Cardboard Children – Jamaica

By Robert Florence on July 22nd, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

Hello youse.

Every home should have a good family game. What is a family game? It’s a game that the whole family can play, obviously. Can’t you work any of this stuff out for yourself? If I have to explain every single concept to you we’re going to be here all day! Anyway, a great family game is something that mum, dad, the kids, granny and the weird lodger in the basement can play. It is easy to explain, plays quick, and great fun. It also helps if it looks beautiful. Sadly, a game with all these qualities is as rare as rocking horse shit (which is even more rare nowadays – jeez, when was the last time you even saw a rocking horse?). Oh, but, anyway, point is, I got a family game for you. Read on.

JAMAICA

“Jamaica?”
“No, she did it willingly.”

So goes the old joke about making “her” do something. Nice, isn’t it? Fortunately, the board game Jamaica is nothing to do with making anybody do anything. It’s a racing game, with each player a pirate ship sailing around Jamaica. On the way round the island, pirates can stop at special spaces to pick up treasure – these treasures award gold (points) or special abilities. Or sometimes curses. YIKES!

Okay, let me explain how this game works. * cough * Every player has a hand of action cards. These cards are split into day and night actions. So, one card might allow you to MOVE FORWARD during the day and MOVE BACK during the night. Another card might allow you to LOAD UP WITH GOLD during the day and then MOVE FORWARD at night. Another might allow you to MOVE BACK during the day and LOAD UP WITH CANNONS during the night. For every card you play, you do two things.

Now – every turn a new player rolls two six-sided navigation dice. Let’s say I just rolled a 4 and a 6. I now decide how these dice are placed. Essentially, I’m deciding which value goes with day and which with night. I place down 4 in the Day slot and 6 in the Night slot. Then, if I play a GOLD and MOVE FORWARD card, I take 4 gold and move forward 6 spaces. See? Dead simple. Then all the other players play the cards that will best suit that 4/6 navigation. Delicious.

Here’s a key element of the game – you only have so many spaces in the hold of your ship to carry stuff. Every time you load new stuff it goes in a separate space. So one space might have 2 gold in it. If you load 4 gold in a later turn, you can’t stack it on top. You need to put it in its own space. So you’re constantly managing your hold as you load up with GOLD and FOOD and CANNONS.

Oh yeah. Food. Many of the spaces on the board demand that you pay FOOD to land on them. You need to feed your crew, right? So that’s another consideration as you navigate around the island – you need to make sure you have the food for the spaces you’re moving to, and the GOLD cost for landing at any port spaces. If, at any point, you can’t pay the costs – you just pay what you can and then move backwards until you reach a space you CAN afford.

I know you want me to get to the CANNONS. You want to hear about the fights, right? Well, if you land on the same space as an opponent’s ship, you attack it. You roll a battle die. So does your opponent. Before rolling, you can both spend any cannons you have to raise the score. High score wins. The winner gets to steal a treasure or a whole slot’s worth of stuff from the loser’s hold, or can instead give a cursed treasure to the loser. Here’s what’s really cool though – there’s a little explosion symbol on one side of the battle die. That’s an automatic win right there. It means a ship with no cannons can still land a lucky shot and win the fight. It also means that attackers (who always roll first, remember) have distinct advantage in any battle, which keeps the game very CUT-THROAT and PIRATEY.

First ship round the island once ends the game and scores the highest possible score bonus. All other ships are scored for where they finish. Gold and treasure values are added, curses are deducted, and the highest score is DUN-DU-DU-DUN-DUN-DUN-DUUUUUN THE WINNER!

Now, let me tell you something – this is a FANTASTIC GAME. I love the fact that it feels as simple as a silly little roll-and-move race game, but that there are enough choices in there to make things interesting. Enough control to make it feel like your fate is in your hands. And hey – combat too! And nasty, exciting combat to boot. And even choices to make after combat – which stuff do you steal from your victim? What do you jettison from your hold to take that new stuff?

The game has been a smash with everyone I’ve played with, from a 7-year-old up to a 36 year old piece of shit like me. It’s fun, streamlined, quick-as-a-whip, free from frustration – it’s pretty much family game GOLD DUST.

