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Subject: Is that the Horse or the Jockey? rss

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Dan Wojciechowski
United States
Aurora
Illinois
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I had an opportunity to play Jumpy Jack with 6 players on what appears to be the 2011 American version. Since this game appears to have debuted in 2000 and I had never even heard of it, much less seen it, I thought it might be worth writing a review.

First: The Game
Jumpy Jack is a horse racing game for 2 to 16 players. Each player secretly selects which of the five horses they want to finish First, Second, and Third. At the end of the race, the players receive 2 points for each horse they correctly predicted in the correct position, or 10 points if the player got all three correct. First player to 16 points wins the game. On his or her turn, the player rolls the single six-sided dice and moves any horse that many spaces. There are a couple of special conditions on the track. Two horses side-by-side prevent other horses from passing. One space on the track is a double-move space, one space is an immediate "out of the race", and one space is a "restart the race". Horses take First, Second, and so on as they finish the race, or 5th, 4th, and so on as they are knocked out of the race.

Second: Playing the Game
The heart of Jumpy Jack is the chaotic mix of unseen secret alliances and dastardly plans. Horses surge forward in unpredictable spurts as players jockey (yeah, I said it) for position with the results of their dice roll. Push your favorite too hard, and you are just begging to have someone without your pick move that horse onto the Out space, dice gods willing, of course. Making a "block" with two horses on a space can give a trailing horse a chance to catch up. Landing on the "double move" sets up a horse for a tremendous surge... or virtually nothing, if one of your opponents decides to use a roll of "1" for that double move.

Third: Components
All I can say is WOW! For a simple race game, Jumpy Jack is way overproduced. The "board" is nicely stained, wooden framed tray. The surface is a green, felt-like material with the oval "track" embossed in white print. But the horses, those beautiful horses. Each horse is an inch long, solid metal piece of considerable weight. The finish is a gorgeous bronze and the jockey jerseys are painted in bright enamel colors. I dare you to pick up one of the horses, feel it's weight, and not love it immediately. My only criticism is that the track can be a little tight, and its pretty easy to knock over a horse when trying to move a horse in a crowd, but that's pretty minor.

Fourth: Impressions
What is the deal with that name? As an American, "Jumpy Jack" doesn't convey "horse racing". Maybe if you are European (French?), "Jumpy Jack" means something to you. A horse? A jocky? A nickname? I'm sorry to say I almost passed on playing this game based on the name, and that would have been a shame.

This is a light, simple to teach, racing game. The interaction of the players leads to a great deal of chaos. More often than not, you will probably feel like tearing up your betting slips and tossing them in the air as all your hopes come to nought. I have to admit, in that regard, this game is reminiscent of the feel of a real horse race.

The box says 2 - 16 players, but, as one of my group asked, "why not 20? or more?" I suppose at some player count, each player isn't going to make many moves before the game ends, but otherwise, Jumpy Jack is extremely flexible in regards to player count.

I can see Jumpy Jack being a great addition for family game nights, since even young children should be able to play. (The box says ages 7 - 107, and that feels about right.) Other than fitting so many people around the modestly sized board, Jumpy Jack should make a fine party game. With its few, robust pieces, Jumpy Jack seems like a great pub game as well.

While playing, we found ourselves spontaneously naming our horses: Big Red, Jimmy, Sea Biscuit, Sunflower, and Annette. Players cheered and groaned, sometimes for real and sometimes as bluffs, as fortunes rose and fell.

Fifth: Summary
If you've read this far, I think you can guess I like this game. Jumpy Jack isn't a deep, thought provoking strategy game, but taken for what it is: a light, chaotic, social game, that looks and feels great, it's a clear winner. I rate Jumpy Jack a solid 7/10.
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Tim Koppang
United States
Westmont
Illinois
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"It's a magical world, Hobbes, ol' buddy..."
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"For the listener, who listens in the snow, and, nothing himself, beholds nothing that is not there and the nothing that is." -- Wallace Stevens
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Well nuts. Now I wish I had jumped (get it?) in on that game last night! Sounds like fun.
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