FTW Staff Picks - Ubongo

For The Win Board Game Cafe's Staff Picks is a weekly series where we take a quick look at some of the staff's favourite games, old and new. 


Genre: Puzzle / Racing

Designer: Grzegorz Rejchtman

Player Size: 1 to 4 Players

Game Length: 30 minutes

For fans of: Blokus, Katamino, Patchwork

There are many variations on the popular puzzle hit Ubongo, and while the Duel variant is the most played at the cafe, nothing quite beats the original.

In Ubongo players race to complete their individual puzzles. The first players to complete their puzzle are rewarded with higher valued gems. If you are unable to complete your puzzle before time runs out, you are rewarded with no gems. The aspect of racing not only against time, but also your opposition adds tension to every round. It gives the feeling of the walls closing in on you. 

When games begin to add more and more layers of mechanics, the sensibility of playing with others tends to diminish. Instead, it feels like you are playing against the game. And while I do come to board games for intricate experiences, I primarily play games to be with and compete against my friends. It's what separates the hobby from its sibling; video games. Forcing players to be in a room together and feeling like there is a uniting experience taking place. The most painful games are the ones where you feel like the game drags when others take turns. Every turn should feel meaningful. 

Though Ubongo may feel like an obvious and shallow game, its success is in its ability to evoke much with very little. When people ask for a competitive game, they don't always want something that will take them hours to play. Some of the most competitive games are played on even, high-stakes platforms. And Ubongo will certainly get your heart-rate pumping. 

Earl OliverosComment