Thursday, September 6, 2007

Lunch session: Jambo

Today, my good friend Jack and I sat down for a lunchtime session. When we get together for 2-player sessions, we trade off who picks the game. Today, I picked Jambo. This was a learning session for Jack, so I gave him the manual to read beforehand, as is his preference.

Not surprisingly, Jack came into the game like a pro. He was throwing down cards like he owned the game.

The highlight of this session, though, was this: I had to look in the rulebook two times for answers I didn't know. The reason this was interesting to me is that I've played the game a lot. Jambo is easily my favorite 2-player game, and my wife and I play it pretty frequently. The game is among my wife's favorites, which adds extra value for me as well. And despite our several sessions of blasting through the game, I had to consult the manual twice today.

The first time, it was in response to something Jack had spotted in reading the manual that I didn't remember myself: you may skip your card drawing phase (Phase 1) if you want to. This is not a very likely occurrence, I think, since that is your only chance to get a card without paying money or using a utility card. But, I can see this feature being useful if you had a large hand of cards which contained many useful cards. If, in your hand, you saw five potential actions for one turn, you might want to skip Phase 1 to guarantee the completion of those five actions.

The second time I hit the manual was to answer a question of my own: are you allowed to have more than one of the same utility card? It turned out the answer was Yes. I had a Leopard Statue and a Well at the time, and drew another Well. I thought this might be useful. So after looking in the rules and finding my answer, I played that second Well. This opened up the opportunity for me to draw plenty of cards per turn, as long as I had enough gold to spare.

I also ended up with a second Leopard Statue (I love that card) but never played it. Instead, I put Weapons in place of the second Well, and later replaced Weapons with Drums, and later replaced Drums with Boat (my favorite utility card). This fortunate utility card line-up was very advantageous to me. I had lots of cards in hand that I wasn't using. Weapons, Drums, and Boat enabled me to ditch some of those cards to my benefit.

Eventually (after a long spell) I finally drew enough ware cards to make some money, utilizing Boat and Leopard Statue.

During this time, Jack was investing in extra storage tables, trying to gain enough space for all his wares. He bought 9 wares (3 cards) at once, but sold only one. He didn't have time to recover from this spell of heavy spending. My lucky setup pulled me ahead and put me at 68 gold. Jack ended his first (well-played) game with 45 gold. Had he saved a little more money, it would have been closer. At the time, his actions made sense, but only if he'd had more time to execute all his plans.

The beauty of this session was that teaching the game to someone new forced me to reexamine the game, revealing cool features I hadn't been using all this time. Thanks, Jack!

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