Review: Jamaica – competition in pirate waters

Jamaica - packaging

The sea was calm today. Still, Fat Pete’s stomach lurch from each ship movement. Wind was carrying them towards the Bay of Pirates. Pete gripped the dagger, which was given to him by the captain’s daughter. He had never fought or seen pirate with his own eyes before. He actually thought that, until there appeared a pirate flas waving on his own ship.

At first he thought, that he’s just dreaming. But then he remembered his stay in the harbor. At that time, he found nothing strange on the group of sailors so eager to sail his boat. He remained captain just for the first day, before land disappeared in the distance and around them spread a pancake called Ocean. He got scared and gave over captaion function to much experienced man. He inherided this boat from his uncle. Ship now looked less romantic and in no sight as inviting as the mainland.

The pirate ship is now headed with Pete towards places, where the captain own ship sank with treasures onboard. The captain hopes, that there will still be men, who attacked him, there. Pete was hoping the opposite. He tried to stand up and face the adventure, but it was harder than he could ever imagine..

Jamaica - game is ready

Welcome to pirate waters with Fat Pete and his boat. You are entering a world of . It is name of a game from the Swiss publishing , who provided players with an excellent Animalia (review) or adventurous Tschak! (review). There are three authors: , and . The two last named ones are also behind the aforementioned Animalia, therefore we invested a lot of hopes into this game.

Our expectations were definitely not disappointed by graphic design, created by excellent illustrator (Animalia again). The very box, that is created as a pirate chest full of treasures, gets you attention at first glance. The cover illustration is full of gold coins, but also the image of pirates on a deserted island. It tells you everything you need to know. Pirates. Treasures. Great!

Then, you can finally sink into the wealth offered by the box itself. Like the previous games, also Jamaica contains an excellent layout of insert. Each component has its own unique place. So after you punch out tokens of gun powder, food and gold coins from the sheets, they will easily swim into place. Therea re also cardboard oblong rectangles representing your ship’s deck, when you are on the sea.

Jamaica - game in progress

Inside the box, there are three dice, six attractive color ship miniatures, chest tokens and compass for novice players. You can also find card decks, this time in two dimensions. The smaller contains less mysterious treasures, which pirates can collect on their travels.

In contrast, the larger cards will strike you at first sight with their dimension. They are longitudinal and pictures on them are drawn horizontally. The reverse side shows always a portrait of one of the pirates, with his name and color. This clearly belongs to one of the ship colors. On the picture side, there are a total of 11 different images, exactly as much as cards for each color. This brings us together to a sum of 66 action cards. There are necessary illustrations in its left and right corners, with action icons indicating, what the card can be used for.

The last part of the whole package is the largest – game board. There is a map of an archipelago on it, dominated by Jamaica island. All of it is located in the Caribbean Sea, famous for pirate activity in the Greater Antilles. Around the island, you will find racing route. Yes. Jamaica is a racing game. You did not see this coming, did you?


You will notice on the map, that the sea is divided into slices, which slowly and lazily wrap around the entire island, until it is completely orbited back to the start to a place called Port Royal. Each slice contains some white squares or a pin with the number. Both denote a price for travelling through there. Some islands and rocks are shaped like skulls and are thus hiding some of the many pirate groups and their loot!

Players get to start the game and choose a color portrait of their captain. At first glance you could tell, that real pirates are drawn on the back of action cards. So do not expect any pretty boys and girls like in Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Among them, there are two women – Anne Bonny and Mary Read. For each of these pirates, you will find a brief biography. That, with the dates, means, that they once were real names of real people! But mister illustrator would not certailny takes responsibility for similarity of their portraits with their real look. Yet they are done with masterful precision.

But we strayed a bit from the preparation. The eleven cards of one color will of course accompany your ship. You should place the miniature at the start of the race in Port Royal place. Players can now take one plate of cargo space and fill it with some cargo – three meals and three doubloons (coins). All cards, that you took at the beginning, are now shuffled. You take up first three of them into hand.

