After starting the year with 5 player sessions, the only way to get to 5 tonight is to add the number of games (3) to the number of players (2) as only Dave made it to Rich's house tonight. Just in case there were some last minute drop-ins, Dave and I started with a 2-player card game that had interested us both:
According to the box, Jambo is a Swahili word of greeting used by merchants to greet customers. And in Jambo, the 2 players are merchants trying to be the first to increase their gold from the initial 20 pieces to 60. The game is designed by Rüdiger Dorn and adds some nice twists to the usual "draw a card, play a card" mechanic.
In this game, players have 5 actions they can spend. The "draw a card" phase consists of looking at card from the draw pile and deciding to keep it or discard. Each viewing of a card costs 1 action, so a player could view up to 5 cards using all their actions. As soon as a card is kept, the player moves into the "play a card" phase. Here, each play of a card usually costs one action also, so any left over action from the "draw a card" phase can now be spent to play cards from one's hand. Should the player have 2 (or more) unspent actions at the end of their turn, they may collect 1 gold piece from the bank.
In the draw deck there are 5 types of cards. The basic card is a ware card depicting 3 (sometimes 6) wares. A player can either purchase the wares from the central reserve for one value, or if they have matching goods in their market, they can sell the wares to the central reserve for a higher value. It is by buying and selling wares that players will primarily increase their gold. Another type of card is a small market stand. Players start with a large market stand that can hold 6 wares. A small market stand increases by 3 the number of wares a player can hold. The next type of card is a utility card which depicts some sort of tool and give the player the ability to make a special move once per turn. Unlike other cards, they are not discarded when used, but are kept in the player's area. People cards and animal cards are like utility cards, but are more of a one-shot effect that is used and discarded.
The make-up of the draw deck is quite interesting. Of the 110 cards in play, only 40 are ware cards. The rest are all effects cards as noted above. As a result, the game is much less a straight-forward race to buy and sell the most. Instead, one needs to mix in the effects for maximum efficiency. If you note the play summary above, each turn a player can draw 1 card, but can play more than 1. The net impact is that the cards in hand tend to decline so one needs to plan carefully to manage cards and waste them needlessly.
With the rules explanation done, Dave and Rich started their first game. As a result of the shuffle and initial draw, Rich ended up with 2 small markets in hand. He built one while Dave managed to land the utility card "Supplies" immediately. As a result of supplies, Dave could spend 1 gold and go through the draw deck until he found a ware card. But it was Rich who was the first to sell wares using the Dancer (which allows a ware card to act as a wild card matching any three wares the player has). But thanks to Dave's supply utility, he soon sold also for an intermediate score of 17-7 in Dave's favour.
Dave then managed to get pairs of cards so could buy/sell in quick successions to quickly run the score to 7-31 as the ability to get ware cards was really helping Dave. Rich didn't sit idly by. The use of a Shaman to convert wares from one type to another allowed Rich to make some sales to pull to 18-31. At this point, Rich was looking at a few cards while Dave seemed well stocked (thanks most likely to Supplies). Rich then tried for the Arabian Merchant - which auctions off the next 3 cards in the draw deck. Rich could have used the cards to realize a sale worth 12 gold, but when the bidding got to 9 gold by Dave - Rich passed as the gain was too small and Rich felt it was better to have Dave down on gold. But that barely stopped Dave who managed again to buy/sell twice in succession to achieve a score of 25-64.
But the game doesn't quite end when one player reaches 60. The other player has 5 actions (1 turn) to tie and beat the score. Rich drew a much needed ware card to buy goods for 4 which then allowed him to sell 6 wares for 18 for a gain of 14 gold in the transaction. Rich also had the Portuguese trader who will buy any wares for 2 gold per ware. Lacking any further ware cards, Rich dumped his 5 remaining wares for 10 more gold for a gain of 24 gold. The amount of wares Rich had at one time was 11 - so he used both small markets and all but one space of his large market to achieve this final move. An impressive move, but still the victory to Dave 64-49.