System Review: Capers (NerdBurger Games): 5 Stars
Characters in CAPERS may find themselves gambling – playing poker, craps, or blackjack – as part of the story. If you’re playing a gangster, your character is gambling with their life by being a criminal. If you’re playing a law enforcement officer, your character is gambling with their life just doing their job.
Capers is the award winning TTRPG by NerdBurger Games (Craig Campbell) set in a romanticized and action packed 1920’s earth. Expertly and meticulously crafted, Capers jumps off the page and begs to be played over. and over. and over. Combining an antiquated yet modern feel, this system combines all the fun of fantastic super-powers and magic with the realistic immersion into the real world of the 1920’s–fast cars, gangsters vs. lawmen, prohibition, gambling, and fashion. Bring the “roaring twenties” to your table and live out your wildest capers with this must have system that any TTRPG aficionado is sure to love.
The Cards. I love the idea of using cards instead of dice. While I know this isn’t totally unique, this is the first system I’ve read that uses a deck of cards for every check in the game. I originally thought I would have trouble remember which suit was “on top”, but once I realized black suits were “extreme” (Either a boon or a bust)” and red suits were “normal” (no added effect on a fail or success) it was easy to remember. The use of a deck, I believe, makes results more shaped like a bell curve, and adds a feeling of gambling which is appropriate for the 1920’s. While slightly difficult to understand at first, by the time you read through all the rules, the system is relatively simple. The most difficult transition to make as a DM would be establishing check DC’s, as it goes from 2 to Ace, rather than 1 to 20ish. While die-hard d20 fans might miss rolling dice, there’s just as much thrill in drawing a clutch card to finish your enemy off.
The Concept. I love the 1920’s, it’s one of my favorite modern time-periods. Even without the fantastical elements of super powers, there’s a lot to work with for a TTRPG. The fact that the entire concept of Capers is built upon this amazing decade provides for a solid concept. Add to this awesome super powers, a thrilling method of deck drawing, and the “cops and robbers” feeling, and you have a concept that can’t be beat!
Powers. The powers and abilities your characters can have are relatively all-encompassing. Super speed, strength, agility, mind control, precognition, shooting various elements, invisibility and a ton of other things. Additionally, each of these powers come with a half dozen customizable “boons”. There are probably hundreds of character combinations when you consider major and minor powers and perks. Not only can you experiment with unique combinations, but the replay value is high. As a “theory crafter”, I loved considering all the options I had for characters.
Basic Rules. The basic rules are relatively easy to understand and remember on a first reading of the system. Players should be able to get the gist of everything relatively quickly. Things like suit damage vs number damage, though might take slightly more effort to grasp, but are still comparably easier than some of the more complex TTRPG systems. The books includes both player rules and DM guide, so you don’t have to buy two books for that.
No Character Specialization. Unlike the most popular RPGs today, Capers doesn’t have classes or specializations of characters. Rather, you choose which traits and powers you prefer to focus on. Admittedly, this is more “realistic” in some sense, and can give the player a greater sense of control and modularity over character creation. However, though a lot of roleplay suggestions are given through the characters “identity” (through which characters can get “moxie”), I can’t help but feel something is lost without the use of a class system. This is mostly personal preference though and there are significant advantages to the way Capers approaches character creation.
More Advanced Rules. Some of the rules were more complicated, ambiguous, or hard to remember. After two read-throughs I still have no idea what causes a character to level up–experience? DM Fiat? There’s a chance I missed it, but if I can, so you can you. Concerning characters, I found no mention of a level cap. I also am still unsure exactly how boons work.
Excessive History. The book contains quite a bit of fluff in the beginning. It’s almost 13 pages of history, society of the 1920’s, and other context. As a history lover, I found this a bit useless and distracting from the “good stuff”. Though I suppose many people would find it useful to help run the game, I’d rather the content be relegated to an appendix.
Capers is a near perfect game with riveting mechanics and an exciting, immersive setting. We’re giving it 5 Stars and saying it’s a Must Have for… well, anyone really. If you appreciate our reviews and want to support us, use the picture below to click through if you want to buy.