Jaipur is a two-player card game where my boyfriend is overly protective of his camel herd and cheats by hiding his camels up his sleeve, on the floor, and down his pants. But let’s rewind a bit first…
I spent many years completely ignoring two-player-only games. Back then, I frequently hosted large board game parties and would generally scoff at anything that couldn’t accommodate at least 6 players, if not more. Over time, however, I’ve grown to appreciate the value of games specifically designed for quieter evenings, when it’s just me and one (or both) of my partners.
My newfound quest is to hunt down the games that play really well with just two or three people. Jaipur is a perfect example – this fantastic card game is designed for exactly two, and I’ve hacked the rules to play with three!
As a strategy game somewhere between light to medium in weight, Jaipur’s solid gameplay has enough variables to keep things enjoyable, without escalating to intense or aggressive levels – if your opponent is your significant other, this is probably not one of those games capable of ruining your relationship.
In Jaipur, you are competing against your opponent to become the Maharaja’s personal trader. There are six types of goods, reflected in the cards and the round tokens: Leather, Spices, and Cloth, plus the more valuable Silver, Gold, and Diamonds. Players work on collecting matching sets of goods cards in their hand, and then sell sets to obtain the corresponding tokens. Tokens award varying amounts of rupees, and at the end of each round, the player with the most rupees receives one Seal of Excellence. Each new round, the whole game is reset – and the first player to obtain two Seals of Excellence wins the game.
Goods cards go into your hand, and camel cards go on the table into your herd. In the middle of the table, there is a market of five cards (some combination of goods and/or camels) available to both players. On your turn, you can take from (or trade cards with) the market, using your hand of goods and/or your herd of camels, or you can sell goods from your hand to collect tokens from the top of the matching stack.
In Jaipur, the strategy comes from determining the optimal time to sell your goods. You are rewarded for selling goods earlier than your opponent, as the token stacks are arranged with higher-valued tokens toward the top of the stack. However, you are also rewarded for waiting to collect larger sets of goods in your hand, since selling larger sets of goods allows you to obtain special bonus tokens (which give you bonus rupees). Balancing your camel herd is also important, as camels are used to trade with the market.
Now, back to my boyfriend, who is a Jaipur cheater and likes to creepily hide all his camel cards in a stack out of my sight, usually on the floor. According to the rulebook, you are not required to let your opponent know how many camel cards you possess during the game, but it also says to place your camel herd face up in a stack in front of you. So someone please call the board game police, because despite my complaints, he would still rather eat his entire camel herd than allow me to observe its existence.
Also, can we talk about how one of the camel cards is unique from all the others, and features a cute little panda peeking out from within the camel’s carpet bundle? Although the panda-camel card doesn’t affect gameplay, this adorable card was the house favorite – until we found out the distressing and very-not-adorable fact that the panda depicted is actually a panda pelt. As in dead panda corpse.1
After holding a funeral for the murdered panda, my two partners and I developed a Jaipur rules variant for three people, modified from some suggestions on the BoardGameGeek forums. With just a couple tweaks, we’ve found the game plays really well with three!
Aerie’s 3-Player Jaipur Variant
• Deal 4 cards to each player during setup.
• Maximum hand size is 6 cards.
• The game ends either when 4 piles of goods are depleted, or when the draw pile runs out.
• Seals of Excellence aren’t used; just play each round as a separate game.
Jaipur is a great game for two players (or three with my rules variant), and comes with high-quality cards, sturdy cardboard tokens, beautiful artwork, and a brilliant box insert. If you spend a lot of time gaming with one partner (or friend/family member/robot clone), this game is a must-have for that perfect combo of clever strategy and lighter-weight gameplay.
- Number of players: 2
- Best with: 2 players (or 3 with my rules variant!)
- Playing time: 30 minutes
- Category: Hand Management, Set Collection, Trading
- Expansions: N/A
- Designer: Sébastien Pauchon
- Publisher: GameWorks