Jamaica - game in progress

All remaining tokens are placed beside the game board as stocks. You now shuffle treasure cards and place them in the middle of the chest plate. The plan also has to be prepared by placing dice – two are coming into the navigation box in the middle of the two bright spots, while the third is a battle dice and has its place on a different place of board. The last thing, which has to be prepared, are treasures. Their chips (chests) are scattered all around game board on all spots with the skull. Anyone, who arrives here first, can cannibalize everything just for himself.

The annual competition for the Pirate of the year requires speed, cunning and devoid of frequent battles. Therefore, the race is very popular and is watched by many viewers on the adjacent islands They use binoculars and sometimes even get in the way of competitors.

And now we can finally start racing. At each turn, a starting player throws two dice, but the turn will be played by all players. Just according to the numbers, which were rolled on the dice, players can choose one of three cards in their hand. Precisely that one, which they find best for playing just in this moment. You must of course take into account the position of your ship and above all price for the cruise.

Jamaica - game in progress

Each box on the board has its price. Sailors have a hard life and they need stocks of food onboard. This is represented by the white squares, where your men eat. Some food you are carrying with you from the start, but you will need to get more during the race. Navigating through any port will cost you fees paid in doubloons. Their value is identified by gold pins – these places do not have cost in food, because sailors can eat in pub.

We already know, that one player throws the dice. Before anyone can use their values, he has to decide, which of the dice will be played in the morning and which in the evening. There are two boxes on the navigation panel for this purpose. The active player selects their order based on his cards. Dice are put in the middle and all the other players can now also secretly schedule (= put in front of them) their one action card, which they plan to use with the chosen dice numbers.

The cards have left and right icons. The left icon is a morning event, right icon is the activity for the evening. There are several kinds of symbols – green arrow means good wind and the boat moving forward so many boxes as there are points on the dice for this part of the day. The red arrow is a bad wind. Your vessel must instead return a little back. Then there remain only symbols of gold, food and gunpowder. In this situation, the ship does not move, but instead replenishes supplies (we suppose, that now pirates do the thing, they do best – loot). You pick tokens according to the symbol and number on dice.

Jamaica - cards

Importantly, you can put all collected supplies only in one cargo hold – no division. From now on, it could not be occupied by other goods, nor there can be added more. You have to use all those tokens during the cruise as payment, so you gradually clean that space in the hull again.

A time to pay is right now. Indeed, when the player completes his round, they must pay the value of the space, where his boat stopped moving. It is expressed either in meal tokens, or gold doubloons, as we told you earlier. You will be paying the price from your ship’s storage into the pot.

Players are thus progressing forward, but it often happens, that they just did not have the right cards and have to pay the price of their habitat. But they do not have sufficient amount. In this situation, they must return to the nearest spot, where can they pay the price. For these cases (and not only for them), you will find few fields with no price tag on them. They are a pirate hideouts. Who arrives there first, can take a token from the board to indicate, that the stash was robbed. Then he draws the top card from the treasure pile. It can be used to players benefit during the race or he can receive victory points for it at the end.

Jamaica - game in progress

You heard correctly. This is not the race with immediate winner after the finish line is crossed. But before that happens, from time to time, two pirate boats happen to meet in one space. In this situation, there is time for a fight. First comes the attacker, a boat that arrived second. He determines the number of gun powder tokens, which he adds to the attack. Then he throws the battle dice and the resulting sum is the power of his attack. The defender must now jump over this number. He can pick any powder tokens from his ship reserve and throw the dice. The winner of the battle is the player, who has achieved a higher value. He can take tokens from one cargo space of his enemy or steal a treasure card.

Well, there could be anything on the card. But the one, who crosses the finish line first, may not automatically be the winner. There is an immediate reward for being first – fifteen victory points, however also other ships will gain VP, depending on the spot, where they were, when first player finished.

Value is decreasing until there are minus points and point, where order starts to count. Now players add up doubloons in their hold, and of course, victory points value of gathered treasure cards. But beware, the treasures also contain cards, which will reduce your totals. Those, however, can be slipped to your opponents during the race! Now it is too late, because the pirate with the highest sum wins.

Jamaica - cards

Jamaica is a simple racing game with some nasty tricks, that can make a winner out of a loser. Nevertheless, the principle of this game is directed at children and families, just as is the theme. And those will like it very much at first glance and will be instantly captivated by boat miniatures and beautiful illustrations.

