About BoardGameGuru

BoardGameGuru is a UK based online retailer, specialising in board games.

To use the shop, please follow the link below:


To read the full articles below, please follow the link to their own pages.

New To The Hobby: Jamaica

For anyone new to any hobby with its own customs, traditions and concepts - simply picking up the basics can be an intimidating prospect. For casual or first time players of many modern Euro or Ameritrash games a certain amount of what for the designers may be assumed knowledge is alien at best, or impenetrable at worst.

For this reason many gamers talk about Gateway Games, a sort of game that can be used as the eponymous entrance into the hobby.

As an introduction to many of the more nebulous concepts involved in modern games, and as a game in its own right, I can heartily recommend Jamaica, a game of Pirate Ship racing with a whiff of cannon smoke thrown in.

Each player takes the role of a pirate captain and gets their own ship, action cards and board (representing the holds of your ship) and a little gold and food to be getting on with.

The rules are simplicity itself - each turn the first player is called the Captain. They roll two normal dice and decide which one will be used for the "morning" and which will be used for the "evening". All this does is affect the actions on your cards, which are various combinations of two from the following:

  1. Load Food equal to the dice roll (i.e. up to 6)
  2. Load Gunpowder as above
  3. Load Gold as above
  4. Move Forwards
  5. Move Backwards
That's it. Your card shows one of these on the left (for which the morning die will be used) and one on the right (which uses the other). Each card has appropriate and amusing artwork showing a lot of investment in the concept from the makers.

You win a game of Jamaica by having the most points at the end of the race (which finishes at the end of the round when the first ship has crossed the finish line)

Points=Doubloons + Treasure + Points for your position on the board.

Now the really clever bits of Jamaica are the decisions surrounding the dice and the action cards.

Consider that you are the captain and you roll a 6 and a 1. The card in your hand shows a food loading in the morning and a forward movement in the evening - which dice do you want in the morning and evening? If you put the one in the morning you will load one food and then move forward six spaces. The problem with this is that one food is not very useful and blocks up a hold (your holds can never be topped up and new stock always replaces their entire contents) so would it be better for you to take 6 food and then move one place?

Food is exceptionally useful since on most board spaces you will need to consume food or be forced to move backwards due to shortages. The alternative can sometimes be to land on a port, which costs your precious doubloons but for which you don't need food.

The only free spaces to land on are the pirate bases, and these sometimes have treasures on, but to get to them often involves taking a longer route.

Combat occurs when you land on the same space as an opponent and takes the form of a dice roll, with your gunpowder tokens adding to this number (rolled with a special dice that goes 2,4,6,8,10 and also has a "kaboom" symbol which is an instant victory) - to victor, as is traditional, go the spoils! These will be either a piece of treasure or the contents of one hold in your opponents ship.

So getting back to my original point, what does Jamaica teach the new gamer that will come handy in other games?

First, we get the concept of combination - that is, rather than playing a card that moves you forward three spaces, or gets a certain amount of money these cards instead combine with the dice - this system is useful for understanding concepts like those in CCGs or CCG inspired games like Race For The Galaxy.

Secondly, as well as a choice of moves, we introduce the concept of the least worst choice - when you are not the Captain and the dice are not set up well for you, what do you do? What do you do when the Captain rolls a double 1 (a specialty of yours truly)? Contrast this to a simple "move as far as you roll" game, or the community chest or chance cards in Monopoly and you'll see why I find these types of decision more interesting.

Thirdly there' s no fixed route to victory. It's possible to gain 30 points through doubloons alone and if you are in a good position too you are likely to win, but those who send all their time collecting gold will suffer in position to those more interested in getting to the end first (with its 15 point bonus) and if they are significantly behind they will actually lose points. Also, while it may seem a good idea to avoid combat, if you have plenty of gunpowder cards in your hand you may decide simply to take people's doubloons away by force and win through this method.

For these reasons I reckon Jamaica is an ideal choice to introduce new folk to the gaming hobby, or to try out some of these concepts for yourself. The theme is excellent (who doesn't love pirates?) and the production values are top notch - the artwork is gorgeous and all the pieces of exceptional quality.

I highly recommend this as a fun, shortish (though the length will depend on the number of players) gateway game not to be taken too seriously. If you're looking for something that accurately depicts the life of a pirate you'll be disappointed, but as a step up in class and interest from dull roll and move race games it is a great choice!

....keep playing!


We are currently offering Jamaica at half the RRP - click here for its page in our shop

No comments:

Post a Comment