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Subject: Finca is OOP. This is not. Buy this. rss

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Brian McCormick
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One thing I enjoy about BGG is that there are ample opportunities to give and receive advice, advice of the "if you like that game, then I'm pretty sure you'd like this game, too" variety.

Well, this review is done in that same spirit of advice: if you've had your eye on Finca, you should give Jaipur a try.


courtesy s.pauchon

Possibly the most un-manly game insert ever, and yet I love the insert. It's so bad.

What makes this game tick?

My wife and I really love Jaipur. I think that's because we really love card games in general. Any halfway decent card game is a must-play for us. Yet, Jaipur is not just any ol' card game. There's something special here. I can't quite put my finger on it. The mechanics aren't all that unique, and the game is fairly straightforward, but for whatever reason, the design feels very fun and meaningful. I'm never bored when I play this game.

Jaipur is a strictly 2p affair where players collect goods and then sell them to the market. Goods are always drawn from the public face-up pool. so your opponent knows what goods you're pursuing, and you know what they're pursuing. Whenever someone draws a card from the public pool, they can replace it with one of their own cards (if they grab just one card) or they can replenish the pool from the main deck of cards. Now, this has a downside, because now you're giving your opponent the first stab at that fresh round of cards. This simple balancing mechanic keeps the game quick, fair, and fun.

Whenever you feel the urge, you can trade in goods of one type at a time to the market. When doing so, you gather tokens of that commodity type which count for victory points at the end of the round. There's another balancing act at work here: the most valuable tokens are claimed by those who claim that good first. However, if you trade in 3, 4, or 5 goods at a time, you claim a bonus chip (which can often tip the score in your favor). When three piles of goods are empty, the round ends and each of the two players total up their token values. There are three rounds in the entire game, so the winner is the one who won 2 out of the 3 rounds.

The game won't take you long to learn or to play. It doesn't have the "take that" mechanics of Jambo (a similar game). Rather, Jaipur is driven by "I'll take that" because you can mess up your opponent's plans by nabbing the goods they need or by turning in a small portion of your own resources just to take the high-value tokens from the top of a token pile.


courtesy guntherb0

Okay, but what's with the Finca reference?

If I was going for hits, I should have said something like "Space Hulk is OOP. This is not. Buy this", but alas, even my attention-mongering knows its limits. No, I made the comparison because Jaipur feels like the card-game version of Finca. It's a set-collecting and trading game just like Finca, and although Finca has some unique and compelling mechanics of its own, the two games feel similar enough that they scratch the same itch. You're gathering goods, judging the best time to take them to market, and doing your best to grab any bonuses you can while also hindering your opponent's plans.

It is easy to know what cards a player has in their hand. All of the cards they draw throughout a round are drawn from the pool, which everyone can see. The only cards you can never be sure about are the cards in the player's start hand, but even in that case, you can infer what goods they're pursuing based on what they take from the pool. Because of the public knowledge of the cards, there is lots of room for deception, stealing, and whatnot. It feels very similar to a trick-taking card game, except you aren't claiming cards. You're claiming the more valuable tokens for the round. Gold, silver, and rubies are the most valuable (and scarce) commodities, so it's a common tactic to prematurely grab two of these tokens to stunt your opponent's plans of grabbing them all at once.

The card pool creates some tough choices. Often, you'll see a huge herd of camels for the taking, but if you do that, you'll be dealing out a lot of new cards from the deck, potentially giving your opponent some great cards. However, the person with the most camels at the end of the round gains 5 bonus points (yet another nifty bonus to aim for), so perhaps taking all those camel's isn't a bad thing at all. It's always a joy when my opponent takes a bunch of camels and several gold and ruby cards are drawn from the deck for me to take, and I always cringe when I take a bunch of goods only to see several better goods drawn for my opponent to potentially take.

