Jamaica Review

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Jamaica is a game by Malcolm Braff, Bruno Cathala and Sebastien Pauchon, published by GameWorks. It is for 2-6 players. In this game, players will be taking on the role of pirates on a great race around the island of Jamaica. Along the way they will be trying to collect as much gold as possible. The player that wins the race however, won’t necessarily win the game. The player with the most gold once the race is finished will be declared the winner.

To begin, lay out the board in the middle of the play area. The treasure cards are shuffled and 9 of them are randomly selected before being shuffled and placed facedown in a pile on the right side of the navigation box. The remaining treasure cards are returned to the box. The combat die is placed on the fortress space of the board. Players choose a color and receive a ship and action cards in their color as well as a player board that represents the hold of their ship. Players will then place their ship on the Port Royal space on the board. Resource tokens are sorted by type and place within easy reach of all players. Treasure tokens are randomly placed on each of the 9 pirate lairs spaces on the board. Players receive 3 food tokens and 3 doubloons which must be placed in 2 of their holds on their player board. Players shuffle their action cards and draw the first 3 cards. The first player is chosen and is then given the compass and two action dice. Play now begins.

On a player’s turn, the dice are rolled and then, after consulting their cards, are placed on the navigation box in the player’s chosen order. All players will then chose a card from their hand and place it facedown across their discard pile. Once all players have placed their cards, the first player turns their card over and completes their 2 actions. The left die on the navigation box is the morning side which corresponds with the left side of the card while the right die is the evening side and corresponds with the right side of the card. In turn order, the rest of the players do the same thing, revealing their card and taking the 2 actions. Once all players have completed their actions, everyone draws the top card from their deck, bringing their hand count back to 3.

There are 2 types of actions loading and moving. Loading actions are signified by one of three symbols, either a doubloon, gunpowder or food. The number on the die tells how many of a certain token must be loaded into an empty cargo space on the player board. If there are no empty spaces, one must be emptied to make room for the new tokens by removing them and placing them back in the pile of tokens. Moving is signified by either a forward or backward symbol. The number on the die tells how far to move in the shown direction. If a player lands in a spot occupied by another ship, combat occurs.

Combat is done through dice rolls. The attacker spends any gunpowder tokens they wish, to add 1 to the attack roll. They then roll the dice. The defender can then choose to add gunpowder tokens as well before rolling their defense roll. Once both players have rolled and the numbers have been totaled, the higher strength wins. If at any time a star is rolled, that player immediately wins the battle. The winner is then able to either steal items from one of the opponent’s cargo holds, steal one of the opponent’s treasures or give a cursed treasure to their opponent.

Once combat is over or if no other ship is present in the moved to space, the player must then pay the cost to move there. Port spaces are represented by a golden needle and this cost must be paid in doubloons to the bank. Sea spaces are represented by white squares and must be paid with 1 food for each square to the bank. If the player doesn’t have enough money or food to pay, depending on the space, they must pay as much as they have of the required commodity. The player must then move their ship back to a space that they can afford to pay the cost. The player then pays the cost of the new space. Pirate lairs cost nothing to land on. If there’s a treasure token still on the space when a player lands there, they may remove it from the game and take a treasure card. These cards provide special powers or can modify a player’s score at the end of the game.

Players continue to race around the board until one player reaches the Port Royal space. At this point, the game is over. Players then gain points based on where they are on the board. This is added or subtracted to the players doubloons and treasures. The player with the most points wins.

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COMPONENTS
This game has so many great pieces to it. The board is a beauty to behold. The feeling of being at the island of Jamaica is very much there. The doubloons, food tokens, gunpowder tokens, treasure tokens, compass and player board are all made of thick cardboard and they each look amazing. The great detail of design from the intricate beauty of the doubloons to the wooden looking floorboards of the player boards makes each piece come alive. The cards have such great and fun artwork as well. Each captain has their own deck and each card is simply amazing. The ship pieces are brightly colored and highly detailed. I love how great these look. The dice have that great bone color to them so it feels like your rolling them bones, so to speak. All in all, I’m blown away by the beauty and detail of every piece.
10 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook is actually more of a rule map. It starts off in the box to look like you’ve found some golden treasure, but then you fold it out to find all the rules laid out in a sort of pirate treasure map of how to do things. There are arrows and numbers for helping you to navigate through every thing. It’s definitely one of the most unique designs that I’ve ever seen. There are detail biographies of each of the captains giving a bit about each one. There are rules for playing a 2 player game involving a ghost ship as well as the regular rules. There are lots of pictures and a few examples as well. It’s quite a job trying to find somewhere to lay this map out to be able to read the rules. However once you’ve read through them, you probably won’t need to refer back to them very much if at all. That’s how simple the game is. I really like the design of everything, even if it is a bit unwieldy.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
The game is an absolute beautiful race game. It’s so much fun and has to be my favorite race game to date. It’s very simple and after a few rounds, you won’t really need to look back at the rules. It has some strategy to it with choosing your cards and choosing the dice but not so much that you find yourself agonizing over your next move. I think a lot of that has to do with the limit of 3 cards in your hand. I really like that there’s an aspect of combat involved as well. If it had been simply a race, I might not have enjoyed it quite as much. I feel like the combat aspect really takes it over the top for me. The game is light and simple and even easy enough for the kids to get in on. It’s not a very long game to play with most games lasting around 45 minutes. It plays just as great with 2 players as it does with 3 or more. This is a great game and one I thoroughly enjoy.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Jamaica is a light to medium weight pirate racing game with a little bit of combat thrown in. It’s a fairly simple game and is one that you can play with the kids. The artwork is outstanding and there’s so much detail on everything from the ships to the board. It’s not a very long game with most sessions lasting no more than 45 minutes. The gameplay is simple yet there is a small bit of strategy to satisfy even advanced players. It’s simple to teach and won’t take long to learn either. I highly recommend this game and feel that it’s one that will appeal to everyone. It’s my favorite racing game and I’m sure once you’ve played it, it will be yours too. You will not regret owning a copy of this one.
  9 out of 10

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For more information about this and other great games, please check out Game Works at their site.

http://www.gameworks.ch/2010/index.php?m=0

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About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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