When most people think of Jumanji they probably think of either the 1995 Robin Williams film or the more recent 2017 and 2019 films starring Dwayne Johnson. What people might be less familiar with is that Jumanji originally started as a book back in 1981. When I was a kid I remember seeing the ads for the original movie and thinking it sounded pretty interesting even though I ended up not seeing it until many years later. As a kid I always thought the movie was based on a board game because who would make a movie about a fictional board game. Well it turns out that it was actually a movie based on a book that featured a made up board game. With the entire movie being made about a board game it was not surprising at all that a board game was made to coincide with the movie. As the movie is based off of a mystical board game that brings the jungle to your living room it was obvious that some liberties were going to have to been made with the source material when the real board game was made. For this and the fact that it was a movie tie-in board game I can’t say that I had high expectations for the Jumanji board game. The Jumanji board game is clearly flawed and has quite a few issues, but it deserves some credit for being before its time in some interesting ways.
How to Play Jumanji
- Place the center piece into the gameboard. Place the gameboard into the center of the table.
- Shuffle the danger cards and place them facedown on the draw space of the gameboard.
- Each player chooses a pawn and places it on the corresponding start space.
- Place the rhino figure on the corresponding spot on the gameboard.
- Each player takes one of the rescue dice.
- The player who suggested playing the game will get to go first. This player will take the number die and the timer.
Playing the Game
A player will begin their turn by rolling the number die. They will then move their pawn towards the center of the gameboard the number of spaces that were rolled. The player will take an action based on the space that their pawn landed on. Players will only take the action from a space if they moved to that space due to their die roll. If a player is unable to move due to the rhino or rolling a number that would put them past the finish space, they will remain on their current space and take the corresponding action.
If a player ever lands on a space that is already occupied by another player, they will move their pawn to the next unoccupied space.
After a player takes their action play will pass to the next player clockwise (left). They will pass the player the number die and the timer.
When a player lands on a blank space jungle dangers will threaten them. The player will draw the top card from the danger pile. The card will be slid underneath the decoder. Each card will have two important pieces of information on them. The symbol in the top left corner is the secret symbol that the players will have to roll. The number in the top right corner determines how many spaces that the players may move.
The player who landed on the space will turn over the timer. The rest of the players (not including the player who landed on the space) will then start rolling their rescue die. Each player is trying to roll either the secret symbol from the card or the sand timer symbol. These players can keep rolling their die until time runs out. When the timer runs out one of two things will happen.
If all of the players successfully roll one of the correct symbols the player who landed on the space will be safe. All of the other players will get to move their pawns forward spaces equal to the number from the danger card. The danger card will be discarded.
If one or more of the players fail to roll an appropriate symbol, the player who landed on the space will have to move their pawn back spaces equal to the number on the danger card. All of the other players stay on their current space. The danger card is placed face up on one of the spaces on the Doomsday Grid.
Wait For 5 or 8 Spaces
When a player lands on this space they will pass the number die to the player on their left. This player will roll the die. If they roll a five or eight the current player will stay on their current space. If they roll another number they will pass the die to the player on their left. Players (not including the player who landed on the space) will continue to take turns rolling the die until someone rolls a five or an eight. The current player will then move their pawn back one space for each time the die was rolled. If the pawn reaches the start space it will stop there even if the pawn had to be moved back more spaces. None of the other players will move their pawns. Play will then continue with the player to the left of the player who landed on the Wait for 5 or 8 space.
When a player lands on these spaces all of the players are trapped in the jungle and will roll their rescue dice. The players will draw a danger card and place it in the decoder. The process to avoid the danger is the same as a blank space. The only difference is that all of the players have to roll one of the appropriate symbols before the timer runs out.
If all of the players successfully roll the right symbols they will move their pawns forward the number of spaces shown on the card. The danger card will be discarded.