Now, let me point out that grabbing the gold and silver and rubies isn't necessarily the ticket to winning. The cheaper goods (like leather) are abundant, and you can often claim several 4-bonus and 5-bonus tokens for turning in 4 leather or 5 leather in at a time. Once, my wife was pursuing all of the high-value goods while I was content taking leather and spice. It wasn't until the end of the round that she realized I had amassed 24 bonus points by grabbing several 4-bonus and 5-bonus tokens, and I won the round!


courtesy Toynan

The verdict

As I said at the beginning, I really love Jaipur, even though I can't quite point out any unique mechanics. Everything is pretty straightforward, and nothing in this game strikes me as revolutionary. But, it's a solid game. Sometimes, that's all you can ask for. Jaipur is limited to 2 players and 2 players only, which often bars it from bigger boardgaming sessions, but it's worth the price of admission if you have a regular gaming partner with which to play this game. If you have a significant other that you play 2p games with a lot, this game needs to be in your collection.

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Andrew Foerster
United States
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Great review. Minor OCD rules quibble: you can't replace from hand if you only take one; it must be from the deck.

A really neat interactive element is the brinkmanship in, as you said, trying to hold out for maximum bonuses but also getting the highest valued good tokens. Often, I'll undercut two leather when it's obvious that my opponent is working on the five-bonus. And then there are scenarios when you intentionally leave juicy cards in the middle because you know your opponent's hand is full. Nothing like watching the agony in deciding whether to break up those spices to take some diamonds (I tend to cash in goods so often have space in my hand; I also tend to use my camels liberally).
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Justus
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nice review...btw there is a 3P variant out here on the geek...haven't tried it yet but it does sound workable.

Love the game nice head to head tactical confrontation.
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Karl Bunyan
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I do believe Jaipur is the best light 2-player game there is. My one problem with the game is that it can be weighted towards the player that manages to grab the most gold and gems cards, and it's hard to make that up with bonus tokens. But still, the luck element makes the game very accessible yet there's still plenty of decision-making to keep it interesting.

But you've hit the nail on the head with:

Aurendrosl wrote:
If you have a significant other that you play 2p games with a lot, this game needs to be in your collection.
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Brian McCormick
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pilgrim152 wrote:
My one problem with the game is that it can be weighted towards the player that manages to grab the most gold and gems cards, and it's hard to make that up with bonus tokens.

Naturally, there will be some balance where a player grabs some gold cards to interrupt the other persons's plans, but even if one person is going all-out for the pricier goods, I've found that a person who goes all-out with the cheap goods tends to come out ahead. I guess it's a matter of how vulnerable you're willing to be. If you focus solely on gold, rubies, and silver, you leave yourself very vulnerable to your opponent simply snatching up a few of these cards to mess you up. Yet, if you focus on Leather, there's tons of leather in the deck, so it's pretty difficult to directly disrupt a Leather strategy.
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Andy Andersen
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Good review. I'm lucky enough to own both. I'm never bored with either game.
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Touko Tahkokallio
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pilgrim152 wrote:
My one problem with the game is that it can be weighted towards the player that manages to grab the most gold and gems cards, and it's hard to make that up with bonus tokens. But still, the luck element makes the game very accessible yet there's still plenty of decision-making to keep it interesting.


I agree with you and also think that gold, gems (and silver) feel bit too powerful. My other whine about the game is that compared how elegant and smooth the card mechanics is, there is just a bit too much hassle with the scoring disks. It takes some time to setup them and place them in order after each round.

But overall I think Jaipur is really nice and elegant little game!
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Rob Duarte
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It's always good to read a positive review for a game that is -as the FedEx tracking status says- "on FedEx vehicle for delivery." I've got this one and a few more that should be at my door any time now. This one will definitely be hitting the table tonight. Thanks for the good review.
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Ken Howell
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Thanks for the great review. As most of my gaming right now is 2-player I might look into this.
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Jared
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For those who haven't heard, Rio Grande Games just released a reprint of Finca.
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Brian McCormick
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stlm wrote:
For those who haven't heard, Rio Grande Games just released a reprint of Finca.

Awesome! I just checked my usual OLGS - coolstuffinc - and I saw they had 11 copies in stock. Pick this up, kids! It's a goodie!
 
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