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Jabberwocky Kickstarter Preview

Quick Look: Jabberwocky

Designer: Peter C. Hayward
Artist: Tania Walker
Publisher: Jellybean Games
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 1-7
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 15-20 min.

From the publisher:

Jabberwocky is a unique set of cards you can use to play a variety of games. Try the 5 games in the rulebook, or come up with your own!
The games included in Jabberwocky are Bandersnatch, Borogroves, Gyre, Mimsy, and Slithy.

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of Jabberwocky. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.

Review: Jabberwocky

Overview and Theme:
I have loved "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll for as long as I can remember. My parents read the poem to me, friends translated it into German for a camp talent show, and now I have recited it with my own children and enjoyed its weaving into the modern movie versions of Alice in Wonderland. If you love the poem too, or the world and works of Lewis Carroll, you will be immediately drawn into the theme and artwork of Jabberwocky by Jellybean Games.

The idea behind Jabberwocky is that is is a microgame collection--a tiny deck of cards and some gems that can be used to play a whole variety of games. Five games are included with the box, but you're invited to create your own or find communities where folks have created new games with the same components.

Components and Setup:
Jabberwocky is a set of cards (1 through 5 in each of three colors and three special Jabberwocky cards) and a pile of gems (8 of each color). We also received player aid cards for five different games.

The artwork by Tania Walker is gorgeous and we especially loved the Jabberwocky cards themselves, as well as the gorgeous card backs (used for the box front as well). Remember, my copy was a prototype, so although the art is finalized, I didn't have a final rulebook or a box to share with you today!

Game Play and Mechanics:
What I love about Jabberwocky, and similar microgame collections, is that you have the ability to carry one game with a tiny footprint and use it for a variety of games to fit different situations and tastes.

The five games included in Jabberwocky are:
  • Bandersnatch - a solo puzzle game
  • Borogroves - a map-making game for 1-2 players
  • Gyre - an area control game for 2-3 players
  • Mimsy - a Mancala-style game for 2-3 players
  • Slithy - a negotiation game for 3-7 players
Each game has its own mechanics and interest, but it's likely that most groups--especially small groups--will find a favorite here.

Bandersnatch is a curious puzzle game that's different from other puzzles I have played. You will lay 9 of the cards out on the table in a 3x3 tableau, and spend your turns replacing a card in the field with one in your hand, resolving any actions that causes, and drawing a new card. The game will end when you cannot replace a card or when you run out of purple gems.

The key idea here is that replacing cards will add or remove gems. A card with gems on it is considered "busy" and cannot be replaced, but a card that is only adjacent to other busy cards is "broiled." If you broil a card with gems on it, you save those gems on the matching Jabberwocky card to score points at the end of the game (for green and yellow gems) or to lose points (with purple gems). Broiling an empty card removes it from the game and limits your options moving forward.

It takes a few plays to really get the hang of the strategy (and to remember what cards do without checking and re-checking the helpful chart or player aid), but there are great decisions to be made when you try to replace a card of the same or different color with a higher or lower number to be able to add or remove gems exactly where you want them, remembering that purple gems will be negative points. For a solitaire game, it has a good hook and kept me wanting to play again and again to better my score.

Borogroves is a map-making game, with one player placing the cards to make the map, and the other placing and moving the gems.

The player controlling the Borogroves (gems) needs to try to get a number of gems on each card equal to that card's printed number (1-5), at least one of them being a matching color to the card's color. The mapmaker tries to add cards (into what will become a 4x4 grid) in a way that makes it difficult for the Borogroves player to do so.

I found that the Borogroves player has the more interesting role, with more thoughtful decisions to make about Migrating (adding gems to the board), Exploring (moving gems from card to card), or Settling (removing gems from play)--there are, of course, specific rules about the way each of those things happens. Luckily, the way the game is set up has you record scores and then switch roles to play again, so each time you play, you get to experience both sides of the strategy. You can also choose to follow the solo rules, which let you play both roles at once to maximize your score.

Gyre was my personal favorite of all the games. It's an area control game for 2-3 players. The number cards form a 5x3 grid, and players are trying to be the first to flip their cards face down. A card is flipped face down at the end of any turn (not only your own) when it has gems of its color equal to or higher than the number on the card.

