The game: Jungle Rumble by Eros Lin, Nightsorrow Chou and Zeldaaa Ling, published by ErosGames in 2013.
Elevator pitch: Puerto Rico action selection meets Agricola farming and feeding in a small box with cute kittens.
What’s in the box? The small box is packed with field tiles, kitten tiles, action tiles, cardboard food tokens and wooden bits for water ways, stores and gold. The components are quite decent for such a small game, and the artwork is cute and idiosyncratic. The box is just the right size – except for the English player aids, which don’t fit in the box without folding.
What do you do in the game? Expand your kitten tribe, feed the cats by collecting food and building and irrigating fields and score points by selling food and gold to shopkeepers. These are the main point sources. The game plays like Puerto Rico: there are five action roles available (collect gold, build fields, build water ways, collect food, recruit new workers), and you choose one. The active player gets to do the action several times by flipping worker tiles to sleepy side. The other players can follow and do the action once, or rest: collect one food or wake one worker.
Once a round is over, the unselected roles get a food token, and the starting player passes to the next player. The workers are an interesting twist: they tire, and need sleep after working. If you use all your workers, you won’t be able to leech from other players roles. Also, waking up the kittens costs food: one is free, more costs food.
You also need to feed your cats: two food per kitten. Initially this is a restriction, but it’s easy to build enough fields and water ways to provide enough food for your tribe. This feeding mechanism brings to mind Agricola, but is not nearly as strict.
Lucky or skillful? There are no random elements in the game, just chaos from player actions. An experienced player should be able to win almost always.
Abstract or thematic? The kittens are certainly cute. The farming theme is fun, but not particularly deep. It works, though.
Solitaire or interactive? There’s no direct conflict between players, but as in Puerto Rico and other similar games, best players will consider what actions other players need and want.
Players: 2–4. More is merrier. The two-player game doesn’t shine. The turns go A-B / B-A / A-B, when A-B-A / B-A-B / A-B-A would probably be better.
Who can play? Official age recommendation is 12+, but my 8-year-old son (who plays Agricola) could handle this just fine. For me, Jungle Rumble is probably mostly a family game or a filler for gamers. The game isn’t particularly deep.
Length: This is a quick game, 30 minutes or so, even with four players.
What’s to like: Cute kittens; Quick, compact gameplay; Compact box; Familiar, well-tested game mechanisms.
What’s not to like: Slightly confusing rules; Narrow decision tree.
My verdict: Jungle Rumble was recommended to me as a fun little filler that scratches the same itch as Agricola, just in a lot more compact form. To me the Puerto Rico comparison is even more significant. The game is cute and fun, but seems a perhaps a bit simple: a large part of the fun in Agricola is the wealth of possibilities and variety of actions. Jungle Rumble doesn’t have quite that wealth.
However, the game packs a decent amount of interesting play in a small box and a short timeframe: growing the fields to support a large tribe, getting the gold to create that tribe and making sure your shopkeepers get as much gold as possible are an interesting challenge. I’m not sure if the game is a keeper for the long run, but I’m quite sure I’ll get enough play out of this game in order to justify the purchase.
On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Jungle Rumble gets Suggest.