I think Vom Kap bis Kairo is a nice little blind bidding game. Players try to build a railroad line from Cape Town to Cairo, crossing eight different African landscapes. Players bid for these landscapes, because different terrain takes different effort to cross.
Money management isn’t a big problem in this game — it’s rather easy to save money, because often the differences between the different landscapes are so small that it’s not necessary to pay much for the right to choose first. Anyway, the games tend to be rather exciting until the very end.
There are five different landscape types. The cards also have 0-3 track pieces and 1-10 money on them. Track pieces are used to cross the landscapes and money is rewarded when the landscape is crossed. Players try to buy the best landscapes (easiest to cross, most track pieces) and then try to cross them. Cards are drawn from the deck and the track pieces counted. If you can’t cross the landscape, next player draws a new card and thus has a better chance to make it. If it’s close, money can be used at a heavy rate of 10 pounds/track (players start with 100 pounds and must cross eight landscapes) to make up the missing bit.
The game is rather short (about 30 minutes or less) and simple. Or actually, the rules are. Except the printed English rules, which is an automatic translation and a really bad one. Getting better rules from Geek is rather important. Anyway, the rules are simple but the evaluation of landscapes isn’t clear for beginners. Some kind of rule of thumb is never to pay more than five pounds, unless you can figure out why.
There’s some scope for tactics (hanging before rivers to collect bonus tracks, mostly), but some of it comes down to luck of draw. Especially the two-player game is luck-dependant. It’s still fun. I could consider playing it for the money, actually… A dose of luck, a dose of skill. The balance tips a bit more towards skill with more players.
The game is much improved with a rule change from Greg Alecnevikus. In the original rules, the player who built a track continues to play, thus making it possible to cross several landscapes in row. This makes the game boring. The game is more interesting if the turn goes to the next player. Thus players must continuously hang on in the competition — you can’t afford to drop from the pack, because you can’t catch up several landscapes.
As it is an Adlung game, it’s rather cheap. The quality of the cards is fine (don’t know how much wear there would be if I hadn’t put sleeves on the cards). The computer graphics on the cards are fine, but a bit dull perhaps. The cards could have the required number of tracks printed on them, but that’s a small problem that doesn’t bother after a game or two. There’s only five different terrain types and they’re rather logical and thus easy to remember (it’s not tough to figure out that mountains are more difficult than savannahs).
I think Vom Kap bis Kairo is a brilliant addition to any game order from Germany, but not necessarily something I’d go hunting for itself.