On each of your turns, you must move your color Jabberwocky card around the outside of the grid, unable to pass the other Jabberwocky cards (so sometimes your choices are limited). Once you have moved, you need to take an action:
  • Inhale: pull all gems of your color in your row/column one card towards you
  • Exhale: place all gems from your Jabberwocky card onto the grid, 1 per card, in a straight line
  • Resolve: check each card for control, which can remove gems from the grid
  • Fly: move your Jabberwocky to any space except the one you just left

The inhaling and exhaling actions seem to fit the idea of the Jabberwocky as a huge creature getting ready to pounce very well. The choices each player has and the end game goals were easy to remember, making this a good abstract game with quick-to-learn rules and deep strategy.

Mimsy is a Mancala-style game for 2-3 players in which you're trying to get five gems onto your secret goal card. On each turn, you'll choose a card with at least one gem, pick up all those gems, and drop them, one at a time, onto the next cards clockwise around the circle. If the last gem you dropped matches the color of any other gems on that card, pick up all those gems and continue clockwise, adding one gem per card.

If at the end of any player's turn, one of the goal cards (the number 4 in each of the three colors) has 5 or more gems, the game ends and the person who had that color as their secret goal is the winner.

For players of Mancala, Mimsy is both familiar and new, easy-to-learn and with interesting strategy.  It's a calming, meditative game that we enjoyed quite a bit.

Slithy is a negotiation game for 3-7 players. It's the only game in the current Jabberwocky library that plays more than 3 players, and we found it's better with higher player counts, and with players who are comfortable bargaining, bluffing, and reading signals.

In Slithy, you each take a turn as the dealer. The dealer will play one purple card face up and a yellow card face down. The players take time to talk together about how many gems they plan on playing, although lying is permitted, so no deals are final!

Once the discussion ends, each player reveals a number of gems simultaneously. If the total is lower than the total of the numbers on the two cards, each player may score points for the gems they revealed (up to the number on the purple card). If the total is equal or higher, the group busts and the dealer scores points for all their played gems.

The game ends once everyone has been the dealer, and the highest score wins.  A longer game can be played if each player deals twice.

The Good:
The Lewis Carroll theme and saturated, gorgeous art--in which Alice is a young girl of color, something that did not go unnoticed by my own gorgeous daughter--is an immediate draw for us.

We loved that there were a variety of games to try, and we each found our own favorite. I think Bandersnatch (the solo puzzle), Gyre (the inhale-exhale area control game), and Mimsy (the relaxing mancala style) were the winners among our family and friends.

The Bad:
I don't have anything bad to say about this collection of microgames! Slithy wasn't a huge hit here, but we also don't enjoy bluffing or social deduction games and that's probably why we didn't enjoy that variant either. I'm sure there will be plenty of groups who love playing that one, too.

Players Who Like:
Gamers who love Lewis Carroll will have much to admire here. Fans of multipurpose games (like Wibbell++ or Stonehenge) will enjoy being able to pick and choose from the microgames. Players who enjoy solo puzzles, tile-laying, area control, Mancala, or bluffing games will each find something to enjoy here.

Final Thoughts:
The art and the theme drew us in, and the variety and options of the microgames made us fans.  Jabberwocky is a beautiful, luscious set of components use for a range of interesting, intriguing microgames to cater to different player counts and gaming styles. We loved it!

Check out Jabberwocky on:


About the Author:

My name is Alexa: I'm a life-long game player and homeschooling mom to two awesome kids. I've loved board games since my early days playing Scrabble and Gin Rummy with my grandmother, and life only got more interesting when I married a Battletech enthusiast and fellow game lover. We've played games with our kids since they were small, and I helped start a thriving homeschool co-op where we have weekly sessions of board games with kids.  In a family with kids raised on Catan and Pandemic, life is sure to be fun! You may run into me on Twitter, BoardGameGeek, and other social media as MamaGames. Be sure to say hi!
Jabberwocky Kickstarter Preview Jabberwocky Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by MamaGames - Alexa C. on January 04, 2019 Rating: 5

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