The glint of gold and scent of exotic spices attract your attention as you enter the bustling marketplace. You are a trader, newly arrived in the city of Jaipur with the hopes of attaining the lofty position of the Maharaja’s personal trader. However, you won’t get the job without facing some tough competition! There happens to be another trader vying for the job who seems to be just as qualified as you are! You’ll have to use all of your skills, cunning, and a little bit of luck in order to secure the place at the palace for yourself!
Jaipur is a 2-player set collection game in which players collect various goods (as well as a camel or two) from the marketplace and try to sell enough goods to earn more than their opponent, which will gain them the Maharaja’s favor. The game is played over 2 or 3 rounds, with a best-2-out-of-3 approach. It’s a fairly light and accessible game that can be picked up quickly and played in less than 30 minutes.
Jaipur is played with both cards and tokens. The cards represent the various goods in the marketplace — the common goods leather, spices, and cloth, and the more luxurious silver, gold, and diamonds. In addition, there are camel cards which can be taken from the market but never sold for money — more on those later. The tokens represent how much you can earn by selling goods from your hand. As might be expected, the common goods are worth a lot less, with leather earning you between 1 and 4 rupees (and with much more of the former than the latter) and spices and cloth fairly evenly distributed between 1 and 5 rupees. The expensive goods, however, are worth a minimum of 5 rupees, with gold and diamonds having a few tokens worth 6 and 7, respectively. There are comparatively few of these cards and tokens though, so it’s usually a good idea to snag them when you can! Finally, there are bonus tokens that you can earn when selling a set of 3 or more cards at a time.
To begin setting up the game, separate all of the tokens into stacks based on their type. For the tokens corresponding to goods, arrange them in descending order, with the highest values on top. It’s recommended to splay these piles out so that both players can see the number of tokens and all their values, but we’ve found it’s just as easy (and a much smaller table footprint) to just leave them in stacks. The bonus tokens should be shuffled up. Their values are random: 1-3 rupees for a set of 3, 4-6 for a set of 4, and 8-10 for a set of 5 or more cards. Next, set aside three camel cards to be part of the initial market and shuffle the rest of the cards. Deal five cards to each player and two more to the market. The rest of the cards form a draw deck. If players were dealt any camels, they should be placed face-up on the table — camels never go into players’ hands. Finally, determine a starting player and you’re ready to begin!
On a player’s turn, he or she may either take cards from the market or sell cards. When taking cards from the market, a player has a few options. They can take a single card in hand, filling in the market vacancy from the deck. Or, they can take all of the camels from the market to be placed on the table in front of them — again, filling in vacancies left in the market from the deck. Finally, they may take several goods cards from the market by exchanging cards from their hand or camels from in front of them to fill the gaps. In all of these methods, you can never exceed a hand limit of 7, so be careful!
If you don’t want to take cards from the market, the other option is to sell cards from your hand. You can sell one type of good per turn, which is part of the reason that it’s often a good idea to build up a large set of one good type before selling. When you sell cards, reveal the cards from your hand and then add them to the discard pile. Then, take as many of the tokens corresponding to that good type as cards you sold. Remember that the tokens are arranged in descending order, so it’s in your benefit to sell early if possible — one potential strategy is to sell just one or two of a good if you see your opponent collecting it to deny them the higher-valued tokens. In addition, if you’ve sold 3 or more cards in one turn, you also get a corresponding bonus token. You may look at the value on the back, but keep it secret until the end of the round. Note: the only restriction for selling is that for the more expensive goods (diamonds, gold, and silver), you must sell at least two at a time. Other than that, you may sell any number of cards of a given type from your hand and take the corresponding amount of tokens, though if a token stack runs out, you just take as many as you can.
The round ends when either three stacks of tokens have been depleted or the last card has been drawn from the deck. The latter situation is very rare, and rounds almost always end due to three stacks running out. At the end of the round, players compare the number of camels they have (and for this reason, you should keep your camels in a single stack so your opponent can’t determine how many you have). The player with more camels gets the Camel Token, which is worth an additional 5 rupees. Then, players total up the value of all the tokens they collected in the round, including the Camel Token and any bonus tokens. The player with the higher score gets a token picturing the Maharaja, showing that player has earned his favor. If neither player has two favor tokens, they begin a new round with the loser of the previous round starting. Once a player has two favor tokens, they win and become the Maharaja’s personal trader. Congratulations!
If I had a top 5 games of all time, this would be on it. Heck, it would probably be either number 1 or 2. I’ve tried to explain to people many times what it is that I like so much about this game, and I’ve found that it’s really hard to explain. I really like the two player aspect and the head-to-head competition this game provides, similar to games like Star Realms and 7 Wonders: Duel. There’s a nice simplicity to this game that helps it to be easy to teach and learn, but still a bit a bit of strategy to winning. While I’m fine with playing this game on repeat (and will play just about anytime that anyone asks), I can see that there could be a problem with repetitiveness for some people that may cause game burn out.
- Only two players
- Easy to learn/teach
- Different strategies to scoring
- Only two players
- No alternative modes could make some players bored
Jaipur is a decent little game that’s easy to set up and play — just separate the tokens into stacks, shuffle up the cards and go! Since it’s fairly light, it’s a great beginner-friendly game. While it’s not anything I ever have to worry about, there seem to be countless threads on Reddit/Facebook/BGG/etc. looking for games to play with non-gaming spouses, and Jaipur is often one of the top suggestions. So if you find yourself in that situation and are looking for a good game for a non-gamer, Jaipur would be an excellent recommendation! By the same token, since it doesn’t have a ton of depth and complexity, it may not entice those looking for a heavier gaming experience. It’s good to play as a warm-up, filler, or cool-down game though, and is still plenty fun. My main gripe with Jaipur is that it can be heavily dependent on luck. Whenever you take cards or camels from the market that are replaced from the deck, you’re opening the possibility that your opponent can snag some good cards if they turn up (side note: this is part of the reason why the market starts with 3 camels and only 2 random cards, since being the first player is already a pretty big advantage). You can mitigate the luck factor somewhat, by exchanging camels and cards from your hand for those in the market, or by waiting until your opponent’s hand is full before taking a lot of cards. And still, despite the luck factor, I find Jaipur to be a nice light dose of fun.
- Small and portable
- Good for beginners or those who don’t game regularly
- Not a lot of depth/complexity
- Luck factor
Bonus Fun Fact!
If you have Jaipur or have ever played it, you may have noticed that one of the camels has a dead panda slung across its back, along with the other goods it’s carrying. The reason for this card is that Yspahan, a previous game of Sébastien Pauchon (that also featured camels) saw some competition with Zooloretto in the board game market, particularly in France. So as an homage to that rivalry, Jaipur features a panda that has perished, in reference to the panda displayed prominently on Zooloretto’s box art.