Menu

JAMAICA

reviewed by Herb Levy

Assura/GameWorks, 2-6 players, ages 8 and up, 30-60 minutes; about $50

   In the colorful era of pirates and plunder, the notorious pirate Henry Morgan had managed to “change sides”, becoming the Governor of Jamaica with the task of driving out pirates. Instead, Henry turned the island into a safe haven for his nautical brethren. To commemorate Henry’s rise to Governor, “the Great Challenge” is organized. The Challenge? Race around the island with the winner being the one with the most gold at the end. And that is the theme of the fun, family game that is Jamaica.  jamaicabox

   Jamaica is the work of three designers: Malcolm Braff, Bruno Cathala (solo designer of many games and co-designer on Cleopatra and the Society of Architects and others) and Sebastian Pauchon (Yspahan and this issue’s Metropolys). The game comes in a “treasure chest” containing gold doubloons, food tokens, gunpowder tokens, 9 treasure tokens, 12 treasure cards, a compass (indicating each round’s first player), six player boards (representing the holds of each player’s ship), six nicely produced ships in different colors, two regular six-sided dice, a special combat die and a mounted board showing the island of Jamaica in its center with several smaller islands on its perimeter.  The race course is the water surrounding Jamaica and the water is divided into sections.  

   All players begin at the starting (and finishing) space of Port Royal. The 9 treasure tokens are placed on the skull spaces appearing irregularly around the racing area. The treasure cards are shuffled, three of them removed, sight unseen, from the game, and the rest placed in their denoted space in the center of the board. Each player begins with an identical set of Action cards and a board which simulates the five holds of his ships, two of which are filled with three food tokens and three gold doubloons. The Action cards are shuffled and each player draws three cards which become his starting hand. With the first player randomly selected, play begins.jamaicacard

   The first player rolls the two regular six-sided dice and now, as the Captain this turn, has a decision to make. Which die will represent the morning action and which the evening for ALL players that round? (Of course, a roll of doubles eliminates this quandary.) His decision impacts on which card each player will choose to play. 

   All Action cards depict some sort of pirate scene (a scene that has NO affect on game play). What IS important on the card are the two icons located on the left (morning) and right (evening) side of each card. Icons come in five varieties: food, gunpowder, gold, a green arrow and a red arrow (movement). Each player reveals his card in turn and does the action in morning/evening order. If the icon revealed is a commodity (food, gunpowder or gold), the player collects those commodities (in the amount shown on the die) and places each commodity in one of his holds. Each hold may only contain ONE type of commodity. In addition, if during the course of play, a pirate has a full ship with all holds holding something, the new commodity picked up must be loaded and one cargo already on board jettisoned! The catch: you may NOT jettison the same type of commodity. So, for example, if you’re picking up gold, you may not jettison a cargo hold of a lesser amount of gold. Either food or gunpowder must go instead. 

   Green arrows advance ships; red arrows indicate backward movement. Where you end up is important. Each section of the water has SOMETHING marked on its space, either a Port (showing a gold number), open Sea (showing one or more white squares) or a skull (indicating a pirate lair and a place to lay your hands on some treasure). If landing on a Port space, the player must pay to the bank gold equal to the number shown on the space. Landing on a Sea space requires a similar payment but this time in food. If unable to pay the full amount of gold or food, the ship is compelled to travel BACKWARDS to the previous space and pays what is required there. If still unable to pay, the backward movement continues until the ship stops on a space where the player CAN pay what is required. If you play your cards right, you COULD maneuver yourself into backing into a skull space.jamaicaboard

   There is no cost for landing on a skull space. On the contrary, the first player to land there will pick up a treasure. The treasure marker is removed from play and the player draws the top card from the Treasure Deck. Most of the cards carry a point value, mainly positive (up to +7) but some negative (down to a -4). Four of the cards are special and reward the player with something extra that could be the ability to hold a fourth card in his hand (rather than the normal three), a sixth hold to store more cargo, add +2 to his combat die or RE-ROLL either his or his opponent’s die in combat. 

