Jambo: When “Special” Isn’t Special.

A close friend of mine found this game at a thrift store.  It still had the plastic wrap on it!  It’s just sad to see a game be discarded in this manner, and given that it was a two player game, he thought this might be a great thing to rescue for him and I to try out.

At first it just sat on the shelf for a while, nearly six months in fact.  We just never quite seemed to get around to gaming together.  Well, that’s not true, we gamed together several times, but it was always with other people involved.  Never just the two of us.  This is a problem that is somewhat new to me.  After all, when I first started gaming, I sought out two player games.  It used to just be me and my (now ex) husband, filling time on cold nights up in Minnesota together.  Back then we didn’t have a game group, we just had each other, and so two player games were a sought after commodity.

Finally,  my dear friend and I sat down to play this one together.  We opened up the box and began emptying out the little baggies of pieces.  The game comes with a variety of chips:  wares, gold, and action markers.  We separated them into like piles and began reading through the rules, which were thankfully short and pretty to the point. We were up and playing in about five minutes.

Jambo, which means “Hello” in Swahili, is a merchant game where you want to purchase goods for cheap and sell them to customers at an elevated price.  The first person to get to sixty pieces of gold initiates the end of the game, at which point, the person with the most gold at the end of the turn is the winner.

Players buy goods by using “ware” cards, which depict a number of items that can either be bought or sold.  If you need these goods, you can buy them (all of them, never just some) for the price on the bottom left of the card.  If you have all of the goods shown, and would like to sell them, you can for the price listed on the bottom right of the card.  There are 40 ware cards in the deck.

In addition to “ware” cards, there are also items, people, and animal cards that have special abilities.  Each card does its own unique thing, just read the card and follow the instructions.  These cards do a variety of things, including messing up your opponent, getting you extra wares,  getting you extra cards, or allowing you to trade around wares or cards.  All sorts of things happen due to these special cards.  But here is the one downfall… these cards aren’t so special.  There are 70 of these “special” cards in the deck.  That’s right, 70… almost double the number of ware cards.  We found ourselves actually struggling to get the “boring” cards!

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On a turn a player can perform five actions.  These actions are tracked using the action markers.  Or at least, they are supposed to be tracked using the action markers.  For each action you take, your opponent is suppose to take an action marker from you.  We found this to be a clumsy way of handling this.  We were constantly having to stop and count our actions again to make sure that an action was not double counted or missed.  I don’t know that I have a better suggestion for how to track this, but the tokens simply didn’t work well for us.

Ok, so now that you know a little about the game, you are probably saying to yourself, “Well, ok… but was it fun?”.  We played a couple of games back to back, so it couldn’t have been too bad.  The game was pretty simple to learn and get moving on, which was nice, and we both enjoyed ourselves.  My friend made a keen observation though, the game never really had that “edge of your seat” feeling.  Do you know what I mean?  When you have a really cool action to play, or are about to go out, you get this excited “I can’t wait till it’s my turn!” feeling.  He never got that, and neither did I.  As he described it, he largely had the “What lousy card am I going to get next?” feeling for most of the game.  Why?  Because of the lopsidedness between “special” cards and “ware” cards.  You can’t do much without the boring cards.

Overall, was it bad?  No.  It was vaguely enjoyable.  However, it’s not something we are dying to play again.  But for a thrift store find, it was better than most.  Certainly worth the couple of bucks he paid for it.


This entry was posted by The_Null_Entry on Friday, July 19th, 2013 at 5:26 pm and is filed under Board Game Reviews, Resource Management Games . Editing for this post was performed by Indy_Mario , JoshRotella . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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