Review: Ubongo–How very puzzling!

by Bret

We are a good way into summer now. The days are long, the children are starting to say “I’m BORED!” and everyone is in need of some fun filled cognitive activities. Enter Ubongo, a game of quick puzzle solving.

The game is played in 9 quick rounds. Every player is given a simple puzzle board (you may play the 3 or 4 piece sides depending on how challenging you want it to be) and the starting player rolls the picture die and turns the sand timer. The race begins! Each player must match the rolled picture to the picture on their board and use the pieces indicated to fit into the board’s puzzle box. Whoever does so first proclaims “Ubongo!” (note: the game will not work if you do not shout this!:) and may move their pawn up to 3 spaces sideways and collect the next two gems in that lane available. Meanwhile the other players continue to work, each shouting “Ubongo!” when they complete their puzzle and taking 2 gems. The 2nd player may move up to 2 spaces, the 3rd one and the 4th none. Anyone not finished with all of these tasks when the timer runs out receives no gems.

After 9 rounds of this frenzy, the winner is decided by whomever has the most gems of one color.

Very simple rules, but surprisingly challenging game. I don’t usually do well with timed problem solving (and those who get particularly frustrated with such things probably shouldn’t play this game. Although if it is a child, I insist they play and grow some patience and restraint before they develop these bad hindrances that could last throughout their adult life!:) but this is designed in a way to make it light and fun while retaining that challenge.

So, if you’re looking for some way to show off your superior cognitive and spatial reasoning skills or want an enjoyable, pleasant way to increase you and/or your family’s abilities of that nature, try it and make sure to incorporate as much “Ubongo!” shouting as possible.

Number of players: 2-4

Suggested ages: 8 and up

Playing time: 30 minutes

All pictures courtesy of