Friday, January 28, 2011

Just Gaming Around - "Jaipur" by Sébastien Pauchon (Review)

Glad you could make it to the Board Game Back Room today! Previously I showed you What's in the Box for Jaipur. So far I've played this game a handful of times against Bob (who introduced me to the game). Obviously, I liked it enough to pick up my own copy. I would call this game a 'social' game as it's fairly light and you can have a nice conversation while you're playing the game, but at the same time it definitely has some interesting decisions to make so you still need to pay close attention to what the other player is doing on their turn.

Jaipur, released in 2009, was designed by Sébastien Pauchon, the same designer as such outstanding games as Yspahan, Jamaica, and Metropolys. Artwork was done by Alexandre Roche who also did art for such acclaimed games as Carson City, Rattus and Troyes.

Front of the box

What do you find interesting about this game?

Good question! I love the artwork and the bright colors. And, it has camels! The camel cards are really nice to look at. (BTW, if you get this game look for the 'dead' Panda bear on one of the camels. This is a tongue-in-cheek reference to Zooloretto beating out Yspahan for the Spiel des Jahres award - German Game of the Year - in 2007). But mostly it's a fun set collection game with simple rules, fast game play and interesting decisions.

I got a copy myself as I'm hoping my Mom or Dad might like playing it as another 2-player option when we get together (and maybe even with my wife and/or kids). My Dad and I really enjoy playing Odin's Ravens (its a top favorite for me as well as my Dad) although I've had a good streak against him lately and I think he might like trying something different to change things up. I'll be seeing him in a couple of weeks so I'm hoping to get this to the table with him.

So, tell me about the game!
This is a light game so I'll keep the rules light. The full rules are on BGG if you are interested.

To start with, there are rupee coins you are trying to gain that start at higher values and progress down to lower values with different ranges for different types of commodities. You sell (discard) matching sets of commodity cards to get the matching colored coins. In decreasing overall value there are: diamonds, gold, silver, cloth, spice and leather. The earlier you 'sell' your cards, the higher value coins you'll get.

Game set up and ready to play!

The standard action is to just pick up one card from the table and replace it from the draw deck. You can also pick up ALL the camels on the table in one go.

The camels are a special commodity (and, quite frankly, are the key to what makes the game interesting) in that they don't count towards your hand-limit of 7 and they are always face up on the table for both players to see. There aren't any camel 'coins' to earn, but as an action you can use them in combination with cards in your hand to make exchanges for multiple cards on the table rather than just using cards from your hand per the other the normal action.

In effect, they let you 'buy up' at the cost of leaving valuable camels on the table for the other player to be able to pick up. They are never discarded as they also give you 5 bonus rupees at the end of the game if you have more camels than the other player.

You play best of 3 rounds for a typical game and each round ends when either 3 sets of coins are depleted or you run out of cards to draw from.

Obviously you seem to like this game. What is it that you like so much?
Basically it's some of the things I've stated earlier - it's a light, fast game; it's for 2-players (I love head-to-head games); and, it has interesting decisions to make. Plus it has cool camel cards. Did I say that already?

The components in the box

Actually, it really IS the 'interesting decisions' and the camels that I like about this game. It's essentially just a set collection game, but there are two things that change it up:

1) Being able to sell sets of commodities for sets of coins that also produce bonuses when selling larger sets. This gives both a push-your-luck element to the game as well as a bit of a game of chicken. Should you hold on to your 4 set for a bit longer to see if you can pick up the 5th for a bigger bonus, or should you just sell now, get the 4 level bonus instead and prevent the other player from getting the higher value coins?

2) The decisions around how to manage your camels and the potential exchanges you can do. The camels never leave the game - as more come into the game there are more to work with. Of course, this is balanced by having a hand limit of 7 at all times and, because camels put extra cards into your hand, they are powerful but limited.

There is a lot of great balancing done in this game, both in how you play as well as the actual design. For instance, if you go for smaller sets of coins you will also get smaller bonuses, but you will likely be getting the higher value coins first. If you wait a bit longer to get larger sets, you might not get the higher value coins but you could get some really nice set bonuses.

In addition, if you have a bunch of camels you can use them to grab a bunch of good cards from the table, but then you leave a nice set of camels for the other player to pick up which they can then use later to do something similar.

Also, the fact that you have a limited hand size really makes for some painful decisions sometimes - you might have to decide whether to dump some valuable cards on the table to get some other card or cards you need to make a bigger set, but you might also then leave something really nice for the other player to pick up.

Counting up our rupees at the end of a round.

Is there anything you didn't like about this game? 
Honestly, no, not really. It's a great length. The components are excellent quality. The artwork is really nice. Maybe the only 'complaint' is that it doesn't scale up to include at least 1 or 2 other players. Well, the only other complaint for some people might be that you'll pay $20-30 for this game (plus shipping) when, in reality, it's just a single-deck card game and some nice (pre-punched) cardboard chits. My take is - if it's a quality game that's fun to play, if you get at least several good plays out of it, that's money well spent.

All-in-all it's a solid game. If you like 2-player games I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to you to go get............go on, go get a copy for yourself!

Well, at least go get someone and play a fun 2-player game right now!

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