Strategic Depth: Beginner
Setup Time: 10 mins.
Play Time: 30-60 mins.
Players: 2-6 (Best with 4-6)
Mechanics: Dice Rolling, Hand Management, Simultaneous Action Selection
Production Info: 2007 | GameWorks and Asmodee | Malcolm Braff, Bruno Cathala, and Sebastien Pauchon
This is a pirate-themed tactical race game with great player interaction and side goals. Some of these side goals could include taking a detour to secure a bonus card that could be poison, victory points, or a secret weapon! The goal of the game is to reach the finish line first (15 VP) or just have the most gold and victory points when your opponent reaches the finish line. Jamaica is a game of balancing your position in the race along with collecting gold, food, and cannons for attacking and defending opponents. The simultaneous action selection on every turn will keep the family coming back for more!
- The Good -
This was one of the first simultaneous action selection games that I had played and owned. I bought this game a long time ago without ever playing because the gameplay looked like so much fun on walkthrough videos. I always bring out this game to play as a gateway game because it keeps everyone involved each turn and keeps their attention. Being able to choose a card that determines your movement, roll dice, gain treasure, fight your opponent, and gather food entices all types of gamers. Every turn you get to choose from 3 cards that you would like to play based on the Captain's dice roll, which is changes in clockwise order every turn. Each person must choose a card facedown before the Captain takes the first turn, and this makes for excellent gameplay and surprise attacks. Jamaica has a ton of player interaction as opponents will land on your spot and you will end up dueling over resources. The winner of the battle get's to take one compartment of their choice, or take a card, or give a negative card. The game works so well because it's a race but doesn't always feel like one because you will go backward based on cards and lose resources throughout the way.
Jamaica is one of the most beautiful games that I have played because of the popping artwork in the instructions, game box, cards, and game board. The instructions are actually my favorite layout of all the games I own because it's set up like a treasure map and visually it's very easy to follow. Every time I have introduced this game to someone new they comment on the artwork. They went into great detail with every component of the game and it really helps draw in new players.
As I mentioned in the pro's section, Jamaica has an excellent interaction because of the simultaneous action selection component. This allows the game to move at a faster pace but also allows for surprise attacks and opponents stealing resources first. This is an excellent gateway game because it get's everyone involved and there is very little downtime. I have found that younger kids absolutely love this game because of the attacking component and the interaction that takes place throughout the enitre game.
- The Bad -
There can be a luck factor in drawing the cards. You do get to choose from 3 cards in your hand which helps to plan some strategy but another opponent can screw up your future strategy pretty quickly. Gateway games always need to have a fair amount of luck to draw in beginners but I know after playing dozens of times that I would like a little more strategy, which is where the new expansion would come into play and I would love to own it for that reason.
Most people find that the fun gameplay outweighs the lack of strategic depth in Jamaica, but that would be one of the weaknesses when analyzing the game. There have been games where I pick good moves throughout the game and still lose because of the lack of bonus cards and the way the cards were drawn with alignment to the captains roll of dice. It is really hard to take control of the game with planned out movements because of the simultaneous action selection that takes place every turn. I do not mind having to improvise throughout the game but players who are strategic planners will not like this game as much, and that is why it's such a great gateway/family game.
- Overall -
Jamaica was the first racing style game that I had played and it is still my favorite racing game ever. It starts with the very well organized box for every piece in the game that makes it easy for storage and the box design looks like a treasure chest! The instructions are built like a map with beautiful artwork throughout. Besides the gameplay, the highlight of the game is the gorgeous board and game cards which helps attract newbies. It's a fantastic family game because of the design, artwork, luck factor, gameplay, and of course the pirate theme! I always recommend this game unless someone is only into heavy strategic games. I have been waiting years for the new Crew Expansion game that is supposed to add some more strategy, depth, and choices for this already exciting game. I know I will be purchasing the expansion very soon! This a unique game that should be on your gaming shelf even though it came out 10 years ago. It's hard to turn down a racing pirate theme where you can use your best pirate voice while attacking your friends on a pirate ship!
The following summaries are meant to be a high-level reminder of how to play this game. If this is your first time playing, we highly recommend that you read your board game's included rule book which will go into much more depth. You can download a digital PDF copy of the official rules by clicking the button below. There are also a few video tutorials near the bottom of this section to help all you visual learners out as well.
- Setup Overview -
- Randomly select 9 of the 12 treasure cards, shuffle them and place them in a facedown pile on the right side of the navigation box. Put the remaining three cards back in the game box without looking at them.
