The theme behind Jambo is very simple. You are a trader who creates a stand (or stands), and buys and sells goods in the market. The seller and the buyer is the bank, so the amount of interaction with your opponent in buying and selling goods is rather limited. That does not mean this game lacks interaction with your opponent though, it is just in the other aspects of the game. This is a fun 2-player game, which will take about an hour the first few times you play it. After you get used to the different cards in the game though, the average time will be between half an hour and fourty five minutes. I find this is the ideal time range for two player games.
The game is centered around the 110 card playing deck. There are other pieces too including markets (which are part of the deck), and gold. The goal is to have the most gold at the end of the game, and a game enters it’s final round when one of the players has 60 gold pieces (you start with 20). The playing deck has a variety of types of cards including wares, animals, people, markets, and utilities. These different cards are the key to the game. I won’t go into the specifics of every card, but will explain the categories later in this review.
On your turn you will have five actions you are eligible to use, and these can be traced using the five action markers that are included with the game. Pass one to your opponent as you take each action on your turn. Some actions you can use are drawing cards, playing cards, activating utilities, selling wares, etc. If you only use three or less actions on your turn you are able to get 1 gold piece when you end your turn early. As you can see the game revolves around the cards and getting ones that will help you. The type that helps you depends on your strategy and the cards you hold or have played.
Market stands are necessary to win the game. Everyone starts with a large stand that holds six wares, there are also five additional small stands in the deck that could be used to your advantage. Ware cards are the items you buy and sell to earn gold, there are a variety of six of these cards which either have three or six ware cards on each. They will tell you a buy price (if you wish to purchase them) or a sell price if you have all the wares on the card in your market.. Your goal is to buy low and sell high when possible.
Utility cards are very useful. You play these in front of you and use them anytime you wish for one gold piece. They will effect the ways in which you get wares, earn gold, and get cards, they are powerful cards to have. Animal cards will bring about actions that have bad results for your opponent. They can only be used once though so choose the correct time. Keep in mind if your opponent has a guard it will cancel out the action of your animal card. People cards in general will affect how much you pay or sell for wares and like animal cards they can only be played once.
Again, the ultimate goal is to earn the most gold, but of course your strategy can’t be all offensive. You need to defend against your opponent. The animal cards are keys to the defensive strategy, and in general the utility and people cards will aid you the most in your offensive strategy in the game. As you can guess there is a fair amount of luck that also affects your strategy as obviously what cards you get when can help shape or alter your strategy, as well as your opponent’s.
This card game can generally be found at most game stores or online for $15-20. At that price I’d say it’s a very good two player game to have. Two of my favorite two-player games are Lost Cities and Balloon Cup, but they are much simpler than this one. If you and your opponent are looking for a game with a little more depth than those, Jambo is a very good choice.