Our step-by-step guide to the rules of how to play Jamaica board game. This is a racing game that leans into the pirate theme incredibly well. Sure you are moving along a track, which is kind of an old school idea, but you have lots of strategic choices to make and you need to make sure you have enough resources to get you there while also keeping an eye out for attacks from other players. The game is for 2 – 6 players at ages 8+. The rules for how to play Jamaica are incredibly easy to pick up, it is making it around the board in one piece that gets a bit tricky.
FOR MORE: Jamaica Page | Games Like Jamaica | Buy Jamaica on Amazon
HOW TO PLAY JAMAICA – WHAT IS IT?
In February 1678, after a long career of piracy, Henry Morgan cleverly manages to get himself named Governer of Jamaica, charged with driving out pirates and buccaneers! Rather than doing that, he invites all his former “associates” and brother-in-arms to settle there, where they are able to finally enjoy the fruits of their activities with total impunity. 30 years later, the Great Challenge is organized to celebrate his nomination in true style: a race around the island, at the end of which the winning team is the one having amassed the greatest quantity of gold in its holds. All aboard!
HOW TO PLAY JAMAICA – STEP BY STEP
Time Needed: Approximately 30 – 60 minutes.
This is a step by step guide for how to play Jamaica the popular move and race board game. Additional notions and special rules can be found below the list. These will be referenced for your convenience.
1. SETUP | Select Treasure Cards
To kick off how to play Jamaica set up, put out the gameboard. Place it in the center of the table for all to access.
2. SETUP | Select Treasure Cards
Randomly select 9 of the 12 treasure cards, shuffle them and place them in a facedown pile on the right side of the navigation box. Put the remaining three cards back in the game box without looking at them.
3. SETUP | Place Combat Die In Fortress
Take the numbered 6-sided die with the explosion symbol in the circle in the middle of the gameboard in the circle (the fortress).
4. SETUP | Give Out Player Ships
Each player takes a colored ship to be their marker. Each player puts their ship on the space marked “port royal”. This is the starting space.
5. SETUP | Put Out Tokens
In a central location, put out separate piles for the doubloons (coins), Food (various fruits) and Gunpowder (canons) tokens.
6. SETUP | Add Treasure Tokens To Board
There are 9 “pirate lair” symbols around the game board. These look like rocks in the shape of the skull. Place the 9 treasure tokens on each of these spaces.
7. SETUP | Put Out Treasure Card Deck
There is a deck space in the center of the board. This is for the treasure cards which have a “?” on the back of them. These are what you draw every time you get one of the aforementioned treasure tokens. These can be bad or good.
8. SETUP | Give Out Player Boards
Each player gets a hold player board. These represent the five different hold of the ship and will ultimately be where you place various tokens you collect.
9. SETUP | Give Out Colored Action Cards
Give each player a set of the action cards that match the color of their ship. These are placed in front of each player above their hold board. Leave a space next to where the action cards are. This is where your discards will go.
10. SETUP | Give Out Started Tokens
Each player gets 3x food tokens and 3x doubloon tokens Put these in two of the holds on the individual player boards.
11. SETUP | Draw Three Action Cards
Each player draws three cards from their action deck. They should hold them fanned out vertically so the top side of each card can be seen fully. This is what shows the action on each particular card.
12. SETUP | Choose Starting Player
The final step to how to play Jamaica setup before getting into gameplay is to determine a starting player. Use your randomizer of choice to decide. Give that player the compass token and the 2 six-sided action dice. This is the “captain”.
13. GAMEPLAY | Roll Dice & Assign
The Captain rolls the two six-sided dice. They then put them in the middle area to assign them. There are two spots in the middle of a compass thing. The left one is the daytime action and the right one is the night time action. These have to do with the action cards, the action of the left of the card is the day time action and the one on the right is for the nighttime. Every player will use these dice and an action but the captain gets to choose based on what is going to best suit them.
14. GAMEPLAY | Players Choose An Action Card
Of the three cards in everyone’s hand, each player chooses one to use for the round and discards the other two to their discard pile.
15. GAMEPLAY | Action Cards Happen
Starting with the captain and then moving to each player clockwise, the actions on the cards take place. First the daytime action and then the nighttime. These happen one at a time so if there is anything triggered, that needs to be resolved before you move on to the next action. Arrows mean move (green for forward and red for back) and a token symbol means you collect that many tokens. These all equal the number on the die assigned to that action.
16. GAMEPLAY | Paying A Toll
If you land on a space and it has a doubloon or food symbol with a number, that means you need to pay that amount of that token for the right to stay there. If you have enough, you move it out of your hold back to the pile and you are good. If you do not have enough, you still need to pay all that you have, but then you move back a space until you are able to satisfy the toll. So if you move back one and hit another toll you can’t pay, you move back again and so on.
