There’s this point, about halfway through a six player game of “Jamaica” when you start feeling a little unsteady. Your holds are looking near empty, but you’ve got one or two treasures sitting to the side, and you just keep thinking to yourself “when am I gonna get hit?!”
You’ll find a tense game here, but this only lends to the excitement. The mechanics are simple, but will often leave new gamers feeling like they’re in the middle of a big epic board game. And ultimately, that’s what makes this game so special.
Designed by Malcolm Braff, Bruno Cathala & Sébastien Pauchon
Art by Mathieu Leyssenne
Published by Game Works
In “Jamaica” players will take the role of pirates, racing around the titular isle, hoping to be the first to make it back to “Port Royale.” Each round one player will roll two dice, and then assign each die to either a morning or evening action. All players will then select a corresponding card from their own deck, and complete the actions described on the card. Available actions will either allow players to move their ships, or collect resources. Most spaces on the board will require players to pay a resource.
After at least one player reaches the finish line, the game ends and each player receives a score based on their position on the board, the treasures they’ve managed to collect, and any doubloons in their holds. The highest score wins. The game does feature some dice based combat, but this does little to quell the fun.
Unfortunately, the one hang-up I have with “Jamaica” has always been the treasure cards. These cards are rewarded for being the first to reach certain spaces on the board. The issue here is that some of these cards give the player a special power, and when a player is able stack multiple powers early on it can create a runaway leader. While this doesn’t happen often, it will diminish the fun for other players. (I feel like it’s incredibly important to note at this point that the expansion “The Crew” completely solves this issue. This expansion will be reviewed at a later date.)
The rules are clean and simple. The rulebook is laid out as a map, with the rules printed in islands along a path. The map layout, while thematic, was ill conceived, as it makes the rulebook a little difficult to use. It will be especially frustrating for those who like to take care of their games, as you will run the risk that the “rule-checker” in your group (you know who I’m talking about) will likely tear your map on the twentieth play through.
Before you even open the box, you are struck with the vibrant color of this game. Everything positively glows, bringing with it an air of excitement and adventure. The oversized player cards feature a linen finish, as does all of the cardboard.
The box insert is the big stand out though. It is, without a question, the best box insert I have ever encountered. Everything has a place, and nothing gets shuffled if the box is stored vertically.
Probably the only real disappointment with the components stems from the fact the the very first edition of the game contained resin miniatures as opposed to light plastic miniatures provided in later in editions. This is just a minor qualm, as the brightly colored plastic ships really stand out from the board.
Score – 10/10
This title is a fantastic experience. The issue with the treasure cards does little to dampen the fun, and most of the time they only add to it. With great components, a solid rule book, and gameplay that’s accessible to everyone, it’s easy for Token Opinion to recommend “Jamaica” to all readers.