Are you ready for a puzzle?
I love puzzle games, and for some reason I like them even more when they’re abstract; fitting colors and numbers and shapes together just right.
Ubongo! 3D is an abstract puzzle game for 1-4 players, ages 8 & up. Designed by Grzegorz Rejchtman, it is part of the Ubongo! series published by KOSMOS.
How to Play
Lay out 9 blue and 9 brown gems in a row – these are your round markers. Each player takes 9 puzzle cards in their chosen difficulty (green, yellow, orange, or red).
Each player also takes an identical set of 3D polyomino shapes.
To start a round, every player takes the top puzzle board from their stack and places it face up. Then the youngest player rolls the die – the number rolled indicates which set of pieces you must use to complete your puzzle. (On some boards, several numbers are assigned to the same set of pieces.)
Then flip the timer and go! You need to fit all the required pieces inside the outline on your board, within 2 levels. No piece can overlap or overhang the puzzle border on either level.
As soon as you have managed to solve your puzzle, shout Ubongo! and grab the blue gem (worth 3 points) for the round. All other players continue to try to solve their puzzle, and the second finisher gets a brown gem (1 point).
Once the timer has run out, every player who finished gets to pull a gem out of the bag at random. If no one finished before time was up, put 1 blue and 1 brown gem from the table back into the bag.
After 9 rounds, all the gems on the table should be gone, and every player should be out of new puzzle cards to try. Count up your gem points and see who won!
For anyone who has played a Ubongo game before, Ubongo 3D will start in a familiar way.
The colorful polyominos, outline puzzle style, and the gem-based scoring are like most other games in this family, although it drops the “cave painting” imagery used in some earlier Ubongo games.
But the 3D shapes make a huge difference.
The 3D polyomino shapes are solid plastic with a little bit of texture, so they stack well and don’t slip around much. Because of the nature of the puzzles, you’ll be handling them a lot. Turn pieces over and around while looking for just the right fit. And remember! Since pieces are 3 dimensional, they’ll fit differently in different orientations.
When you find just the right spot, it’s astonishing – suddenly, you know where all the pieces fit. Now race to get them in place and grab a gem from the table!
But sometimes a puzzle just won’t come together for you. Too many of those, and you no longer feel like you’re in the game.
Even though the puzzles can be frustrating at times, Ubongo 3D makes for a great family game. We love how every player can choose their own difficulty level, but there are also enough puzzle cards for everyone to play at the same difficulty if you want.
If you haven’t played other Ubongo games, the gem scoring method is a pleasant surprise. There’s a benefit to finishing your puzzle first, but it doesn’t make you unbeatable. A lot of the scoring is up to luck, and that’s helpful to keep it competitive among the whole family.
Ubongo 3D offers fantastic flexibility for cross-generational play by having each player puzzling at their own difficulty. Of course, this means you do need to dial in the right difficulty for each player, and there are only four. When we played with our kids, the adults played orange and got crushed by our 12-year-old, who was playing with yellow cards, while our younger player with green puzzles was somewhere in between.
It’s perfectly reasonable to offer four difficulty levels in the box, but it’s not great if you find one set too easy and the next set too hard.
But you can always reset before the next time the timer is flipped. The game proceeds quickly, and the whole family will be racing to puzzle again.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Ubongo 3D from KOSMOS for this review.
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Age Range: 8+ (maybe a little younger)
Number of Players: 1-4
Playtime: 25 minutes (or a little less)