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Subject: "Pirate is Not a Race" - A Review of Jamaica from The Game Shelf rss

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Fiona Dickinson
United Kingdom
Horley
Surrey
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Gentlemen, an' lady o'course, I prepo...propo... gots a wager for ye. First o' us all to get all the way 'round the island wins wins 15 doubloons. I wants a nice clean race o'course, anyone caught spending time lootin', raidin' or fightin' will be disqu... disco.. will get no cash! HA! So get ye swards an' cannons ready lads, it's lootin' time! May the richest man, or lady, win, an' be bloody rich!

Jamaica is a 2-6 player pirate-themed racing game in which you fight, look and fish your way around an island track. Along the way you’ll find secret treasures, you’ll have to feed your crew, fight off your fellow players and pay docking fees, the winner isn’t necessarily the first over the finish line, as pirates will always respect a ship full of cash.

Each turn a player will roll 2 dice a decide which order to place them in, one dice for ‘day’ actions and one for ‘night’ actions. Each player then chooses a card in their hand to play, then reveals it in player order before doing the actions. Each card is split into a day action and a night action to correspond to the dice selection so playing the appropriate card to get the most out of the selected dice is important. The cards have various actions, moving forward is obvious but moving backwards is another option which can sometimes net you extra treasure or help you change route on the map. The other choices are to gain a resource; you get the amount of food/cannons/gold as shown on the dice and put it into one of your holds for later use.

Resources are vital to win the game; money is victory points at the end of the game, but must also be spent every time you land in a port to pay docking fees. Food is used whenever you land on open seas and cannons are used when you fight other players. Should you be unable to pay the food/money to land in a tile then you move backwards until you reach a space you can afford. Competition for resources can be fierce as you’ll have to decide whether to you high dice rolls to build up your stash or to advance forwards towards the finish line. Of course being a pirate robbing is always a good way to get loot, players can fight each other which involves each player taking a turn rolling a dice numbered 2,4,6,8,10 and ‘instant win’ To try and tip the odds players can use cannons to add 1 to the roll for each cannon thrown in. When you win a fight you can take the contents of any one of the victims holds or you can take one of their treasure cards.

Treasure cards can be taken from pirate coves dotted around the map, they are usually found on the longer route options, each one can be raided once for 1 card, some of these are special powers such as an additional hold, but most are simply an amount of gold. Of course pirate treasure is often cursed, so you may find yourself with treasure that drains your points instead of giving you an edge. Of course you could always manage to ‘lose’ it when someone raids you, how tragic if they were you steal your cursed doubloons.

Passing the finish line gets you the most points, but the final stretch of the race awards ever decreasing amounts, should you not get far enough you actually get negative points, so you’d better hope you pooled enough cash to buy a small country if you hope to win.

Jamaica imparts a sense of fairness in that everyone gets the same dice to work with, but then rips that away with the combat rolls and cursed treasure, all of which results in a good piratey feeling. The game rewards a good balance between racing, saving up resources, chasing down the treasure cards and stealing from other players. It’s actually a game I’ve had mixed luck playing (so expect a positive review from Fiona), sometimes the rolls just get assigned the wrong way for your hand of cards and perfectly for someone else, you pick up all the cursed treasure and you can’t win a fight, but this isn’t really something specific to Jamaica that can’t be said for any game with random elements. The game can be a bit quiet with a lower player count so I would actually suggest playing closer to the 5/6 mark if possible.

6/10

Please check out thegameshelf.blogspot.co.uk for more weekly reviews from this UK-based board-gaming couple.

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