   Combat occurs immediately whenever a ship lands in am already occupied space. The attacker may commit any number of his gunpowder tokens to the attack and then rolls the combat die. The combat die has values of 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and a star. The number of gunpowder tokens is added to the rolled number. (A rolled star is an AUTOMATIC victory.) If a star is not rolled, the defender may then commit gunpowder tokens to his defense and rolls the die. Should the defender roll a star, he wins no matter what number the attacker rolled. High number is the victor and to the victor goes the spoils, taking either ALL of the contents of ONE hold OR picking, at random, one treasure card held by the defeated pirate. A third option for the victor is to GIVE one of his treasures to his defeated opponent. (This is an excellent way to rid yourself of a negative valued treasure). Now, the pirate, win or lose, follows the regular requirements of his turn. 

   Play continues as the pirates circumnavigate the island. The first player to reach Port Royal gets a bonus of 15 points, ending the game immediately. The rest of the pirates also score for their positions at this juncture. The closer they are to Port Royal, the more points (as specified on their spaces), they will receive. (Some pirates may find themselves too far from the finish line. They LOSE 5 points.) Final point totals are now calculated. Added to their score for their final position in the race is 1 point for each gold coin in their holds and the specified point values for their treasures (plus or minus as the case may be). The pirate with the highest combined total wins!  jamaicacomponents

   Yes, Jamaica is a bit chaotic; your best laid plans can easily fall victim to the roll of the dice affecting both movement and battle, creating a race game where you are nearly as likely to travel backward as you are to race forward! But there ARE strategies you can implement. You can, for example, rush ahead to finish first, figuring that the gold and treasure scooped up by your opposition will not be enough to outweigh the gold you manage to obtain along the way plus the big points for finishing first. Alternatively, you might wish to lay back while others move ahead so that you can amass large cargo holds filled with gold and avoid battles that might cause you to lose your treasure. You might wish to be the “scourge of the seas” and constantly battle to steal gold and treasure. Or, perhaps a balanced approach of a little gold, a little treasure and a little battling will result in victory. We’ve played the game enough to have seen ALL of these approaches work. With the vagaries present in play, there is no sure route to victory so each captain can place his own stamp upon the gameplay. 

   The component quality of Jamaica is first rate, from the colorful mounted board to the artwork on the cards. Although it has no effect on play, the artwork by Mathieu Leyssenne is something that you might expect to see from Pixar or DreamWorks or some other first class animation studio, both entertaining and completely fitting with the game’s light-hearted nature. An interesting quirk is that if you join the cards, linking them, icon to icon, you create a pirate panorama. Each deck of cards adds to the ambiance as they represent ACTUAL pirates. (A short biography of each is included in the rules.)  Also worthy of note is the box. The emphasis of the game is on treasure and the box LOOKS like a treasure chest. Even the box insert works. EVERYTHING fits in perfectly and can serve as a model for how inserts in games should be done. (The only quibble with the presentation is with the instructions. The instructions are written flawlessly. Everything is clear and to the point helped by the many illustrations. But the instructions are printed in the guise of a large, multi-folded, maritime map.  Keeping with the theme? Yes. Cumbersome? Yes, too. A more traditional rulebook would have worked a bit better.)

   Jamaica is unusual in that the force behind the game is not your typical game company but, rather, an insurance company! Having enjoyed some success with Animalia (a card game that was their first release), the company decided to go the board game route. What pirates have to do with insurance is a mystery (unless, of course, you are selling policies to protect against piracy for ships traveling the high seas). But the game itself rates highly as a light, family style, game. Taken in the right spirit, this weird race game of pirates vs. pirates is perfect for both families and those serious gamers who like to have a little lighter, frothy, fun.  – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy

 


SUMMER 2008 GAMERS ALLIANCE REPORT

 

