Jambo – Our first play

Lisa and I finally got some time tonight to try out Jambo.I had read through the small ruleset and was able to run through them for her andwe were off and running. Jambo is designed for two players and I bought it specificallyfor Lisa and I to play since she likes the two-player variant of San Juan.

In Jambo, players take on the role of merchants in Central African markets before colonization.The game is based on an Action Point Allowance System where players are allotted5 action points on each turn. Each turn is composed of two optional phases but the phasesmust be played in the order: draw cards and then play cards. During the draw phaseyou turn over the top card from the draw pile and look at it. If you like it you putit in your hand. If you don’t like it you discard it and draw the next card. You cancontinue until you put a card in your hand. However, each card you draw costs you oneof your 5 action points allotted to you for this turn.

After placing a card in your hand, you then expend your remaining action points in phase 2.In this phase, you play cards from your hand which allow you to buy wares (tea, hides, salt,silk, fruit, or trinkets) for gold, sell wares for gold, and create new markets to hold wares you want to sell.Additional cards (animals and people) let you take special actions during your turn and finallyutility cards (which remain in play even after your turn completes are can be used in subsequent turns) grant you more persistent special actions. Playing cards cost an actionpoint as does using the special powers of utility cards played in this or previous rounds.

The game is extremely tactical since you cannot easily predict what will be in your handor your opponents position with any high degree of exactness. Special cards can causeyour hand to change during your opponents turn, they can cause one or more of yourutility cards to be lost, you may need to enter into an auction for wares or cards in themiddle of your opponents turn, etc.

The first player to reach 60 or more gold nuggets triggers the end game and your opponentgets one more turn to match or beat your current gold count. If your opponent matches orbeats your gold count, then he/she wins.

Our first game was a little rough because we spent a lot of time reading the text onthe cards that describes the special powers. There exists a “Psychic Card” that allows you topick up 6 cards from the draw pile, take the one you want and then replace the remainingcards in the same order (minus the one you took) back on top of the draw pile. When youget a handful of cards you haven’t seen before, it takes a little while to fully grok what’s good and what’s bad.

I was doing pretty good in the first half of the game since I was able to quickly turn overwares for gold but as the game wore on, Lisa was able to get some powerful utility cardsand usually ended up with many cards to choose from on her turn. I, on the other hand, wascard poor most of the game and although I ‘bought’ a small market for 6 gold and filledthem up, I wasn’t able to convert because I couldn’t get the ware cards I needed to sell.

Given my end game lock up, and Lisa’s great tactical play she was able to convert herwares more efficiently with only a large market (she never held a small market in herhand the entire game) and she won 61 to 45. Both of us liked the game and we intendto play it several times close together to get a feel for the special powers such thatwe don’t need to read the text any more but can tell what the card does just by glancing at the excellently done artwork.

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