Ubongo board game written review

Ubongo means brain in Swahili, which makes sense for this game because it will get your brain a ticking. Ubongo is a puzzle game for 2-4 players that plays in about 25 minutes for ages 8+ (or I would argue much younger). It’s been around for quite some time under various guises and has won a number of awards. I could end the review there really couldn’t I, it’s not like a terrible game would have those two things going for it.

Still there? Well you should probably know Ubongo uses a polyomino puzzle system akin to Tetris (and tabletop games Cottage garden and Patchwork) and it uses a timed game turn, using a little plastic hourglass.

Ubongo is a simple game, there's little to no theme pasted on, it's colored pieces placed on a fairly blank double-sided player board. You can see the pieces around the border of the box art and the player boards below.

As you can see in the image above, one side of the player board is easy (only 3 pieces per puzzle), the other slightly harder (4 pieces). You roll the 6-sided die and this tells you which 3 or 4 of the 12 playing pieces you need to use (see the legend on the left side of your player board). Set the timer and try and work out where they go. Finish, shout Ubongo!

You then get to collect gems from a gem track. This just adds a tiny bit more complexity as the person with the most points at the end wins, with different colored gems worth differing amounts.

That's it, Ubongo is a simple family level game. The cool thing about Ubongo is the double sided boards, because it means you can play with younger players (them with the easy side, you on the slightly harder side) and all be on a more even track.

Overall I really enjoy Ubongo with my grandson more than other gamers in my group. It's not going to be a game for hardcore gamers, but it features some nice little mechanisms for the non gamers / younger gamers in your life. Definitely worth a purchase if that's who you're gaming with.

Note: A few different versions of Ubongo exist given the length of time it's been out, they all play relatively the same, the scoring / gem track may differ. The version reviewed here is the double gem track.

You can purchase Ubongo from our sponsor The Big Game Theory here in Australia. Great prices, great customer service.