Fantastical Spell Casting: A Preview of Cast & Capture
You are a mage at the Arcane Academy trying to trap all kinds of mystical and magical creatures. Using your expert spell blending skills, you must cast the best spells to capture the most creatures and earn the title of Master Capturer.
Cast & Capture is a casual card game for 2 to 5 players that is intended for kids and adults alike. Published by upstart publisher Randover Games, the game is now seeking your support on Kickstarter. We recently had the opportunity to play it ourselves — but did it capture our attention?
In Cast & Capture, players try to capture the most creatures by casting spells that match the creatures' Power and Element (number and suit). Spell cards can be used as-is or "blended" with another card — allowing you to combine the Power from one card with the Element from another. After a spell is cast (with either 1 or 2 cards), any creatures with the resulting Power and Element can be retrieved. Creatures can also be "grouped" together (similar to spell blending) to allow a player to capture one or multiple creatures that otherwise could not be captured.
On a turn, the current player draws a Creature card from the deck and places it face up on the table, adding to the pool of available creatures. If possible, he casts a spell using a Spell card from his hand and/or the common Spell Pool. If a spell cannot be cast to successfully capture a creature, the player must discard a Spell card from his hand into the Spell Pool. If a spell was cast, the player retrieves one or more creatures that match the Power and Element of the spell (optionally grouping creatures together). Finally, if no Spell cards remain in hand, the player draws a new hand of 4 cards.
4 Wild Spells are included with the game to enable players to more easily form a specific Power/Element combination. The Wild Power Spell can be used for any Power level, while the Wild Element Spell can take the place of any Element.
Play continues until either the last creature is captured or the Spell deck is depleted. The player who captured the most creatures is declared the Master Capturer!
A typical game of Cast & Capture might look like this — to the left are the creature cards to be captured, and to the right are the Spell cards in the common pool that can be used on their own or combined with another card from the pool or a player's hand.
Cast & Capture was a pleasant surprise for us — games that are touted as "kid-friendly" sometimes come across as "kids-only," but this was not the case for our group of testers ranging from 9 to 33 years old. What we found instead is a fun casual game that is engaging and rather satisfying. The game has the simplicity of a standard playing-card game, but the depictions of mystical creatures take it a step further to add interest to the cards. Since the card values themselves do not make a difference in the final score, players found themselves trying to capture the creatures that interested them the most.
The meat of the game is ultimately in the capacity to blend and group cards. Careful planning and selection of the right spells can pay off well, especially when multiple creatures can be grouped together to match the spell. Ignore the opportunities for grouping, and you'll likely lose the game. Also, the cards played into the Spell Pool may benefit other players, so it is important to choose them wisely.
Here, the Spell cards on top have been blended to form a 7 of Water. With this spell, all 3 of the Creature cards on the bottom can be captured — the 7 of Water on the left matches exactly, while the 2 cards on the right are grouped together to also form a 7 of Water.
The version we played was a late prototype with most of the final artwork and designs included. As a first-time publisher, Randover Games has done a great job of putting together a playable game and taking the often nerve-racking leap into the world of game publishing. However, this game lacks a bit of the polish that a publisher with more experience and deeper pockets might include in a similar game. To the publisher's credit, they have been very open to suggestions and have made several improvements to the rules and other aspects of the game. I believe they are committed to producing a great product, inasmuch as it is within their budget and capacity to do so.
If you like casual card games and you like to support independent companies, we recommend you check out Cast & Capture — now on Kickstarter through June 28, 2015.
Pros: Fun, accessible gameplay, "kid-friendly" but not "kids-only"
Cons: Lacks some of the polish from higher-budget, more experienced game companies
Disclosure: this preview is based on our evaluation of an unpublished prototype of the game, which is subject to change prior to publication. While a modest payment was received to expedite the review process, our thoughts and opinions expressed here are honest and accurate.