Review: Jungle Speed Safari

memorable injuries, fractured fingers & french frottage, hot potatoes, hotter brains
Quinns: What I love most about Jungle Speed Safari is your friends’ fear when you set it up. If there’s a rule the manual’s missing, it’s that you’ve got to play this up. “OK,” you announce, dealing out the game’s cards. “If you’re wearing rings, take them off. It’s impossible to get blood out of cards.”

“Funny joke,” says one of your friends. “That was a joke, right?”

“What?” you say, and then: “Can everybody see something purple in this room?”

Your friends look around, assess the room, their chairs. They start to panic. “What do you mean?” someone says. “What are the wooden things in the middle of the table? And what do these pictures on the cards mean? WHAT ARE WE PLAYING?”

“Shhh,” you say, pressing a finger to their lips. “Don’t be scared. It’ll all be over soon.”

The original Jungle Speed (seen below) was released in 1997, making it older than Brendan and technically his boss in the SU&SD hierarchy, but it’s still one of our favourite games. It travels from its rules explanation through to people laughing with absolutely breakneck speed. Though it’s not your neck you should be worried about.

Review: Jungle Speed Safari

In Jungle Speed a central totem is placed in the middle of the table, and everybody has a stack of cards. On your turn, you flip a card off the top of your deck, and if the shape matches a shape at the top of someone else’s stack, you and that player only have to race to grab the totem with the very real risk of your hands colliding to the sound of snapping breadsticks.

Special cards in Jungle Speed see all players flipping over a card at the same time, everybody changing from matching shapes to matching colours, or just everybody trying to snatch the totem at once. CRUNCH. If you fail to grab the totem in a race, you take the other player’s stack of flipped-over cards, and the first player to empty their stack wins.

Which is a pretty fun idea for a game! Though lurking in the giggling spirit of Jungle Speed are just two more rules. (A) The cards look similar enough to make you hesitate, but different enough that you’re immediately aware of your mistake the instant you make it, and (B) if you so much as brush the totem with your hand when it’s not time, you pick up EVERYONE’S cards.

Et voilá, as they say in France, Jungle Speed’s somehow unsurprising country of origin. You’ve got a game where players can’t breathe for the terrible tension, and expel what little is left in their lungs screaming and laughing like toddlers. Play it as a drinking game, or as this YouTube video shows, with the totem in the next room, and you’ve got a great evening full of memorable injuries.

(It kicks off at about 45 seconds in.)

So imagine my excitement (no really, imagine it, imagine holding it, it is spiny and warm and pulses gently) when Asmodee announced JUNGLE SPEED SAFARI! This is a brand-new Jungle Speed spinoff with five totems that supposedly offers a whole new way to play. And with any luck, an even higher risk of a player hurting themselves and losing the game in the same panicked spasm.

The original Jungle Speed’s shape matching is gone, and in its place are four different minigames. Let’s get our bullet points out in an effort to organise this shambles.

Review: Jungle Speed Safari

  • If it’s a blue animal, you have to snatch the totem depicting the food that animal eats, with the twist that bananas are printed on top of the green totem, and so on.
  • If it’s a red, angry animal card, the last player to impersonate that animal loses.
  • If it’s a chameleon, players have to touch the totem the colour of the chameleon, or, in a superior varient, touch an item of that colour outside the game.
  • If it’s a hunter, the last player to cover their cards with their hands loses.

Doesn’t that sound kinda fun? That’s what I thought! I’ve now played Jungle Speed Safari four times with ten different people, I can safely say… I like it a heck of a lot less than the original game.

The beauty of the original Jungle Speed is that it lets you sit with your friends in a shared sweat lodge of adrenaline. You’re all playing the same game, enjoying the same game, from the instant someone flips over a card, through to the round’s dramatic finish. With Safari, the game begins the instant someone flips over a card, and only ever lasts a couple of seconds. You spend more time passing cards around and mentally preparing yourself for the next lightning-fast round than you do playing, and the game’s slowed down still further by the lack of an adjudicator for who was “last” at a particular challenge.

Jungle Speed Safari feels like a novelty, something to take off the shelf and laugh at, then pack away just as quickly, compared to the holy terror that is the original game. Which I still think is a fantastic purchase.

Lights dim, dry ice billows out from the stage entrance

Announcer: A NEW CHALLENGER APPROACHES…

Quinns: Impossible !!

Announcer: DOBBLE HAS ENTERED THE ARENA

Review: Jungle Speed Safari

Quinns: Oh right! You should know about this one, too. Dobble, or “Spot It” in America, is another release from Asmodee along the lines of Jungle Speed- quick, funny and entirely horrific. But where Jungle Speed smilingly offers physical pain, Dobble offers astonishing mental trauma.

Dobble is a set of cards that each share one picture. Pick any two cards in the above image, see how long it takes you to find the image they share.

And with these cards that cause the mental equivalent of constipation, you’re expected to play games like… well, let’s show you the rules for Hot Potato. Dobble’s cruelest, and therefore best game.

Review: Jungle Speed Safari

You can click on the image to enlarge it, but basically, players all flip their cards at once and slip their card on top of someone else’s when they can see & shout the name of the matching item. Of course, this temporarily disrupts that person, who’d probably just finished learning his card, and hopefully leads to a hilarious sequence of people piling their cards on top of his while shouting words like “GHOST!” and “STOP SIGN!” with that player unable to get momentum back.

In other words, Dobble’s a lot of fun. If you want to see some of your smartest friends reduced to swearing for seconds on end because their brain’s so clogged with anchors and dragons that they can’t think anymore, it’s absolutely worth the price of entry.

But for me, it’s still no Jungle Speed. Have you played Jungle Speed with me yet? C’mon. I’ll let you wear your rings.