17. GAMEPLAY | Filling your Hold
Any time you collect a resource, you need to put it in a new space in your hold. You do not put like tokens together, each must be put in their own space. When you pay they can come from multiple spots but collecting always goes in a new one. This is important because once you fill your five hold spots you cannot collect any new resources without first choosing to empty one of your filled spots. These go back to the piles.
18. GAMEPLAY | Collecting Treasure
If you end on a space that has a treasure token. You take that token off and collect a card from the treasure deck. This could be getting resources, a cool power to use or it could be something bad like a curse. Powers are placed face up but everything else is placed face down next to their hold (because they modify your end score).
19. GAMEPLAY | Battle
When two players end on the same spot, they fight. Each player will roll the combat die (the one in the center with the explosion symbol). Whoever has the higher number of the two wins the fight. The person that landed there second is the attacker and rolls first, the defender rolls second. If either player rolls the explosion, they win the fight automatically right away. *The battle takes place before a player pays any tolls costs to be there.
20. GAMEPLAY | Battle | Adding Cannons
Before a battle begins, either player may choose to add any number of cannon tokens. Each one will add one to their roll total. The attacker decides first and then the defender.
21. GAMEPLAY | Battle | Rewards
The winner of the battle can choose one of three rewards (1) Steal the contents of any one of the loser’s holds, (2) Steal a treasure card from the loser or (3) Give a cursed treasure card to the loser.
22. GAMEPLAY | Pass & Repeat
Once all the actions of all players have been resolved. The round is over. The Captain token is passed to the player on the left, everyone draws three new action cards and you all do it all over again. This continues until the game ends.
23. GAME END | Someone Crosses The “Port Royale” Space
Once a player has made one full loop around the board, this triggers the end of the game. The round is finished as normal and then that is it. This player does not necessarily win the game, but they do get higher points for being further along. Move to scoring to decide the winner.
24. SCORING | White Number on Space
You get points equal to the white number in the top corner of the space your ship currently sits on. The further along you are, the higher that number will be.
25. SCORING | Doubloons
You get 1 point for every doubloon token in your hold.
26. SCORING | Treasure Cards
You get positive points (treasure) and negative points (curses) for all of the treasure cards that you have collected or been forced to acquire, throughout the game.
27. WINNING | High Score Wins
After scoring everything, the player with the highest point total wins. As you can see, the rules for how to play Jamaica are very straightforward.
HOW TO PLAY JAMAICA – KEY INFORMATION
The black ship becomes the Ghost Ship. It is placed in “Port Royal” along with those of the two players. A board with five holds is assigned to it. Place 5 doubloons on one of its holds and 3 doubloons on another. Remove the “Lady Beth” card from the treasure cards and place it next to its holds. The Ghost Ship thus adds +2 to its combat rolls. This card can never be stolen.
The Game Round remains the same except for “actions”. The Captain carries out their two actions, then their opponent does the same, then the Captain moves the Ghost Ship. They move the ship twice each round. The number of spaces moved is determined by the action dice as usual. The Ghost Ship never pays any movement costs. The direction in which the ship moves is sem-automatic: Before each movement their are three possibilities – (1) If leading, it moves backwards, (2) if in last, it must move forward or (3) If neither, the captain decides the direction.
If its movement ends on a treasure space, the ghost ship takes any treasure that is there. This is left face down so no one knows what it is and players can go after it by attacking the ghost ship.
Battles are fought normally. Whoever controls the ghost ship gets to decide what is taken in the result of a win, but anything grabbed gets thrown into the sea and is gone forever. If it loses, the winner can take anything as normal except the Lady Beth treasure card
Some treasures are actually special powers. These are flipped up immediately and enhance play for that player throughout the game. These can be stolen in a battle like any other treasure cards.
Morgan’s Map – That player can have 4 action cards instead of 3
Sarah’s Saber – Allows that player to re-roll their own combat die or to make their opponent re-roll their’s.
Lady Beth – Add 2 points to the combat roll.
6th Hold – This Card acts as a 6th hold position with all the usual rules applying.
- 1x Gameboard
- 66x Action Cards
- 80x Gold Doubloons
- 45x Food Tokens
- 45x Gunpowder Tokens
- 9x Treasure Tokens
- 12x Treasure Cards
- 1x Compass
- 2x Action Dice
- 1x Combat Die
- 6x Ships
- 6x Ship Hold Boards
HOW TO PLAY JAMAICA – IN CLOSING
We hope you can now say you know how to play Jamaica. This is a very fun and straightforward racing game that uses the pirate theme well. Moving along a track is an older concept that is not used to much in the modern age of board games, but this title manages to add lots of strategies to keep games interesting and always exciting. Learning the rules for how to play Jamaica is incredibly easy so this is certainly something that can be for any kind of player out there.