And the art? The components? Man, this game looks beautiful. Just beautiful. It is GORGEOUS. A lot of love has been poured into this thing. Even the action cards hold a surprise treat – when you lay them all out you can join them all into one big bit of panoramic art. It’s ridiculous.

So yeah – a strong recommendation for this game. It can stand alongside the likes of Survive and Break The Safe as an example of brilliant family game design. If you are a gamer with kids, it’s a must – and it will play great with all your horrible adult gamer buddies too.

NEXT TIME

A sport game. With fighting? KAOS.

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35 Comments »

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  1. Babymech says:

    By the way, your approach to the accusations of rape leveled at Max Temkin was pretty shitty. I’m a strong proponent of treating all such accusations seriously, and showing full respect for the bravery it takes to confront that situation, but I’m not a proponent of being shitty. Other writers handled it better, but I guess you don’t want to go into it, since you never enabled comments. Feel free to delete this one, as it’s too late to discuss anyway – I just felt bad about not having pointed out shitty behavior when it was right in front of me.

    • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

      To be fair to you, comments were off on that one. I also thought that article was bang out of order, but at least I was somewhat pleased that they had the dignity not to invite further slander through an open comments section.

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      Aerothorn says:

      “I just felt bad about not having pointed out shitty behavior when it was right in front of me.”

      You should not feel bad about this. You are not obligated to police the internet, and probably nobody wants you to. I think Florence made a good decision to turn off comments, but even if you disagree, it was his decision to make, and trying to circumvent it here is kind of crappy.

      • Vendae says:

        If we go by the rules this might not be the place to discuss it, but in all fairness that entry sports a “Comments will be enabled later on” that someone might have forgotten to enforce.

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      bills6693 says:

      I have to agree. I kept checking back at that page every day because it said at the bottom “Comments will be enabled later on.”, but they never were.

      I won’t add my opinion here further than saying I pretty much agree with what you just said.

    • Deano2099 says:

      Regardless of folks problems with the article, I wouldn’t necessarily put the fact that comments were off on Rab. He’s just a freelancer, that’s more likely to be an editorial decision by the site owners. Especially given the whole point of the article was that no-one was talking about it, and we should be. Not that I can be sure of that, but it makes more sense than the alternatives.

      It’s a shame though as he was totally wrong about Cards Against Humanity as well, it’s brilliant, and he was missing the core mechanic that you’re meant to choose the word funniest to the judge of that round, not to you, or the group in general. It’s a game about figuring out your friends’ senses of humour, trying to figure ‘how far is too far?’ for each player, and being funny without crossing someone’s line.

    • James Pursaill says:

      You call it shitty behavior three times and say other writers handled it better – but you never once mention what you didn’t like about the article or how ‘others’ (whoever they are) handled it better.

      So, if you’re determined to make a comment on a separate article, tell us – what did you find shitty about the article?

      I basically took the piece as saying there were some pretty ugly facts people who had bought or might want to buy the game should consider. Rab has definitely made up his mind about those facts. I didn’t take his opinion as gospel, but I’m glad he bought the meat of the issue to my attention so that I could make up my own mind.

      The meat being that the co-creator of the game has been accused of rape (I didn’t know this before the article) and that his response to the accusation is really worrying.

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        Mitthrawn says:

        I’ll jump in here, since I thought it was shitty behavior too.

        Rab talks about how the Cards guy (Max Temkin) is being accused of rape, but that there is nothing definite, there may have been a witness, and we should all feel bad about rape in general, along with some general hand-wringing. Rab seems really convinced- despite a lack of clear evidence one way or the other- that Temkin perpetrated that rape, and also by the way his game is shitty. It was a strange and ultimately, frustrating article.

        Rab doesn’t bring anything new to the table in terms of information; but he does drag this guy’s name through the mud, again, without any proof or links or definitive evidence, of a crime that allegedly occurred a decade ago, and then leaves it like a turd just lying there, like, well, he probably did it even though I have no evidence.

        Even worse, there isn’t any point to the article at all. Rab wants us to talk about this subject. What is there to talk about? There is no new evidence. No one knows anything. Are we just supposed to wring our hands and go, that Max Temkin, he’s probably a bad guy?

