Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday 5 November 2015

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Jamaica



Designer: Malcolm Braff, Burno Cathala and Sébastien Pauchon 


Jamaica is one of the games that gets a lot of hype from Zee Garcia and Sam Healey on The Dice Tower. As such, it seemed rude not to hop online and find myself a copy of this game. It was the first racing game we added to our collection and our only previous experience had been the vintage Waddington’s game Formula One, which we had quite enjoyed, although not kept.

Jamaica is a light game racing game for 3-6 players in which each player takes control of a coloured pirate ship, taking a voyage with the aim of collecting as much loot as possible over the course of the voyage. Loot can be obtained by searching caves, but more importantly by attacking other pirate ships and stealing their contents. You are also rewarded handsomely for making the longest voyage around the board.

The first thing that strikes most players about Jamaica is how amazing the artwork is, from the box to the board, the cards and even the instructions, everything evokes a pretty romanticised pirate theme. It’s amazing how much joy a new player can get the moment they realise that their cards line up to make one continuous image and there’s no doubt that the game looks great on the table and makes many onlookers want to get involved.

The setup of the beautiful board for 4 players.
The games mechanics are also somewhat unique. At the start of a round, the active player rolls two dice, numbered 1-6. They then select which dice will correspond to the day action (depicted on the left of each card) and which dice will correspond to the night action. For example, if the player rolls a 2 and a 6, then they might choose to place the two as a day action and gain 2 gold and the 6 as the night action to move forward 6 places. If they placed the dice the other way round and played the same card, they’d get 6 gold and move forward 2 places. All other players then select what card to play based on the order of the dice. Players then reveal in turn and take their actions.

When players move, they need to pay the cost of the space they land on eg. 3 food or 5 money etc. If they cannot afford to pay, they must pay as much as possible and then move backwards to the first space they can afford. Thus the slight element of programming can be really interesting, especially if you tactically have to move backwards. The only spots that are ‘free’ to land on are those containing treasure, so you may be able to land there and get a treasure card (which may be positive or negative). If you land on a space containing another person’s ship then you trigger a battle. You both roll the combat dice and you may add cannon tokens to your roll to boost the numbers, the highest total wins the battle and can loot their opponent, either taking the contents of a hull on their ship or stealing a treasure card.

The representation of your boat with 5 hulls. You can only put newly obtained goods in an empty hull and must throw good overboard if you need to make space.

The game continues until one players gets all the way around the board and crosses the finishing line (getting 15 bonus points). The round is finished and all other players get points depending how far they progressed around the track. Any gold you have aboard your ship counts for 1 point per gold token and your treasure or curses are counted. The player with the highest total wins.

Jamaica is a great light-hearted gateway game. It is possible to introduce lots of mechanisms to non-gamers on top of a game that is roll and move in some elements – action selection, programming and some take-that. There’s very few rules to explain and you can be playing in minutes, plus the game should only last 30-45 minutes even at the full player count. The theme will attract many to this game and the gameplay does capture a small amount of theme with looting and battles. It will be too lightweight for some, but fortunately we don’t know many gamers who will turn down a lighter game once in a while.

My only complaint is that as wonderful as the idea of a treasure map for the rules is, it is massively unwieldy and not very detailed. I have been mocked when needing to check a rule during the game as I pull out a huge sheet of paper, that looks lovely but just isn’t practical.

Treasure map instructions!

Jamaica is good fun and gets a lot of laughs. I enjoy it a lot, but it doesn’t hit the table too often because it doesn’t work with 2 and benefits from higher player counts. Also, we often want a game with a bit more depth. However, when it does hit the table it’s always a hit. Overall, the Yellow Meeple has to give Jamaica a 6.5/10, but when it hits the table with the right crowd I often think it deserves more!

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