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CAPTAIN PARK’S IMAGINARY POLAR EXPEDITION

Reviewed by Herb Levy

CAPTAIN PARK’S IMAGINARY POLAR EXPEDITION (Cheapass Games; $7.50)

 

Just when you think that every conceivable theme for a game has been used and reused, something new pops up and, on more than one occasion, the idea comes from the fertile imagination of James Earnest. This is the case once again in his latest release, Captain Park’s Imaginary Polar Expedition.

In this game, the unusual premise concerns Captain Park’s historical expedition to the Antarctic back in 1898. The twist is that the expedition was a sham! The crafty codger never left London. Rather than expose him, players think the Captain was on to a good thing. Deciding that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, players try to copy the Captain – go around London, pick up “souvenirs” from their “expedition” and reap the same glory – all without leaving home. The danger here is that Captain Park will try to expose those who wish to undermine his glory!captainparks

Captain Park’s Imaginary Polar Expedition is a typical Cheapass production. This means that the components are bare bones. Within the black and white box comes three board sections (placed together to represent a stylized turn of the century London), a scoring board, 90 cards and four pages of rules. You have to provide the game tokens (the tokens pictured above do NOT come with the game) as well as pen and paper to keep score. This low complexity game is for 3 to 7 players with a playing time of less than an hour.

The stylized board divides London into different shops and other locations (numbered from 1 to 14). The focal point of the board is the Gentlemen’s Club. This is where all players begin (and where players return to score their expeditions.) Captain Park is also in the game and begins at the News Stand (labeled location #1). The deck is shuffled and each player dealt a hand of five cards.

Five types of expeditions are possible: Africa, Amazon, China, Everest and South Pole. Five types of cards (anecdotes, artifacts, facts, heroes and photographs) help you flesh out your adventure. Depending on which type of expedition is being undertaken, the cards have a value ranging from 0 to double digits. Getting these cards, playing them as part of your “inventory”, and avoiding Captain Park are the key considerations in the game.

At the beginning of a player’s turn, he receives one counter, indicating he has been “away” for one month. Depending on how many players are in the game, a player will need to be “away” for anywhere from 3 to 7 months before being allowed to score an expedition. Then, a player may move one step in any direction, following the black paths linking locations on the board. Cafe spaces allow you to draw a card. Other locations, such as the Antique Shop, Gymnasium, Hall of Records etc. allow you to play a specific type of card from your hand into your expedition “inventory”. (Only cards in your inventory will score once you have completed your expedition.) However, every time you play a card, Captain Park moves!

Captain Park moves, in order, from numbered location to numbered location and he will CONTINUE to move whenever players add cards to inventories. So, it is not unusual to see the Captain maneuver around the board surprisingly quickly. Therein lies the danger. If the Captain lands on a location occupied by a player, that player loses ALL of his month counters. (This is where the Hotel and Marketplace come in handy. These are both “safe” spaces where the Captain cannot get you. In addition, the Marketplace allows a player to discard any unwanted cards in his hand and draw an equal number of replacements.)

Players continue to circulate around the board until they have collected enough month markers and have at least one card in their inventory. At that point, players may return to the Gentlemen’s Club to score their expedition.

Scoring is simple. Each expedition has a basic score calculated by totaling the the point values listed on each card in the inventory for the specific type of expedition the player has declared. In addition, players receive 5 points for each TYPE of card of card in the inventory. Every additional month (that is, marker) earned above the required amount adds 3 points to the score. The first three completed expeditions to each of the five adventure destinations earn a bonus too (ranging from a high of 16 points for being the first to conquer Everest and rapidly dropping from there). Finally, after the first expedition is scored, a “fad” (i.e. fashionable) destination is decided by flipping over the next card in the draw pile. The destination with the highest point value on that card is the “fad”. The next adventurer to return from that specific destination adds an additional 10 points to his score.

Expeditions continue to be made and scored until one player reaches the specified number of points (from 200 with four players down to 100 if seven players are involved).

Captain Park’s Imaginary Polar Expedition shares some of the characteristics found in Cheapass’ Kill Doctor Lucky (Fall 1997 GA REPORT). There is the same “romp” around the board “semi-serious” attitude combined with the challenge of maneuvering to avoid a menace (whether it be a murderer out to get the doctor or the sneaky Captain Park out to prevent an expedition from scoring). The skill in the game revolves around planning the type of expedition you wish to make along with playing cards so that Captain Park lands on your opponents while you stay just out of reach. Easier said than done! The typical James Earnest humor is also evident on the cards (“Nothing puts a crimp in your day like tumbling into a deep, rocky crevasse” or “Nothing could prepare me for the joy of falling in love with that special someone, with whom such a tryst seemed not only impractical but in fact genuinely repulsive”) and suits the theme very well.

Captain Park’s Imaginary Polar Expedition may not win any Game of the Year Awards. But it is a game that is suitable for family play with a fair degree of charm and humor. Well worth your attention. – – – – – – – Herb Levy


 

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