I’ve owned a copy of Jungle Speed for over 10 years. I remember playing it at a game night, before I really started building a collection and buying it almost immediately after. At that point as a non gamer, that was fairly significant. Now I’ll buy a game without thinking twice, I’m at the game store all the time checking out what’s new. Back then, it just wasn’t on my radar. So games really had to draw me in. This is a speed game, and a fun one at that. It’s really easy to jump the gun with this one, the symbols are very similar, so there is a fine line between being cautious and being fast.
Overall, the goal of this game is to get rid of all your cards first. Since you are losing cards, instead of gaining cards as points, a lot more can change quickly. It’s a lot easier to make a comeback and makes for more interesting gameplay.
The setup is easy, shuffle and deal out the cards face down for all the players as evenly as possible. The totem is placed in a central spot where everyone can easily grab it. The instructions recommend players cut their finger nails closely to avoid possible hand injuries. That’s always a sign of a good game when it has that underlying element of danger.
Players can either have their decks face down in front of them or they can hold them in their hand. Either way they cannot look at their cards. Going clockwise around the table, the first player flips over their top card away from themselves and places it face up in front of them. This card is now active. As the game goes on new cards will be added on top creating a discard stack.
As soon as two matching cards are on the table a duel begins. The two players race to pick up the totem. The winner gets to pass their discard-stack to the player who lost. That player who lost then places the stack and their own discard stack together face down at the bottom of their playing deck.
Don’t let the simplicity fool you. Matching isn’t as easy as it seems, a lot of patterns are similar. If you make a mistake and grab the totem when you don’t have a match, you must collect the discard stacks from all the players around the table and add them to your playing deck. This is a pretty big deal, so beware. This also happens if drop the totem, which I’ve seen happen a few times.
To add a bit of a twist, occasionally you will run into a couple cards to add even more of a challenge.
Coloured arrows pointing in – this card temporarily changes the rules, as long as the card is visible cards set off a duel by matching the colour instead of the design. This reverts back once the card is covered or a duel has occurred.
Arrows pointing in – this card sets off an instant duel between all players. The player that wins places their discard stack in the centre under the totem. The next player who loses a duel will also have to pick those up as well as the discard piles.
Arrows pointing out – For this card, everyone counts to three and flips over a card at the same time.
With all this in mind, to win the game you need to get rid of all your cards first. If you run out of your playing cards, but still have your discard pile, you will have to continue playing without flipping cards until you can win a duel and get rid of those cards.
So this has a similar feel to Anomia, with enough differences that I happily own both. Although I love the quick thinking answers in Anomia, I love the losing your cards over element in this one. In this game, one person can almost win the game but make one bad move can put them behind, there’s a lot of unpredictability that keeps it interesting.