Dale Yu – Preview of Jamaica (2021)

Jamaica (2021)

  • Designers: Malcolm Braff, Bruno Cathala, Sebastien Pauchon
  • Publisher: Asmodee/Gameworks
  • Players: 2-6
  • Age: 8+
  • Time: 30-45 minutes

jamaica new

Well, a few years ago, back in 2017, I was a bit surprised to see an expansion for Jamaica, titled “The Crew” be released.  Why?  Well, the original game Jamaica came out way back in 2007 – and ten years is a long time to go between the release of the main game and its first expansion!  (And as a full disclaimer, I did some work on the rules for both of the new versions – though I get no financial compensation based on the success of the game)

As it turns out, Jamaica has had a long run of popularity since its initial release, and the expansion has apparently done well since it came out.  That popularity has also led to a new edition of the base game, now in a traditional 30cm square box.

The game itself is set back in 1675, obviously in and around the island of Jamaica.  As the game lore goes: “After a long career in piracy, Captain Henry Morgan skillfully gets appointed to be Governor of Jamaica, with the explicit order to cleanse the Caribbean of pirates and buccaneers! Instead, he invites all of his former “colleagues” to join him in his retirement, to enjoy the fruits of their looting with impunity. Each year, in remembrance of the “good old days,” Morgan organizes the Great Challenge, a race around the island, and at its end, the Captain with the most gold is declared Grand Winner.”

It is a pirate-themed tactical race game with player interaction and side goals (e.g. detouring for treasure). The players use the holds of their ships as well as their cards to plunder as much treasure as possible before one of them crosses the finish line.


Gameplay (briefly summarized from the original rules):  Each player always has a hand of three cards, and a personal board depicting the five “holds” of their ship, into which goods can be loaded during the game. Each round, one player is designated as “captain,” who rolls two standard D6 dice, examines his cards, then announces which die will correspond to the “day” and which to the “night.” Each player then simultaneously selects a card from their hand and places it face down in front of them. Each card has two symbols on it, one on the left – corresponding to “day” – and one on the right (“night”). The symbols indicate either ship movement (forward or backward) or the loading of a type of good. All cards are revealed simultaneously and then resolved clockwise, starting with the captain’s.

When it is a player’s turn to resolve his card, for first the left symbol on his card and then for the right symbol, the player will load a number of goods or move a number of spaces equal to the number of pips showing on the corresponding day or night die for that round.  As you move, you’ll notice that many of the spaces on the board contain either little white squares or a gold circle with a number in it. The little white squares signify the number of food tokens that are necessary to land and stay on the square (these items only need to be paid once when the person lands on the space). The gold circle with the number tells the player how many gold coins he/she must pay to be on that space. If the person does not have enough resources from their cargo hold to stay there, the player must go back one space and continue to go back until either they land on a space that has no payment or a payment they can afford. Payments can be made by combining cargo hold items if necessary. If the player lands on a space that contains a treasure chest token, that player can then draw a treasure card. This treasure card can be points for or against the players total (and if this type of card is drawn, it must be laid face down next to the player) or it can be a card the otherwise helps the player.


Also, during the race, when a player lands on a spot already occupied by another player, there is a battle. Battles are mainly resolved by rolling a “combat” die, but players may improve their chances by using “gunpowder” tokens from their holds, if they loaded any on previous turns. The winner of a battle may steal some goods or treasure from the loser.

Once a person reaches the finish line, the turn is finished and the game is over. At the end of the game, each player counts up their points for a final score. On the last fourteen spaces of the game, there is a number at the top that counts for your score (15 down to 2). Anything before that counts for -5 for your score. All treasure is added to your final score (positive or negative) and any gold left in your cargo counts for 1 point for each piece. The person with the most points wins.

This new version is mostly the same, though there is a new rulebook, and the publisher proudly announces that the rulebook has helpful tabs to make searching easier…

jamaica rulebook

There does appear to be one rule change – the Shortage Rule… If a player does not have enough Gold
or Food tokens to pay a requested cost, they must follow these 2 steps:
1. The player pays to the Bank as much as they can a ord (in the example above, 2 Food tokens instead of the required 3).
2. Then, the player rolls the Shortage die and moves their ship according to the result:

  • Roll a 2 or 4 (circle icon): Move backward to the next Port space (that could send your further back than the original rules)
  • Roll a 6 or 8 (square icon): Move backward to the next Sea space (with white squares. that one could save you from going back further per the original rules)
  • Roll a 10 (skull & crossbones): Move backward to the next (previous is what it should say imho) Pirate Lair
  • Roll a Star: Stay put

The die in the new version is a little different as it include the new shortage icons on the die as well.  If you have the original version, a little sharpie action can remedy the situation nicely if you want to play by the new updated rules).

The game has always been a family favorite, and it has always has ups and downs and plenty of mayhem dependent on the role of that fickle fickle die.  If you’re interested in trying out this classic game, it releases this week to hopefully enthrall new audiences.  It’s a game that has stood the test of time, and I’m glad that it is getting a second chance to find new fans!


Old (2007), New (2021), and expansion (2017)

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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