Ubongo is a game that I didn't think I would like, but was pleasantly surprised. The game is a puzzle game where you are trying to be the first person to solve your puzzle. First of all, I'm not very good at puzzles, and second, if there is time limit...well, that's just a disaster waiting to happen. It turns out I'm a little better at puzzles than I thought and with a little practice I'm getting better. :)
Ubongo comes with the following components: 1 game board, 4 sets of 12 tiles (think Tetris or Blockus), 1 sand timer, 36 puzzle boards, 4 player pawns, 72 jewels, and one custom die. To set up the game the game board is placed on the table in a place that is easily reached by all players. The game board consists of six columns with twelve holes in each of the columns. Once the game board is set up the jewels are randomly placed in all of the holes. The puzzle boards are then handed out to all of the players and you're ready to go!
All of the puzzle boards are double sided with one side being the hard side and other side the easy side. Each puzzle board contains a pattern of squares that you are required to fit either 3 or 4 of your tiles on. The easy game is 3 and the hard game is 4. On the top of each of the boards there are 6 symbols. Each symbol corresponds to a side on the custom die. The symbols on the puzzle boards have 3 or 4 pictures of tiles below them. To start the game a person rolls the die and all players then match the symbol on the die to the symbol on their puzzle board. The indicated tile pieces are then taken from your tile supply and they must be used to complete the puzzle on the board. The timer is then turned over and all players frantically try to complete their puzzles. The first person to fit their pieces on their puzzle board yells Ubongo!
The first player to complete the puzzle can move their pawn up to 3 spaces in any direction on the red spaces on the game board. The second player to finish can move up to two places. The third person can move one space and the fourth player has to stay where they are. Once the players move their pawns they immediately take the next two available jewels in the row. If a player does not complete their puzzle before the time runs out they do not get to move their pawn or take any jewels. If no players complete their puzzle before time runs out the timer is flipped over one more time. If nobody finished their puzzle the second time feel free to mock each other. If you complete your puzzle but don't take any jewels before time runs out then you're out of luck and don't get jewels for that round.
The winner is the person who collects the most jewels of any color. If two or more players have the same number of jewels in their "best" color, then one of those players with the most jewels in their second best color wins. And so on.
Ubongo is a lot of fun. It's very easy to explain and play. New players are up to speed in a matter of minutes. I introduced the game to a game group over the weekend and every one really liked it. One of the new players actually won. I like the fact that the faster player won't necessarily win. The faster player does have an advantage because they can move the furthest and will get first pick of the jewels, but with good strategy slower players can be competitive as well and still have a chance to win. The only thing that I don't like about the game is that two of the jewels are very similar in color. It makes it a little hard when your quickly trying to pick which jewels to take, especially when the time is almost out. So if you're looking for a great family game that is very accessible to a wide group of people Ubongo might be for you. Thanks for reading and happy gaming!