In Jamaica the players are pirates, taking part in a madcap race around the eponymous island. But being pirates, sportsmanship and integrity are far from the deciding factors…
The board shows the island itself, with the ‘track’ around it (the sea) broken into spaces. Players take a ship of their chosen colour (placing at the ‘starting line’ of Port Royal), a board representing their hold, where they can keep stuff on their ship – you begin the race with three doubloons and three food – and lastly a deck of cards: each card has symbols top-left and top-right that represent what their ship will do during the rounds of the game: one for day, and one for night.
Everyone shuffles their deck and deals themselves three cards. The starting player rolls two dice, then – referencing their cards – they decide where to assign them: one die will represent day, and the other night. Everyone plays a card face-down to the table which will be their choices for this turn, then the cards are resolved in turn order. There are four possible symbols on the cards – movement, pushing your ship the amount of pips on the die forwards (or sometimes backwards!) or – doubloons, food, or cannons, in which case you simply pick up the amount shown on die.
Deciding where and when to move isn’t just about getting to the front, because depending on where you stop it may cost you doubloons (at a port) or food (at sea). There are pirate lairs to stop at which can be doubly beneficial: not only is it free to moor up, but if you arrive first, you get to pick up a treasure: piles of doubloons, a special ability that helps your game, or – if you’re unlucky – a cursed treasure that takes points off you. If you stop on the same place as another player, you may attack them using cannons, and if successful you can steal either treasure from them – (a treasure card, or the contents of their hold) or pass them a cursed treasure.
Once everyone has played their day and night actions, the starting player moves clockwise and the process repeats. The game ends when someone reaches Port Royal again, and the race is over. BUT! Although winning the race is a good move (15 points!) it won’t automatically win you the game, as everyone counts up the points from their finishing position (close the the line is good, far back is minus five) plus their doubloons, plus any treasure cards they have. And the player with the most points after that – wins.
Maybe not one for deep-thinking strategists, but for families who don’t mind the side-portion of cannons and theft, this is a really fun game that is reasonably quick to learn, plays fast, and doesn’t outstay its welcome. A big hit in our house.
The more players there are, the more you get in each other's way, so although the main focus of the game isn't fighting, it does tend to happen a fair bit. Along with the stealing.
As long as you don't have a player who agonises over every decision, Jamaica can zip along like a galleon with a following wind.
It's not a game of blind luck, but the brain-burning is reasonably low: look at the dice, look at the board, select a card. As long as you factor in the 'payment' of doubloons or food in where your ship will end up this turn, it's pretty straightforward.
Dice and card draws ensure variety, and although the game can have the air of a bunfight, you do have an element of control in which card you select.