        To me, this is the worst example of New Journalism. Journalism is supposed to be fact based. You want to be hard hitting, to talk about something, bring some facts to the party. But don’t slander and drag someone’s name through the mud because your gut tells you he’s guilty. That is incredibly self-serving, presumptive, and unfair to your readers and the person in question.

        • OceanIris says:

          Please support points like these with quotes. I don’t remember thinking that the author implied his belief re: temkin being guilty, but found your point interesting and wouldn’t mind hearing why you believe this to be the case!

        • Gormongous says:

          It’s comments like this that baffle me. Did you people even read the article? Rab says over and over, at least once every other paragraph, that he doesn’t consider the accusations to be proof of guilt and that the important thing is really to consider the culture in which said accusations occur. I actually found it almost to be an annoyingly milquetoast in its refusal to take a moral stance on the accusations themselves, although I’m sure he did so in order to avoid the very comments above. The article spent much more time calling out a shitty non-apology (which involved legal threats and harassment) than the actual act, which barely is addressed compared to coverage on other sites. Apparently, acknowledging the possibility that a popular public figure might be guilty of a crime someone with nothing to gain says they did constitutes “slander” now and is a unilaterally shitty thing. Not like bringing up a week-old article in a completely unrelated context is a shitty thing, no sir. Pray tell, like James Pursaill asks, what is a non-shitty way to talk about rape accusations and rape culture? I need to know, because like Rab said, it’s a conversation that needs having.

          Also, and this is just a peeve of mine, but we do have evidence. It’s not conclusive evidence, but the explicit testimony of the victim is exactly what one would consider evidence.

          • Deano2099 says:

            I’d say the none shitty way to do it is without naming someone who hasn’t been proven guilty one way or the other. I don’t see how keeping them anonymous for the time being would stifle the conversation. Other than not offering a chance to write about it in a board games column.

            It’s also true that Rab takes pay-offs from board game publishers to give good reviews to their games. And there is evidence for that.*

            *He doesn’t, and there isn’t, but according to Rab’s statement that the accusation itself constitutes ‘evidence’, me just saying it means there is evidence. So maybe we should speculate on if he does or not, after all, I’m sure some game reviewers are corrupt, it’s part of the culture, so maybe we need to talk about the accusation that Rab does it in order to highlight the issue.

            You see how this gets problematic?

            I think this might be a blind spot for Rab as this is the same reason he ended up leaving Eurogamer. He was talking about conflicts of interest in the games industry, but picked a few specific people to use as examples of people who ‘look’ corrupt without outright saying it. This is the same thing. They’re both important issues (this one far more so) but framing them in the context of a specific, unproven, case about an individual is not on. It’s mudslinging, even if you pretend it isn’t. It’s the sort of thing The Sun does: “we’re not saying this is true, but eh, look over there, hmm”. It might just about be legal, but it’s really unpleasant behaviour.

    • frightlever says:

      I went and read it. I don’t even normally read Cardboard Children but the allure of a solid family game was strong. Seems he wasn’t addressing the accusation of rape in any particular detail (as is proper), he was addressing the response to that accusation by the person being accused and judging that person upon their response. That seems entirely fair.

    • DarkFarmer says:

      First, this doesn’t belong here- comments were off on that article for a reason.
      Second, I read Temkin’s blog and also Rab’s article. Rab’s main thrust (for me at least) was why did Temkin go off on that tangent about “having a discussion about consent”? In Temkins blog he explains his side of the story perfectly well, then suddenly hes like “well, what is consent anyway?” and that was when Rab (and me too) went whaaaaaaaa? There was no accusation anywhere. Just like, why did he go down that road?

      • Deano2099 says:

        Probably because he’s just been accused of rape and might not be thinking entirely straight on the topic?

        Just a bit of basic empathy for the situation. Sure, he’s wrong, but to pull that out and attack him for it… just seems mean. Unless you’ve already decided he’s guilty and want to punish him.

        • Philotic Symmetrist says:

          Empathy is very much the key here and to me that was what it sounded like what Temkin was trying to do (if we are willing to assume innocence unless proven guilty) by giving the benefit of the doubt as to whether the allegations were intentionally false rather than simply declaring it to be malicious slander.

