All those books about surviving in the Amazon rainforest turn out be darn useful when you’re stuck in the jungle, fighting to escape! A card collecting game for 1-4 players by BuddyPal Games, The Amazing Jungle Run is quick and fun for family play, a zippy filler game for game nights while waiting for the rest of the group to show up, or as an entertaining solo play. I opted to compete against the dummy player, who I called “Belloq” in honor of Indiana Jones’ nemesis and fellow archeologist René Emile Belloq. The game isn’t themed for Indiana Jones – too expensive to license that IP anyway – but it definitely has a ‘run through the jungle, avoiding perils and collecting resources as you go’ feel to it.
To start out there are three decks of cards: Resources, Perils and the larger main deck. The latter is comprised of “common” animals you can collect and turn in as sets for benefit, Special Power cards and items that have a point value. This is a race for points and the first person to reach 9 points wins. For a solo or two player game, all cards with a “+” on the lower right are extracted from the deck and put back in the box. I include one in the photo below so you can see this subtle marking:
Look closely at the 2 point mango on the left and you’ll see the “+” in the lower right corner. I removed it before prepping the deck for play. To prepare the deck, extract the mango and shaman cards, shuffle enthusiastically, then make four even piles. Split each pile in half, shuffle one of the high point cards into each, adding the fifth point card (four 2-point mango cards plus the shaman) randomly to one of the piles, then add the four original cards on top of each pile. Ready! The idea is that the higher point cards are lower in each of the four piles.
The player mat makes it easier to set up, but it’s still straightforward: Resource cards on the top left, Peril cards on the top right and the four piles on the lower portion, with each pile’s top car flipped over, ready to be snagged by a savvy adventurer:
As you can see, the artwork is fantastic. Really fun, lively, and quite colorful. I’m a bit fan of the kinesthetic experience of a game, so definitely appreciate the attention to design in Amazing Jungle Run.
Now, while looking at these cards, notice the downward arrow on the top right of the Toucan card. Any card that says “Trade 3” is a common card: collect three of that animal and you can trade it in to cancel a man eating plant peril or get a peril of your own for free. When the arrow symbol is on the top right it means you get the card immediately below this common card as part of the selection, so that Toucan is worth two cards!
The papaya and guava are both 1 point cards, either of which would get you 1/9th of the way to your 9 point win condition. Valuable!
For a multiplayer game, each player proceeds in three phases: Action Phase, Collection Phase and Defense Phase. In the action phase you have two actions you can use to either take 1 peril card, 2 resource cards, peek at the bottom card of two piles, or some combination thereof. Well, taking a peril card costs two action points so that’d be it for your first phase, but otherwise you could take 1 resource card and peek at the bottom of 1 pile, for example. It’s smart to know what’s on the bottom because various cards let you surface those bottom cards to the top or even grab them directly!
And remember, all the high point cards are in the lower half of these piles too, so are much more likely to be on the bottom than the top.
Phase two is the Collection phase where you can either collect all of a common animal (e.g., two hippos or one tiger) OR you can try for a point card by rolling the three dice to achieve a color match. Notice on the papaya above you need to roll a double yellow. Three dice, two rolls, and you can keep any of the die from the first roll before you take the second. Not incredibly hard to get pairs, but three of a kind? Not easy without resources.
Finally, the third phase lets you play resource or peril cards to benefit your own hand or block your opponent from grabbing something valuable.
SOLO PLAY VARIATION
Which brings us to solo play. Turns out Belloq isn’t the sharpest arrow in the quiver so his “dummy” rules are pretty straightforward: He starts with a peril card so he can block me if I’m poised to get the winning point card, and otherwise takes the leftmost common card (set, if possible) then gets the highest point or leftmost point card for free if one is exposed. After his first turn Belloq has this:
What happened? He pulled the “OFF LIMITS” peril card automatically so he has the option to block me near the end of the game, then pulled the toucan common card. That had the downward arrow so he also got the card below it, which was the tiger. Then he automatically got the leftmost, highest value point card shown, then papaya. Score is Belloq: 1, me: 0.
I find that the resource cards are super helpful, so I pull two as my two actions, pulling these:
These are absolutely terrific cards because I can use the giraffe to surface a valuable hidden card and then at the end if Belloq tries to play a QUICKSAND or OFF LIMITS card on the one I really want, I can drop the Not Today! and cancel it out! Sweet.
A bit later in the game Belloq has been busy collecting those 1 pointers and has a pile of peril cards too:
I’m doing okay too, though, with a 2-point mango, two of three hippo common cards, and three resources, a mystic dice change that will allow me to flip one die post-roll to show black. I also still have the giraffe and Not Today! cards, as you can see.
For this action (which would take place after the face-down card piles have their topmost card displayed, of course), I opt to peek at the bottom of pile #3. And look what I find!
Since 9 points is a win, this is 1/3 of the required points to win the game. The shaman is indeed quite powerful and the most valuable card in the game. Now I know where it is too, which is highly beneficial. Note you need to get three black dice to win it, but remember I have a resource card that lets me turn one die into a guaranteed black. Very helpful!
Where things get really interesting is when the King card shows up. This card lets you take the top card of any pile for free (no dice roll needed) and the card immediately below it. If the shaman is the most valuable card, the King is the most powerful:
Obviously we are both going to try to attain that card, and indeed, in solo play the dummy hand (Belloq) will choose the King over just about any other point value card, with the exception of if the shaman is showing. You can download the solo player rules PDF directly from their site if you want to check out the priority of card selection.
I manage to obtain the King and then use the giraffe card to move the shaman to the top of its pile, then the King to grab it for free (no dice roll needed) and the card immediately below it too. Nice! Here’s how things look:
At this point notice that pile #2 is empty. That makes the last portion of the game harder, but there are some resource cards that let you move a card over from another pile to expose more on each round. More importantly, though, the Gorilla is up, and that’s a nice card too, allowing you to take any one face up card for free, no dice roll required.
A few more rounds and I’m set up for the win! Here’s what’s on the table:
Notice I have 3+2+2+1 = 8 points and Belloq has 2 + 2 + 1 +1 +1 +1 = 8 points too. Down to the wire! Since it’s the end of his play, he is forced to drop the peril card onto the 1 point card (the peril is Off Limits, the angry croc). Normally that would mean that I would need to go for the hippo and watch him grab it and win, but… I saved that Not Today! card from the beginning. It cancels out the Off Limits. Better yet, I have two mystic dice change cards that guarantee two gree dice, exactly what I need to snag that 1 point guava and win the game! Best of all, there’s nothing Belloq can do to stop me at this point so I win the game. Woot!
THOUGHTS ON AMAZING JUNGLE RUN
There’s lots to like about this bright, colorful game. It’s complex enough that some strategy (like me saving the Not Today! card until the very last turn) benefits savvy players, but easy enough that a younger player can just grab cards and play cards and do well. Heck, Belloq almost won and he’s not very bright! I taught this to my 16yo daughter in under five minutes and we flew through a couple of games, highly entertained.
I would recommend this as a great addition to any gaming library. There’s enough randomness with the dice rolls that you sometimes fail at obtaining the point card you want, and the hidden info of knowing where high point cards are on the bottom of the various piles adds an interesting memory component to the game too. I would say this is suitable for even fairly young players and am sure that a bright 10yo would be great at Amazing Jungle Run too! It’ll stay on our “let’s give it another whirl” pile, for sure.
AMAZING JUNGLE RUN, 1-4 players, from BuddyPal Games. $19.99 plus shipping from buddypalgames.com
Disclosure: BuddyPal Games sent me a free copy of Amazing Jungle Run to playtest and review. Thanks, y’all!