At Gen Con this year, veteran family game publisher HABA Games released its newest offering Capt’n Pepe: Treasure Ahoy. While the game comes in the standard Haba box, what’s instead is anything but.
This is the first legacy game offering from HABA games and it’s aimed squarely at families. That’s right, you’ll be opening boxes, placing stickers, and adding rules over the course of the campaign. Are your kids ready for their first legacy experience?
The basics of Capt’n Pepe: Treasure Ahoy is pretty simple. This cooperative game tasks players with moving wooden sailors around a ship to their matching-color oars. On a player’s turn, they may move a sailor one space along an unblocked, connected path. They then pass the Capt’n Pepe ball to the next player who takes their turn.
This is all played in real-time as a sand timer is running in the center of the ship. Once the timer runs out, players count how many sailors are standing next to the oar that matches the animal’s color and score a point for each. Then the oars are reset and players try again. After three rounds, players will total up their points (max of 15) and score rewards based on how well they did. Rewards are in the form of stickers to place on their nautical map, and as you earn more points you will be allowed to place more stickers.
The core gameplay loop of Capt’n Pepe: Treasure Ahoy is super simple. Move guys around the ship and get them where they need to be. The challenge comes not only from the real-time aspect, but in figuring out how to move people where they need to go. Since you can’t move someone through another person, you’ll need to move people out of the way to get them through.
As the campaign progresses, this becomes a bit more difficult as the game throws wrenches into the works. It might be a crate you have to slide out of the way, crabs that stop a person from moving, or the requirement that someone to pass by the cannon on the ship. To avoid spoilers, I’ll save the rest of the unlocks for players to discover on their own. But for the most part, the unlocks serve to add a harder challenge to the game
As far as the gameplay itself, my kids seemed to enjoy it for a bit, but I don’t think it was their favorite. Each game requires you to play three rounds, and it starts to get repetitive. While the game does try and make things more interesting by throwing additional challenges at you, the core loop is largely the same, and to be honest, not all that interesting. To complete the campaign, you are looking at about 75 rounds (25 missions, 3 rounds per mission) of the game… which was just way too much for me.
The other issue I found is that this is a puzzly game by nature, and it can be super frustrating when you see the path every piece needs to go to get where they need to be, but other players don’t. I swear my son is secretly a traitor as half the time he moves a piece the opposite of where it needs to be. Eventually, I started casually leading them to the right path by leaving the obvious moves for their turns, and the ones that required planning ahead for mine. It can be really hard for someone not to try and quarterback this game once they find the optimal path.
For my kids though, I think their favorite parts took place outside the actual game. Opening up the secret boxes, placing stickers, hell, even setting up the game all seemed to be their favorite parts. Sometimes they’d fight over which sticker was placed and who got to do it. At one point, my son decided he’d rather “sit out and watch us play” and only help with the stickers. I should note that the game also comes with a voice-acted story that may captivate younger players (my kids didn’t really seem to care to listen to the story, so your mileage may vary on this one).
Capt’n Pepe: Treasure Ahoy is really well made, from the wooden bits, to the 3D ship, to the stickers, to the audio story. However, none of us (particularly the parents), found the gameplay mechanics to be all that much fun. I think as a quick-playing filler game it would be fine, but as a lengthy campaign, it was just way too repetitive and frustrating.
I will say that this was also one of the few family games that I brought from Gen Con that my kids aren’t frequently asking to play on their own, which is one of the benchmarks I use for family games. They regularly ask to play the other two games I brought home at the same time: By the Book and Hansel and Gretel. Unfortunately, Capt’n Pepe: Treasure Ahoy just didn’t capture them like I had hoped for their first legacy game.