Jaipur, by designer Sébastien Pauchon is a game of rhythms. It has an ebb and flow to the turns and sometimes luck can really be on your side…or your opponents.
In Jaipur two players take on the role of merchants in the capital city of the Rajasthan region of India. Over three rounds you’re working to earn two seals of excellence to be invited to the Maharajah’s palace. He apparently has a thing for seals of excellence!
The game is all about set collection and selling those sets at the most opportune moment. Each player will start with a hand of five cards and a market of five face-up cards will be laid out. Any camels dealt at the beginning are placed aside, making the player’s caravan. The rest of the deck will form a refresh pile. There are six different types of goods you’ll be trading, from the lowly leather hides to the precious rubies. Then there’s the camels, ahh the camels. They will come in handy when grabbing larger sets of cards.
Each turn players are either going to take a card or cards from the market or sell cards from their hand gaining points in return.
Taking one good from the market line up is ‘free’. The card is replaced with the top card of the deck. If you want to take a larger haul of goods you’re going to need to pay for them yourself. Each card you take into hand you must be replenished in the market. Here’s where camels are handy. You can pay for cards with camels from your caravan as well as goods from your hand.
As opposed to goods which require you to pay for multiple cards, when you take camels from the market, you take all of them and replace them from the deck. The camels go directly to your caravan and that’s a good thing. You have a hand limit of seven cards and camels don’t count against that.
Associated with each good is a stack of scoring chips piled by value. When you sell a good you take as many chips as goods you’ve sold. The chips are stacked in descending value, so the sooner you sell, the higher the value of the chips you’ll receive. There are also three stacks of bonus chips. For sales of three, four or five goods at a time you’ll take a bonus chip worth a range of points. Selling in big lots and earning bonus chips can be the difference to earning a seal of excellence.
The round is going to end when three stacks of scoring chips have been exhausted. Players score up their points with a five point bonus going to the one with the biggest caravan.
So, what makes this game such a hit? In many ways it’s a very simple game, but there are tough decisions to make. When to commit to collecting a certain type of good, when to grab all the camels in the line up, when it’s time to sell…all of these thoughts are going to weigh heavily on you in a game round that will last about ten minutes. The more you understand the game the more you can anticipate the rhythm that each round will start to take and adjust your play to accommodate.
The art is simple, but elegant and just like a recent gem-dealing game you will be getting your hands on some cool, colourful chips. Now they don’t have the same weight as the chips in Splendor, but they’re still a pretty neat feature of the game. Selling a bunch of goods off and taking your chips as reward is pretty satisfying.
Jaipur hits the sweet spot for quick two-player games; quick, fun and strategic. If you haven’t tried it already, get out there and grab it!