Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hunger Games Jabberjay Review

Hunger Games Jabberjay the Card Game
Designed by Christopher Guild, Bryan Kinsella, Andrew Parks
Published by Wizkids
Players 2-12 players (2-4 is one game, 5-12 is another game using the same cards)
Playtime: ~20 minutes.

The best way to describe this is if Battlestar Galactica/The Resisantance and Werewolf/Mafia has a love child.  It's a pretty fun card game where you don't have to pay perfect attention to have a good time.

Just cards, but the cards are good quality, the art is well done, but the backs of different cards look a little too similar.  Meaning there can be a little bit of confusion when it comes to what's been played.  I would have liked a track to chart what a player's previous level was rather than just a card.  This would have raised production costs, but might have made for a better game.

Each player is dealt a card, either a capitol citizen or a district citizen.  The district citizens know each other, while the capitol citizens do not know each other.  Each turn, players are dealt 2 cards, one face up, the other face down.  They then play a card face down on another player of their choice.  Once you've played both cards, you shuffle the cards played on the player to your left for tracking purposes, and then look at your two cards.  You discard the lower numbered card, and the other is your new status.  Based on what your previous status was, different things can happen, revealing your loyalty, nothing, or being eliminated from the game.
I think the mechanics work pretty well.  They're not perfect, there's some luck, and maybe too many ways to get eliminated early, but it keeps things short.  I did only play with 6, and I think this version might be better with 8 or more, since then you get more than 2 district citizens.

There's some interesting interaction.  It helps if you're able to get a read on people, but so much of the game can be played randomly.  I feel that the district citizens can work well together, but the capitol citizens don't know anything to really help them, so they're just eliminating anyone they can.  There are too many cards being mixed about, that you don't know who's playing what, so it's very hard to get a read on someone.  I played one game as the capitol, and one as a district citizen.  Fortunately for me, my district partner was a skilled BSG player, and we kinda knew how to help each other.  He made sure to play something on me, to lessen what people could do to me, where as I tried to play cards that did nothing to him.  I like the interaction as a district citizen, but it's lacking as a capitol citizen.

I don't know Hunger Games, haven't read the books, haven't watched the movie yet.  I have a lot of friends who like the series, and they said that this card game does a good job of capturing the theme for a card game.  There could be better incorporation, but it's hard to do in a card game aimed to be simple.

Learning Curve
Short.  We made a few mistakes the first time through, but everyone knew what was going on after 3 rounds or so.  This easily becomes a party game, or a game for a group of gamers and Hunger Games fans alike.

Why I like Jabberjay
The game is quick. Most choices are easy, and it's got a light fun feel to it, which was perfect for the game group.

Why I don't like Jabberjay
There aren't a lot of meaningful choices, and there's a bit too much luck.  Other players can take you out of the game very quickly, and there's no defense.  Knowing this you have to act quickly and decisively.

I wouldn't want to play Jabberjay 10 times in a night, but it's something I can see playing in those large groups when we want a fun team game.

I like Jabberjay.  I don't love it, but I think it's a fun game.  The theme doesn't do much for me, but it doesn't hurt either.  It's a fun deduction game, even if all the actions aren't trackable.  Only more plays will tell the true test, but the game is quick, and people seem to have fun with it, so that's a win in my book, and not bad for a game that costs <$10.

I'm going to add in photos in the next few days, but I wanted to get this review out quickly.

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