Number 16: Jamaica, designed by Matthew Braff, Bruno Cathala and Sébastien Pauchon, with stunning art by @mathieuleyssenne
! Published by Gameworks and @asmodee_games.
Continuing my list of top 25 games that I’ve discovered in the last year is this rum-filled race for the flag, with treasure, battles and more loot than you can fill your hold with!
Firstly, just take a look at that board! If that isn’t one of the most beautiful boards you’ve seen I’ll eat my captain’s hat! This game is stunning, but luckily the fun doesn’t end with the beautifully cartoony art. Jamaica is a game that revolves around a clever racing mechanic of two dice, representing a night action, and a day action. Each player has a hand of beautifully illustrated cards, each with two different actions in the top left and right corners. These actions may be as simple as move forward or backward or collect resources. The active player will choose which die is night and which day, and then in turn order each player will carry out their two actions, the number of pips on the die representing how many times each is carried out. Add to that some fun battling, stealing treasures and overtaking your opponent’s in gloriously timed manoeuvres and you have yourself a game of piratey-filled goodness!
Jamaica is a simple game at its core, and like any good racing game allows for those tense decisions and great moments where you slip by your opponent only to be engaged in battle and lose a valuable treasure. But what really sets this one apart is just how beautifully it is all put together. The box instantly draws you in, the little plastic ships are a delight to move around, and the wooden dice have a nice light thud as they hit the table. But it’s that art that really ties it all together, it’s just so thematic that everything deserves a pause to admire! The rulebook folds out like a giant map that guides you through the rules by following a trail, which is sheer brilliance (even if very impractical when wanting to reference the rules!). All in all, Jamaica is just a wonderful production!
As far as racing games go, Jamaica wins out this year for me. A very well deserved 16!