Life has had its ups and downs over the past few years, with a number of particularly painful downs. But every once in a while, something really lovely happens that reminds me that the world still has some surprises and joys in it, if one knows where to look!
So as folks who follow my blog are probably aware, I’ve been doing a long dive into old school Dungeons & Dragons products and the early history of role-playing games; here’s my last post on the subject, for those who have missed them!
In my recent explorations, I came across a game I hadn’t heard of before: Jasmine: The Battle for the Mid-Realm Collector Card Game. The game came out in 1982, created by the artist Darlene and based on her illustrated adventure The Story of Jasmine which appeared in Dragon Magazine (back then known as The Dragon) from issue #37 to #48. Issue #37, which appeared in May 1980, in fact featured cover art of Jasmine by Darlene, as shown below!
I was intrigued by the description of the card game on Wikipedia, and was curious to see if I could track down a copy of the game. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Darlene is still selling signed copies of the limited edition printing from 1982 on her website!
Of course, I ordered a copy as quickly as I could. I have number 1532 of 2000!
So I want to talk a bit about the game itself, but first let me share the delightful part: it turns out that Darlene lives not terribly far away from me, and noticed this when she was shipping the game. She graciously offered to come personally teach me and my friends how to play! My roommate Sarah and I met Darlene yesterday to have lunch and learn the game, and it was a great time. I took a few photos to commemorate the occasion, which I will share near the end of the post.
Jasmine: The Battle for the Mid-Realm Collector Card Game (JBMR for short here) came out in 1982, when most people probably still considered Monopoly to be the state of the art in tabletop gaming and years before board games like Settlers of Cataan and a slew of collectible card games would change the gaming landscape forever. Nevertheless, JBMR feels right at home in the modern gaming landscape, with rules that are easy to learn, possess significant depth of strategy and, most importantly, are fun to play.
The game can be played with 2-4 players, each of whom controls one faction from the Jasmine story. Each faction is unique, with its own leaders, troops, and strengths, making the choice of faction important for one’s play strategy. Overall, the goal of the game is to either completely destroy the enemy factions — killing or capturing all their forces — or collect three magic items from the deck in one’s castle.
Each faction has a castle, and a set of beautiful cards that represent the forces for that faction. A sample is shown below.
On the right, we have a castle card, representing the home of that faction. In the center, we have a leader of one faction, and on the left, we have a card representing the forces for a faction. The numbers at the upper left of the card represent the strength of that force in attack/defense; for forces with two numbers, they only get to use the higher number if they are fighting with a leader that matches them (the symbols in the top middle of the cards). Therefore, one has to choose with care which leaders are paired with which forces.
At the beginning of the game, forces can be divided, as desired, into the home defenders and the battlefield troops, and on their turn, a player can rearrange as needed. This rearrangement is important: at the beginning of the game, the castle cannot be directly attacked, but an event card in the draw deck triggers the beginning of castle attacks. I was caught off guard in my first play, having taken forces out of the castle to bolster my weakening battlefield contingent, only to unexpectedly have the castle become vulnerable!
Players constantly have a hand of seven event cards, and on their turns, they may play one of their cards for attacks, or to trigger special events. A sampling is shown below.
There are some special attack cards, like “AMBUSH,” that allow one to play dirty tricks on opponents. AMBUSH allows the kidnapping of an enemy leader, provided the enemy doesn’t have a counter to it, like the MAGICAL FORCES card. ATTACK cards are used to launch attacks, obviously, and the number after it indicates how many force members may be used for the attack. There are comparable DEFENSE cards that must be used for defense. In a 2 or 3-player game, POLITICS cards allow one to attack or defend using a different faction, saving your own forces. And the final card shown there is one of the magical items, which can be held in the castle for a victory condition or used in combat.
There are many, many more varieties of event cards, that allow various strategies, but I don’t want to give them all away!
Overall, JBMR is a delightfully fast-paced and easy to learn game with a great depth of strategy. As I was learning to play, new approaches came to mind — too late, as it turns out, as Sarah decimated my forces and left me struggling for most of the game!
We had a great time learning how to play Jasmine: The Battle for the Mid-Realm Collector Card Game from Darlene! I took a few photos at our lunch with Darlene to commemorate the occasion, and I share them at the end of the post. Before concluding, however, let me note that Darlene is actively writing Jasmine adventures again! You can find the link to her Patreon below, and I encourage everyone to check it out. I’m really excited to see how she takes the adventures of Jasmine forward.
Furthermore, as I already noted, Darlene still has copies of JBMR available for purchase; you can get them at the link below. (I’m planning to get myself at least one more copy in the near future, so I have a play copy and a collector copy.)
Before concluding, let me note that Darlene has had a big influence on the art of Dungeons & Dragons. The TSR “face” logo, which was used in the early 1980s, was created by Darlene.
Furthermore — and this makes me really happy — Darlene was the artist who created the original 1980 Greyhawk map of the Flanaess that first appeared in the 1980 Greyhawk folio, shown below.
It turns out that I still have two copies of that wonderful Greyhawk map, so if we meet up again, I’m hoping I can get Darlene to sign one of them!