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Subject: A game of Tangrams, strong in spatial reasoning but weak in strategy rss

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Dylan Birtolo
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Lynnwood
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General Information
Number of Players: 2 - 4
Length of Game: 30 minutes
Difficulty of Game:
Strategic Depth:
Fun Factor:
Popularity at local game night:

Overview
This game is extremely simple in its premise - but the pieces in the puzzle until they fit. And what's more - you are only going to have three or four pieces and you don't need to worry about any pictures. That makes it sound incredibly simple, right? Yet, despite this simplicity, the puzzles are hard enough to make us keep coming back for more.

Game Materials
All of the materials in the box are of high quality. The puzzle boards as well as the individual colored pieces are all a nice thick cardboard that stands up to the test of time well. We have been using my copy of the game for several months, and the pieces aren't even showing the lightest wear on the corners. This durability is very important since you will be flipping the pieces often, spinning them, and pressing them up against each other. As long as you don't throw the pieces across the room or clench them in your fist in frustration, they will hold up well. The gems are simple pieces of plastic and not noteworthy. However, since their only purpose is for scorekeeping, it is a moot point.

Play Summary
This game is extremely simple to play and explain to new players. This is the reason for the low score in difficulty of game. This category is not a measure of how difficult the game is to play - it is a measure of how difficult is it to get a new player involved in the game and understanding how to play.

Each player has several game tiles - a stack of nine. Each game tile has two sides - one that requires three game pieces to solve and one that requires four. Obviously, the three piece version is simpler. When we play the game, each player puts the stack facedown (i.e. if you are playing the three piece version, the four piece version will be face-up). Each player also picks a color (either randomly or by choice) and takes all of the game pieces of that color. For convenience, the game pieces are all numbered. Finally, 9 blue stones and 9 yellow stones are removed from the bag and placed in the play area.

When the designated player says to start, each player flips over the top tile. He or she then grabs the indicated pieces and tries to arrange them in the outline on the tile. When you fit all of your pieces into the shape, you say "Ubongo". The first player to say Ubongo receives a blue gem and then gets a random draw from the bag. The second player receives a yellow gem and a draw from the bag. The third and fourth players receive a draw from the bag. If a player does not solve the puzzle before the timer expires, he or she receives no gems. So it is possible to have extra blue or yellow tokens on the table when the game ends.

After the ninth tile, the game is over and whoever has the most points wins the game. Red gems are worth four, blue are worth three, green are worth two, and yellow are worth one. If there is a tie, then the game ends in a tie.

As I said - the game is simple to explain and get ne players involved.

Play Experience
We have found it very helpful in this game to use an actual stop watch rather than the timer. The timer itself lasts for two minutes. If you have everyone finish their puzzles in the middle of a timer, it can feel like a long wait before the timer is ready to go again. Having a stop watch gets rid of this problem. Also, if you are finding the game too easy (which we do not), you can always decrease the amount of time available.

In my opinion, the easiest way to solve a puzzle is often to try and place the largest piece first. There are usually only a couple of places where it can possibly go in the tile, and many of them can be discounted immediately because they don't leave enough room for any other pieces to fill in the empty white space.

This game is a sequel to another game - Ubongo. The previous version used square pieces of all the same size, just in different configurations - similar to Tetris. Also in that version, there is a little bit of strategy with acquiring gemstones, but that is beyond the scope of this review. Compared to Ubongo, Ubongo Extreme is more difficult with the puzzles - it uses a hex-based puzzle map which seems to warp the mind more. However, the piece-acquiring mechanism is much less satisfying.

Most importantly, don't forget to flip over your pieces when you are stuck!

Notable Praise
This is a different flavor of game. It is extremely light (read: nonexistent) on the strategy element since all of the gem grabs are either guaranteed or random. There is no advantage to delaying solving a puzzle. This makes it a very simple game to introduce people to, but one that will still leave you scratching your head and working your brain. In addition, the change of pace is welcome. The spatial reasoning is a different type of brain power than strategy games, and variety is a good thing!

I appreciate how short this game is. It has a relatively set time limit. Unless you have players who feel they NEED to solve a puzzle before they move on to the next round, the game is not going to go past half an hour. It doesn't take long at all to set up or to pack away.

Because of the number of game tiles and the fact that each color's pieces are different, it is rare to ever see a puzzle and know how to solve it immediately because you have seen it before. In fact, this has yet to happen in our group. This makes it a nice game to play over and over again - provided you don't get tired of the mechanic.

Notable Gripes
Just as the lack of strategy can be a positive, it can also be a huge negative. If you are in the mood for something more than solving tangrams, this game will not satiate that appetite. While the game is good at what it does, it is very limited.

The scoring mechanism for this game feels inferior to the previous version. In this version, it is possible to win every puzzle first, and still lose the game. Granted, your odds are significantly increased if you continue to solve your puzzles the fastest, but it is disappointing when you are the first one done more often than anyone else, and you still lose. This has happened - there was nothing you could have done differently and it just came down to bad luck.

Summary
This game is an excellent game for people who like spatial reasoning and enjoy tangrams. It is a very quick game that is easy to explain and introduce people to. There is a wide range of tile and puzzle piece combinations, meaning that you are likely to get tired of the game before you start recognizing how to solve puzzles because they are familiar. Compared to its predecessor, it is harder in terms of puzzle difficulty but the scoring mechanism is inferior and loses what little strategy the original had. In short - this is a game I enjoy having in my collection for a change of pace, but it is somewhat limited and not as popular for that reason.
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Tim Stellmach
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Arlington
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No, this is not a strategy game. It's also not a dexterity game, nor is it a deductive reasoning game. It's also not a summer blockbuster movie, a really tasty meal, or a fishing trip with the buddies.

I imagine if you're looking for any of those things you'll probably be disappointed too, but I don't know why you'd even mention it.
 
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Dylan Birtolo
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Lynnwood
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I mention it for a couple of reasons. One is because I find that strategy of games is a core part of my reviews and something that I always try to mention, even if it is just to mention that is not present.

The other thing is that I bring it up specifically in reference to the previous version of the game. The previous version was a spatial reasoning game with strategy depending on picking up the gems which added a nice strategic element. You could even stall on your gem retrieval because you were anticipating (or knew) what another player would pick and you wanted the gems BEHIND the two that player would grab.
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Jay Kiley
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timstellmach wrote:
No, this is not a strategy game. It's also not a dexterity game, nor is it a deductive reasoning game. It's also not a summer blockbuster movie, a really tasty meal, or a fishing trip with the buddies.

I imagine if you're looking for any of those things you'll probably be disappointed too, but I don't know why you'd even mention it.


There's nothing obvious about what the reviewer told us. It was new information. It discussed the degree of strategy involved in the game.

Plus, I already own the game. This review helped to better realize where it fits into my collection. While I always treated it as a "family only" game, I'll now be trying it out with my game group.
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Ima Dork
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"No, this is not a strategy game. It's also not a dexterity game, nor is it a deductive reasoning game. It's also not a summer blockbuster movie, a really tasty meal, or a fishing trip with the buddies.

I imagine if you're looking for any of those things you'll probably be disappointed too, but I don't know why you'd even mention it."

It never ceases to amaze me, or annoy,how many petty, sniping, people there are on this board and how the mods seem to allow/condone it.
You made a great post, took the time to do so, and you get this troll.
I started one thread and after getting a obsessive didact and a 'Make the thread about me', poster, I've decided to skip making new threads trying to help out.
It only invites replies like the one you got.
Too often.
 
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