Jaipur First Impressions
Before Discovering Jaipur, There Was Splendor
Back in 2017 I entered the UK tournament for Splendor. In the run up to the tournament, my friends and I played game after game after game of the engine building game by Marc André. We played 30, 40, maybe even 50 versions, and after coming sixth in the tournament I decided to found this blog off what I learned. You can actually read those initial articles:
Since writing those articles, I haven’t played another game of Splendor. It was Splendor burnout, and I have stayed well away from the game, theme, and style of game for over a year. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy it, I love Splendor, but 50 games in a row kind of makes you thankful that there are other games out there.
This is the reason I have decided to avoid similar such games for such a long time. Splendor is ace, but hitting that point of “oh no, I have to play another game” really knocks you for six. Thus several games somehow lost their place on my “must buy” list. Century: Spice Road is one such game, having been called a great game for people who love Splendor. The other was Jaipur…
..,.a game my dad purchased at the UKGE this year.
The Spiritual Cousin To Splendor
Jaipur, by Sébastien Pauchon, is a game that is, in my eyes, a spiritual cousin of Splendor. Although games that require very different focuses and strategies, and games that have very little in common with each other in regards to mechanics, Jaipur is a game that has that same kind of feel. What this feel is, is kind of difficult to point out. That being said, it is a feeling that accompanies a few different games designed by European designers around fairly abstract concepts. Thematically, both are games about trading, but that is not the only similarity.
So what is Jaipur? Well, in Jaipur you play the role of a merchant, presumably in the city of Jaipur in India. In the game you take part in a trading market in the middle of the board. The market includes goods (Leather, Gems, Gold, Silver, Cloth, Spices), which you can gain into your hand either by taking a card from the market, replacing it from your hand or from the pile, or by drawing off the top of the pile. There are five cards in the market at any one time.
On your turn you can either trade for resources with the market, or you can sell resources from your hand.
Each good type has a pile of tokens. These give you different amount of points, and are in numerical order going from the most valuable on top to the least valuable below. There are also tokens for three of a kind, four of a kind, and five of a kind.
When you get different goods, you can sell them. Selling one gets you one token of that type. Obviously if you sell one card early you will get the most valuable token of that type. If you sell more than one you will, generally speaking, get more than one token (although some resources require you to sell at least two). If you sell three of a kind, you get the three of a kind token. If you sell four of a kind, you get the four of a kind token. You get the idea. The round goes on until either all cards are gone or three piles of resource tokens are taken. The whole game is played as the best of three rounds.
Jaipur and Strategic Play
As you can imagine, there is room for strategy within that. In fact, it is kind of interesting the types of strategies you can employ in a 30 minute game. This includes a bull rush strategy, a bit of an engine building strategy (ish), a collecting strategy, and a long game strategy.
It is because of these strategies that the other game that Jaipur oddly reminded me of was Ticket to Ride. In Ticket to Ride, there is a fairly well known and publicised way of playing the game which is to collect as many carriages and engines as possible before placing your first track, using the odds of drawing specific carriages and engines at the start of the game in your favour. The same concept can be done in Jaipur in order to gain big bucks; however, it is not without its risk.
There is one big question that this article has skirted around so far. Is Jaipur a fun game? The answer to that is simple. It is a fairly highly rated game, and, in my opinion, it was a fun game; however, there is a reason that this article is not a full review but instead is just about thoughts. We have only played a couple of games, and I can’t help but feel that a few more are needed. It was enjoyable, yes, but it also requires a fair bit of faff to set up for such a small game. Tokens need to be placed and sorted into order two, possibly three, times in a game, and that can be off putting.
That being said, I am 100% sure that under the lightly spiced skin of Jaipur, there is a masterpiece of a game. It is simple and it has beautifully elegant gameplay. One thing I haven’t mentioned so far is that the theme is somewhat abstract, but the artwork is beautiful. At no point do you really feel like a merchant, apart from maybe when you decide to create your own micro-economy by grabbing low value cards and trading them in, but it does a good job of dressing an abstract game up.
That being said, those micro-economy moments, where it feels almost like dealing in stocks and shares, are fantastic. They feel brilliant, and can provide a tingly feeling the likes of which only the best games provide.
The pacing is slightly askew, at this moment in time at least, but as we play more and more I expect that opinion to shift.
So those are the thoughts…
So, those are my current thoughts on Jaipur. Usually I don’t do these kind of “first impressions” articles for small abstract games, but in this case I think it is potentially worthwhile. Japiur is a great card game, but one that needs to explored a little bit further.
What are your thoughts on Jaipur? Let me know in the comments below.