, but I don’t want to get got, myself. Balancing those feelings is key to victory, and victory is hard-won no matter who ends up winning. It can occasionally make games feel long, even if they’re relatively short, since it’s just a very cerebral game. That said, I know a lot of people who would love something like this. If that sounds interesting to you, or you’re looking to make a point about the dangers of unchecked AI, or you just like the idea of being a terrorizing robot, Capturing Cage might be worth checking out!