Cabo Deluxe Edition (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designers: Mandy Henning, Melissa Limes
  • Publisher: Bezier Games
  • Players: 2 – 4
  • Ages: 8 and Up
  • Time: 45 Minutes
  • Times Played: > 5 (On a review copy from the publisher.)

Cabo is a fast-playing card game designed by Mandy Henning and Melissa Limes.  A second version of the game was released in 2019 by Bezier Games, and it is a remake of original version from 2010.  This review, however, focuses on the new 2020 Deluxe Edition, which features a few extras, including a nicer double-deck box, two decks with new artwork on the card backs, a beautifully-illustrated rulebook, and an enlarged scorepad. 

The Deluxe Edition released recently, and has an MSRP of $19.95.  

The Gameplay

Author’s Note: I’ve carried this from my previous Cabo review.

At the start of the game, the deck is shuffled, with four cards given facedown to each player.  The deck is put in the middle of the table, and one card is flipped face up to form the discard pile.  Players may then look at — and probably should memorize — two of their cards.

On a player’s turn, he or she has three choices: (a) take a card from the deck, (b) take the top card of the discard pile, or (c) call Cabo.

Most turns involve taking the top card from the deck.  The player looks at it, and then can (1) discard it, possibly using a special power, or (2) exchange it for one or more of his cards, discarding them instead and keeping the drawn card.

There are three special powers in the game: peek (look at one of your cards), spy (look at another player’s card), or swap (exchange a card with another player).  

If exchanging, you nominate one or more of you cards, and you can discard several as long as they match.  If they don’t match, you have to keep all of the cards (including the one you drew) and take a penalty card if three or more cards didn’t match.

If a player takes the top card of the discard pile, he or she can do the exchange action.

Finally, a player may call Cabo.  This triggers the end of the round: every other player gets one more turn.  Alternatively, the end of the round is triggered if the deck runs out.  

For scoring, players get points equal to the face value of the cards, unless they called Cabo and have the lowest score, in which case they get 0 points.  (If they don’t have the lowest score, they also get a 10 point penalty.)

There are a couple of exceptions to the above scoring: (1) If a player has two 13s and two 12s, this is called a Kamikaze, and every other player earns 50 points, while they earn 0, and (2) if a player’s score ever totals exactly 100 points, they get to reset to 50.  

The game ends when a player has more than 100 points, and the player with the lowest score wins.  

My thoughts on the game and the new edition…

Cabo is a fun, fast-paced card game that just about anybody could play.  Me and my family have had great fun with the game this past year, and we were thrilled to re-connect with it when our Deluxe Edition arrived.  After a few plays, Cabo becomes an interesting experience in tactical play and hand management.  

The Deluxe Edition  is exceptionally well produced: the new art is attractive, and the cards are high quality.  The new double-deck box is a nice touch, and so is the oversized rulebook and the oversized scorepad.  But the best part of the new edition is having two decks: one player can shuffle when another player deals, speeding up the game.  

In terms of gameplay, Cabo features interesting decisions on each turn.  First you have to determine whether you want the face-up card in the discard pile, though rarely you do, since the other players tend to discard their high cards.  If you’re not going to take from the discard, then draw a card, and consider exchanging it if it matches with your existing cards or if you think it is lower than one of them.  

The real challenge, however, comes down to when to call Cabo.  Experience helps in this regard, and I still haven’t managed to master it.  I call Cabo far more than my family, but I have a miss rate that keeps costing me the games.

The Kamikaze and 100-point-rule are interesting additions to the game.  Pulling off the Kamikaze is difficult, but I’ve seen it happen a few times.  Much like “shooting the moon” in many trick-taking games, it is a high-risk-high-reward proposition.  Hitting the 100-point mark is more frequent (and seemingly easier), and when players approach end game, that’s naturally where they aim.  

The game plays well at 2, 3, or 4 players, and I don’t know that any particular player count is better than others.  We’ve been playing this slightly less than the advertised time — 25 minutes on average, I’d say — but groups will vary, since a lot of it comes down to the group dynamic of when somebody is going to call Cabo.  

If you’re a fan of interesting card games, I recommend checking out Cabo.  The MSRP of less than $20 makes it affordable, and there’s a lot of fun in this new release from Bezier Games.  And once you’ve experienced this game, check out Silver, which I also recently reviewed: Silver is a more gamer-ified version of Cabo. 

Thoughts of other Opinionated Gamers:

Brandon K: Cabo is a fun variant of Golf and quite a bit more accessible than Silver. I don’t know who was clamoring for the ability to play more Cabo at a faster clip though, as it plays pretty quickly with just one deck (probably Tichu players). But the price point isn’t bad and the artwork is whimsical and fun, so if you haven’t picked up the single deck version yet, this would be a good way to jump in. 

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Chris Wray, Michael W
  • I like it. John P, Brandon K
  • Neutral. 
  • Not for me… 
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