The majority of my experience of Newfoundland culture comes from owning every Great Big Sea album, and watching the Newfoundland and Labrador tourism commercials. So I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Newfoundland Jam, the “colourful jam making game with flavourful cuss words” by Jason Anarchy Games. This is a game for 2 to 4 players, ages 14 and up. I assume the mature rating is for the aforementioned “cuss words”, but since this is a game from the makers of Drinking Quest, I don’t blame them for being extra cautious.
According to this game, one of the favourite hobbies on the island is making jam. Jam recipes range from Generic to Big Jib to the Best Kind, with each one being worth more points. There is also Canned Moose, which is a bit disturbing, but can be worth a lot of points. The winner and “Grand Jam Champion of Newfoundland” is the first player who gets 11 points.
The game consists of two decks of cards: recipe cards and pantry cards. Each recipe card clearly states what ingredients and tools are needed to claim the card and its points. The pantry cards have ingredients and tools, but that’s not all. There is also the dreaded Jam Burglar, a sneaky Mainlander raccoon that comes in several variations. The Sneaky Jam Burglar lets you steal one card from another player’s hand. The Hungry Jam Burglar lets you search through the garbage (discard pile) and take one card. If you are lucky enough to have the “Lard Thunderin’ Jesus” expansion, you have a few extra cards, including Jam Store Coupons (which can replace any type of fruit, but not tools), a new type of Jam Burglar (that gives you a secret recipe card that only you can fill), new ingredients and recipes. The final type of card is the “blowin’ a gale” card, which I will explain later.
Set up for the game is pretty simple. After removing the 2 Blowin’ a Gale cards, deal 5 pantry cards to each player. Return the Blowin’ a Gale cards, and then reveal 4 face-up pantry cards in the center of the table; this is the Pantry. Below the line of pantry cards, reveal 4 face-up recipe cards; this is the Recipe Book. The player who “most recently called someone a juice arse” plays first. If no one has ever called someone a juice arse, then “I suppose the last player who ate jam can go first”. (I love the implied sense of disappointment in that last sentence.)
A player’s turn goes through multiple steps. First, you Restock the Pantry: take one card from the pantry area, discard it, and replace it with a card from the top of the pantry deck. Next, you Get Ingredients, which means doing one of two things. You can either Raid the Pantry, by taking one face-up card from the pantry area and replacing it with a card from your hand. Or, you can Unpack the Groceries, by taking two cards from the top of the pantry deck. If you draw a Blowin’ a Gale card, you must use it immediately. This card can be used to either clear the Panty or the Recipe Book. This means that all of the cards are discarded and replaced. After playing the card, you still get another card to replace it. This is also the stage when you can use your Jam Burglar cards. Next, if you can, Claim a Recipe. To claim a recipe, you must have a card for each of the ingredients or tools shown on the recipe card. For example for “The Best Kind of Peach Jam”, you need two peaches, a jar, sugar, and “biffer boffers” (aka measuring spoons). You can claim more than one recipe in a single turn if you have enough cards. Finally, you “pass the friggin’ jam”, which is a wooden jam jar that acts as a turn token.
The best thing about this game, in my opinion, is the colourful language, and I don’t just mean the mild cussing. Ordinary things are given the most interesting names. Measuring spoons are “Biffer Boffers”, funnels are “Jam Ramlers”. My personal favourite is the Globber Bobber which, according to the picture, is a terrifying combination of beaters, a plunger and a reciprocating saw. (Seriously, you need to see the card to believe it.) The Jam Store Coupon also has a cute image of a Jam Store employee saying “Whaddya want, jam on it?”. I am still trying to decide if this particular phrase means “what are you waiting for?” or “you’ll never be satisfied”. I originally thought that the ingredient Partridge Berry was another one of these created words, but according to Wikipedia, partridge berry is another name of the lingonberry, a fruit well known by anyone who has eaten in the IKEA cafeteria. Another free bit of trivia, the “Bakeapple” ingredient is not an apple at all, but actually a berry, also known as cloudberry.
Whoever gave this game a playing time of twenty minutes must have been playing at hyperspeed, because my gaming group was never able to finish in under half an hour. This is the closest I can come to a complaint on this game, but even that is pretty minor. This is another “more players are better” kind of game, but it is still fully enjoyable with only two people. The Restock the Pantry step really improves gameplay, because it prevents the game from getting stuck. Speaking of getting stuck, there is one aspect of the game that I almost forgot to mention. If at any time a player has ten or more cards in their hand, they are “jammed up”. When you are jammed up, you have two choices. You can either do a Spring Cleaning, discarding your entire hand into the garbage and drawing five new cards. Or, you can have a Kitchen Party. This means that you lay all of your cards face up on the table, making them another pantry that any player can take cards from (if they replace what they take). If you go back to being under 10 cards, you can pick up your cards again and play as normal. This isn’t a common occurrence; in all the games I’ve played, no one has ever become Jammed Up.
The best recommendation I can think of for this game is that it is one of the few games that my friends have played together without me. In fact, I had to recover the game from my best friend in order to write up the review.