Review – Cape May

Come out to the Coast, rebuild some Victorian Landmarks, see some birds, have a few laughs...



Designer Eric Mosso, Scott Bogen

Artist Michael Menzel

Publisher Thunderworks Games

Category City Building

Length 60-120 minutes

Release Date 2021

Player Count 1-4

Cape May is a game where 1-4 players will move along the streets of the town of Cape May, NJ, developing Shops and Cottages into Businesses and Victorian houses, all while trying to complete objectives and upgrade their buildings and maybe even sneak in some time for birdwatching. So, do you have what it takes to be the most successful developer in town at the turn of the century? 


Play in Cape May is broken up into 12 rounds, with 3 steps in each round. The steps are: Reveal Event Card (skipped in round 1), Take 3 Actions, Advance Lighthouse. Event Cards can be positive, negative, immediate, and/or last the entire round. The most impacting Event Cards are when the city is affected by fire, which doesn’t destroy buildings but makes it more expensive to build in a certain part of the city for the entire round. Player’s Actions will take up the majority of each round as they try to decide how to maximize effectiveness. Actions include playing a Movement Card, Building, Upgrading, Drawing Activity Cards, Playing Activity Cards, Retrieving Movement Cards, or Collecting $3, which is always a good idea to do when you have an action left but aren’t sure how to spend it. While most of the player’s actions are self-explanatory, I’ll briefly unpack Activity and Movement. Activity Cards allow players to do more actions than they might usually get to in a turn, like Build and Upgrade twice, or Build on a lot across town. They should always be utilized. Movement in Cape May is done with a set of cards, numbered 1-7, in each player’s possession. Players can move however they see fit, but once they move with a card, they must discard it until they take the Retrieving Movement Cards action. Since doing so uses up one of a player’s 3 actions, it should be done sparingly or only when absolutely necessary. 

Advancing the Lighthouse marker around the time wheel is when the board is refreshed. Any fire tokens are removed, and the first player marker is passed to the next clockwise player. It also keeps track of the four seasons, which affect the Event Cards that come out in rounds 2-12. The Lighthouse track also reminds players to gain coins based on their income at the end of Spring, Summer, and Fall (rounds 3, 6, and 9) as well as 2 Activity Cards. Players can increase their income by continuing to build and upgrade their properties. Also Activity Cards are quite useful, as previously mentioned. 

Cape May ends up feeling a lot like a worker-placement game, but instead of placing multiple workers you’re moving around the board, trying to lock up different plots of land to fulfill your personal objectives. Your movement is also not just limited to random die rolls, thanks to the 7 cards that everyone has. And even with higher player counts, there’s enough spots on the board so that it doesn’t start to feel crowded until later in the game. It ends up feeling like a less complicated Lords of Waterdeep, and any positive correlation to that game is a good one. It’s also a lot of fun seeing the Cottages and Shops tokens grow into Victorian homes and Businesses, marked by the 3D buildings. I love it when you can watch your city literally grow in games like these. 

On the downside, it can be easy to just miss completing 1 of your objectives, which can lead to a lot of frustration and annoyance. Despite having 12 rounds, they can get away from you quickly if you’re not carefully planning your actions. On the other hand, if you’re lucky enough to get 2 objectives that work in sync, you could find yourself just circling the same block for several rounds like I did during a game, doing nothing but building on the Grass part of town and picking up as many Bird tokens as possible, which can be a huge boon to your points total in the end. Apparently, Cape May is known for being the best place for birdwatching in the NE United States, so it isn’t just a Wingspan nod. In short, you need to pick your objectives carefully so you’re not stretched too thin or reveling in your own success. 

Anyone looking to get a City-Building game with a unique worker movement would do well to check out Cape May, which also manages to incorporate elements of capital-building and set-collection without making things too complicated or feeling tacked-on. Players who are prone to Action Paralysis might struggle at times, but since you always have the option to gain money or cards, it’s easy to keep the game moving. If you’re headed to the coast, you should stop in and check out Cape May

A review copy was provided by the publisher

The Bottom Line

Anyone looking to get a City-Building game with a unique worker movement would do well to check out Cape May.



Author: Andrew Borck

Christian/Husband/Dad/Gamer/Writer/Master Builder. Jesus saves and Han shot first.