Welcome to Board Games With OB, a somewhat profane, possibly semi-regular feature where OregonBeast gets a board game he likes and briefly explains how to play it and hopes you would be interested in playing it, too. Because board games are fucking awesome.

The two-player board game. The oldest known board games (Senet, which has origins possibly going back to 3100 B.C. in Egypt, the Royal Game of Ur from roughly 2500 B.C. Mesopotamia and Backgammon from Persia) are or likely were two-player games. Some of the more famous board games of slightly newer but still long-standing origins are exclusively two-player games — think go, chess, checkers in this regard.

The modern board game generally eschews this rigid setup in favor of designs and rules that are intended to work with a broader range of players. There still are many games being made for just players, but these tend to be war simulations, which may be either the 60-minute genre we all know and love here at BGOWB or multi-hour marathons (Read: More power to you if you’re into that, but that would bore the everliving fuck out of me, so no thanks personally). A Few Acres of Snow (*coughHalifaxHammercough*), Memoir ‘44, most CCGsWhichWillNotBeNamed (i.e. Magic: The Gathering) pretty much anything published under the Avalon Hill name are examples of these.

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Jaipur is the exception to these trends of the modern exclusive two-player game. No in-depth battlefield situation, Jaipur is a simple economic strategy game focused around a brightly colored deck of cards. While the two-player limits certainly makes the opportunities to play Jaipur limited, it’s a fun, fantastic option when you game group except for that one guy flakes out on you.

Game: Jaipur
Players: 2
Gametime: 30-45 minutes
Designer: Sebastien Pauchon (Switzerland)
Key Mechanics: Set collection, trading, economic management

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Story: You have risen through the ranks of market traders in northern India. In fact, it’s now between you and one other trader to determine who is the best and will receive the honor of the becoming the personal trader of the maharaja. Now it’s time to prove your worth.

What do you do?: Jaipur consists of a deck of colorful cards and colorful tokens. In the game, you’re doing one of three things: You’re either getting new cards, trading cards you have for other cards you’d prefer to have or selling cards to gain the tokens that score the points you need to win.

The cards and tokens depict six different kinds of goods, each with a different color. There are three rare goods of jewels (red), gold (yellow) and silver (gray), then the three common goods of cloth (purple), spices (green), and leather (brown). There are also camel cards, which play an interesting role in the game. More on that later.

To start the game, each player is dealt five cards. Three camel cards and two additional cards are placed in the middle of the table to form the buyers market. The remaining cards are placed faced down next to the market.

Now the players begin taking turns, choosing an action of taking, trading or selling cards. Here’s how those work:

  • Taking cards: Taking cards from the market happens either one of two ways. First, you can take a single goods card from the market and add it to your hand. The top card from the face-down deck is put into the market to replace it. But you’re only allowed up to seven goods cards in your hand at one time. The second option for taking cards is to take all the camel cards currently in the market. Your camel cards are placed face-up in a pile on the table in front of your to form your herd. But camels do not count toward your seven-card hand limit. The market is then replenished from the deck back up to five cards.
  • Trading cards: You also have the option of trading two to five of your cards for an equal amount of goods (not camel) cards from the market. You can use any combination of your goods cards and camel cards to make the trade. So you can use two goods cards and a camel card and take three goods cards back, for example. This is one of two game situations where the camels can come in handy.
  • Selling cards: To sell cards, you take cards of one particular good from your hand and discard them. You will then take an equal number of good tokens off the top of that good’s token stack into your possession.

And it’s the selling of tokens where the game can get you to doubt yourself. Each token has a point value, and as more tokens of each stack are taken, those point values will start to decline. Take, for example, spices. The first token in the spice stack is worth 5 points. The bottom two tokens are only worth 1 point.

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So wouldn’t it make sense to just sell a spice card right off the bat? Not necessarily, thanks to the bonus tokens. The bonus tokens are given to a player each time they sell 3, 4, or 5 cards of a good at the same time. These token add bonus points to the sale, and the more cards sold, the higher the bonus. How big of a bonus? Well, try 1 to 3 points for a 3-card bonus all the up to 8 to 10 points for a 5-card bonus. Even more dastardly? The bonus is only shown on the bottom of the token, so your opponent won’t know what you got until the end of the round.

One more important rule about selling: The three luxury goods (jewels, gold and silver) must be sold two or more at a time. The three common goods can be sold as little as one at a time.

How to taste sweet, sweet victory: A round of Jaipur ends when either three of the six goods token piles have been exhausted or the market can’t be refilled by the deck. At that point, whichever player has more camel cards in their herd receives the 5-point camel bonus token, then the player add up their total score. The player with the higher scores wins the round. Ties are broken first by whichever player has more bonus tokens, then whichever player has more goods tokens. Best two out of three wins.

So, what makes this game awesome?

  • Jaipur is basically a strategic risk-reward game. Yes, taking all four of those camels is going to give your some trade flexibility, but then you’re putting four brand new cards in the market and giving the other player first pick of the goods. Yes, holding out to do a five-card sale could get you a bunch of points, but the other player might pick off a couple of higher-value tokens in the meantime to negate the value. You might have the chance to trade in a couple of cards to set up a four-card trade-in of leather, but to do it you have to return a jewel and gold card to the market for your opposition to grab and possibly score a ton of points. These are some of the dilemas Jaipur brings up, and the blood pressure spike is fucking amazing.
  • Really easy to learn. This last week, I taught three people how to play it in less than 10 minutes each, and they were beating me within a couple of games.
  • Just a beautifully designed game, with vibrant colors and fantastic artwork on the cards and tokens.
  • Affordable. A little Internet sleuthing can probably pick you up Jaipur for under $20 ‘Murican.

Other ways to play: Jaipur is one of the games available on Board Game Arena. It translated very well to online play.

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Watch it being played: While I normally link to TableTop episodes here, the Canadian video blog Watch It Played! (hey, go figure) gives a fantastic rundown of Jaipur’s gameplay for the more visual learners out there.

Previous Board Games With OB: [Takenoko] [Snake Oil] [Tsuro] [Dixit] [The Resistance] [Hey, That's My Fish!] [Ticket To Ride] [Survive: Escape From Atlantis] [Castle Panic] [Small World] [Qwirkle] [Elder Sign] [Carcassonne]

Images via BoardGameGeek