Picture the scene: you’re a successful merchant in India’s bustling market town of Jaipur. Things were going well until, one day, a competing merchant arrived in town and is now threatening your dominance of local trade.
Thankfully, you have a secret weapon up your sleeve.
Send in the camels!
Brief Overview of Jaipur
Jaipur is a two-player card game in which players are pitted against each other to be named the Maharaja’s personal trader.
Opponents vie to become the richest merchant in a best-of-three competition. You do this by collecting sets of commodities using cards from the common market, then trading them in for rupees. The more you have, the more you can earn. But don’t hang around too long or you might miss your chance.
It’s a game of risk and reward… and trying to muck over your opponent with camels. At the end of three rounds, whoever’s proven themselves to be the Gordon Gecko of the Indian goods market wins.
Jaipur’s box is small and so is the list of components you get in there:
- 55 goods cards
- 6 diamonds
- 6 gold
- 6 silver
- 8 cloth
- 8 spice
- 10 leather (that’s right, there’s actually skin in the game)
- 11 camels
- 38 goods tokens
- 1 camel token
- 18 bonus tokens
- 3 seals of excellence
For a budget game, Jaipur understandably hasn’t gone over the top with bells and whistles (I counted, and there’s not a single bell or whistle in the whole box). But what you do get works perfectly well.
I would have liked it if the artwork on the cards was brought to life a bit more, as it certainly doesn’t ooze personality. But the warm illustrations, colors and design evoke the theme well.
The tokens, similarly, are unspectacular and will get a bit grubby after time gone by, especially if you’re purchasing this as a travel game. But they do the job and again, for the price, it’s hard to complain.
How to Play Jaipur
Aim of the Game
Your aim is to secure the role of the Maharaja’s personal trader by becoming the richest merchant of them all. You do this by exchanging and selling diamonds, gold, silver, cloth, spice and leather at the market in exchange for rupees. The more cards you have of a commodity, the more rupees you’ll get.
Jaipur is a best-of-three game. At the end of each round, whoever is richest gets a Seal of Excellence. The first to get two Seals of Excellence wins.
To begin, take three camel cards and put them face-up in the middle. Then, shuffle all the remaining cards and deal five to both players. Put the undealt cards in the middle as a draw pile, take two from the top and place them next to the camels. These five cards are the market.
Then, if you have any camels in your hand, pile them in front of you to make up your herd.
There are tokens for each type of good, all of which come in different values. Make a pile of each individual good type and stack them in descending order of value.
You’re now ready to get wheeling and/or dealing!
On your turn, you can take one of two routes.
- Take goods
This is your opportunity to grow your inventory of goods or camels. There are three options available to you:
- Take several goods: replace as many cards in your hand as you like – goods or camels – with cards in the market.
- Take one good: take a single card from the market and replace it with a card from the deck.
- Take all the camels: pick up all the camels in the market and put them into your herd.
Just note, you cannot have more than seven cards in your hand at the end of the turn (not including camels). There should also always be five cards in the market.
- Sell goods
Your other option is to sell the goods in your hand. Goods are sold in sets in return for their corresponding token type – the more cards you have of the same type, the more tokens you’ll get in return.
When exchanging between one and two cards, you just get the corresponding number of tokens. However, if you’re selling three or more of the same cards, you will also acquire a bonus token.
There are three, four, and five-card bonus tokens. Each one has a random value assigned to it that you won’t know until you take it. The three-card bonus token could be worth between one and three rupees; the four-card bonus token could be worth between four and six rupees; the five-card bonus token could be worth between seven and ten.
Round-end and Scoring
A round instantly ends if three types of goods token are no longer available, or once the draw pile has run out.
Then scoring takes place. To do so, add up all the goods tokens you have collected. Diamond tokens will score you more rupees than gold, gold will score you more than silver, and so on. Also, five bonus rupees go to the player with the largest camel herd.
Whoever has the most rupees wins a Seal of Excellence token and the next round can begin. If someone accumulates two Seal of Excellence, they win!
Your First Game of Jaipur
Jaipur is a delightfully simple game to understand. However, before your first game, it may not be explicitly obvious the role that camels play. Or at least, how they can be used effectively.
Camels, however, will be your secret weapon in securing the keys to the office of the Maharaja’s personal trader. They are useful because you can exchange them in the market for any of the goods, and can’t be sold by your opponent. It’s a way to grow your hand without losing any goods cards.
Alongside being traded to strengthen your hand, camels also allow you to manipulate the market to reduce the chance of your opponent making any high-scoring trades. If, for example, you think some high-scoring cards are due to come out of the deck, it’s probably worth you filling the market with camels. This means they may have no choice but to take them all, and you’ll get free reign over what comes from the deck after.
When it comes to rules, it’s easy to forget that you can only sell the high-scoring goods cards (diamonds, gold, and silver) if exchanging a minimum of two. For the lower scoring cards, you can sell just the one if you like.
Pros & Cons
- Simple and speedy game of risk and reward
- Great for two-players
- Perfect travel game
- Only works with two
- Limited interaction
Jaipur doesn’t like to overcomplicate things. It’s a straightforward, easy-to-learn card game that will be over in 20 minutes or so. And, if that’s all you’re after, look absolutely no further. You’ll struggle to find another quick and simple two-player that is as fun as this. It has a great tempo and the risk-reward element makes it incredibly tense and exciting.
If you’re still on the fence you can even check out the digital version on Steam before committing to the real thing.
There is a surprising amount of strategy and decision-making, though, for such a simple game. The goods tokens, for instance, have been spiced up simply by making them decrease in value. This adds no extra weight to the rulebook, while at the same time incentivizes players to race for the higher-scoring tokens. Then, on the flip side, you also have to factor in holding on to cards to try and get a bigger set, securing you a higher bonus. These are tense and high-stake decisions to make and it’s these risks that make it so fun to play.
The camels are where the strategy really comes in, however. And a masterful play of these is what will make the difference. Luck, of course, plays a big part in the game, too – what comes out of the deck and the bonus tokens you pick up is entirely up to chance. However, it is not the be-all and end-all. Ultimately, who scores the most points is down to who plays well.
That the game is exclusively for two players does limit its usefulness for larger families or gaming groups. But, for a travel game it packs up nice and small and can easily fill some downtime.
When it comes to gameplay, any lightweight card game like this is going to struggle to be all things to all people. While overall it worked smoothly, I did find that at times things became a bit stuck because both players don’t want to pick up and reveal other cards, which can be a bit grueling.
What’s more, Jaipur is likely to become a bit repetitive over time if played extensively in each session. This is exaggerated somewhat due to the fact that direct interaction between players is basically non-existent, as everything goes through the market. So, if you prefer a more aggressive style of game, this may not quite hit those buttons for you.
For a lightweight and straightforward card game, Jaipur is a surprisingly thought-provoking and intense experience. Buying and selling commodities at the common market, your goal is to become the richest trader in the land.
It’s a game of pushing your luck. And, considering its simplicity and speed, things can get incredibly tense.
This is one of the most enjoyable two-player games you’re likely to find, especially for the price and complexity.
Jaipur is a really impressive and enjoyable two-player game that, taking probably under half an hour to play, you will find yourself pulling out over and over again.
It’s got a lovely charm to it with its artwork and simple gameplay, while the level of strategy it manages to pack in will keep it interesting enough as a solid, lightweight time-filler for years to come.
Most of all, though, it is genuinely exciting. The risks you will take are great, but the rewards are far greater. And when your patience finally pays off with a big-number cash-in and a top bonus token, it can be quite the adrenaline rush.
Besides, who doesn’t like a good camel?
Have you tried Jaipur? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think!