If one or more of the players fail to roll the right symbol the danger card is placed on an empty Doomsday Grid space. Another danger card is drawn and players try to complete that card in time. Players will keep drawing cards until they successfully complete one of them.
When a player lands on the rhino space they have the option to move the rhino pawn. The player can move the rhino pawn one space in front of any of the player pawns (except onto the center space). The rhino will restrict the movement of the players stuck behind it. The rhino can only be moved when another player lands on a rhino space and moves it to a different space. The only way to move past the rhino is to roll an even number. When a player rolls an even number they will move past the rhino and the rhino will be returned to its start space.
If the player rolls an odd number they won’t move their pawn and will have to take the action of their current space.
If the player that the rhino is blocking ever has to move back spaces, the rhino will follow the player to remain one space in front of them.
End of Game
In order to win the game a player has to reach the final space by exact count. They can reach the final space by either rolling the correct number on the die or by moving after helping out on a danger card. If a player has to move more spaces than the number of spaces remaining, they won’t be able to move their pawn any spaces. When a player lands on the final space they will yell out Jumanji which will make them the winner. If multiple people land on the finish space at the same time, the first player to yell out Jumanji wins the game.
Throughout the game you will be adding danger cards to the Doomsday Grid. If all of the spaces on the grid are filled with cards all of the players will lose the game. The players will then have to play another game until someone wins.
If you want to add some additional challenge to the game you can begin the game with 1-6 cards already on the Doomsday Grid.
If you are playing with only two players you can choose to not let the hourglass count as a wild when rolling for danger cards.
My Thoughts on Jumanji
Heading into the Jumanji board game I was really curious about what it was going to end up being. There was no way that a physical board game was going to be able to recreate the movie in any reasonable way especially since the lawsuits alone would have bankrupted Milton Bradley. So how do you adapt an action packed jungle adventure into a board game? Well obviously you make it a roll and move game. The game in the movie mostly relies on roll and move mechanics outside of avoiding the near death experiences so this made sense as the game tried to recreate what was seen in the movie. The problem is that a large majority of the game is a very basic roll and move game. Most of the gameplay revolves around rolling the die, moving your pawn around the gameboard, and taking actions based on the space that your pawn landed on. The players are ultimately trying to be the first player to get their pawn to the finish space. In this area Jumanji does nothing different than any other roll and move game.
On the positive side this makes the game pretty easy to learn and play. Basically all you have to teach new players is what each unique space does. None of these actions are particularly confusing as the mechanics in the game are pretty simple. This makes sense as the game was designed for families. With how simple the game is I don’t know why it has a recommended age of 8+. Younger children may need some help reading some of the cards and may need a little help here or there, but I don’t see why children as young as six or so shouldn’t be able to play the game. The game also plays pretty quickly as I would guess that most games should only take around twenty to thirty minutes to complete.
On the negative side the lack of originality leads to the game being pretty boring. Like most roll and move games Jumanji is not all that exciting. You roll a die, move your pawn, and take an action based on the space that you landed on. This gets repetitive pretty quickly especially for adults. I could see the game being fun for younger children, but it becomes boring pretty quickly for adults. I think this comes from a couple different things.
First the game relies almost entirely on luck. Outside of messing with the other players in the cooperative sections, which I will get to shortly, there are no decisions to make in the game. You have to do whatever corresponds to the space that you landed on. Thus whoever rolls the best and gets the most help from the other players is going to win the game. This isn’t helped by the fact that you have to reach the final space by exact count. I hate when games force you to roll the exact right number to reach the final space as all it does it make the game take longer than it should while also relying on more luck.
The other problem is that there isn’t much variety in the game. There are only four different types of spaces in the game so you will be taking the same actions over and over again. This gets repetitive rather quickly. I wouldn’t expect a ton of different actions, but a couple more wouldn’t have hurt. It would have added a little more variety to the game so you didn’t have to do the same things over and over again.
