Number of players:
Don’t get fooled by the size of the box. This is a highly advanced 2-player strategy/tactical game. Extremely close, this game will hit your tables quite often once you get used to the variety of cards!
The game and gameplay
This game is by far one the most advanced Kosmos- Rio Grande, 2-player game that I have played. The reason I say this is because the game itself is not very complex to play, but the sheer variety of cards that exist makes the learning curve really steep for players. The card variety itself is both a boon and bane! More about the cards etc a little later.
Having played this quite a few times, I can say that this game offers enough strategic depth as any other big box Euro games. Yes, it may not be as deep as a Puerto Rico or Caylus or Princes of Florence or Notre Dame etc. But hey! Make no mistake this one’s a winner!
Jambo- At the heart of it is a trading game- you buy low and sell high and in doing so gain gold coins. Anyone who reaches 60 gold coins is the winner. This game comes with some amazing artwork! In fact you can spend quite a bit of time just looking and admiring the cards! Again impeccable artwork from Kosmos-Rio Grande.This game comes with some really nice and neat pieces:
· Two large market stand cards- one for each player
· Five small market stands
· Forty Ware cards
· Twenty Two Utility cards
· Twenty Nine Person cards
· Fourteen Animal cards
· Gold coins in one’s and five’s
· Six different ware chips (6 of each variety)
· Five action markers
This game takes about five-seven minutes to set up. Just that you need to separate all the bits out and place it in groups. Then you deal five cards to each individual, take twenty gold coins and a large market stand (that can accommodate six resources) and then you start the game.
Each player gets five actions that he can perform on his/her turn (counted using the action markers). There are two things that a person can do and both of them are optional- Draw Phase and Play.
In the draw phase, you can continue drawing a card until you decide to keep one; and once you do so you go onto the play phase where you play cards for the remaining actions. Because they are optional, you can directly go onto the play phase and play as well.
You can stack up any number of cards in your hand and use less number of actions on your turn as well. Meaning out of the five actions, it is not necessary to exhaust all of them- if you play three or less number of actions, then you get an additional gold coin as a reward!
Now with the gameplay being so simple, you might start to wonder where on earth is the complexity? This game comes with eight different animal cards (fourteen cards overall)- these cards can cause harm to your opponent and give you a distinct tactical advantage. These are used as surprise tactical options.
There are also ten different utility types (22 cards overall), which gives players lot of advantages during every turn. These cards stay in front of the player (up to a max of three) and can be used once every turn! These cards can actually help your game plan and strategy. You choose a set of three and keep changing them during the course of the game at different points to gain strategic advantage.
13 different person cards (29 of these altogether give one-off benefits. These are played during the person’s actions and last just during that action, but helps you maximize your gold, or buy for less, trade items, etc. I’m not going to go very deep into each card because I’ll be writing out a thesis then and not a review…
The objective is to use these special cards, along with the ware cards, to buy wares at a lower price and sell it at a higher price to reach sixty. But there are some interesting aspects with these wares themselves.
A card with three different wares is worth more than a card with the same ware. Also when you buy your sixth ware and you don’t have a small market, you have to pay two gold extra for keeping them. If you are the first person to buy a small market then you need to pay six gold opposed to the second player who pays just three (some tactical elements there)… phew, so much to think about, isn’t it? Well not really. Just get used to it and it is lots of fun! Trust me on that.
A good game should go on anywhere between 40-45 minutes. Very rarely, when the game gets really close, I’ve seen it go on for an hour. But you really won’t figure out how time flew by! It is very fast, interactive with both players going at each other and loads and loads of tactics and some strategy.
Pros and cons
Well, if you have got bugged with playing some basic card games like Lost Cities, Balloon Cup etc. But fret the idea of getting into a Caylus or an Agricola, then this one’s for you! Even for hard core gamers, this is a great game, because it is light compared to lot of other big box Euro Strategy Games. This game is also great for people who like to tingle their grey cells! But definitely not a brain burner. This is an enjoyable nail biting experience for 2 players.
Coming to the not so good part of the game. Well as I said before the variety is something that this game provides in plenty! But this is a double-edged sword. As you can see the number of different cards can become overwhelming for some. The learning curve is really steep. As the rule set recommends you have to play the first few games just to get used to the cards (I would say 3-5 games at least). Most of the cards come with lot of text on them and hence can slow down the game till you get familiar with them. The inter-relation between various cards is something that you’ll pick as you keep playing more and more games.
As you have to draw cards from a face down pile this is definitely not a ‘no luck’ game. Because of this element the game has a tilt towards tactics more than strategy- though there is definitely a plan you can go with once you get to know all the cards.
I would say Jambo is an experience (well though I don’t classify it in the same league of other Euro Strategy Games). This is definitely a great two-player small game. Don’t get misled by the fact that I’ve laid out so many rules. The rule set in fact is smaller than my review! This game is definitely easy to learn and play.
Jambo is neither too long nor too short, neither a brain burner nor a dumb game, nether is this too easy nor is this too difficult. This makes it a very attractive proposition and wants me to play more and more with casual gamers. If you are one that likes some strategy with luck, this is definitely one for your collection. But play other simpler games before you get to this; then you’ll appreciate this game a whole lot better. Very elegantly designed, this award winning game will leave you surprised at the amount of depth it offers in such a small box!