reviewed by Herb Levy Kids are people too! And games can provide the same kind of entertainment and learning that we adults manage to take from our own gaming experiences. Here is a quick look at games kids can play with their friends or maybe even their parents! Remember: the kids that play games today are the adult gamers of tomorrow!   BUZZWORD JUNIOR (Patch ...
Read More
reviewed by Joe Huber Queen Games/Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, 45-60 minutes; $39.95    Andreas Seyfarth has designed some of the best regarded games around, with Puerto Rico (Spring 2002 GA REPORT) having topped the BoardGameGeek ranking for years and Thurn & Taxis (Fall 2006 GA REPORT) having won the Spiel des Jahres. This sets high expectations for his new designs ...
Read More
The Pool This is the summer issue of Gamers Alliance Report so it's only fitting that we talk about some of the things people do during the steamy, sweltering summertime. Some of us stay indoors and crank up the air conditioning. Some of us take advantage of the hot weather and hit the golf greens or ball fields, both as active participants and avid spectators ...
Read More
reviewed by Herb Levy     [Being born and raised in Brooklyn, New York has given me fond memories of that wonderful place. So, it's a pleasure to present, in this installment of Game Classics, a game produced by Plan B Corporation, a company situated in that beautiful borough, and their intriguing game of force and direction: Vector] Plan B Corporation, 1970, 2-4 players, less ...
Read More
Reviewed by Chris Kovac (Eggertspiele/Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, 45-60 minutes; $49.95) Guatemala Café, the new game from Inka and Markus Brand, is, unlike its title suggests, a resource based game about growing coffee in Guatemala. It is a 2-4 player resource development game which takes about 45 minutes to an hour to play depending on the experience of the players ...
Read More
reviewed by Herb Levy Assura/GameWorks, 2-6 players, ages 8 and up, 30-60 minutes; about $50    In the colorful era of pirates and plunder, the notorious pirate Henry Morgan had managed to "change sides", becoming the Governor of Jamaica with the task of driving out pirates. Instead, Henry turned the island into a safe haven for his nautical brethren. To commemorate Henry's rise to Governor, ...
Read More
reviewed by Herb Levy RSV Productions, Inc., 2 or more players, ages 8 and up, less than 30 minutes; $19.95   IiN Japanese, jishaku (pronounced jee-shah-koo) means "magnet". In Jishaku, the new game designed by Steve Velte, magnetism is the force that serves as the basis for a series of games. Jishaku comes with 18 magnetic stones (and a bag to hold them), an asymmetrical foam base ...
Read More
reviewed by Chris Kovac Ystari Games, 2-4 players, ages 8 and up, 50-60 minutes; $49.95      Metropolys is the latest game from Ystari Games and is designed by Sebastien Pauchon (best known as the designer of Yspahan, featured in the Winter 2007 GA REPORT). This is a light two to four player area control game which seems to works best with four. The game is ...
Read More
reviewed by Herb Levy Hans im Glück/Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, 60-90 minutes; $44.95    Early man faced myriad challenges in trying to carve out a sustainable life under trying conditions. This struggle serves as the theme for Stone Age, the latest offering from the pseudonymous Michael Tummelhofer, best known for Saint Petersburg (Summer 2004 GA REPORT). Stone Age comes with ...
Read More
reviewed by Herb Levy Hans im Glück/Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, ages 8 and up, 30-45 minutes; $34.95    The Great Wonders of the Ancient World have served as elements in many games and, once again, a game design draws upon one of these wonders. This time, the theme centers on the fabled Hanging Gardens of Babylon, as players compete as landscape architects to construct ...
Read More
reviewed by Herb Levy Days of Wonder, 2-4 players, ages 8 and up, 30 minutes; $25 One of the most successful games in recent years has been Alan Moon's Ticket to Ride (Spring 2004 GA REPORT). Not only did it garner a bunch of well deserved awards but this game also struck a responsive chord in the marketplace with lots and lots of copies sold ...
Read More
reviewed by Herb Levy Mayfair Games, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, 90-120 minutes; $49 The Emperor likes his swords. In Toledo, the new game from designer Martin Wallace, players attempt to satisfy that liking as they take on the roles of members of Spanish families renowned for their expert production of this weaponry.  In order to make those swords, you need to combine steel ...
Read More
reviewed by Al Newman Fantasy Flight Games, 2-5 players, ages 12 and up, 1-2 hours; $49.95 Karl-Heinz Schmiel is best known for Die Macher, a game about politics in different regions of Germany.  The game is one of the top rated games of all time and has been popular for over a generation since publication in 1986, despite it's complexity and daunting length (approximately 4 ...
Read More
reviewed by Herb Levy North Star Games, 4-20 players, ages 10 and up, 20-25 minutes; $29.99 Every since Trivial Pursuit rocketed to stardom as a money-making enterprise, there has been a veritable tidal wave of trivia games covering every conceivable - and inconceivable - subject. Some have been successful; more have fallen by the wayside and into obscurity. Regardless of successes and failures, the knock ...
Read More

If you enjoy games, then Gamers Alliance is right for you!