Sunday, October 14, 2012

Autumn Games - Jambo

A well-regarded and popular entry in the Kosmos two-player series, Jambo by Rudiger Dorn, makes the players African merchants in pre-colonial days.

Each player starts with twenty pieces of gold, a market stall capable of holding six goods, and five cards in hand. The object is to get to sixty gold or more.  Once a player ends their turn with 60 or more gold, the other player gets one final turn to catch or pass them. If they do, they win. If not, the player who triggered the end wins.

On your turn, you have five actions spread over two phases. The first phase is "draw cards". The card deck consists of three-space market stall cards, ware cards, and people, animal and utility cards. Each time you draw a card it costs one action. Once drawn, you may keep the card or discard it. If you keep it, then you may draw no more this turn and you move into the second phase.  If you discard the card, you can draw again or not. Since each draw costs an action, you may draw at most five cards and will only ever keep the last one you drew. After drawing, any remaining actions are used in phase two, "play cards".  You can also convert two unused actions at the end of your turn into one gold.

The key to the game are the ware cards which picture either three or six of the goods that make up the market. If you want to buy goods, you play a ware card and pay the bank the smaller of two amounts on the card. Put the matching goods markers onto empty spaces on your market stall. If you want to later sell goods, you play a ware card and turn in the matching goods from your market stall, taking the higher amount of gold on the card in exchange. In this way you buy goods at a low price and later sell them at a higher price.

The three-space market stalls cost gold to play but they allow you to store more goods, giving you more flexibility in making saleable combinations on the ware cards.  There are only five of these cards in the deck, so they're hard to come by.

Ipecac's market stalls with three goods
The remaining cards (people, animals and utility) give the player either a one time special action or a permanent benefit. They give you things like free goods, extra gold, allow you to swap one type of goods for another, remove cards from your opponent's tableau, or draw more cards.  Up to three utility cards stay in front of you and can be used once per turn (at a cost of one action).

Ipecac has 50 gold, two utility cards and one good in his market stalls.

As you might imagine, Jambo has a specific back and forth rhythm as players spend their gold to obtain wares and other benefits and then gain gold by selling wares.  In Jambo it definitely takes money to make money.

Carol and I jockeyed back and forth a bit, slowly building up our gold supplies. I obtained a three-space market stall right away and then proceeded to draw the other four available market stalls and discard them, making Carol muddle through with just her original stall. We both arrived in the mid-40's at about the same time.

At that point, I was within striking distance of 60 gold. I thought Carol might not be so I sold some goods and made it to 61 gold, triggering the end game. Carol would have one final turn to get from around 42 gold to 61 or more to win. It turns out I had miscalculated. She had the right combination of cards in hand to sell enough wares to hit 61 and the game was hers. As an added kick, she used her final two actions to get one gold, making it absolutely clear that she had won.

Final scores:

     Carol   62
     Ipecac  61

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