As someone who is a sucker for some of the more ‘heavy-weight’ and complex board games, a problem that I’m commonly struck with is the difficulty of introducing new, perhaps less invested players to some of my favourite games. It’s a feeling many of us know all too well when we’ve spent loads of time getting really excited about a game, then introducing it to someone else, only to be told it’s “too complicated” or “too nerdy”. This is where Jaipur comes in.
Jaipur is like the Schrodinger’s Cat of games; you never know whether a round will be an easy win or more of a thinker, a high scorer or an epic battle for points, until you play. No strategy works the same twice as your opponent and you battle it out for large hauls or high-value items and of course, the camels. Jaipur is amazing at being a really simple entry point into the world of strategy-based games whilst still having many levels of depth that allow the game to be accessible to novices and pros alike. Give it a try and get yourself hooked.
You and your opponent both start with a hand of 5 cards, and play opposite a ‘market’ with 5 more cards face up. Commodities like leather, silver, or gold can be collected and traded for points (pro-tip: trade early to cash in on big points) by ‘buying’ from the market and ‘selling’ to the discard pile. But be warned, buy in bulk and you’ll have to refill the market with your own stock or your camels (if you can bear to part with them), and should you fill up too quickly you may reach your hand-limit – 7 cards – and have to make some tricky decisions…
Aside from all this, however, that’s about all there is to learn! Time flies by in Jaipur, and as soon as the deck runs out or three commodities are depleted, the round is over. Now it’s time to add up your points (sort into piles of 10 if you want an easier job) and see who is the Master Trader of this round, and the rightful recipient of the coveted Emperor Token. Unlucky this round? Don’t fret! Jaipur is played until a player has gained two emperor tokens, so there is much opportunity to be back in the running to become the Emperor’s personal trader.
No review of Jaipur would be complete without a look at one of the game’s most fundamental (and loveable) concepts – the camel! In all seriousness though, the camel is really the cherry on top for Jaipur. Camels are essential if you want to buy big in Jaipur; unless you want to say goodbye to valuable items you’ve been saving for later, you’ll need them to complete purchases. The drawing of camels from the market also opens up a range of new things to consider when taking your turn. When you choose to take camels, you have to take all that are available in the market. Sound good? Well hold your horses (or camels), because whenever you take them, cards are drawn straight from the deck to replace them – leaving your opponent with a potentially lucrative selection of goods to choose from. In a game as frantic and fast-paced as Jaipur, camels make you stop and think: Can I risk filling up now and losing out on the cards I need? How many cards should I take? In short, camels allow seasoned gamers to really sink their teeth into this game, and provide a great leveller for players of all different experience levels.
What Makes Jaipur So Good?
A game as small as Jaipur really packs a punch; it’s got great replayability, tons of possible strategies, and yet a very simple rule set. Jaipur never leaves players waiting between turns, you need to be constantly planning and ready for whatever your opponent might throw at you! Since every round of Jaipur is independent of others, there’s no need for a scorepad or pen and paper either – you’ll never have to remember scores or do much in the way of complicated maths. And of course, the artwork is absolutely lush and full of really nice detail (though this may be better examined outside of the game, you don’t want to be caught off your guard!).
On a side note, Jaipur is a great example of a game that plunges you into a completely new and captivating atmosphere and story. It’s a great representation of Indian culture – a bustling market in the sun-bleached Thar Desert, colourful bazaars selling local oddities, satins and silks, and priceless gems; it’s an area of the world which we see all too little in our media and games. Jaipur is a homage to a quintessentially Indian environment, which makes it really interesting to play as you put yourself right in the busyness and energy of the market. What’s not to like?
What Could Be Better?
It’s really hard to find fault in games as great as Jaipur, but there are some things to consider before you rush to get the game. While you may not be waiting long between turns in Jaipur, resetting the game before the next round can get a bit tedious as you have to take care to order the tokens correctly – it can take some of the magic and excitement out of the game as you sit around waiting around as whoever drew the short straw has to sort the tokens and shuffle the cards. The game isn’t a ‘pick me up and play me for 10 minutes’ kind of affair, which is fine for some people, but it does require both players to set aside a good ½ hour’s worth of time which is kind of a deviance from the norm compared to most 2 player card games. This can work in its favour though; for people looking for more substantial games to play with their gaming partners, this is a surprisingly good choice.
All in all, there’s little to be ill-spoken about Jaipur. It’s a really clever, fleshed-out hand management game with clever mechanics that would work really well completely separate from each other, let alone all tied into one! And of course, there are camels! Jaipur has quickly become an all-time favourite in my household, and since my household is completely full of board games, I see this as it proving its worth! Being someone who often finds themselves annoyed that many of their favourite games become boring or hard to play when played with two players, Jaipur is great at scratching the itch for a game with a bit of depth, whilst still being great for pairs. So what are you waiting for? Let the race to become the emperor’s Master Trader begin!
- There’s a bonus for the player with the most camels at the end of each round, so try not to let your opponent get ahead!
- Lower-value goods may seem less appealing, but acquiring them in bulk to earn key bonus points is much easier than with high-ticket commodities.
- Don’t focus on one commodity for too long if it won’t come out of the deck. Trade the cards away in exchange for quick points (and bonuses)!