I was recently reminded by a reader that I had once promised to try the combination of Rüdiger Dorn’s games Asante and Jambo as one game. I indicated that I had read that others had done so to good effect, and I lacked only to get to know the games individually before diving in. As I mentioned at that time, there are very few differences between the two games, though I find that there’s a slightly less aggressive feel to Asante. This kind of appeals to me, because when my husband and I play two-player games, we aren’t super competitive. Mechanically, the key differences are that Jambo has its Small Markets, which allow for a longer strategy, while Asante has Holy Places, which give help on a one-time basis that can nonetheless come at a key time.
So today, as promised, I dove. I sleeved the Jambo cards, to be able to separate them after, which turned out to be unnecessary, as the Asante cards have markers on them to differentiate them. The Persons (People in Jambo) and Animals have necklaces on the statues that frame the card art, the Wares have gems at the top center of the card, and the Artifacts (Utilities in Jambo) have bunches of what looks like holly in the corners. Clever designer! I should note that I didn’t take any cards out for this play; I just combined and shuffled.
All in all, Asante/Jambo is essentially the sum of its parts. You do get both the Small Markets and the Holy Places, but that doesn’t change the balance of the game, nor the level of tension. The difference in tone that I remarked upon having played each game separately didn’t really come through in the combined game. We played it through twice, and enjoyed both games (in spite of the fact that my husband won both games), and there it is kind of nice that you have plenty of cards and never have to reshuffle. On the other hand, sometimes cards get used or otherwise discarded and you really want them to come back around. I’m not sure we’d feel the need to play them together again. The combination just isn’t appreciably better than either game alone, in my opinion.
I’m still jonesing to get those Jambo expansions, not only because I’m a completionist, but because I’d just like to see what they add to or change about the game. A reprint seems unlikely, and I don’t want to pay more for the expansion than I paid for the game, so I imagine I’ll just have to read about it.