In each turn, one player has the upper hand and throws the dice. Others must be able to adapt to a combination of numbers, that he selects, just as to luck, which comes out of rolling the dice itself. But gradually all players gets a chance to be a dice caster, although in the end not everybody can have same number of turns. And some players still can be more fortunate, because someone rolls better numbers for his cards, than other.

Often you will be left in your hand only with cards, which enable you to move the boat backwards instead of forwards, whether you are doing, what you are doing. Sometimes you choose this option rather, than to fill your hold with a pile of gunpowder. Or maybe you want to avert some nasty expensive space on the race track. There are many ways to use cards, but it always depends on the active player. And then on your selection out of three options.

Jamaica - board detail

Amount of conflict in the game depends on the number of competitors, who will contest in the race. The more players, the more frequently the fights. Luckily fights are quick and do not bore other players. And more players make also a better game. Race in two is very quiet, players will stay out of the cabbage and faster usually wins. There is not much place for quarrel. It depends more on cards and wealth, than position. In more players, position gest more and more important, when you are able to get ahead.

Jamaica still contains a lot more luck, than would some players accept. Its completely ok for family play, but the player’s performance really depends on the actual cards in his hand and his abilities are in second place.

Conversely interesting is the possibility to choose the best combination of dice for yourself. And these numbers have to be followed by others. It is great fun and sometimes you can hear the crackling tension, when the active captain decides the order, in which he schedules the dice.

Jamaica - box

The biggest (and really, really large) plus is the processing of Jamaica. Beautiful illustrations on the board and the cards will seamlessly transfer you to pirate times. Boat miniatures are also perfectly done and so are the tokens. In addition, there is that little thing, that you might not notice at first – when you align all the cards side by side in the correct order, they make up one large image! There is no image of it here, because we want to leave a surprise for you.

Jamaica is a simple family game. Do not expect complexity, just plain fun. The rules are basically simple. Although they do not read quite easily from a large piece of paper in the form of pirate treasure maps. Each player plans for himself and has a choice of three options (cards). It is not much, but it’s enough, that you can at least choose the lesser evil. Jamaica will entertain children and families perfectly. We may be a little disappointed with its simple gameplay, but do not worry. Game is fun and not only because for the actual processing, which really deserved some medal.

DesignerMalcolm Braff, Bruno Cathala, Sébastien Pauchon
ArtistMathieu Leyssenne
PublisherGameWorks SàRL, Space Cowboys, Asterion Press, Galápagos Jogos, Popcorn Games, Rebel Sp. z o.o.
Year Published
# of Players2 - 6
User Suggested # of Players Best with 6+ players
Recommended with 3, 4, 5, 6 players
(262 voters)
Playing Time60
Mfg Suggested Ages8 and up
User Suggested Ages8 and up
(80 voters)
Language DependenceNo necessary in-game text
(56 voters)
CategoryNautical, Pirates, Racing
MechanicDice Rolling, Hand Management, Roll / Spin and Move, Simultaneous Action Selection
ExpansionJamaica: Extra Treasures, Jamaica: The Crew
FamilyComponents: Miniatures, Country: Jamaica, Theme: Colonial, Theme: Pirates
Primary NameJamaica
Alternate NamesJamajka, 자메이카

Infos courtesy of More Infos.

Review: Jamaica – competition in pirate waters
Final word
Jamaica is a family game full of piratey ships racing with tightened sails. Players have always several cards at their disposal, with movement and supply icons. Both of these icons have value determined by a dice throw of an active player. Everybody must then move ships or gain supplies and pay fee for place, where their ship has anchored for this turn. In this gaining and spending of all resources is hidden a biggest obstacle between you and finish. Jamaica is really simple game suitable perfectly for children. There is quite a lot of chance involved. Its not best in two players. But other than that, it offers nice and beatifully crafted fun..
Reader Rating0 Votes
gorgeous pirate pictures
characters were real pirates
ship miniatures
interesting system of morning and evening acions with numbers from the dice
lot of fights in more player games
quite high price for a family game
two player game is just racing and a little boring
random treasures and dice throws can ruin your plans
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