This month’s game is a great little two-player game called Jaipur. The game’s introduction states that the aim is to try and become the “Maharaja’s personal trader by being richer than your opponent at the end of each week.” You spend three weeks, or rounds, collecting and selling goods like diamonds, gold, silver, cloth, spices, and leather. There are friendly camels to help you, and the more goods you sell at one time the better bonuses you get. At the end of each round, the person with the highest amount of money wins, and it’s best of three rounds.
Designer: Sébastien Pauchon
Artist: Alexandre Roche
GameWorks SàRL, REBEL.pl
Year Published: 2009
Like Splendor, another of my favorite games, this is a game where the resources you’re trying to get—the diamonds and other goods—are laid out face up on the table. This makes it so that you can pay attention to what your opponent is trying to collect. Are they picking up all the gold? Maybe you could pick up a gold on your turn just to frustrate them. This level of competition is perfect for me, because while you’re not actively trying to attack someone, it’s still so enraging when your boyfriend, just as an example, is hoarding all the silvers that you really want just because he knows you want them. This type of game puts a bit of a limit on playing what my friends call “The Mean Game”—you can only be so mean based on the actual gameplay mechanics, and sometimes it’s nice to have that check in place.
What I’m really trying to say here is that I’m usually the one playing the Mean Game. Because my boyfriend almost always beats me in almost every single game we play, I tend to get a little devious. My competitive side comes out, and I tend toward ruthless and stubborn. But, there’s only so mean you can be in Jaipur, and it usually involves taking a camel that your opponent wants, and in the grand scheme of things, that’s not so bad.
So here’s how you actually play. All of the goods tokens gets separated in their respective piles with the highest values on the top and then descending down to the lowest. Pick out three camels to put in the “market” and shuffle the rest of the cards. Deal out five cards to each player and flip over two more cards for the market. The goal is to collect as many of the same kind of good as you can before selling them for profit. You can hold the cards in your hand as long as you want until you’re ready to sell, but you can’t have more than seven cards in your hand. You get rewarded for selling more amounts of goods with bonuses for selling three, four, and five at a time and for being the first to sell a particular kind of good. That’s why the numbers on the front of the good tokens need to go from highest to lowest. If you’re the first person to sell leather you’ll get more points than if a lot of leather has been already been sold. I think there’s a lesson in economics there. Supply and demand? Flooding the market? Something like that; just focus on the camels if you don’t want to remember 11th grade econ class.
On each turn, a player can either take cards or sell cards. If you take cards you can do it in one of three ways: just take on singular card, take up to five cards of any kind from the market, but you must replace them with cards from your hand or your camel herd—more on that in a second—or take all the camels. The market is refilled after each turn. You want to collect groups of goods to sell the most of them at once. You can have seven cards in your hand at one time, so conceivably you could sell seven of a kind, but it’s really hard. You have to exchange cards to get cards, so that limits you from hoarding all of the diamonds or other goods.
When you take the camels you take all the camels. The house rule when I play with my boyfriend is that if you’re taking the camels you must say in a voice full of entitlement and braggadocio, “Imma take ALLLLLL these camels.” My boyfriend said this the first time we played, and it still makes me laugh to think about it. It has nothing to do with the actual gameplay other than to be ridiculous. It’s like saying, “Uno!” in Uno except it’s not required at all. It’s just more fun. The camels then go into your “herd,” which is displayed face up in a stack in front of you. You can use these camels to exchange for the cards that you actually need.
Selling a card is fair straightforward. You would say for example, “I’m selling four gold,” and then put those for gold face up in the discard pile. You’d then take the top four gold tokens and any bonuses that you get. If you sell three, four or five cards at one time you get a bonus token. On the other side of these tokens are different point denominations that you add up at the end of the game. You can sell any amount of cards—even just one—except for diamond, gold, and silver cards. You have to sell at least two of those at a time.
Strategy in the game looks a couple of different ways: selling the expensive cards or selling lots of less expensive cards. The diamond, gold, and silver cards are better bonus tokens, but there are more leather cards, for example, so it’s easier to collect five and get a five card bonus. Strategic camel herding can also help. They are useful to have, because you can use them in exchanges without sacrificing goods cards. But taking all the camels all the time means you may not have a ton of goods cards. It’s a balance.
The game ends when either the draw pile runs out or three of the three bonus tokens run out. The person who has the most camels in their herd gets a special camel token worth five points. You are also obligated to make “Camel TOE-ken” jokes in this game. Make all the camel jokes! Then you add up all of your bonus token points and the person with the most points wins that “week.” The best of three weeks wins the game!
Again this is a great, low key game. The art is nice, the camels are cute, and the insert of the box is hot pink. There should be nothing stopping you from taking all the camels and playing. If you’re looking for a good two player game that is quick to learn and enjoy, check out Jaipur. You’ll be herding camels and amassing fortunes as a shrewd merchant in no time!