Dexterity games come in many, many flavours. Balancing games, catching games, avoidance games, slight of hand games, and straight up fastest hand games. These are my favourites, the need to be the quickest. Move like lightning, quicker than a speeding bullet. But of course, for that you could play snap with a regular deck of 52 playing cards. And that requires minimal skill. What does require skills is the combination of a keen eye, a fast arm, and the ability to conform to the rules of the Jungle... So Jungle Speed, published by Asmodee, is a great choice of fast hand dexterity. The game plays in 5-30 minutes and is for 4+ players.
Every player gets dealt an even amount of cards from the deck. The Totem is placed in the centre, within reach of all players. You have completed the ritual, you’ve prepared the cards, and now the sacrifice can begin... or you can play, I mean, I'm not your boss. The aim of the game is to be the first to have no cards left in their deck.
Players take turns to flip over cards, away from them, into their own personal discard piles. When two players have the same symbol, the rules of the Jungle kick in and it's now a primal battle of speed and wits. Who will notice first? Who will be quicker? Whomever acquires the Totem wins and gives their discard to the opponent. They then take the ritual of shame; mixing both the discards in play and placing them on the bottom of their deck.
The game contains two other types of cards which don’t have matchable symbols on them. Outward arrows and inward arrows. Outward arrows require everyone to play a card simultaneously. Inward arrows is simply be the first to acquire the Totem. Winning this allows you to place your discard under the Totem itself, removing risk to you.
There are some circumstances in which players can give their discard piles to opponents. This happens when a player insults or desecrates the Totem! If a player knocks over the Totem, acquires then Totem out of turn, or breaks any other rules, they gain everyone's discard pile. They also gain the discarded cards from beneath the Totem.
How It Handles
Jungle Speed is undeniably one of the most simple, yet most fun games I've ever played. Set-up is instantaneous and the tension is sky high. All the symbols are very, very similar. Of course, this is to ensure you make a mistake and to keep you on your toes. The colours of the cards don't matter at all, and there is little between the stylings.
When you're actually playing, your focus will be 100% on the table. You won't have scope to think about the outside world, your job, your cat... All there will be is Jungle Speed. We found ourselves going quite tribal with the game, picking up speed, saying the game’s name as we played. At one point we made cave drawings and hunted a mammoth with spears, but of course that's optional depth.
Something about Jungle Speed makes you feel like a real victor... There is a truly triumphant feeling holding the Totem. You know you've earned it, it's in your hand. Your opponent knows the consequences and will have little time to sulk. You'll want to get back to the game quickly, as everyone who wasn't involved will still need to play and be aware of the table. Miss a card and you're going to have a bad time, and take too long and it's guaranteed banishment!
In terms of quality, the game leaves little to be desired. The game came in a massive box, which initially gave me a tight stomach. I'd hoped the game would be an easy carry along game. I won't lie, I did have a moan. However! As I opened the box, I quickly ate my words! The game comes with a handy travel bag, big enough for the cards, rules, and the all important Totem. The cards are robust enough to be turned and flipped, the Totem is surprisingly light and durable, and the bag is excellently sized for storing it all. Don't be deceived by the delivered game, the contents meet all expectations!
Final Thoughts on Jungle Speed
Jungle Speed is a game I'll take everywhere with me. Anytime I know I'll play games, I'll probably pop it in my bag. I’m a fan of dexterity, but this has the chaos that other games don’t. Tokyo Highway is an all time favourite, but it doesn’t make me nervous in others’ turns, only my own. And my own quick handed-ness is a blessing in this over a curse! It's quick, fast-paced and active!
There's no scope for analysis paralysis, the rules are rigorous, and the tension is naturally occurring. I can't remember the last game that made me feel physically anxious over a cards flip, but I doubt another will do it as well as Jungle Speed. Remember! Leafy attire, tribal paint and fires are optional. The Totem is not.