Jump Drive is a 2-4 player, tableau building card game that takes about 20 minutes to play and costs £23. Designed by Tom Lehmann. Published by Rio Grande Games.
Overview and theme (backstory).
This game is based in the same universe as the highly successful board games Race and Roll for the Galaxy. It has a very similar look to both of them. The artwork overlaps. If you are familiar with one game the look and iconography is exactly the same and therefore easy to pick-up.
The story is you are building an empire in the stars. The best one (the player with the most victory points) wins. To do this you need to acquire planets and developments (think of them as technologies that give you bonuses when you build them). Both of them will earn you victory points and/or money to keep your tableau/empire (game engine) oiled and moving. The first player/s to 50 VP or more at the end of a round triggers the end of the game. Everyone adds up their points and the person with the most VP wins.
Everything about this game is fast including the set-up. Put a few tokens and cards out in the middle, shuffle the deck and deal 7 to each player. Put the deck face down and that is it. You can use pre-set decks. I have never used them even with new players.
To play the game players place either one or two cards face down on the table. Everyone then reveals their cards at the same time and pays the cost of development or buying the planet by discarding the appropriate number of cards from their hands. If you do not have enough cards, you cannot play/build them. Once built, some will start scoring you points and/or earning you cash (allowing you to draw cards at the end of the round). There are some neat combos too. You want to utilise these if you want to win. There are a small number of rules regarding the playing of the cards and these are simple to learn. There are also worlds that can only be conquered with military might before they can be added to your empire. You can expect to play between 6-7 rounds before the game ends. It is that quick. It starts slowly and soon ramps up. Blink and it is all over.
I have played and own Roll for the Galaxy, but not Race. It took me a few games to grasp how Roll worked. Jump Drive is the exact opposite. It is easy and a good introduction to playing the bigger games. It will familiarise players with the concepts and iconography. The game is so fast, you can use the first game to teach it and the second one is played in earnest. Whilst the deck and discard pile take up very little room, each players tableau can tend to spread out a bit.
Jump drive is pretty much a group solitaire game. What you are building does not directly affect the other players. There are a few cards that enable you to score more points off your opponent’s empire, but it does not penalise them. This would appeal to people who do not like confrontation in a game. You do not have to always keep an eye on their progress, so you can focus on your own. The only criticism is just as your engine is starting to work, the game ends. You could play to a set number of rounds rather than a points threshold. The game will cause you to make some tough decisions e.g. you want to keep a card for later, but you have to use it to pay the cost to build something in this round. Do you sacrifice it or build something cheaper? I like games that throw up the odd difficult decision yet are simple to play and learn.
The artwork is fine and consistent.
The iconography is clean but not always intuitive, but you soon learn what it means. There are not that many in the game.
The double-side player aid is helpful to explain how a round works.
The playing card stock is okay, a little thin, but it has a linen finish.
The tokens are decent cardboard.
The game is portable.
The rules leaflet is clear and it well laid out.
If you want a quick and easy to learn game that has no nastiness to it then Jump Drive is right for you. It is the perfect introduction to Roll/Race for the galaxy, but it holds its own even if never play the far complex big brothers. For a fast and simple game, there are many paths to victory and a decent amount of tough decision making involved.
Overall Score – 7/10