2 − 4
Race Against the Clock
Fun and easy
Easily adaptable to different skill levels
Scoring mechanism to even the playing field
Lots of replay value
Although unlikely, less skilled players can possibly win by luck when drawing gems from the bag.
Ubongo is a quick puzzle game that is easy to learn and play. Players are given cards with a shape puzzle, and given cutout shapes to fill their puzzle cards. It’s a race to the finish to get more valuable gems. Players of all skill levels have the potential to win in this version, which has simplified scoring from the original edition.
The round tracker is set up with blue sapphire and brown amber gems in the corresponding columns. These gems are rewards for the first two players to finish and serve as a way to track the passing of the 9 rounds of play. The rest of the gems are placed into the black draw bag. Each gem is worth a different number of points based on its color. Brown amber gems are worth one point, green emeralds are worth 2 points, blue sapphires are worth 3 points, and red rubies are worth 4.
Each player receives a set of colored shapes that are their puzzle pieces. Players decide together if they are going to play the easier 3 piece version of the puzzles or the harder 4 piece version. When we play, I do the four piece side and my husband does the three piece side to even the playing field. This is one way to accommodate for players with a large discrepancy in skills. Another way to handicap a player might be to not allow them to draw red ruby gems from the bag, for instance.
Each player draws a puzzle board at random and places it in front of them. The custom dice is rolled, and the result determines which shapes must be used to complete the chosen puzzle cards. There are 6 variations of pieces for each card. The timer is flipped and the race begins. The first player to complete their puzzle yells “Ubongo!” and grabs the blue sapphire gem for that round from the round tracker. Then, they draw a gem at random from the draw bag. The second player to finish grabs the brown amber gem from the round tracker and also receives a random gem. The third and fourth players to finish do not gain gems from the round tracker, but they do draw gems from the draw bag. If any player fails to complete their puzzle before the time runs out, they do not get a gem. If no one completes their puzzle, no one gets any gems, and the round is repeated.
This is the type of game that almost anyone can enjoy. It hits our table frequently, but we rarely finish an entire game. Instead, we just play a few rounds to kill time between other tasks. For example, in the 10 minutes it takes to bake a pizza we can break out Ubongo and play a few rounds. It is satisfying and allows us to have fun as a family. Sometimes we don’t even keep score, technically we still know who “won” but we don’t make a big deal about it.
Ubongo is fun for all ages. This is our 3 year old’s favorite game, he asks to play it all the time, and the adults enjoy it too. It’s a quick game that can be easily modified to fit into any timeframe by controlling the number of rounds. Because the dice rolling mechanism changes which shapes you must use to complete the puzzle, there is lots of replay value. Each side of each of 36 cards has 6 different puzzles. That’s 432 variations! The game is a Parents’ Choice Silver Award Winner and there is a companion app for smart phones as well.
The tray is well designed to fit all components. All of the puzzle cards, puzzle pieces, round tracker, etc have their own space in the custom molded plastic insert. The game can safely be stored vertically without the contents shifting.
Because of the simplified scoring in this version, it is actually easier for a player who isn’t the best player to win when compared to the original edition. For instance, the player that finishes fourth 2/3 of the time could draw a red ruby worth 4 points from the draw bag. In reality, at least for us, this doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes the slow player will come in second. This mechanism exists by design, because it can prevent someone from winning every time you play. However, players who are very competitive might not like it.
This game is very replayable with 432 puzzle variations!