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I am continuing to try and obtain games that I know my wife will enjoy playing. I have a dedicated board game group and a seperate circle of friends, primarily couples. To that end I am continuing to get gateway type games for my couples groups and meatier games for my big games group. Ubongo was one of those types of games that I figured my wife would enjoy: spatial relations and bright colours. I have played enough times to submit my impression of the game.
The game box seems big for what it contains. I really feel that this could have been put into more of the bookshelf type size versuse the square TTR size of box that it comes in. The exterior is appealing with deep, rich African colours that correspond to the look and feel of the interior. The main game board is a series of "ribbons" if you will, consisting of holes along each path that contains coloured gems of six different colours. This is where I really struggle with the components: the yellow and light brown gems are far too closely coloured to really discern in each hole. The manufacturer should have selected clear gems to replace one of those colours. This detracts from gameplay in a big way because the winner of the game is the individual who has the majority of gems of a single colour. I have played a few times only to discover that I had a split of colour when I strategized that I had obtained only a single colour. There is a number of double sided player boards that contains a play area along with choices of pieces along the side that correspond to the role of a wooden die depicting some African themed icons such as an elephant, snake and gazelle. The game is also supplied with a tiny hourglass that times everyones turn.
Players select either a 3 shape or 4 shape game and simultaenously take their turn by attempting to make their shapes fill an entire game area. The first player to complete their area says "Ubongo" and becomes the first selecting player along the ribbons. Subsequent completions become sequentially next in selecting order. Once the timer runs out no further completion can happen. The benefit to first completion is the ability to move up to 3 ribbons in either direction, making choices greater than subsequent players. The next player may only move 2 spaces, 3rd place one space and 4th place may not move at all. The winner, as I said, is the person with the most of a single colour, tied one then moves to the next largest quantity of the next colour and so on. The length of gameplay can be regulated by the number of boards that everyone decides to use. The default is twelve boards. An average game lasts around 30 minutes.
I like this game for the fact that it is easy to teach to new players, the turns are very quick and the game play can get very spirited. Every time that I have played we run into a player that just cannot make the pieces fit and then it becomes a committee attempt to help out. What really detracts from the game is what I cited in the components comments: yellow and brown are too close in colour and this really detracts from gameplay. I fully intend to source out different coloured gems from my local craft store. I would hesitate to recommend this game on that basis alone but it is certainly fun to play. I like the mutual help that often occurs so I figure that this would translate well as a family game. I don't normally play with children, having none of my own.
Thanks for reading this. Feedback is welcome.
A Brave New Geek
Good, succinct review fella! Thanks. A great idea to get a different coloured set of gems - did not think of it until you mentioned it. But..... then I do not have an excuse when my wife thrashes me at this fun game!