Ubongo Extreme from Kosmos is just one of many entries in the long-running series, the original came out in 2003. Each game in the series revolves around trying to assemble different shaped puzzle pieces into specific arrangements before your opponents. While many games in the puzzle genre rely on Tetris style pieces to make up their game play, Extreme opts for hexagon-shaped tiles, making for quite a unique experience. Does this make for a brain burner or more of a brain drain? Let’s find out.
Critical Thinking is the Key to Success
At the beginning of the game, players assemble a deck of cards that varies in size based on the player count. Each player is then given a set of tiles of varying shapes numbered 1-10. Once everyone is ready to begin, all players receive a card from the deck. These cards are double-sided and contain the puzzle the players will have to solve. Side A is easier and side B is a bit tougher. It’s up to the group what side to play on; more experienced players can play on the harder side while their opponents play on the easier side if they wish to give themselves a handicap.
When the group is ready players flip their card to the correct side and begin to lay down tiles on the white grid in the middle of the card. On the corners of the card are four different groups of tiles, these show what tiles the players will use to solve the puzzle depending on what round of the game they are in. Players try to fill every empty space on the grid with those specific tiles as quickly as possible. Once a player has filled in their puzzle correctly they shout “Ubongo!” Now the other players at the table have twenty seconds to try and complete their puzzle.
At the end of the twenty-second count down every player who successfully completed their puzzle keeps their card as a victory point. Every player who did not finish their puzzle then hands their card to the player who completed their card first, thus giving that player additional victory points at the end of the game. Play proceeds in this way until the deck is completely empty, and then everyone counts up the cards they collected throughout the game, and the player with the most is the winner of the game.
Every Puzzle Has an Answer
I was very pleasantly surprised by Ubongo Extreme. I’m normally pretty good with spatial awareness puzzles, in games like Patchwork, for example, I normally feel comfortable looking several moves ahead, picking out different pieces that will help fill in my grid. Here the combination of the hexagonal shaped pieces and the real-time placement element made a more nerve-wracking experience. It’s quite a bit harder to tell exactly where every piece will fit, and often times you’ll find yourself thinking you have solved your puzzle, only to realize one final tile doesn’t fit correctly and you have to start all over again.
The game has a built-in handicap feature, so if you find that one player is just naturally better at the game, that player can play on the more difficult side. These types of puzzle games often suffer because of the vast gap in skill levels between players, so having a way to help balance the scales is appreciated. Ubongo Extreme is a game that knows what it’s going for. It’s so quick and snappy, it makes for that perfect filler game that you can bring out either at the start of the night or as a pallet cleanser in between heavier games. It’s so simple that you could set it up and explain the game in under a minute.
The Fun Size Edition is perfect for travel as well. If you’re in for a long train ride or if you go out to the local pub to play games this is perfect for that kind of thing. My biggest gripe with this edition is the size of the tiles. They can feel especially small in larger hands and it can make finishing some of the harder puzzles a bit more frustrating than they should be. The race against the clock aspect of the game, combined with the fiddly nature of the tiny tiles led to some more aggravation than I would’ve liked.
If you’re in the market for a breezy filler or puzzle game you can do a lot worse than Ubongo Extreme. Almost every time we’ve played there’s been raucous laughter as players struggle to figure out how to make the tiles work, only to have someone else yell “Ubongo!” followed out by cries of, “No!” The box says 15-minute playtime and that’s pretty much spot on. We often found ourselves playing again after it’s over. Ubongo is a puzzle I will keep coming back to solve.
Final Score: 7/10
Thank you for reading feel free to comment below. Follow me on Twitter and we can talk about gaming. You can also read about #Project181 here and donate to help raise money for Gamers Outreach. Join us in helping kids in hospitals getting to game.
AKA “The Board Game Mole”
[Editors Note: The Board Game Mole is a content contributor for 181GAMING. If you would like to have your content published on 181GAMING, click here. We are always looking for content creators and community moderators.]