Become the Maharaja's Personal Trader in this 2-Player resource acquisition game!
Hey there everyone! Bubba here!
As I mentioned in my last review I have a shame pile that I have accrued since the start of the pandemic. Now, I've always had a good number of games still in shrink because, well, we all do. Don't lie. You know you have at least one. Well... I have more than one. A lot more. That is to say that my board game collection may or may not have doubled in a year and a half... I plead the fifth. They're just making so many shiny games these days and my dragon-brain wants to grow the hoard.
I'm perfectly fine owning more board games, but I really have been neglecting actually playing them. I could blame that on the pandemic and the inability of people to get together, but honestly I've picked up a lot of 2-player games, too. The one I'm reviewing today is one of those. My friend Larry sold me on it just by saying it's one of his top three 2-player games and that was enough to make me pick it up without reading any reviews. That man's better at selling me games than the other way around!
Now if you know my gaming tastes you'll know that I love a good 2-player. Especially something lighter and clever. This one ticks a lot of boxes for me. So let's start talking about the game.
In Jaipur you are trying to outwit your opponent to become the Maharaja's personal trader! You do this by acquiring goods and camels, and strategically trading them to get as many points as you can! The layout of the game is pretty simple. You have a deck of facedown cards next to a marketplace of five face up cards. The marketplace always begins with three camels and two other goods and is refilled when there are less than five cards. There are six stacks of tokens that represent the different goods which are ordered in descending point value. There are three stacks of bonus tokens for selling three or more of a good at a time which represent how many of that good you sold; one pile for three items, one pile for four items, and one pile for five items. There is a much smaller pile of three "seals of excellence" which are received when a player wins a round. Each player also has an area in front of them reserved for their camels also called their herd. You start with five cards in hand but have to immediately play any camels in your opening hand to your herd. No camels in hand. Hand camels bad.
On your turn, you can either buy or sell. Buying could be taking a single card from the marketplace, exchanging 2 or more cards from your hand and/or herd with the marketplace, or you can take the camels from the marketplace. If you take one camel from the marketplace, you have to take all the camels in the marketplace. This gets you camels, which are useful for trading and for points at the end of the round, but if most of the marketplace is camels it also opens up a lot of options for your opponent when the market gets refilled. Camels in your herd don't count toward your hand limit and if you have more than seven cards in your hand at the end of your turn, you have to discard down to seven.
If you sell on your turn, you take that many goods of a single type from your hand and discard them which gains you an equal amount of item tokens taken from the top of that particular stack. If you sell three or more of a particular good at once, you gain a bonus token too. When selling precious items (which are gold, silver, and diamonds) you must sell at least two of them even if there's only one token left in the pile for that item. More common items can be sold singly.
The round ends immediately when either the deck is out of cards to refill the marketplace or when three item token piles are empty. Whichever player had more camels receives the camel token which is worth five points. Players add up their totals and whoever has more points wins! If there's a tie, whichever player has the most bonus tokens takes it. If there's still a tie, then the player with the most item tokens wins the round and takes the seal of excellence. First player to two seals of excellence wins!
I sat down to play this game with my wife and the first thing we had to do was look up a video tutorial on how to play. The game is great but the rulebook wasn't super clear on how camels worked. Once we were over that hurdle we set up and started playing.
One big thing I really liked about this game was how fast turns were. You either bought or sold and that was it. Sometimes you might take about 20-30 seconds on a hard decision, but otherwise this game was lightning fast. It took me a second to figure out how the game worked so BJ whupped me. Oh man. She absolutely destroyed me. 63 to 56. Woof.
By round two I had more of a solid strategy. Get camels. Camels can be exchanged for goods and services. This round went even faster but played out differently! I win this time, 73 to 61.
This one played out much like the last one. Startlingly so, actually. I got camels, I won. 73 to 62.
I actually did this playthrough with BJ over a year ago so my memory for specifics on the games themselves is pretty low. I'd intended to write a review when I played it but it turns out our discord server doesn't really work well for posting reviews so I lost steam. I had some great pictures from the playthrough that I guess I deleted which bums me out. Ah well.
Pros: There are a lot of things I really like about this one. I love how easy it is to learn, understand, and play. I'm really happy it takes up a VERY small amount of space, clocking in at 1.5"x5"x7". I like the balance of trying to sell quickly to get higher point value tokens and trying to save up cards to get bonus point tokens. I also just really love the camels. Not just the mechanic, which is great, but I love the idea of random camels that won't let you separate them. That's super fun to me.
Cons: I can't think of a mechanical thing I don't care for so I just have to focus on game style. There's a lot of luck in this game and, if that's not your bag, that's not your bag. Sometimes the strategy has to be "just pick the best card for the situation at hand" which, while that's a choice-making strategy I like, it doesn't work for everybody. If you prefer a game where you make moves planning a grand strategy over a long game, this ain't it.
Wrap Up: Light, fun, easy to learn, this is a great game to get someone started on games that aren't Monopoly or Parcheesi. It has enough to it to really get a person into games with strategy without being too heavy. This is a game I feel will hit my table again and again and it more than justifies it's shelf space! I'm also really happy about how many times I got to write the word "camels." I think that's neat.
Catch you on the flip, Zip!