OH CAPTAIN! is the first in a series of games that will follow the adventures of the same characters.
Designed by Florian Sirieix and Developed by Ludonaute this is for 3-6 like-minded players.
You can find out more about the games and characters, along with the expanded storyline, at this website www.legendsofluma.com
OH CAPTAIN is in a modern style slip-in box with the inner box holding all the components and protruding an inch or so below the bottom of the slip-cover. The components include a plastic bottle with an illegible Treasure Map/Message rolled up inside it (of course you don't need this parchment for the game and there is no reason to remove it from the bottle, but I bet that everyone who has the game has already removed it to look what is on it - I resisted for several weeks but eventually my curiosity won out; I was slightly disappointed because although I hadn't expected it to be anything in particular, I did think it might be an advert for another game in the series or a joke (as in a Christmas Cracker) or something amusingly similar; the designers/publishers missed a trick here in my opinion. Though I will now have to look online to see if the text on it is something specific. Hold on a moment while I go take a look, back in a few ....
Okay I'm back. I have looked at several sites but it seems I was wrong, no-one else appears to have been curious enough to remove the message, oh well, back to the drawing room!
In the story booklet and the rules preamble there is mention of Nukha's cave, Nukha being a nice sea-monster (perhaps sea-creature would be better than monster seeing as Nukha is providential not evil or even hungry), and this (cave) is represented in the game by a self-assembled card dispenser from which players draw cards when required to. These cards (35 in total) are artistic and colourful on their face sides, showing multiples of Lanterns, (valued 3 and 2) Nukha Eggs, Grappling Hooks, Lizards, Pistols, Purses and a single Nomads Arrival card; the flip side of these cards is a beautiful shiny gold on black design featuring the LUMA logo and the four symbols: Grappling Hook, Lantern, Pistol and Lizard - these icons are also seen on the Majority tokens although somewhat surprisingly there are only 3 Majority Tokens (no Lantern icon). Apart from the aforementioned Message in a Bottle, there are 30 Gold coins (orange counters that look shell-like), and 6 double-sided Adventure sheets, one side showing the character as the Captain and the other side showing the character as an Explorer - in each game there is only one Captain, although who it is can change during play.
The six explorers/adventurers are identified by name and colour and each also has their own special, specific ability. Lys (Blue) wins ties at the game end, Moon (Lilac) can flip 2 cards over at the end of her turn unless she is Captain, Nostromo (Green) gains an extra card of their choice if he mutinies, Red (Red) steals a coin from another adventurer if Red has the least coins at the end of his turn, Siana (Brown) chooses which of her cards is affected during an attack on her and Ulrich (Black) gains an additional coin if he wins a battle. You need to play a few times to decide which is the better ability to your take on strategy.
The basic idea of the game is that one player is the Captain (they show this by displaying the Message in the Bottle in front of them) and they begin with 5 coins in their personal bank and 3 cards face down under the Bottle, the other players are Explorers and they begin with 3 coins and a Purse card, the Captain does not have a Purse. The Nomads card is shuffled in with three of the cards from the deck and placed under the shuffled deck so that it becomes one of the last four cards in that deck and the game ends immediately it is drawn.
The explorer players take turns in clockwise order, the Captain never takes a regular turn. At the start of each players turn they look to see if they have more coins than the Captain. If they don't then play just continues as usual - they draw a card from the deck and without showing it to anyone else they look at it and decide what to say - but if they have more cash than the Captain they can decide whether to stay Loyal (and take a regular turn) or start a Mutiny and take over as Captain. When an explorer turns over a card from the deck they have the choice to tell the truth or lie unless it is a Nukha Egg in which case they must lie. (Bluff is a better game word than lie to be truthful)
Thus on drawing a card the Explorer says "Oh Captain! I have found a: Lantern or Grappling Hook or Lizard or Pistol" whether they have found one of these things or a Nukha Egg. The Captain then has two options, they can Buy the item from you, in which case the Captain can use it's effect against an Explorer (even you) or they can decline on buying it and let the Explorer use it, again on another explorer, never is the Captain attacked. After a few rounds in a 3 player game this became monotonously humdrum and we couldn't face playing through to the game end. With four players it was a little better but really didn't get interesting until we had five or six players and thus more opponents to choose from when attacking.
If the Captain buys your item he pays you a coin and you give him the card face up. If you sold him the correct item as you called it then the Captain can use it to attack an Explorer. The rules do not say what happens if you lied to the Captain and he bought your item so we assume nothing happens except the Captain keeps the card placing it face down with the other cards under his Bottle. When another player is attacked by another explorer (not the Captain) they can either accept the attack or challenge the attacker as a liar. If they accept the attack the attacker applies the effect of the item they called out, they don't reveal their card. If the defender challenges the attacking explorer and the attacker lied then the attacker has to give the defender a coin. If the attacker has told the truth then the defender hands over one of their coins. If the attacked player has no coins then nothing happens (which is why it soon gets spiritless in a three-player game where there are only two explorers).
Each of the five different cards has a specific effect and it is vital for players to either remember these, especially if they are going to lie, or to always check the rules booklet page 6 before calling out an attack item so that it doesn't look like you are bluffing, or so it does look like you are bluffing in which case you are double-bluffing.
Our collective thoughts on OH CAPTAIN! are that as a one-off, stand alone game, there isn't enough to make it playable, or at least enjoyable. If, when the next game or games come along they are stand-alone games but also compatible as expansions for OH CAPTAIN! then perhaps there will be some value to the series. At present though I wouldn't recommend this as there are many, many other games more worthy of your playing time. I have seen this on sale on the internet (including Amazon and eBay from €21.00 through to €28.00 plus postage in all cases). The components, box design and artwork show that a lot of thought and work has gone into publishing and producing OH CAPTAIN! perhaps there is something that has gone astray in the rules translation to English because the rules are far more complex than the game ever is.
Of course the above review result is only the opinion of myself and of the majority (in fact All) play testers at GGO. If you'd like to find out for yourself please check out your Local Game Store