FTW Staff Picks - Jamaica

For The Win Board Game Cafe's Staff Picks is a weekly series where we take a quick look at some of the staff's favourite games, old and new.


Genre: Racing

Designer: Malcolm Braff, Bruno Cathala, Sébastien Pauchon

Player Size: 2 to 6 Players

Game Length: 30 to 60 minutes

For fans of: Formula D, RoboRally, Trouble

In the realm of many games that are named after countries and cities, Jamaica is a true standout among them. Its playful artstyle, mixed with accessible ruleset puts it among the elite in terms of Family gaming. And yet, it often gets glossed over for other popular choices such as CATAN and Carcassonne. 

Jamaica is a pirate-themed racing game where the fastest and richest player claims victory. As players race around the board, they collect treasures and bombard one another's ships in order to loot and pillage cargo from their enemies (in true pirate fashion).

Each round, one player acts as the Captain, controlling which die will represent Day & Night actions listed on the cards. This small element of control (and also lack thereof), provides enough randomness to reduce "optimal path". The most important thing I look for in racing games is impactful decision-making. I grew out of Formula D because it began to felt like everyone was making the same, obvious moves. In Jamaica, there are surrounding factors to the race that force players to be mindful of things beyond crossing the finish line first. You may still fall out of luck, but you know that the decisions you made brought you to that point. 

When recommending games, some folks make a point to mention that they want a game where they're moving their pieces along a board. Growing up on games like Monopoly, Trouble and Sorry has ingrained this concept as a real "board game" at an early age. Jamaica takes that concept and adds just enough to give a more complete gaming experience, while still feeling nostalgic. And that's what makes it an excellent gateway game for newcomers to the hobby. 

Earl OliverosComment