Ubongo is Swedish board game that first appeared under the name Pyramidens Portar winning a national prize in 2003. Getting the attention of bigger publishers, the game was later released by Kosmos in Germany in 2005.
It has 13 nominations and awards around the world, being well recognised in any country.
The name Ubongo means brain in Swahili, a language from the Eastern and Central Africa where the game is based.
I immediately liked this board game because it brings a great dynamic to the table. It has great components, a puzzle that we have to solve as fast as we can and easy mechanics.
If you like to run against the clock, board games and Tetris, Ubongo is where you definitely will be in paradise. It has very easy mechanics, and you will have to use your brain to solve its puzzles under the clock.
Creator(s): Grzegorz Rejchtman
Year Published: 2003
Number of Players: 2 – 4
Age: 8 and above
Play Time: 20 – 30 minutes
Learning Difficulty: Easy
Game Rules: Click here
Best Price: Check at Amazon
What’s in the box?
The first thing to know here is that the components of the game are all high quality. The boards and tiles are thick and durable while the gems have a great colour, giving the game a happy and attractive look.
Talking about the gem, some people complain that it’s a little too small and hard to handle. I particularly don’t think it’s a problem and could handle it very easily.
The artwork is all based in the African culture, meaning that everything has an intense colour and bringing contrast to every piece.
The traditional box has the following components:
- 36 Puzzle Boards
- 48 Puzzle Tiles
- 1 Die
- 1 Hourglass
- 1 Cloth Storage Bag
- 58 Plastic Gems
- 1 Game Round Track
- 1 Rules Booklet
Besides being a board game for 2 to 4 players, if you have two sets, you’ll easily be able to add more people to the party.
As I mentioned before, Ubongo is a geometric puzzle based game. That means that players have not just to compete against each other, but also race against the timer to be the first to solve a puzzle of interlocking shapes. That’s important because if you are the first to finish, you have more moves in the board game to choose your gems. After nine rounds, the player with the most gems of the same colour wins the game.
Very simple and very fun!
Every puzzle board accepts a combination of different puzzles tiles (the Tetris) that you have to put together. The combination all the players will have to use is decided rolling a die. When everyone gets the tiles they need to solve the puzzle, one of the players turn the hourglass and everyone try to solve it.
Everyone that finishes it have to say “Ubongo!” out loud, usually screaming. The order of the winner is decided by who says it first and it’s usually the most fun part of the game as people start complaining and sometimes we fight to determine who said it first.
Now, the gems are all aligned in 6 different rows. You can take 2 gems from only one row and that’s where finishing first matters. If you are the first to finish the puzzle you get to move 3 rows and get the 2 gems from that same row. If you are the second you can just move 2 rows, the third will be able to move only 1 row and the fourth will have to take the gems from the row he’s currently sitting.
After collecting the gems, you discard the current puzzle board and get the next one.
At the end of the 9th round, the player with the most gems of the same colour wins the game.
Keep in mind that in a recent (2015) English edition of the game, you don’t have the pawns and gems board. They are drawn from a bag, which in my opinion removes the strategy part of the game and doesn’t reward you for being able to finish it first.
If you wish, you can also download a companion App (iOS and Android) that contains the game tutorial, a timer and the solution for all the puzzles just in case anyone believes it’s actually possible.
Ubongo has some expansions and different varieties that are very interesting and extremely addictive:
- Ubongo Extreme – Instead of using a Tetris-shaped tile, you have to work with hexagons.
- Ubongo Extreme Craxy Expansion – Adds 70 new oversized tiles to Ubongo Extreme.
- Ubongo Duel – A 2 player game with some different shaped tiles.
- Ubongo Trigo – Instead of square or hexagons, you have tiles composed by a combination of triangles.
- Ubongo 3D – Add a new dimension to the challenge.
If you are interested, buy it or read more reviews at Amazon. It’s always good to say that, at the moment, Amazon has very good prices for all the range of Ubongo board games.
Share in the comments below your thoughts, experience or questions you may have about it. I’ll be happy to answer you.
Hi, this game sounds really approachable. It almost reminds me of Jumanji! because of the African influence. How much play time do you think I can get from this game before it starts to get tedious?
I’ve being playing it for a long time now and it never gets old. Everyone still enjoys playing it. My friends and I are still trying to meet someday next month to play it again. So I believe it’s safe to say that it’s hard to get tedious 🙂
Hi Marcelo, I was a big fan of Tetris! This Ubongo seems like a great game to play with family and friends. Do you know if they have computer game version of Ubongo?
Yes, there’s an electronic version of the game, but it’s for Apple or Android devices.
Hope it helps.
Very nice review. Tetris was a great game. Putting that concept into a board game is a great idea. I can definitely see this as a fun game.
Hi Steve, it really is.
My family love board games Marcelo.
This looks like a lot of fun. Great review mate. Thank you
Thanks Andrew. I’m glad you like it.
This is probably one board game that your family will really enjoy.
Tetris comes to life! What a great game. Sounds exciting, challenging, and FUN!
My wife and I love to play games with my daughter and son-in-law, as well as my fishing buddy and his wife, so we’ll check this out and get some games going!
That’s great Roger! Tell me how this goes with your family when you play it.
And don’t forget to say “Ubongo!” first 😉