Game – Jaipur
Designer: Sébastien Pauchon
Artist: Alexandre Roche
Player Count: 2
Runtime: 30 minutes
Welcome to the Pink City, the beautiful, picturesque, Jaipur, forming part of the Golden Triangle tourist circuit of India. It is a superb spot to stop, spend a while and see the sites, perhaps enjoy one of the busy markets an treat yourself to some fine jewellery, gemstones, gorgeous, mouth-water cuisine and fine artisan textiles…I could go on rewording the Wikipedia entry for Jaipur, but no doubt I’ll just end up embarrassing myself to anyone who actually has a clue. But we’re not here to highlight my geographical ignorance, no, I’m here to write a review of the two-player tabletop game Jaipur, designed by Sébastien Pauchon and published by GameWorks. And you, of course, are here to read about it.
Jaipur is a two player only game about trading a variety of goods ranging from gold and silver finery to leather hides. It has a neat little economic engine at its core which makes this game utterly worthy of your attention if you haven’t enjoyed this light, quick game before. Mechanically this game is extremely simple, as the mechanics aren’t what makes this game interesting, no, it’s the simple abstraction of economics down to its core that makes this game as good as it is.
For a start, there is no money in this game, it is about trading, NOT buying as so many other “trading” games are. You have your hand of goods, and your opponent has theirs, these are your wares, with which you can do two things, first you can sell them off and get them out of your hand, or second, you can trade them at the market for other goods.
At the market every good is equal to another, so a leather hide is “worth” the same amount as a golden vase, which may seem odd, but bear with me here. You can trade any number and any type of cards in hand at the market to get just one type in return. So you could trade your gold, silks and a camel away for some leather hides. Why would you do this? Because of the other action, you can take next turn. With the three leather you just picked up and the two you already had in hand you can now sell all five of them, which is good. In fact, it’s very good.
Jaipur has this excellent representation of “the market” in the form of some little tokens. During the setup of the game, you’ll separate all the different types out and stack them in numerical order, with the highest on top. This is the demand for the goods, when you sell some spices you’ll take a number of tokens. If you are the first to sell spices you’ll earn more victory points than if you wait until later – when the market is saturated and everyone is eating really spicy food. Some things like gold and silver don’t lose their value as quickly as other goods, leather losing it the fastest.
So now you’re thinking, “Ok, sell quickly! easy, that doesn’t sound that interesting.”
Hold your camels, there’s more.
Remember our hand of five leather from earlier, when you said I was mad for trading away the gold? Well, now I’m going to sell it. Not only do I pick up the top five Leather tokens and bag myself some points, but because I sold five, and this demonstrates some real business savvy I also pick up a bonus token for selling so many. A bonus to the tune of ten. Ruby, Gold and Silver can only ever be sold if you have at least two, so although one gold plate is good, you can’t do anything with it. Two is better, but you won’t get any bonuses for two, you need more. In Jaipur, you always need more.
It is with these little tokens, Jaipur effortlessly manages to represent Demand and the economy of scale. It is simply more efficient to sell more of one good at one time and selling it when no one else is also making it extremely profitable, which all makes perfect sense.
Now let’s talk about camels, as they will form a key part of any game of Jaipur. Camels are a commodity like any other, but unlike all the other goods, they don’t go into your hand, instead, they sit on the table in front of you, in a stable, if you will. This makes them act a little like a “cash reserve”, whenever you take camels from the market row, you must take all of them – camel traders are ruthless like that I’ve heard. But these ungulates are a double-edged sword, yes you get a lot of trading power, but you are also revealing lots of new goods to your opponent to snap up. Most interestingly though is that with a hand limit of seven, the camels also act as a “greed modifier”, by which I mean they give you the sense of having “too much cash burning in your pocket”, they force you to start making tough, less efficient choices based purely upon a player’s desire for more.
Jaipur is played over a best-of-three-rounds, each round lasting about ten minutes, with the winner of each earning a Seal of Excellence from the Maharaja. To win these Seals and be proclaimed the greatest Merchant in all of India you’ll need to balance and mitigate your risks. In Jaipur there are always options, focusing solely on trading only in the most expensive items may seem like a good idea but you’ll quickly become unstuck. The temptation to push your luck, see another flop of cards in the market row, to try and capture that elusive fifth card is a tough one to beat, but sooner or later the game and your opponent will coax and force you to behave below what you really want, because it offers up such an attractive alternative, even if it is leather hides.
There are a couple of other things that are note worth when talking about this game, more in reference to your game shelf rather than the game itself.
1. The insert is brilliant. Perfectly functional and pretty.
2. It is very transportable. It’s an ideal travel/holiday game. A deck of cards and a bunch of tokens makes this very easy to travel with.
3. Footprint and Brevity: It doesn’t take up a lot of space at all, and its short runtime makes it a great game to fill the gaps in a game night, or to play on your lunch break.
Jaipur is a really, really good game, and is absolutely worth checking out if you play a lot of two-player games, or you want a good short game to play to plug those game-shaped gaps in your life. What Jaipur isn’t, however; is juicy. You’ll walk away from a game thinking, “That was nice.”, and sure you’d happily play it again, but it may not be the first game you reach for, it doesn’t leave you with a story, or leave you mulling over the decisions you made in the game- but it’s not meant to either. Jaipur is an Aperitif, it is light, pretty and friendly. Yes, it is very enjoyable, it whets the cardboard appetite wonderfully for games with deeper and more meaningful decisions and consequence.
Disclaimer: This review was based on a full priced retail edition paid for out of my own money from my own pocket.