Jambo is a card-based trading game for 2 players, designed by German designer Rüdiger Dorn. It is a medium- to low-complexity game. Once the basics are learned, the game can be played through in about 45 minutes.
In the game, players are competing traders in central Africa "before colonization". Each player strives to gain 60 or more gold tokens by buying and selling trade goods. The game mechanics rest on drawing cards from a resource stack, holding some and playing others. Players amass gold, trade goods, reusable utility cards, and various one-use special purpose cards.
Each player may take up to five actions per turn, allowing the opportunity to use cards in different combinations. In this the game is reminiscent of collectible trading card game mechanics, however there's no 'collectible' aspect—no boosters or add-ons—the entire game is self-contained in the game box.
Jambo is a well-produced game. It is visually appealing, with rich artwork and simple, sturdy laminated cardboard game pieces. The card drawing and play action mechanisms works well, and by rewarding players who use less than 4 actions with a gold token at the end of a turn, the decision of what to play and what to hold is made nicely complex.
Some reviewers have complained that some of the one-shot action cards are too disruptive to an opponent for a 'friendly' game. The game mechanics do seem to require them, though - there are a few potent card combinations that need to be disruptable for proper game balance. I find that in a typical game that most of these cards go unused - more often they become fodder for game mechanics that require discarding a card in hand.
As a two-player game it is suited to a quiet evening at home. I got the game on a recommendation that it would be a good game to play with a casual gamer, like my wife. That is, someone who likes to play but doesn't usually want to spend time on a longer and/or more complex game like Carcassonne. Jambo is varied enough to be replayable without being tedious to learn, and the excellent aesthetics also enhance replay value.
Jambo was published originally by German game company Kosmos1 as part of their "Spiele für Zwei" (Games for two) series, and has since been printed in an English version by Rio Grande Games2. Retail price is typically around $20 US, although prices can vary widely between stores and distributors.
Jambo was one of 5 games nominated for the 2005 "Spiel des Jahres" (Game of the Year) award, losing out to Thomas Liesching's Niagara. It was listed as the "Best 2-Player game" in Games Magazine's 2006 edition of that magazine's "The GAMES 100" Buyer's Guide3.
- Rio Grande
- Games 100