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Subject: The Settlers of Stavanger Reviews: Jamaica rss

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Andy
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The Settlers of Stavanger Reviews: “Jamaica”
The game at a glance:
Suggested Age: 8+
Number of Players: 2-6
Length: ~ 30-60m
Learning Curve: Easy
Recommended Event: Family, Children, 4+ Players
Skills: Dice Rolling, Hand Management

Summary:

In “Jamaica”, players take on the role of pirates taking part in a race around the island organized by the now-governor, and former pirate himself, Captain Henry Morgan. The players will have to race their pirate ships around the island while making sure that their crew are fed and that they have enough gold to pay duties to any ports they stop in, all while trying to gather more treasure and fend off other pirates who do what pirates do best - steal and plunder from others! The first player to cross the finish line at Port Royal triggers the end of the game but simply being first across the line might not be enough to win them the game.

Set Up:

The players should lay out the board and place all of the treasure chest tokens over each of the printed skull cave spaces on the board. These are also identifiable due to the lack of a printed value in these spaces (more on what that means later). The deck of treasure cards should be shuffled and then 9 treasure cards should be placed over the printed treasure chest in the centre of the board while the remaining 3 cards are returned to the game box without being revealed. Players should decide which of the 6 available colours they would like to play as and should place the corresponding ship token at the “Port Royal” space on the board and take the action cards deck in their matching colour. These are printed with different pirate names on the back but each deck is identical to the others and so it makes no difference. Players also need to take a cargo hold board and fill two of the free spaces with 3 gold and 3 food tokens respectively. The attack dice (numbered evenly from 2-10 with an additional “blast” symbol) should be placed on the treasure chest over the cannon symbol while the other two dice will normally occupy the “Sun” and “Moon” spaces but to begin the game, each player should roll these two dice to determine the first player. The player who has the highest roll becomes the starting player and receives the compass as the first player marker. Below is an image (courtesy of Universal Head) that shows the setup for a 4 player game:

[ImageID=https://boardgamegeek.com/image/299934/jamaica?size=medium]

Once all this is done, the game is ready to begin!

How to Play:

Players begin by shuffling their action card deck and dealing to themselves 3 cards, leaving the rest of the action cards in a separate draw pile that is placed face down and kept separate from future discard pile cards. So in essence there will be 3 lots of cards: those you draw from, those in your hand and those you have already played/discarded. The starting player then takes the two action dice and rolls them simultaneously. He or she then decides which die to play on the “Sun” or “Morning” space and which die to play on the “Moon” or “Evening” space. This roll affects not just the player that rolled the dice but every other player round the table for that turn. The value on the dice corresponds to the icons on the action cards. Icons in the top left of the cards correspond to the “Morning” action while the icons in the top right of the card correspond to the “Evening” action. The actions listed on the cards vary on each card but there are only 5 icons to remember which correspond to the following actions:

d10-1 Green Arrow: Move forward (clockwise) around the board X number of spaces equal to the value of the “Morning/Evening” action dice.
d10-2 Red Arrow: Move backwards (anticlockwise) around the board X number of spaces equal to the value of the “Morning/Evening” action dice.
d10-3 Gold: Take from the supply X number of gold tokens equal to the “Morning/Evening” action dice and place it in an empty hold on your cargo board.
d10-4 Food: Take from the supply X number of food tokens equal to the “Morning/Evening” action dice and place it in an empty hold on your cargo board.
d10-5 Cannons: Take from the supply X number of cannon tokens equal to the “Morning/Evening” action dice and place it in an empty hold on your cargo board.

So for example, a roll of a 5 and 3 placed in the “Morning” and “Evening” spaces respectively would correspond to a “Forward 5” and “3 Food” on a card with those icons printed in the corners. Likewise, a roll of a 2 and 4 placed in the “Morning” and “Evening” spaces respectively would correspond to “2 Cannons” and “4 Food” on a card with those icons instead and so on.

