Walking into the village on a pleasant, sunny day, you cheerily greet other passers-by with a smile and friendly, “Jambo!” (hello). You’re a simple trader, minding your own biashara (business), just trying to support your mke (wife) and watoto (kids). Buying hariri (silk) and manyoya (hides) at modest prices and selling them for higher sums, perhaps you’ll even earn a little extra to buy that shiny, new mkuki (spear) you always wanted. It is a concept as old as ustaarabu (civilization) itself. Is that too much to ask? But no, apparently the life of a simple trader is not so simple after all. That mbaya mtu (bad man) across the square has to go and send his tembo (elephant) rampaging over to upturn and trample your soko kusimama (market stand). What a maana mtu (jerk *loosely translated)! Well, how about you send your fisi (hyena) over to cause some mischief of your own. That’ll show him! Turns out, this trading business sure can be kata-koo (cut-throat).
How it Works
Jambo is a two-player only card game of trading wares to earn gold (part of Rio Grande’s Kosmos series). To be clear, it is not a collectible card game, but it trends like one. Both players begin the game with 5 cards, 20 gold, and a market stand that has enough space for six wares. The main goal, as in so many other simple economic games, is to buy low and sell high. Buying and selling are both accomplished by playing ware cards. Each ware card depicts three of the game’s six available goods (fruit, hides, salt, silk, tea, or trinkets) along with both a purchasing and selling price. To buy wares simply play the card, pay the cost indicated in gold, collect the goods depicted on the card, and then place them in available slots on your market stand. To sell wares you must play a card that matches goods that you already own on your market stand, return those to the supply, and then collect the amount of gold indicated. So far, very easy, very pleasant, very…boring.
|Sturdy cards with nice artwork and solid tokens.|
|Utilize those utilities to best advantage!|
|Some people are helpful.|
|Animals can mess you up!|
The Most Interesting CCG in the World?
Okay, again, to be clear: Jambo is NOT a collectible card game. But it plays and feels very much like one – a polished version at that. It is so smooth that I can see The Most Interesting Man in the World sitting at the table with this title saying, “I don’t always play CCGs, but when I do, I prefer Jambo.”
As a card game, luck is inherently a factor. Sometimes, the nature of the draw will create some oddly slow stretches in the game as the players wait for that one card that will start setting things in motion. I would not say it is a problem, but merely a minor nuisance. Will you have a game now and then where the “luck of the draw” seems to defeat you at every corner no matter what you do? Sure. But those games will be the exception rather than the rule. There are just too many ways to work with, and minimize, the randomness of Jambo. Just like in a CCG.
In many ways, the phrase “multiple paths to victory” applies in Jambo. There are cards that let you draw more cards. Cards that let you stock up on wares. A couple allow you to sell goods without having a ware card. Others let you just outright collect gold. Still others let you look for specific cards in the draw or discard piles. And if you are still having trouble helping yourself, then you can acquire and play cards that hinder your opponent. There is also a beautiful balance to this cornucopia of cards. Some provide a simple benefit to you or straight-forward attack against your opponent. However, the more powerful cards include some sort of counter-effect. The benefit that a people or utility card provides you may throw your rival a bone, at the same time. Conversely, the animal card you play to attack the other might make you feel the pinch, too. You will need patience and strategy to use your options wisely. To be sure, the value of some cards are questionable as to their worth and overall balance. But that will depend on an individual’s preferences and play style. Just like in a CCG.
|The six wares and the market stand.|
Did I make clear that Jambo is NOT actually a collectible card game? Okay, just making sure. You don’t build your own deck. You share a common draw pile. Apart from a couple of small, appealing expansions, you don’t need to sink weekly paychecks into pack after pack of boosters to really have fun. But the card design/text, unique variable powers, rules, and tableau mechanic will give that sophisticated CCG player just the right flavor to scratch that itch – and in one compact price to boot. Yet on the other hand, Jambo is also a smooth, interactive, strategy game perfect for couples and other casual gamers not already familiar with the world of CCG’s.
Very accessible mechanics
Good luck vs. strategy balance
Lots of card text to learn at first
Draw sometimes creates slow stretches of play