Jungle Race is my second game from Italy’s Cranio Creations, and the first one fully publlished in English. Other than the use of the word “pilot” instead of “driver”, the instruction booklet is clearly written and easy to understand. The box is bright and colourful, featuring fun cartoony racers. The game has two catchphrases, “hear my motor roar” and “a rumble in the jungle”, which made my best friend laugh way too much. (She’s rather gutter minded.)
The recommendations for the game state that it is for two to six players aged six and up. We played a two player game and it was still fun and enjoyable. This is a quick, easy to learn game that is not as simple as it seems. The concept is clear enough: There are five cars, set up on top of five cards, representing the racetrack. To begin, the racers are placed randomly; the cards played during the game will determine who passes whom and who ends up in the lead. Each player is dealt seven cards, and the player “who looks the most like a lion” plays first. On your turn, you have a choice of playing a card face up in front of you, or passing. If you play a card, then the race “pilot” pictured on the card overtakes the car in front of it, moving one spot closer to the winner’s position. If you play a card representing the car that is already in the lead, then there is a “blowout”, and the car is sent all the way to the back, and all the other cars move ahead one space each. If you choose to pass, be careful, because you can only do this once. When you pass, you place your entire hand of cards face down in front of you, and cannot play another card for the rest of one race.
The first race ends when every player has used all of their cards, either by playing or passing. Now it is time to score. You check your cards against the first, second and third place racers. For every card you have that matches the winner, you get 3 points. For the second place racer, you get 2 points. For third place, you get 1 point. Cards for the fourth and fifth place cars are worth nothing. There is no scoreboard, instead, points are given out using 1, 2, 5, 10 and 20 point chips or “medals”. The instruction booklet recommends three races per game, but you can do more if you want. The final winner is whoever has the most points at the end of the last race.
On the surface, this game seems to be very simple, but there is strategy involved. Obviously, you want the racer for whom you have the most cards to win. But if you have too many of the same card, you need to be careful not to cause a blowout. Since you can see all of the other players’ cards, you can also strategically move their best pilots back while moving yours forward.
I very rarely mention the recommended age range in a review, but I must admit that this is not a game that would be played frequently by adults. Unless someone figures out how to turn it into a drinking game. As a game for children, it does have merits. The cards teach kids to recognise colours, as well as matching pictures. The rules encourage turn taking and strategic thinking. And, of course, scoring teaches counting and math. The only difficulty may be explaining the pass rule to younger players. Many games involve discarding one card, but discarding all of your cards is less common, and some kids may get upset about being left out of the rest of the race because they passed once.
Overall, this is a fun, educational game for kids, with an appealing theme and cartoony imagery. For adults, it could be a quick casual game to play in between more serious gaming sessions.