In the style of NPR’s Sandwich Mondays, we top off every week at the Morphology Games headquarters with a few rousing rounds of our board game choice-of-the-week. Being in the business of board game design, this is our play–ahem, research time.
[No guest players this week--just me (Matea), Melanie and Marvin.]
For a game that appears on first glance to be a glorified version of slapjack, this took us a surprisingly long time to get the hang of.
We’ll start you off with a key bit of knowledge: colors are not the same as shapes. (A shocker, we know.)
This is important to remember because in Jungle Speed, you’re looking for cards with either matching shapes or matching colors. When two matching shape or matching color cards are face-up at the same time, a duel is triggered. (A duel is a race for the totem pole. Depending on how far away you put the totem pole, this could get tiring. Standard play places it right on the table.)
But if (as we did) you wait for cards to match in both shape AND color, you’ll be surprisingly unblooded by the end of the game: exact matches don’t exist. That’s the point. As we figured out after about four botched rounds.(Designed for ages 7 to 20, and 23 and up.)
This game taxes your brain in unexpected ways. Not only must you make distinctions between minutely different shapes, if you play with only two people you must think of your left hand and your right hand as different players—so if your left hand gets involved in a duel, only that hand can reach for the totem. We don’t know about you, but we haven’t had a lot of practice thinking of ourselves as two people. It’s an interesting exercise in ambidexterity.
Melanie: I’m really glad we decided not to tell anyone how long it took us to figure this game out.
Matea: [As left hand is crowned winner] I’ve never been so proud of my left side.
Marvin: A Marvin-totem pole for my front yard IS a brilliant idea!
[The verdict: Our own slowness aside, this is an addicting game of quick reactions. We’ve never been huge fans of Slapjack, but after playing Jungle Speed through correctly it feels like a truly separate entity, especially given the added challenge of complex shape recognition. There’s also something really satisfying about grabbing that totem pole first (but also something a little bittersweet about having to give it back every round).]