          Also, unless I’ve missed a key piece of information or new development, no actual charges have been laid. The testimony of a witness is indeed evidence but allegations spread through social media?

    • Wynter says:

      Thank you for bringing this back up. I hate it when a site with a forum-style discussion on postings blocks comments, particularly on a heated issue. I ended up sending my own email on this to the editors and Rab, so maybe someone actually saw it – more likely it was lost in the flood.

      I don’t have a problem with someone having an opinion, I have a problem with them framing the whole argument with a presumption of guilt. You can put as many caveats about how you don’t know all the facts and how you don’t know what really happened and say as much as you like that they will have to work this out, but when you then proceed to write from the assumption that one party is guilty and trying to justify it, you’re pulling a very Fox News-y “just asking questions” backhanded accusation. And why is this relevant to the game, except that you clearly used a half-assed attempt at a review to throw your hat into the ring on this drama?

      For the record, I’ve never seen as many different types of people have as much fun with a board or card game than CaH. It is consistently a hit every time it gets broken out in my gaming group. Saying it’s a terrible game reflects poorly on Rab as a critic and smells strongly of association bias.

      • Ushao says:

        I agree. Especially considering this is a topic Rab wants people to talk about. I would be more forgiving if the article was opened up to comments later as was indicated but that never happened. While there may be no solid quotes to pull from the general feeling I got from the article leaned towards implied guilt. I generally like Rab’s articles and enjoy seeing one pop up but this one bothered me. The half-assed addition of the CAH “review” added to that biased feeling and added nothing to the article.

        Also that’s been my experience with CAH as well. I game with quiet a few people ranging from those who almost never play board games to hardcore friends with massive collections and CAH is universally enjoyed.

  2. znomorph says:

    Hey, this is the first time I’ve actually played a game *before* it’s shown up here! Great game. We played this and Libertalia (also awesome) during a pirate themed board game night :D

  3. cptgone says:

    I’m still wondering why Netrunner didn’t make it to your Top 50 despite your glowing review. it seems you like Magic: The Gathering better?

    • regault says:

      His Top 50 was entirely invalidated by Talisman at #3.

      Unless Talisman was the only game he ever got to play with a sickly relative dying of cancer, the highest nostalgia could possibly push Warhammer Chutes and Ladders is #50.

      I have some nostalgia for some lackluster games, but even at the age of 12 when I played Talisman for the first time my reaction was “This game is pure crap”.

    • Ushao says:

      Yeah I don’t get that either. Netrunner is a fantastic game and should at least place somewhere if Magic did. While it may not have the prestige that Magic does, I enjoy it infinitely more and love the asymmetrical aspect.

  4. Edgar the Peaceful says:

    Jakarta?

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    Elusiv3Pastry says:

    Did Obelix finally join the pirates?

    • Squirrelfanatic says:

      Exactly my first thought when I saw the cover image. :)

  6. noom says:

    “It means a ship with no cannons can still land a lucky shot and win the fight”

    Images of pirates throwing cannonballs at enemy ships

  7. Emeraude says:

    Elusiv3Pastry says:

    Did Obelix finally join the pirates?

    noom says:

    Images of pirates throwing cannonballs at enemy ships

    The juxtaposition of those two comments is just too perfect.

  8. Sherlock86 says:

    Thanks, Rabs. I’ve been investigating my next board game purchase, and this has sealed the deal for me.

    I was after a game that the family could pick up easily, with players ranging from 9 to 59, hold up on it’s own as a two-player game when the partner and I fancy a game ourselves, and hold the attention of the nerdiest of the group with reasonably in-depth strategies.

    Sold.

  9. rexx.sabotage says:

    aha!

    the excrement of a ridable toy steed!

    not bodacious horse shit

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    Rodafowa says:

    Last time we went to stay with my parents, I took Jamaica along. It took some persuasion to get them to play, but at the end of the game my mum insisted that we immediately re-set the board and play again. It’s probably not a game I’d get out with my hardcore turbo-nerd game group, but as a knockabout Sunday afternoon family game it’s an absolute winner.

    Also: it’s got the best box insert in all of boardgaming.