1st impression, Jixia Academy

In this first impression I must impress upon you the importance of impressing the impressive scholars as impressionable students.

My partner and I played Jixia Academy for the first time over the weekend. It is a quick little 2P game where you have to get the majority of cards for four out of seven (or 11 points worth) of the scholars in the game.

Seven central cards are the scholars, little tokens (ancient Chinese coins) represent who they are currently supporting, cards either side are what you collect each round.

The game is divided into rounds, each round you each get 6 cards which correspond to the scholars. There are 21 cards total, each scholar having the number of cards matching their points value (if a scholar is worth 2 points there are two of that scholar's card). One card is removed randomly from the deck so you can never have complete information. On your turn you draw a card and then use one of four abilities:

  1. Place one card face down, it will be revealed and added to your side at the end of the round.
  2. Discard two cards from the game for this round.
  3. Reveal three cards, you opponent takes one and then you take the other two.
  4. Reveal four cards in two groups of two (you decide the groups), your opponent takes one pair and then you get the other.

You use each ability exactly once, so you get four actions per round. There are handy tokens that you flip to remind you what you have already done.

At the end of each round each player will have 10 cards split between the seven scholars, if you have a majority of cards for a scholar their support switches to you (or stays with you if you had them from the previous round). If there is a tie the scholar stays supporting whoever they are currently supporting. If anyone meets the win conditions the game is over, otherwise all the cards are collected up and you go again until someone wins.

The nature of your opponent choosing first makes the decision which cards to reveal, and when, really interesting. You want as much information on your opponent's aims/position as possible but if you leave it right to the end you limit your options/have no options. It also leads to the ability to counter your opponent, so a lot of the rounds end in stalemate over most of the scholars. As such it becomes a game of trying to engineer it so you win scholars by only one card whereas you opponent has all of one type of card and so wins that scholar as inefficiently as possible. While it seems like it could theoretically go on forever, we finished in 3 rounds and I can't imagine it going on for more than 4-5 (there is a variant where you limit it to 3 rounds and just score points). 

There is a luck factor in what cards you draw, but at least with the initial game, I feel that because the cards you draw are controlled by you but picked by your opponent, the impact of the 'luck' is lessened. 

Pros:

  • Quick and easy to set up
  • Plays rapidly
  • Decisions feel agonising (in a good way): you have to gauge your opponent and then calculate the best move based on what you know. A fun duality to the decisions
  • When you manage to edge your opponent out it makes you feel like a tactical genius.

Cons:

  • Theme is just pasted on (I believe it is just a re-skin of another game) and not very engaging.
  • Can imagine games feeling relatively similar: there is no asymmetry and possibly not enough tactical depth for too many different 'strategies'  so not sure on replay-ability, time will tell.

Overall, I probably wouldn't recommend anyone buy this game without playing it first, I got it as a gift. However, if you can get a good deal I can imagine it being a solid travel game: could easily be played after a meal and while it didn't make me want to immeditaely play 5 games in a row, if you spaced them out over time I think I would enjoy each game.




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4 months ago

Good write up! I liked this game - I also received it as a gift. Unfortunately it was the first one to go on my "Previously Owned" list. While I enjoyed the game, my wife hated it. She just felt like there was no point. So what can you do with a 2-player game that your # 1 play partner hates? I gave it to a friend who was moving away, and who enjoyed the game as well.

I do still think this is a fun game and I wouldn't turn down a play of it. It would make a great travel game, as you say - small box, and quick to set up and play, and with enough meat to keep players engaged.

4 months ago

Thanks, I was pleasantly surprised by it. The internal 'arrghh' as you weigh up what you offer to your opponent is wonderful.

I am glad it has gone to someone who enjoys it, wouldn't want a game to be sad and unused :D

 

4 months ago

Haha, exactly. I knew he liked it, and I wasn't ever going to play it, especially since he moved away, so why not give it as a parting gift?

4 months ago

I purchased this for $5 on sale recently (still waiting for it to arrive). I wanted another travel game, so I am encouraged that you think it is good for that.

4 months ago

Absolutely, it takes up relatively minimal table space and plays very quickly. Could easily play it in an airport or a cafe

4 months ago

I have #Hanamikoji, which is basically the same game, just a different theme. I love it; the decisions are so stressful sometimes haha

4 months ago

Oh yes, so many times as we did things we were like 'this is so bad!'. It is excellent in that respect

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