Each player selects one card from the three they previously dealt to themselves and this will comprise their actions for this round. In player order, each player first carries out their “Morning” action and then their “Evening” action, making sure to pay any requirements printed on the board spaces. A space with small squares printed on it (1-4 squares) corresponds to the amount of food tokens that must be paid to the supply in order to stop on that space. The same applies with the gold requirement that is listed on the board as pins with a numerical value that denotes the amount of gold that must be paid to the supply in order to stop on that space. You only pay the requirement of the space you stop on, not for each space along the track that you cover and if you do not move on a turn you do not have to repay that cost a second or third time etc.

However, if a player cannot pay the requirement listed on the space they stopped on then they must pay what they can and must then move back to the next space that they would have been able to afford with what they had initially.

For example, if a player lands on a space with 3 food icons printed on the space and they only have 2 food tokens they pay the 2 food regardless and then move back along the board until they come to a space that has 2 food icons printed on it or until they stop on a space that has a money requirement that they can afford instead which they must also pay.

The same is true of the money requirements for the port spaces where a player pays what they can and moves back along the board until they come to a space where they can pay the requirement, be that gold or food.

Certain spaces do not have any cost associated with them and the player that lands there first can take the topmost card off of the treasure deck and keep it hidden if it has a picture of a treasure chest with a + or - value printed on it. Any other cards are modifications to the player’s ship and include:

d10-1 Cannon = Allows for a +2 to the combat die roll.
d10-2 Cutlass = Allows the player to either re-roll the combat die on their turn or force their opponent to reroll their combat die result.
d10-3 Map = Allows the player to select an action card from a total of 4 cards instead of the regular 3.
d10-4 Hold space = Allows the player to gain an extra hold space for their ship for storing food, gold or cannons.

If at any point a player’s ship token lands on the same space as an opponent’s ship token a battle takes place. The attacking player is the player who landed on the already occupied space and as such they roll first followed by the defending player. First, the attacking player decides how many cannons they wish to commit to the battle. The number of cannons that each player decides to commit will act as a modifier to their combat dice roll. After the attacker has rolled the dice, the defender will also decide how many cannons to commit to the battle and then roll the attack die themselves. Following the result of both rolls, the player with the highest total, modified or otherwise, is the winner of the battle. One exception is if a player rolls the “blast” icon which is an automatic win for that player regardless of whether they were the attacker or defender. In addition, all cannons committed to the battle by both sides are considered spent and returned to the supply.

If a player wins the battle they have a number of options available to them:

d10-1 They can steal the entire contents from one hold space of their choice from the defeated opponent be it food, gold or cannons. They cannot steal a combination.
d10-2 They can steal a treasure card at random from the defeated opponent. They are not allowed to look at them beforehand.
d10-3 They can give a treasure card to the defeated opponent. The receiver is not allowed to pick; they just get what they are given.

It might seem counter-intuitive as to why you might decide to give away a treasure card but this usually happens when a player has picked up one of the “cursed treasure” cards that negatively affect the players final score.

When stealing from another player or simply claiming a resource (food/good/cannons) the player must have either an empty hold space available or must decide to replace one resource with a different resource. For example, 3 gold cannot be replaced by 5 gold as the resource is the same and this is also true for cannons and food but you could replace 2 cannons with 5 gold.

At the end of the turn, each player sets aside the cards they just played to a discard pile and while keeping the remaining two cards they had already they add a third card to their hand from their draw pile. Play continues in the same fashion with the start player compass marker passing clockwise to the next player who in turn rolls the two action dice and sets them on the respective “Morning” and “Evening” spaces in the order they choose. When players run out of cards with which to refresh their hand of three cards they take the discard pile and reshuffle it to make a new draw pile. This usually happens once per game. Players should always have at least 3 cards to choose from.

The first player to cross the finish line will trigger the end of the game and will not complete their “Evening” action. The rest of the players will finish their actions as normal until the round finishes after which time the final scores are revealed with the following modifiers:

d10-1 Players that are ahead of the red line printed on the game board receive a number of points equal to what is printed on the board up to a maximum of 15.
d10-2 Players that are behind the red line at the end of the game will have -5 points reduced from their score.
d10-3 Each gold token that the players still have in their cargo holds counts for 1 point per token.
d10-4 Treasure cards with a + value are added to the score while treasure cards with a - value are reduced from the score. The other treasure cards (cannon/cutlass/map/hold) have no end-game bonus.

