Jaipur brings the classic 2p trading duel to your phone, and it delivers the goods in unexpected ways.
Android & iOS
# of Players
1 - 2
Jaipur (technically, Jaipur: A Card Game of Duels likely due to app naming conflicts) is a two player hand management, set collection game in which players battle to collect and sell goods. The game is frequently cited among the best family games for good reason, it is an easy to teach game with solid tactical depth. Players aim to outscore their opponent each round by selling for the highest value of goods. The game plays in about 3-5 minutes per round and a standard game is a best of three series.
Jaipur starts with a trading row (market) of five cards placed in the middle, players will act on this common market. Each player gets five cards to start a standard game. Players have four options each turn:
Sell Goods: Sell cards in your hand in exchange for good tokens which are worth points
Take One Good From the Market: Grab any one card from the market if it can fit in your hand
Trade Goods With the Market: Exchange 2-5 goods or camels you possess for 2-5 goods from the market
Take All the Camels: Take all camels in the market, they get placed in a pile separate from your hand
The hand limit is seven cards, so you can’t trade to get beyond seven. There are a lot of tactical choices to be made within these basic game options. The camels, for instance, are valuable because you can use them to trade for goods, but they do nothing on their own aside from a small five point bonus to whichever player has the most at the end of a round. They are a valuable trade chip, but must be used wisely. The distinction between taking one good and trading for 2-5 seems trivial but it plays a big role once you get going. If your hand is full you can’t grab one card, so you try to trade. However, you can't trade one-for-one, you have to trade two-for-two minimum. This means you need to have two cards you’re willing to lose in order to grab the ones you want from the market. That you are only playing against one opponent and they get instant access to anything you decide to trade makes each decision extra critical, you can’t trade valuable cards and hope to get them back later.
On top of hand management, timing plays a key role in this game. In a standard game most goods (silver being the lone exception) are worth more early in the game. The first cloth and tea tokens, for example, are each worth five points when acquired. The second cloth and tea are only worth three. This incentivises quick trading to get maximum value. However, that’d be too easy, so of course there’s another big scoring catch and that you get a bonus token for trading 3, 4, or 5+ of a good at one time. The bonus token's ranges increase in each of those three increments, the 8-10 points you would get from trading 5+ is the largest possible bonus.. So in an ideal world you would be the first person to trade diamonds (the most valuable) and you would trade five of them at a time to get the biggest bonus. It wouldn’t be much fun if it were that easy though, you are forced to counter your opponent who will often shortcut you if they notice you trying to hoard a big number of a single good (they can see every card you grab outside of your initial hand).
Like so many successful board games, Jaipur is an easy to describe game that will be understood relatively quickly, but it holds a lot of depth in the tactical decision making that comes with a head-to-head game. The app is a faithful port of the game and adds an impressive list of extras on top.
Barrier to Entry
Jaipur includes a good, concise tutorial which will get across the basics of the gameplay and controls. You will play through a few turns with the tutorial guiding you, and then you will be set free to finish out the game. Most of the rules will likely be understood after the tutorial, but as with any game, the repetition of playing the game a few times will be necessary to get a complete understanding of the rules.
A PDF version of the rules is included and can be accessed only through the in-game pause menu. That is a strange navigation choice, but isn’t likely to be necessary given the relative simplicity of the game.
Welcome to Jaipur!
A completed game
Online game lobby
Look and Feel
The app looks great and plays great. The game itself carries the theme of the game well and adds light visual animations which provide a smooth gameplay experience. Additionally, there is quality, original artwork on the menus and in the campaign mode.
The controls are exactly what you would want. Touch or drag cards to complete your action, it’s simple and intuitive. Playing on a large phone I’ve had no issues with selection errors, unless you count not being able to select exactly which three of my eight camels I want to sell (they are all the same). The app gets out of your way and lets you play the game which is all you can really ask for, and it looks great while doing it.
