Our love of the 2 player card game Jaipur is well established. We’ve published a review of Jaipur, included it in our Top 6 two player games list, and even taken it on a date. So it was with anticipation, but a tiny bit of nervousness, that I decided to review Jaipur for iOS. I’m likely among a minority of gamers who don’t automatically get excited when publishers release digital versions of their games. But I’m here to tell you that the app version of Jaipur is not only a fantastic implementation of the physical game, but also superior in a number of ways. Let’s dive into my review and explore the 1s and 0s that comprise Jaipur for iOS.
The App Experience
One of my favorite things about Jaipur is the rich and vivid color palette used in the physical game. The developers of the game took that palette to the next level in the app, and in fact have extended it edge to edge in a riot of colors. When the app is launched the user is greeted by the smiling face of the Rajasthani merchant which graces the physical box. But just as the curtain opens in a movie theater, the full grandeur of Vincent Dutrait’s illustrations are revealed and the panorama of a street market comes into view. It’s upon this canvas that the controls and options for the game are presented, as if they were signs indicating the value of the bales, chests, and bags of goods and spices.
Among the buttons available to the user at the beginning are choices for Credits, Asmodee Account, and Options, along with Tutorial, Play a Game, Campaign, and Trophies. It’s worth walking through the tutorial as it clarifies the rules and shows the user how to use the gameplay interface. Since the Tutorial does such a good job, I’ll be focusing my attention on the Play a Game and Campaign options. Additionally because I’ve already reviewed the physical version of Jaipur, I’m not going to spend much time discussing how to actually play the game.
Starting a Game
When choosing Play a Game, the user is given the option of Solo, Pass & Play, and Online Duel. I’ve chosen not to create an Asmodee account at this time so I can’t offer input into the Online Duel but I imagine that it’s similar to apps such as Star Realms, or Patchwork.
Pick a solo game and you’ll be given options on how to change the settings in several different ways. The default win condition of Jaipur is to win 2 hands out of 3. Not only can you adjust the difficulty but you can also change this setting to force a win condition of 3 out of 3 rounds. You can also adjust a few other options such as the pricing of items in the market and maximum hand size; both really good tweaks to the original game.
Playing a Game
The physical game of Jaipur isn’t a table hog like some card games, but it still spreads out a bit. The iOS app does a stellar job of condensing all of the elements of the game into an easy to understand interface. The game does all the setup, as you’d expect, and somehow chooses a start player. In the dozens of games I’ve played, I still haven’t determined how the start player is selected…sometimes it’s the computer and sometimes it’s you. In either case, in subsequent rounds, the start player rotates as you’d expect.
Gameplay is fairly simple, on your turn you can choose one of 4 actions as listed below:
Your choices are implemented by using a slick and seamless drag and drop gesture. Taking a good is as simple as tapping and dragging the good from the marketplace to your hand. Selling goods is a cinch as well: drag any group of goods from your hand to the pile of gold. Taking camels works in a similar fashion, tap on any camel in the market and drag all the camels to your herd.
Exchanging goods is the only action which can take a bit of explaining. This is because you must do things in a specific order. First tap two or more cards in the marketplace, then tap the same number of cards from your hand, then drag from your hand to the market.
The only snag I encountered was when exchanging cards for camels. If you’re only exchanging camels it would be great if you didn’t have to tap the exact number of cards. The game does a great job of enforcing the rules, so it would be cool if you could just tap and drag, and the game picked the right number of cards for you.
Because all of the physical movement is done for you the game moves quickly which allows you to focus on strategy. The AI is pretty good, and in fact I’ve lost a significant percentage of the games I’ve played.
The Jaipur app also offers a campaign mode which places the player in the position of a merchant looking to expand their interests across the whole of India. Starting in one corner of the map, players will slowly move out across the board, playing individual games, while trying to control the markets in states all over the subcontinent.
A winning game in any state will reward the player with camels which allow them to travel to those other states, and gold which will allow them to pay one time entry fees. Each state has different settings: one state might allow you to have a hand size of 9 cards, while another state forces you to win 3 out of 3 rounds to win the game, while yet another state has fixed good prices instead of them decreasing in value.
Players will also be presented with quests of a sort, or bandits which will steal gold from you, or even corrupt governors who require bribes before entering. As you move around, the map slowly reveals more and more of its secrets. I have yet to finish the campaign mode but it’s fun to see which new scenario may present itself.
My only complaint about the campaign mode is that it’s perhaps not challenging enough. While each individual state has it’s own difficulty I never felt like I was going to run out of camels or gold. This could be intentional, but it never gave me an incentive to really double down on a specific area to win that game. I’m also not clear if the campaign mode has a “final result”. Am I trying to win one game in each state, or am I trying to make it to a specific region of the map?
Build Your Own Palace
In addition to the gameplay the developers have included a sort of “build your own palace” play area. You can use gems collected throughout the game to purchase parts of buildings that you can use to construct elaborate edifices.
While I appreciate their inclusion of this, it’s poorly thought out and not easy to use. It has no instructions and no apparent connection to the game. I would also expect some degree of snapping when aligning a piece to another piece. It’s fun to play with for a few minutes, but I haven’t gone back since.
The Jaipur iOS app is an excellent implementation of a wonderful game. The animations are smooth, the colors vibrant and delightful, and the AI is challenging. Asmodee has offered some great enhancements to an already great game. If digital versions of board games are your jam, or if you just want a great app, the Jaipur iOS app is for you. Whether you’ve played the base game or not this one’s just too good to pass up.