The player with the final highest score is declared the winner.

How to Win:

Players need to strike a balance between racing around the island and trying to head for the treasure cards which generally increase the chances of winning. The downside to pursuing the treasure is that it is always the longer way round. This racing element to the game is ever present and while it’s important to try and end the game with some additional treasure cards and a large stash of gold it will probably be for nothing if you cannot get across the red line before the end. Deciding what cards to play with the die results is crucial. What’s more important - advancing round the board, hoarding gold or stocking up on food or cannons? These options will need to be weighed and decided upon on the spot based on the cards you have in your hand, the ones you have left to draw and those you’ve already used which keeps things nice and tense.


My thoughts on the Theme:

I am a bit of a sucker for all things pirate or Caribbean themed so the theme really resonates with me and my group I like to combine this game with other “piratey” themed games as part of a game day that includes “Libertalia” and possibly something like “Merchants and Marauders” too with some “Pirate Fluxx” to round things off. In my reviews I usually try to think of another theme that could work just as well with the same mechanics but in the case of “Jamaica” I think the theme is perfect. The forward then backward nature of the movement arrows does a great job of representing changing wind directions and the lack of movement cards represents a ship being becalmed. The need to keep your crew fed makes sense thematically also and of course pirates are renowned for trying to steal more gold and will battle other ships that have something they want! For me the whole game works well with the theme and I think they did a great job.

Score: 5/5

My thoughts on the Mechanics:

The card drafting mechanic is really simple and I personally like the tough decision of whether to play my double green forward arrow card on the high roll or whether to go for the gold or food etc., which I might need more. Perhaps another high roll won’t come around again for a while and your ship will become becalmed in the tropical waters while your opponents race past you? The dice rolling keeps combat fast and really simple and the rules for hold replacement are also simple to pick up. I especially like that certain treasure cards can alter the game subtly like allowing you to gain an extra hold space or have an additional card from which to choose from each turn. The “Luck Factor” will be a killer for some but not for me, probably because the game is so short and simple that it’s hard to get too invested in it. Perhaps if this was a 2+ hour game where a grand strategy I had in mind was crushed then it would be a big deal but in “Jamaica” it’s not.

One thing I would say however is that for a long time we were playing this game wrong but after playing it correctly we actually decided that we preferred the way we had been playing it before instead of what is printed in the rulebook. Basically, instead of each player taking their morning action and then immediately taking their evening action we played it where everyone takes their morning action first and then everyone takes their evening action. It’s a very minor change but we found that it increased the combat in the game and didn’t add anything to the game length. We preferred the higher player interaction in this variant as it meant that sometimes players would battle twice if they both moved forward X and back Y from playing the same card and thus landed on the same space together twice. This created some fun moments where a player would steal a treasure from another only to have it stolen right back!

Score: 4/5

My thoughts on the Components:

This game is perhaps one of the most beautiful and beautifully simple games I own. The board is very colourful and clear and just looks fantastic on the table. The dice are really nice wooden dice which are much nicer than typical plastic dice. I don’t have a problem with plastic dice at all but I really like the chunky wooden dice that come with the game. The bulk of the components are cardboard but are printed on nice thick card stock and nicely illustrated. The gold in particular looks really nice! And although I usually “pimp” my game collection with painted miniatures or metal coins etc., I have resisted doing so with “Jamaica” because I quite like the look of the game as it is. If I was to criticize one thing, and this is being very nit-picky, it would be that the cardboard chits sometimes make it slower to count out the number of tokens you need. Perhaps chunky wooden cannon or banana pieces would be quicker to grab from the box than cardboard tokens but if that’s all I can complain about then I’d say the game has done really well.

Finally, you can’t talk about “Jamaica” without talking about the excellent card art. The graphic design of this game is just beautiful and I think the decision to have one long panoramic illustration for the cards was really cool, even if you might not notice it unless somebody points it out to you. The decision to keep the cards text free and rely on iconography instead makes this game ideal for younger players, older players with not-so-great eyesight and also new players to the hobby as you aren’t bombarding them with intimidating walls of text.

