Full disclosure: A review copy of Ubongo: Fun-Size Edition was provided by KOSMOS.
Another month of KOSMOS is on the horizon, for us, so I’ll start it off with a non-EXIT review to keep things a little fresh. This one’s a real-time puzzley game (and a smaller version of it, too), so if you’re into that hopefully this review’s a good read for you. If you’re not into that, well, read it anyways; maybe you’ll get into it? I don’t know how you want to live your life.
Anyways, in Ubongo: Fun-Size Edition, you’re taking all the fun of Ubongo’s base game and taking your show on the road. For fans of tetronimo-style games, well, some of these are pentominoes or triominoes, so, you’re gonna have to make it work. For fans of real-time puzzle games, this is certainly that. Will you be able to get everything into place? Or will you just end up out of shapes?
Setup’s not too bad. Give every player a set of tiles:
One in every color. If one player is experienced (or the other players are not), take away the 3×1 straight yellow piece. All puzzles can be solved without it, but they’re a smidge more challenging. Take out the Puzzle Cards:
There are A and B sides. The B sides are more challenging. If you really want to mess with people, shuffle them up and mix the As and the Bs. I don’t actually think that’s a good idea, but it would be funny. Either way, take 8 cards per player and put them in the center of the play area. Set out the gemstones, as well:
Once you’ve done that, you’re basically ready to roll:
So, the game is played by having each player take a card, count down from three, and then flip it over to start. You then need to place 3 (A-side) or 4 (B-side) tiles on your card in order to fill the white area. As you might suspect, every spot must be filled and you cannot overlap tiles. Once you’ve completed that, say “Ubongo!”, so that everyone knows you’re done. If you’re the first to do so, take a gem. Otherwise, start counting down from 20 or 30 or something, and all other players have until time runs out to finish. If you finish before then, set your card to the side.
At the end of the round, each player with a complete card scores it for one point. If you didn’t complete your card in time, set it aside / discard it.
Keep going until the eighth round finishes, and then tally scores. Each complete card is, again, worth one point. Each gemstone is also worth one point. The player with the most points wins!
If you’d like to solo it, try seeing how many cards you can complete in 5 or 10 minutes. Your call.
Player Count Differences
There really … aren’t any. I mean, there are more people who could potentially be first, but as long as you’re the fastest player it doesn’t matter how many other players there are, functionally. To that end, I can’t say I have a lot of preferences as far as player counts go.
This isn’t going to be a very long section.
- I tend to work from the outside in. I mean, this makes a lot more sense than slapping a piece in the center of your workspace and trying to build around it, at least to me.
- Look for places where only a few pieces will fit. I find those are the best spots to anchor and then build off of. Just make sure that you don’t start from a bad place; it’s difficult to undo everything and start from scratch. And it kind of sucks, being honest.
- Avoid creating spaces where no pieces will fit. You know the smallest piece you have is a straight 3×1, so, no sense making any spaces smaller than that, especially if they’re not contiguous. If you can internalize that, then hopefully you can skip the steps where you’re trying a bunch of pieces in configurations that are functionally impossible.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The box looks great. It’s bright red and super colorful; what’s not to like? Definitely catches the eye.
- I love real-time games. This is definitely a fast-paced one, so, right up my alley. Lots of quick movement and quick-thinking required if you want to actually score points.
- I also really like puzzle games. I think I have a slight preference for path-building games (see Eco-Links), but shapes are also a lot of fun, being honest. There’s room in my heart for so many things.
- Easy to learn. It’s a three- or four-piece puzzle, tops. How quickly can you solve it? That’s tougher than it sounds.
- Scalable difficulty. You can even play on the B side while your opponent plays on the A side, if you want to make it even more of a challenge. It’s definitely solid on the family side.
- Plays quickly. Real-time games often do, in my experience.
- Very transportable. It fits in my Quiver, which is my general standard of portability.
- The gems are just kind of … there. They don’t really speak to me in any way. I guess that it’s nice to have something for if you got extra points, yeah, but I’m not really sure why they’re gems? Oh well; it also doesn’t really impact my enjoyment of the game.
- Some worry about replayability. I worry it’s gonna end up like Anomia where players will start to mildly memorize the card configurations and that will advantage experienced players. I think it’s not the biggest concern, but I wouldn’t play this 10 times in an evening, for example.
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, I’ve had a lot of fun (in a small box) with Ubongo: Fun-Sized Edition! It’s quick to learn, plays fast, and is easy to transport. Naturally, the real-time puzzley bits appeal to me, and I’m a big fan of how bright and colorful it is. It’s nice that they repackaged the game to a much smaller form factor; in its current state, it’s about the same size as the EXIT games, which also drops the price nontrivially. I tend to tilt a little bit towards path-building over straight puzzle games, which leads me to have a slight preference for games like Woodlands or Eco-Links over this one, but it’s certainly still a lot of fun and a great game to give as a quick gift or to give the super puzzle fan in your life. It’s definitely designed for portability, even opting to have a player count down rather than putting in a sand timer, which is an interesting move. Either way, if you’re a fan of quick puzzley games and looking for something bright, colorful, and transportable, Ubongo: Fun-Size Edition is definitely a game worth checking out! It’s been a lot of fun to play.