Jaipur offers real-time, cross-platform multiplayer accessible via an online lobby. The games have a short timeout for each player to keep them moving quickly. As of now, you can join the lobby and invite somebody else in the lobby to a game, wait for an invite or create a game. There are no custom options for any of these games, you play with the standard rules, best two of three. There isn’t a leaderboard yet but each player starts at rank 1500 and gains or loses points with each win or loss. You see opponent rankings while in the lobby, so you can avoid the sharks if you want.
Playing for a week or so after release, after the first day there was pretty much always somebody in the lobby looking for a game. At times we’ve seen over 20 players connected, with a handful of people in the lobby looking. This is a great sign for a new game, the head-to-head games like this always make for a great online experience so it would be great to see a robust user base.
The downside here is that there is no option for asynchronous play and there are no options for playing anything outside of the basic rules. I would have preferred to see both, but the real-time games are well implemented and plenty of fun.
There is a local pass and play option if you don’t feel like shuffling and setting up all of the tokens with a friend.
Single player comes in two modes: Solo Game and Campaign. Solo mode pits you against the AI of chosen difficulty (one, two, or three peppers) using whichever rules you’d like. The immediately available options are to pick how many rounds the game lasts, best of 1/3/5 and to use the standard rules. However, as you play through the campaign mode you will unlock a handful of alternate rules which you can then use in the Solo Game mode.
A campaign mode from Jaipur isn’t something I would have expected and when I heard about it I really didn’t know what it would entail. It’s an understatement to call it a pleasant surprise. You work your way through various regions on the map, dueling a trader in each with a specified difficulty level and rules. To start you may just need to beat an Easy trader in one round, but later you will be playing against Hard AI with some game-bending rule that will force you to change strategies and you have to win two of three rounds. There are a bunch of alternate rules, I don’t want to spoil them all, but one example of one you will unlock early is that all goods within a color have constant prices, so there is no longer any incentive to trade early. This is a small rule change which greatly alters the game strategy, which ends up as a fantastic twist to the game. There are a handful more of these throughout the campaign mode, once you beat a trader who plays with these alternate rules they are then unlocked for a Solo Game.
In campaign mode you earn Rupees, camels, and palace points. Rupees are used to unlock new regions and camels are used to travel to far away regions. Palace points are used to buy add-ons for your 2D palace. I’ve seen this type of thing in other non-board game apps, I guess it’s popular, but the whole thing feels a little clunky to me, but maybe others will get some enjoyment out of the feature. Overall, the campaign is great because each region will play a bit differently. Playing with a specific set of rules on a specific difficulty keeps it very interesting. It’s an impressive addition that I never saw coming for a game like Jaipur.
The AI difficulty levels are also well done. Easy is relatively forgiving but you can lose if you make too many mistakes. Intermediate presents a reasonable challenge. Hard is just plain brutal. I’m legitimately concerned that the Hard AI is going to create Jaipur monsters who head into online play stealing the Hard AI strategies. Oh, did you take two cloth cards last turn hoping to be the first to trade in a handful for the bigger points and the bonus? Well, Hard AI is going to take the next cloth it sees and trade it in the next turn to take those big five points from the first token off the board. Hard is basically a jerk, you will actually have to wait on it to think while it is playing out its options, you will hate Hard which is really a great compliment to the AI. It will ensure the game stays strong as a single player game for a long time.
Early on in my campaign
Trading some camels
Another alternate rule option
Jaipur has been around for a little while now with no expansions to speak of. There are no in-app purchases for this game and we wouldn’t expect any down the line.
The Wrap Up
Jaipur is a great port of a classic two player gateway game, it looks and plays great.. The app gets the game right and adds extras in a lot of unexpected places, most notably a brutally difficult Hard AI and a fun campaign mode. The real-time online play is well implemented and should continue to be fun with a robust user base.
The only real negative here is lack of asynchronous play and online options in general. We like to see asynchronous play in every app, but we especially think it’d work well here. Two player games tend to make great asynchronous games, and this game is such a fun, light experience that it seems like it would be perfect to drop in and out of a game over the course of a few days rather than over 15 minutes. Adding online games, asynchronous or not, with some of the various rules you can unlock seems like a no-brainer and it is a bit disappointing that isn’t an option.