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Subject: [Review] Jungle Speed rss

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Tom Vasel
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My first instincts were to shy away from Jungle Speed (Asmodee Editions, 1999 – Thomas Vuarchex and Paul Yakovenko). It was a game of speed, something I’m not too terribly fond of (although I love watching them); and it just seemed to strike a discord with the other Asmodee products I’ve seen, such as Dungeon Twister – a game of deep strategy. Still, I’m bound to try any game once, so I gave it a whirl and was immediately reminded of another game of this genre that came out in Korea – “Wow”, and still another that drives me absolutely bonkers – Halli Galli.

Yet Jungle Speed didn’t really annoy me that much, most probably because of the incredible clever way that the designers managed to utilize symbols and colors as to be deceptive. The components are top notch (except the box), the gameplay is fast and furious – catering to teenagers, and it’s a game that I’ll bring out when we have energy and a short time. Fun for a quick laugh, Jungle Speed will add some frenetic entertainment to your table.

As I said, the components for the most part are of high quality. Chief amongst these are a large totem, which is a large wooden block that is curved in such a way that it can be easily grabbed with one hand – it almost looks like a miniature dumbbell. This and the eighty square cards that come with the game can be stored in a nice cloth bag with drawstring – which is a good thing, since the box is flimsy and seems more geared towards display than storage. When playing the game, the cards are dealt out to each player randomly in piles of equal heights, with any leftovers placed under the token. One player is chosen to go first, and the game begins.

On a player’s turn, they simply turn over the top card of their pile and place it in front of them, covering up any cards they have already played. The cards in the deck are mostly different shapes – each coming in four colors (orange, purple, green, and yellow). Several of the shapes are similar, such as four sunbursts with varying ray shapes and sizes, three shapes in a row, and more. It’s very easy to confuse a hexagon/square/hexagon card with a hexagon/circle/hexagon card, and that’s the complete point of the game.

When a player flips the top card in their pile up, and it is the exact same shape as another revealed card, a “duel” ensues. But don’t let that word fool you; players simply both grab for the totem as fast as they can. The player who grabs it first wins, and the loser must take all face up cards from themselves, the winner, and under the totem, placing them at the bottom of their draw pile. Players can only use one hand to play their cards and must flip them towards everyone else when flipping them over – an admonition that I must make towards players (especially teenagers) several times a game. Many times a player will be tempted to slowly draw the card towards themselves so that they can see it and compare shapes before anyone else can – and this will ruin the game.

Of course, mistakes can and will be made. Players will grab the totem quite a few times when they shouldn’t. When they make this mistake, they must pick up ALL face up cards on the table. I can’t emphasize how much this happens in a game; players are constantly grabbing the totem in a panic, only to find out that their symbol is merely similar to another one, rather than identical.

There are also three arrow cards with four arrows on them. I’d like to mention that remembering which arrow card did which was confusing – words might have been better in the situation. The “All Flip” card causes all players to flip a card over at once – one of the most interesting and chaotic moments of the game. The “Fast Grab” card means that every player must grab the totem. The player who grabs it first gets to put all of their cards under it, as a present for someone else (hopefully!). The “Color Match” card means that players must immediately check to see if their symbol’s color matches another player’s color and must grab for the totem at that point.

The rulebook is eight pages long and spends a lot of time showing example games, silly history, and what to do under special circumstances involving different combinations of the arrow cards. But really, the game is easy, and players are flipping and grabbing in no time flat. The grabbing can be a little brutal, and I’ve seen more than one person get a fingernail scratch down their forearm from an overeager opponent; but for the most part it’s reasonably civilized.

OK, I’m sorry – but I couldn’t write that last part down without laughing too much. Jungle Speed is really anything but civilized. I’m sure that the game can be played in a muted, somber way; but every time I’ve played it, players have transformed into crazy hooligans who yell, gesture, and clamor for the totem. Players are attempting to get rid of the cards in their decks, and the first player to get rid of all their cards is the winner!

Since the game does lend itself to screaming and bedlam, it’s a natural for teenagers; and I’ve had great success with it in youth group and other groups of teenagers. The shapes are subtly different but not so much so that you can’t tell them apart when carefully comparing them, and it’s a good skill to learn to recognize the difference. I occasionally run across a clown who thinks that they should simply grab the totem every turn, no matter what – just to see what happens when they get all the cards, but I usually handle that by ejecting them from the game (most teenagers won’t be pleased with that, thus playing more sensibly.

Optional rules are include with the game, including an odd two-player variant, but the basic game seems to work just fine for my groups. It still hasn’t beaten out Halli Galli as a favorite, but that’s probably just because it’s new – the kids seem to have a complete blast when playing it. Sometimes we just seek simplicity in a game and a large dosage of fun. Jungle Speed is enough to drive a mild mannered player nuts but can be fun in large groups (the game goes up to eight players) and certainly makes for a good icebreaker game. I won’t be playing it too often, but I’ll certainly bring it out when the situation calls for it and when kids are around – that situation will often occur.

Tom Vasel
“Real men play board games”
www.thedicetower.com

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Eric Franklin
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Jungle Speed is one of those games that I enjoy with the right crowd, and not otherwise.

At GenCon, we had constant crowds there for Jungle Speed, as it's a very entertaining game to watch. We nearly sold out, actually.
 
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Steve Oliver
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I've never played this with only adults, but with kids it's a great game, and one where they can generally beat an adult.
 
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Seth Ben-Ezra
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I've played this game a lot.

I've even played the two-player variant. It works...but it makes my head hurt. I mean that in a good way, of course.

Seth Ben-Ezra
Great Wolf
 
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