Johari, from Mayfair Games, is a new game that lets two to four players attempt to sell the most gems and gain the most prestige in the markets of Jaipur.
Each player has his own player board, which tracks how much prestige players can earn for selling certain colors of gems. A central game board holds spots for stores that only sell certain types of gems and has spots for a bazaar, which can hold any type of gem, as well as gold cards and prestige cards.
Each player starts the game with a set amount of gold, which is tracked on the game board. For the game, gold determines turn order. There are 10 market days, and each day consists of three rounds. On a player's turn, he or she can play any one action card, provided he or she can afford it, then players reveal their cards simultaneously. Players can buy gems from the store or bazaar, exchange a gem card they hold with one from the store or bazaar, use a "baksheesh" card to gain gold, sell their gems for prestige points, and more.
Some gem cards have the inspector symbol on them, which denotes it is a fake. If ever someone plays a “sell” card, all players must discard their fake gems before they get the chance to sell them. If a player has played the “bribe” card, however, he is protected from the inspector.
Players gain prestige by selling sets of gem cards, or the most of a single set, provided another player has at least one gem of that color. Players can also purchase prestige cards when they come up in the bazaar or purchase nobles' cards that travel along the game board. In addition to prestige, the nobles' cards offer special privileges and actions to whoever controls them.
After the 10 market days, whoever has the most prestige is the winner.
Johari is a well-balanced, mechanically sound game that offers some real competition. The different actions players can engage in are a lot of fun and allow players to play dirty tricks on their opponents. At 60 minutes per game, however, Johari does seem a bit too long for the experience it offers, and it does tend to run out of steam the last few rounds. Still, there is enough game here that many players will be satisfied.
Johari is recommended for ages 10 and up.
Cody K. Carlson holds a master's in history from the University of Utah and teaches at Salt Lake Community College. An avid player of board games, he blogs at thediscriminatinggamer.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org