Brutus Rating: 7/10 knives in back
Pairs well with: Fine wines sipped from golden chalices that you don’t quite have enough of to trade yet.
(Poorly lit photos can be blamed on the photographer friend not being around this week. Or maybe on Bob for moving house. Basically, anyone other than Lizzy, who is coincidentally in charge of posting this week.)
2014 was quite the year for camel games, so it also proved to be an excellent time for Lizzy to receive Jaipur as a Christmas gift. It most certainly ranks in the top three for camel-based-games that she acquired that year, and Briony is inclined to agree that is sure is fun. This review marks the beginning of a new, and duly called for, list created by ‘The Misery Farm’ – Two Player Games Ranked In Order Of How Likely They Might Make You To Split Up With Your Other Half While Spending Time Together.
Huzzah! Never has a more practical and important list been created! We constantly see threads on various sites and blogs that call for good two player games with a lot of specific categories: these range from ‘must be easy to learn because my wife has a short attention span’, to ‘has to be small and portable enough for me to carry this to another country to see my long-distance bae’.
Jaipur is a pretty good two-player card game to kick the list off with. You buy goods, trade goods, trade goods for camels, trade camels for goods, trade goods for other goods, sell goods. Good? Good!
The game is fairly fast-paced and over two or three rounds: best of three is the winner. To win the round – that is, being the best at trading and most impressive to the Maharajah – you get a little token with the Maharajah’s face on, and the first person to please the Maharajah twice is crowned the victor and will forever be employed as his best personal trader. Conveniently, the Maharajah tends to be most impressed by whoever has the most points at the end of the round, so determining who wins is pretty simple.
Your goods come in the form of captivating colour-coordinated cards, and you and your other half (and/or nemesis) have a hand of your own and a communal pile of five to compete over.
The best bit about this game (other than the inclusion of camels) is its excellent ratio of rules to strategy complexity, and the fact that it might occasionally remind you of playing card games with your Gran in your earlier years. The rules are fairly quick and easy to learn, just like the game is to play, but the more you play it the more you start developing a complex strategy for how to trade. There are several things that the game gives you to look out for, and winning means balancing strategies and trying to open up as few opportunities as possible for your opponent.
Most goods depreciate in value pretty darn quickly. You can sell some of that brown leathery stuff, the most common good, but only the first few bits that get sold will be worth a decent amount of points, so if you’re going to sell it then you want to be the first person to do so. But wait! The more you sell at one time, the more bonus points you’ll get, so you want to save up as much as you can before you sell it. This shit gets competitive, yo. You don’t want to be saving up a bunch of that lowish-value [green resource] for ages and then have some arsehole your loving partner sell a single [green resource] first just to take the best price. Knob.
The game gets a fairly high ‘brutus rating’ because most things you’ll do will tend to affect the other player. And if you’re anything like us (or anyone we know. We need some new friends) then you’ll be purposely trying to knobble them over instead of just getting ahead yourself. But that’s ok, because it’s a two-player game! That’s how two-player games should work, and the dicking-up goes both ways and isn’t too extreme.
There are also various other factors which turn the game into more of a rampant strategy-fest. The hand limit is devilishly small, which will leave you regularly cursing. And there are special rules for trading different numbers of goods, and special rules for trading camels. Some goods – the most valuable – can only be traded when you have at least two of them to hand. All of this is pretty simple to learn but, again, makes the game surprisingly tactical.
Another great thing about this game is that despite all of the above it’s really fun to play, and the resentment and hatred for your partner doesn’t build up so much that it’s not manageable. Sure, they’ve traded away the last goddamn silver but at least they haven’t ruined your entire bloody life. This time. The fast-paced nature of the game and the fact that you need to win 2/3 rounds for victory really helps with this. Before long the round will be over, and one of you will be taking your victory-Maharajah token, holding it up to your ear and saying,
“What’s that, Maharajah? You were really impressed with my trading prowess today? Oh, thank you, that’s very kind. No, it really is my pleasure. What’s that? You regret choosing Martin last round? Yes, well, we all make mistakes. Not to worry.”
So yeah, you’ll give them a smack on the face once or twice, but there’ll be no permanent damage by either hands or words.
Lizzy took this on holiday with her boyfriend and they both came back in one piece. Which is an impressive thing to say any time Lizzy plays board games with anyone, to be honest. Briony has also had a good time playing it with a whole range of people, boyfriend included. So Jaipur gets a good rating not just as a good card game, but as a particularly good game to take away on holiday with you if you don’t want to have any more arguments or breakups than necessary. Good work, Jaipur.
The real winner is the camels.