When I started up Jaipur, I was a little confused. For some reason I was thinking of Splendor, which is a completely different board game that’s about gem trading. That’s okay though, because Jaipur is also a really fun game (and an actually good digital port!)
Jaipur is all about collecting commodities and selling them. There’s a central pool where several cards are on offer, multiple stacks of points tokens off to one side, and camels — camels are everywhere. All you have to do is manipulate the market (i.e. take, swap, and discard cards) in order to earn more points than your opponent. It’s simple, but also fun and can be surprisingly intense when you don’t know who’s in the lead.
A few modes are available from the outset. There’s the obvious player-versus-AI option, with a few different difficulties to try out. Then there’s pass-and-play, which is something of a most for mobile board games, really. After that comes online play. Finally there’s the campaign mode, which is kind of a shoehorned attempt at making something that’s not supposed to feel like a rehash of the vs. AI mode, but totally does. I mean there’s some progression, sort of, in that you can select different areas of the map to try and expand to and victories earn you resources that allow you to access new regions — but it’s still just a series of one-on-one matches. The main difference here is that each region is a little different. Some can be conquered in a single round, some have steadier prices for goods, etc.
There are a couple of ways to gather and trade goods that all have their own brand of usefulness. You can grab one good from the offer at the time (per turn), which is slow but sometimes necessary. You can grab multiples of the same type of goods by exchanging them with an equal number of goods from your own hand. You can switch multiples of a certain good with camels, if you have them. There are plenty of options for any given turn, is what I’m getting at.
Once you’re satisfied with the number of matched goods in your hand, you can sell the whole stack and take an equal number of point tokens (2 cards = 2 tokens, 3 cards = 3 tokens, etc). On top of that, sets of three, four, or five also earn bonus point tokens that can pad your score out even further. It’s a straightforward set of mechanics, but they all work really well together.
Upon first glance, Jaipur does seem to suffer from “digital port syndrome,” which is to say the menus are kind of uninspired and are a bit clunky to use — especially the needless wait for the “pages” to pop-up whenever you make a selection.
But Jaipur does digital board game conversions right in every other way. For one thing, the tutorial actually teaches you how to play and gets the core gameplay concepts across quickly and concisely. I also love how the game automatically knows to select all matching goods in a set when you’re selling — or when you’re corralling camels — so you only have to tap and drag once instead of selecting multiple cards every time. It’s a simple thing, but you’d be surprised how often so many digital board game conversions fail to account for the platforms they’re being played on.
The menus may not look like much, but Jaipur is a great port of a fun game. The tutorial isn’t useless, the game itself is enjoyable, there are several different options when it comes to how you want to play. I can’t stress enough just how nice it is to play a board game conversion that actually understands how sometimes a basic 1:1 port just doesn’t cut it. This is good stuff, and you should play it if you like board games – digital or otherwise.