In 2004 Jambo was published, a game by Rüdiger Dorn with an African tribal theme. Nine years later he made another game, Asante. Same theme. Same mechanisms. Same game?
These two game are so similar that I’m going to review them in the same article. I will discuss the differences, but I can tell you up front; there aren’t many.
Both games are economic games. That means in this case that it revolves around buying goods for little money and selling them for more. The game ends when one of the two players, it’s a two-player game, has sixty points or more.
Every turn a player has five action points to spent. First you can draw a card for one action point and if you don’t like that card you can discard it and draw again for another action point. After that you can start playing cards, for one action point each. You can also decide not to draw a card at the beginning and immediately start your turn with playing cards.
There are many different cards. Cards that depict wares, sometimes one type of ware, sometimes multiple types. The cards also show for how many coins you can buy these goods and for how many you can sell exactly the goods from your warehouse. You have to be able to store the goods you buy. You have only place for six goods in your warehouse.
You can also play animal or villager cards. Both card types have very cool special abilities. Placing buildup cards, different tribal objects, also costs one action point. These cards stay in front of you during the game and to activate them you have to spend another action point.
These are the basic elements of both games. Buy goods, sell goods. Play cards that get you free goods, get you free cards, let you exchange goods with either the supply or your opponent, or play other cards that mess with your opponent. Most of the cards are pretty interactive.
In Jambo you can get more space in your warehouse, which is pretty handy if you want to sell these more valuable, but harder to acquire, combinations of goods.
Asante adds holy sites to the game. Three holy site cards are placed in the middle of the table. These basically function as slots for your buildup cards, your objects. When you play such a card, you have to place it below one of the three holy site cards. Your opponent then gets that holy site card and can use it, for free, during the game. Another holy site card is then placed in the empty slot, so both player can still only place three objects on the table. When you place your fourth, you have to remove one of the existing objects, but you also have to take the holy site card that belongs to that slot in your own hand.
Holy site cards give you an advantage, from small ones like taking a card to bigger ones, like take an extra action token.
Both Jambo and Asante are equally fun. I don’t think that when you hated Jambo, you would enjoy Asante. The holy sites are interesting, but not game changing. We both had the feeling that they made the game slightly easier, but we couldn’t pinpoint why we felt that way.
If you like card games with loads of cards, loads of different cards, you would like both games. The trading aspect of these games is kinda slow, because, especially in Asante, you have little room to store your goods, so once you sold some goods with a card, it’s likely that you have to refill most of your warehouse again. An ebb and flow of buying goods, selling goods, buying goods and selling goods.
It’s all about playing cards at the right time and using them in combination with other cards in such way that can get goods for the least amount of money possible and sell them for the most and that is pretty hard to accomplish. And thereby, you also have to deal with an opponent that constantly messes with your plans. Like I already said, this game is quite interactive.
Jambo and Asante don’t belong to my favourite two-player games. There are many more enjoyable games out there, but they have some good ideas and are quite enjoyable, so I would not mind playing one of the two once in a while.
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