- The combat die is placed on the fortress, which is labeled on the board.
- Each player places his color's ship on the Port Royal space.
- The resources are sorted by type and make up the Bank, which should be within reach of all the players. You also can just keep all the resources in the box and let one person be in charge of distributing them.
- The 9 treasure tokens are placed on the 9 pirate lairs (rocks in the shape of a skull).
- Each player receives a board representing the 5 holds of his ship.
- Shuffle your color of action cards and place them face down in front of you. Make sure to keep a separate pile for the discarded cards.
- Each player places 3 food tokens and 3 doubloons in two of his holds.
- Everyone takes the first 3 action cards from his deck. These should be held facing you and you get to choose 1 card every turn to play.
- One player is selected at random to be the Captain for the first round. He is given the compass and the two action dice. Turns go in clockwise order for the Captain each round.
- Game Play/Player Turns -
Each round the Captain throws the action dice. He chooses in which order to put them on the navigation box, after consulting the 3 action cards in his hand. This is significant because it determines the order of actions on the cards. Once the dice have been placed, each player chooses the card from his hand that he wants to play and puts it face down in front of them. This is important because everyone selects their card before the Captain takes their turn and they cannot change the card they chose. The Captain then carries out the two actions: first the morning one, then the evening one. The morning action is linked to the left die (sun) and the evening action to the right (moon). In turn, the other players do the same: they turn over their card and carry out the 2 actions, always in accordance with the dice placed by the Captain. The correct order is very important as players will be fighting over the same space and resources.
Once everybody has completed their actions, each player takes the top card from his deck to bring his hand back up to 3 cards. The played cards go face up in the discard pile and must be kept separate from the draw pile. The compass is passed clockwise and signifies the new Captain and comes in very handy for more players.
- End Of Game -
As soon as a player reaches Port Royal, he stops there. Any remaining evening (moon) action is ignored. The current Game Round is finished normally and the game ends. The players then add up their points.
- Winning -
The player with the highest number of points wins.
A player's final score is calculated as follows:
- The white number on the space where his ship currently is which states how many victory points. (Ending on the space marked -5, or any space before that, costs 5 points from your victory points).
- Any doubloons in his holds
- Minus (-) any cursed treasures
- Tie Breakers -
In the event of a tie, the player who is fruthest along in the race wins. If still tied, the players concerned share the victory!
- Great Instructional Videos -
Here are a few helpful instructional videos you or your group can watch to learn how to play this game visually.
What happens when your individual deck is empty?
If you need to draw a card and your deck is empty, then shuffle the discard pile to create a new deck.
How do the actions work when playing a card?
Each player must completely resolve their morning action before starting the evening one. The morning action is in the upper left corner and the evening action is in the upper right corner of the card.
What happens when all the holds are full of resources?
You must replace one of the holds and it must be of a different resource, you cannot replace with the same resource.
Can you go backward?
Yes, some of the cards will make you go backward and the ability to know when to play them is important to your strategy.
Can combat take place on Port Royal?
No combat can take place on the starting line (Port Royal).
What happens to your cannons if you roll a star?
You lose your cannons that you put forward on the attack even if you roll a star.
What happens when you land on a space with more than 1 pirate ship?
You can choose which person you would like to battle and that takes place before paying for that space.
What happens if you don't have enough resources for the space you land on?
You go backwards until the first space that you can pay to stay.
When paying for a space, can you choose which hold to pay from?
Yes, you can choose which holds you would like to pay from.
Are there any free spaces to land?
Yes, the pirate lair (skull) is the only free space and you can also acquire a treasure token if available.
What happens when you lose a battle?
The winner get's to take one hold of any resource, take their power or treasure card, or give their opponent a negative treasure card.
BUY THIS GAME
You have a variety of options across the web where you can purchase this game. We have an affiliate relationship with Amazon where they will give us a percentage of anything you buy on their site if you click one of our Amazon links on this site. This costs you absolutely nothing and is a free way to support our site so we can keep providing you great content and keep this website ad-free! Thank you for your support!!
Highest Price: $59.98 (Sep 01, 2013)
Lowest Price: $35.00 (Aug 06, 2016)
Average Price: $43.30
*According to CamelCamelCamel.com (06/02/2018)
Expanding The Game
The first expansion to Jamaica adding more depth, characters, and cards.
If you like how this board game plays, you'll definitely want to check out these great games which play similar.