What's Eric Playing?

#180 – Jungle Joust

Base price: $30.
2 – 6 players.
Play time: 10 – 15 minutes per round.
BGG Link
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 4 

Full disclosure: A review copy of Jungle Joust was provided by IDW Games.

So, uh, games with weird themes and how I’m all about them. We’ve talked about it before, and here I am again, with another game with a weird theme (and, incidentally, the second game about rhinos I’m reviewing today; what fun). While I normally shy away from anything medieval (there are just … a lot of them, no offense, but I’ll play them every now and then), the idea of jousting rhinos in a jungle somewhere is potentially fun enough to catch my eye (though a discerning gamer will note that there’s no gameplay difference between these rhinos and if they had been horses).

Anyways. It’s jousting time! While you’re not jousting, yourself, you are betting on the big match and you do not want to go home empty-handed. Will your smart bets prove lucrative?

Contents

Setup

Setup is decently straightforward. You’ll want to assemble the riders, first:

And then the fence:

Put those pieces on the board:

The riders will hang off the edge of the board, a bit; the rhino’s nose should be at the front.

You should set out the Betting Chits, too:

There are two each of the 10 chits: a 3-point chit and a 2-point chit. Set them out such that the 3-point chit is on top. Next, place the money somewhere nearby:

Players don’t get any money to start the game, humorously. If you want to make yourself even more nervous about that idea, place the Debt tokens nearby, as well:

You don’t want those. Set the Favor tokens near the board:

Shuffle the cards, placing two next to the deck to form the tableau. Then, give each player two, as well:

Finally, give each player Allegiance Tokens:

These represent who you want to win the match. They’re distributed based on player count, as follows:

Once you’ve done all that, you’re ready to start!

Gameplay

The gameplay is pretty simple (with one exception), so I’ll just walk you through a sample turn.

At the beginning of your turn, you must play at least one card to either rider’s column. That’s referred to as the “tilt”, so I’ll call it that as well. You may only play a card to a column if at least one symbol on the card matches a symbol on the line below it. For the first cards played, that line is four symbols of that color, so, you’re generally good, but it will become harder to match as more cards are played (maybe). If you cannot play a card, you must reveal your hand to all players to prove it. Otherwise, you must play a card. Symbols must be present on the card and be of the same color to be considered “matching”.

Once you do that, advance the rider forward one space for each card you played. If this puts the rider on the same horizontal line as the other rider, the round immediately ends and you move on to scoring. If not, then, check for a few other things, for instance, Favor token qualification.

A rider qualifies for a Favor token if their tilt has three of the same symbol consecutively (with no Favor tokens in between, either). If they do, place a Favor token on the frontmost symbol and take a free Favor action, depending on which one activates:

If you end up moving across the center line, you gain an extra Favor token if you cross any of the starred spaces! Add the Favor token to one of Strength, Defense, or Accuracy in the first row of the tilt. (It’s odd, because the rulebook says you gain one, two, or three tokens, but that’s 6 tokens total, and there … aren’t enough Favor tokens for that, so I’m assuming that’s not the case).

If the round hasn’t ended yet, you can move on to betting!

Betting

So, when you bet you may take a Betting Chit and / or bet on the victor. I’ll explain both.

Taking a Betting Chit lets you take one of the 20 Betting Chits and add them in front of you. They pay out if they win based on their point value, and if you’re wrong, you lose a point. It takes a while to explain how they win, so please check Scoring for that. You always take the topmost Chit, and you may only take one per turn. You may take Chits for both / either knight, even if they’re mutually exclusive (betting on Black Movement and Red Movement). Sometimes you gotta hedge your bets, right?

Betting on the Victor lets you play one or more of the cards in your hand on either side of your face-down Allegiance Token. Once the Victor is determined (different than determining if a Betting Chit wins), you score for the cards you bet, here:

This is also the Free Action you get from the Accuracy Favor, but you use a card from the Tableau rather than from your hand. If you do, refill the Tableau immediately.

Draw Cards

You may draw cards, at this point. You may either draw 2 cards from the Deck or take 1 card from the Tableau. If you do, refill the Tableau immediately. If you have more than 3 cards in your hand after doing this, discard cards of your choice until you only have three cards in hand.

Round End

As mentioned previously, if the two Rhinos ever meet, a Clash occurs! Move on to Scoring instead of finishing the turn.

Scoring

So, for Scoring, the first thing we need to do is determine the Victor. The Victor is whichever player has the most “points”, calculated as follows:

Now, for dramatic effect, have each player reveal their Allegiances. In a 3- or 5-player game, this means that one rider will have fewer people on their team. To help them out, double their score.

Now, pay out both Riders’ scores to their allied players. The Victor is mostly useful for certain bets.

Speaking of which; let’s pay those bets out.

Strength / Defense / Accuracy Bets

These pay out similarly to calculating the Victor (though not the same) — you calculate it as follows, for each type:

Whichever one has the most points, that color’s betting chits pay out (for that specific type). It’s possible for Black to be the Victor but Red wins on Defense and Accuracy, or something.

Movement Bets

Movement is pretty simple. Whichever color has more Movement arrow symbols on the Victor’s side pays out, for this one.

Valor Bets

This is the easiest. The Victor’s color pays out.

Betting on the Victor

Now, check your hidden bets. Remember:

If at any point you go below 0 money, you take a Debt token. It’s worth -1 money at the end of the game.

Now, you can start another round! Set it up like the last one, but you keep your money. At the end of three rounds, the player with the most money wins!

Player Count Differences

I can’t say I’m overwhelmingly enthused about the “double the lower Rider’s score” mechanic in odd-numbered games since it’s just very different from the even-numbered games, but, I mean, it does work effectively. I’m not sure what about it I don’t like, but it’s definitely something.

Either way, at two, the game is kind of known. It comes down mostly to which player has gotten better cards, and that’s just random drawing luck. There’s not a whole lot of good reason to play to your opponent’s tilt unless you can REALLY make it difficult for them to play, but even then … you might as well play to your own tilt, if you can. The randomness of higher player counts and trying to synergize off of your “team’s” plays without helping other people on your team too much, lest they outstrip you is pretty amusing. It also means that just having good cards isn’t enough; you have to set up good combos if you want your Rider to be the Victor. I think this game functions best when it’s played quickly and without much thought, so I tend to prefer it at higher player counts.

Strategy

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

Mehs

Cons

Overall: 5.5 / 10

Overall, Jungle Joust is fine! I think that despite playing it several times I don’t really have a good grip on what the “best” way to play is, since it doesn’t quite play fast enough for it to feel like a light filler game (and there are many great options there anyways, so it’s up against tough competition) and I’ve not felt that it’s quite strategic enough to really make the strategy side of my brain light up either (too many random things in the game for the Victor of any round to be predictable, much less figuring out who will win and trying to stop them). I think, however, that this might be super appealing to younger players, as the gameplay is pretty straightforward (even if the scoring is not always). It may behoove you to simplify or ignore some of the scoring rules if you’re playing with much younger players, but in either case I think there’s opportunity to play this with a family gaming crowd, even if it might not appeal to your hardcore strategy gamer friends. If that sounds like it’s a good fit for you or your group, Jungle Joust might be worth checking out!