Normally I would hate Jumanji due to its lack of originality and the fact that it is mostly just a very bland roll and move game. The game is clearly flawed, but I have to give it some credit as it was before its time in a couple areas. While somewhat common today there weren’t a lot of cooperative mechanics in board games back in 1995. Outside of the roll and move mechanics this is one of the main mechanics in the game. Players will regularly land on one of the spaces that trigger a danger card. When this happens the players will have to roll one of two symbols before the players run out of time. If all of the players roll the symbol in time the players save the player that landed on the space and they get to move forward as a reward for helping out. If they fail a card is added to the Doomsday Grid.
This introduces another unique mechanic for the era. While present in quite a few games today, there were very few games back in the 1995 that had a mechanic where all of the players could lose. I think the game deserves a lot of credit for actually trying to add some interesting new mechanics for its time into a game that was mostly made in order to cash in on the movie. Based on our experience I don’t see all of the players losing often (except for really stubborn players), but it actually somewhat helps prevent a potentially huge problem with this cooperative mechanic that I will get to shortly.
In a lot of ways I liked this cooperative mechanic. The cooperative mechanic is basically a very simple speed dice game where players try to roll their dice as quickly as possible to get a specific symbol. This gameplay is far from deep, but I have always liked these type of mechanics. It might not seem that hard to roll one of two symbols on an eight sided dice. The game doesn’t give you a lot of time though as the timer is only around ten seconds long. Therefore players have to frantically roll the dice as quickly as possible to try to roll the symbols in time. I thought this was pretty fun.
While the game deserves credit for trying something original (for its time) that is also kind of fun, it feels like this mechanic wasn’t fully playtested. I bring this up because there is a serious flaw in the game for players that are really stubborn and refuse to lose. Early in the game there is a good reason for players to try and help one another because they personally benefit if they succeed at helping out. As you approach the end of the game though there are less reasons to help out. If another player will be able to win if a rescue is successful there is no reason for the other players to even attempt the rescue. The other players could just refuse to roll their dice, roll it really slowly, or re-roll a die that landed on the correct symbol. This will bring everyone closer to losing the game due to the Doomsday Grid, but why would a player want to help another player win. To prevent this you basically have to put in some house rules regarding how many times you have to roll your die and also prevent players from re-rolling dice that landed on a correct symbol. If you don’t put these rules in place a really stubborn player can basically force the other players into either letting them win or having all of the players lose.
As for the components I would say that they are a little hit or miss. This is based on the 1995 Milton Bradley version of the game. I believe the 2017 Cardinal release of the game should be mostly the same outside some of the components maybe being a little different. A lot of the pieces are pretty typical of what you would expect from a 1990s Milton Bradley game. The gameboard is quite large as it is about twice as big as your typical gameboard. The dice are sturdy but they use stickers instead of being engraved with the different symbols. The game’s artwork is not bad. Outside of adding to the theme I don’t know why the game had to utilize the red decoder as it just makes the cards harder to read. Basically the components serve their purpose but don’t do much else.
Should You Buy Jumanji?
Ultimately there are things that I liked about the Jumanji board game, but it is also quite flawed. It is mostly a generic roll and move game. Outside of the theme the movie doesn’t share much in common with the movie. The gameplay is easy and quick to play which should appeal to children, but it becomes repetitive pretty quickly for adults. I do have to give the game some credit though. For its time the inclusion of a cooperative mechanic and a mechanic where all of the players can lose is actually pretty original. The mechanic of rolling the dice as quickly as possible to get a specific symbol is pretty fun as well. The problem is that you have to set ground rules or stubborn players will actively refuse to help another player win the game. At the end of the day Jumanji did some interesting things, but it still feels like it was made as a cheap tie-in in order to make money off of fans of the movie.
People who don’t have younger children or don’t like basic roll and move games probably won’t like Jumanji. If you are a fan of the movie though and don’t mind a sometimes flawed experience you could have some fun with the game. If you can get a really good deal on the game it may be worth checking out.