Friday 13 November 2015

Christmas stocking fillers #1: Jungle Speed card game review

With Christmas just around the corner my mind is already turning to Christmas shopping, so I thought a series on stocking filler suggestions might be helpful (especially to those trying to sneakily convert friends or relatives to cardboard addiction!)

For the first in the series, I've picked something that I can see fitting in really well on Christmas evening, once people start to recover from lunch and are looking for something fun to do together: Jungle Speed, a dexterity-based party card game.

I've always been a bit sceptical about party games. Well, perhaps sceptical is the wrong word... More 'curmudgeonly', maybe - I've never been good at the bluffing or acting or making strange animal noises that are inextricably linked in my mind to the phrase 'party game'.  But then I played Jungle Speed.

Jungle Speed in play

I first saw this game on the YouTube channel of one of my favourite web comics, Penny Arcade. They ran a series called Strip Search to find a new comic artist to join their studio (which was really enjoyable by the way, if you're interested - a reality TV show where the contestants are a) talented and b) nice to each other - episode archive here, but don't watch if you're offended by swearing). The artists lived together in a huge house for the duration of the competition and were set a number of challenges, one of which (quite randomly) was an epic game of Jungle Speed (albeit with some substantial modifications to the rules!) They had so much fun that this had to go on my wish list, and I ended up picking up a copy in our friendly local game shop.

Basically a more complicated game of 'snap', players take turns flipping a card from their stack until two players show a matching symbol. This triggers a duel in which both players must try to grab a wooden totem from the middle of the table. The loser adds the winner's discard pile (along with their own) back into their draw pile. If you make a mistake and take the totem when there is no match, you get everyone's discard pile! The winner is the first to get rid of all of their cards.

There are a couple of other cards in the deck that affect play - one that changes the matching criteria to colour rather than symbol, one causing everyone to flip a card simultaneously and another that signals everyone to make a grab for the totem (love this one, it has so much potential to go wrong).

Jungle Speed action cards

Complicating matters (but also my favourite thing about the game), lots of the symbols are similar enough that your brain tricks you into thinking you have a match when you don't. Could you tell some of these sets apart in a rush?

Jungle Speed cards

This can lead to accidental totem-taking, accompanied by a misplaced victory whoop and then the humiliating realisation of failure. Your friends and family will be very sympathetic about this, and there will definitely not be pointing and laughing. No.

I lied - there will be a lot of laughter. Every time someone messes up it's hilarious. This is one of the reasons that it would make a great gift for new or experienced gamers alike - laughing at people getting things wrong is a universal guilty pleasure, I think!

Win or lose, this game is great fun, light and plays fast. The rules are quick to explain, easy to understand and there's no lengthy setup time, which means you can be playing within a few minutes of opening the box.

A small word of warning, though - extensive play can lead to damaged fingers/nails/breakables as players fight for the totem. As fun as this would be in a pub setting, I think the cost in spilled drinks would be too high...

Jungle Speed
Publisher: Asmodee
Players: 2 - 10
Age: 7+
Cost: Around £12

If you love the game too or are just trying it for the first time, let me know in the comments or on the new Facebook page. I'll be back with more suggestions soon - in the meantime, enjoy your Christmas preparations!