A to Z 2015 : UBONGO

This next entry is another game that qualifies as both a Gateway and Filler. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to offer up a "U" beyond Uno, and I have been intentionally avoiding classics whenever possible. Though, I wasn't opposed to variants of classics since many people may not know of them. As it turns out, I was invited to a Game Night by a friend of my regular gaming group. The host ended up having thousands of games in his collection!

So that night alone I fulfilled my experience quota of "U", "V", and "Y" games, which I was still needing to figure out. The collection was amazing! This entry, a game that reminds me of Tetris, is...

Ubongo is quick to set up and easy to teach. The challenge comes from the puzzles involved with the game. Each puzzle is displayed on double sided tiles, which are shuffled and placed in a pile. Each tile has an easy side and a hard side. Naturally for beginners, or younger players, it's best to start on the easier side.

There is a Jewel Track board, featuring six perforated columns, that is set up in the middle of the play area. This is where you randomly spread out the jewels (they come in 6 colors: Blue/Green/Orange/Purple/Red/Yellow), which will be collected over time as the game progresses. At the bottom of the Jewel Track, one per column, are the starting positions. Players may place their marker on any of the starting positions (this may be done before the jewels are dispersed — I'm not sure).

Everyone receives a pile of 12 geometric shapes. These are what players will used to fill in the puzzle of each tile per round. They can be turned and rotated in any fashion, as long as the entire piece fits within the white puzzle area without any overlapping.

The final setup pieces are a special Icon die and hourglass.

 Once everyone has their markers placed, pieces accessible, and has been dealt a Puzzle tile (the side not being used face-up), the first stage of a round is ready to begin.

A player rolls the Icon/Symbol die (sorry, I don't know its specific name, if any) and whichever side it lands on (Shield, Hand, Antelope, Snake, Elephant, or Mask) is what the puzzle each player has will correlate with. When ready, the hourglass is flipped and players flip over their tile to reveal the puzzle they will have to solve. The pieces they used are displayed across from the icon/symbol that was depicted on the die.

For example, looking at the board below (assuming the tile has already been flipped along with the timer), if a Shield icon/symbol was rolled, the player would take those specifically shaped pieces — shown across from the Shield icon/symbol on the Puzzle tile — from his pile and attempt to fill in the puzzle with them.

Each player tries to complete the puzzle until the time runs out, saying "Ubongo" if they are successful. The next stage of the round it ready to being.

The first player to complete their puzzle has the option to move up to 3 spaces on the Jewel Track board. Wherever their marker is placed, the player collects the two closest jewels along that column. Then the second player gets to move up to 2 spaces, doing the same. Third place can move up to 1 space and collect jewels. Fourth place doesn't get to move, but can still collect. This is adjusted according to the amount of players.

NOTE: Only players who successfully complete their puzzle may collect jewels from the Jewel Track board. Those who fail to do so neither move, nor collect.

Once this stage is resolved for each player, they discard their tiles into a pile and draw a new Puzzle tile from the stack. This continues until the Puzzle tile stack is depleted.

The winner of the game is the player who has the most amount of jewels in a single color! In the event of a tie? The player with the largest amount in a second color wins. Then a third color, and so on. If players somehow manage to tie all the way "down the line" I think splitting the victory sounds like a win!

Full Review Forthcoming

Have you ever played Ubongo? If so, did you find it fun? Challenging? If you've never played it, does it sound like a game you and/or your family/friends would enjoy?