Score: 5/5

My thoughts on the Rulebook:

The rulebook is very clearly written with lots of illustrated examples to help explain certain gameplay elements and we never had any issues understanding a rule except the first time we played when I somehow managed to skip over the part where it said to give each player 3 gold and 3 food to start with. It took us forever to get off the starting line as we couldn’t afford anything! Luckily we realized our mistake and started again. Oh, and our playing the actions order wrong but as already discussed, we preferred our version better. The rulebook is also nicely printed and takes the form of a treasure map which is very thematic within the game. One downside to this is the fact that it’s not easily to just flick through and find what you want but my counter to that would be that the game is so easy to pick up and teach that you’ll probably never have much need to look at the rules again anyway. I also love the design that one side of the rulebook when folded up looks like a pile of treasure and that the game box looks like a treasure chest so that when you open it you see the pile of treasure. It’s a small touch but just adds to the overall presentation of this game.

Score 5/5

My thoughts on the Replayability:

“Jamaica” has quite a high amount of luck and this will make it more difficult to win at times and may be off-putting for some. Firstly, dice are random by their very nature and on the majority of the turns in the game they will be rolled by other players and placed in the order of their choosing and not yours. Sometimes you are desperate for another player to put the “6” first and the “1” second so you can move forward 6 and only back 1 but they put the dice the other way round! Aarrgh!

On top of this, you regularly only have 3 action cards from which to choose from and it will likely be the case that at times you just don’t have a card with gold or food or a movement arrow on it when you need it most meaning that you might be forced to make a less than optimal choice. But this is rare and usually doesn’t affect more than one turn.

Or perhaps you’ll decide to commit a whole pile of cannons to a defensive battle in order to ensure your victory only to have the attacking opponent roll a “blast” icon meaning you spent it all and lost with no chance to alter the result. This will create tension for some and frustration for others but for myself personally I fall into the former camp. It would be an issue if this was a deep game that I had spent an hour or more formulating my strategy but it’s not.

Is this a game I am going to want to play again and again and again? No. But I do enjoy playing it whenever I do and I like having it as one of my go-to games for introducing new players to the hobby or as a game to pull out when people fancy something that’s light, simple and quick. The fact that it scales well to 6 players is another mark in its favour.

There is also an expansion coming soon (at the time of writing) in 2017 which looks interesting and might add a bit more complexity to the game for those that think it’s too light as it is.

Score: 4.5/5

Final Score: 4.7/5

Check it out if:
thumbsup You like a game that is easy to learn and play that works for pretty much any age group.
thumbsup You want a game that can be played within an hour that has a fair amount of player interaction.
thumbsup You can see the value in having a “gateway” game for introducing new players to the hobby that has that eye-catching quality about it.

Give it a miss if:
thumbsdown You don’t like games with a lot of luck. Dice and a limited hand size will be frustrating for some.
thumbsdown You would like more variety in strategies to win the game. There is basically only two: cross the finish line first or get as much treasure and gold as possible.
thumbsdown You want a game with a bit more going on - it’s simplicity and style will be a drawback for some as it can feel like a kid’s game.

Thanks for reading!
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Pedro Ramos
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Great review! Thanks for writing it! Really keen to play this game, but might wait until the Crew expansion comes out to see how much more tactics and strategy it adds.
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Dave Roy
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AndersonCouncil wrote:

Or perhaps you’ll decide to commit a whole pile of cannons to a defensive battle in order to ensure your victory only to have the attacking opponent roll a “blast” icon meaning you spent it all and lost with no chance to alter the result. This will create tension for some and frustration for others but for myself personally I fall into the former camp. It would be an issue if this was a deep game that I had spent an hour or more formulating my strategy but it’s not.



I don't think the defender needs to assign how much gunpowder he/she is using until the attacker rolls.

That was my understanding of the player card and the rules, as the attacker rolls before the defender does anything.
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Andy
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I just checked the rules and you are correct! We have been playing this wrong then shake. I will change the review to reflect this.

What I would say though is that in our experience it created more tension if both players had to commit how many cannons they will allocate up front. This is because if the attacker rolls poorly and doesn't commit many cannons, it's much easier for the defender to do the maths for the combat die and then commit at least 1 more cannon token to that result, thus ensuring that they win.

The gamble of having to decide how much to put in we thought was a good addition.
 
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