Kosmos Puzzle Game Duo Review

Kosmos Puzzle Game Duo Review

March 20, 2020 0 By Ryan Sanders

Ryan reviews Ubongo and Dimension, puzzle board games from Thames & Kosmos.

Not too long ago, we did an article covering games that come with their own free lesson plans. Two of those board games are by Thames & Kosmos, Ubongo and Dimension.  Today, we will be reviewing both those games for our readers. 

Ubongo

1-4 Players | 25 Minutes | Ages 8+ | Thames & Kosmos | Designed by Grzegorz Rejchtman

Long before polyomino games found their second wind in 2014’s Patchwork (and then all that came after),  there were a handful games that were hits among puzzle board game lovers already. Those games were Blokus (2000), Rumis (2003), Fits (2009 ) and finally the Ubongo series (Ubongo was first published in 2003).  I remember when Ubongo was hot and there were various versions put out – extreme, duel, 3D. Though, I never played any of them, including the original Ubongo, until now. Recently, my family received a copy of classic Ubongo (which is still in print) to review. So, how does it play and is it any good?

Play is very simple. Take a puzzle board each round, roll a die, and flip a timer. The die tells you what pieces to use in your puzzle. You’re racing other players and the sand timer to finish your puzzle. After everyone either fills in their puzzles or the timer runs out, players dole out the awards (with more for the player who finished first and second) , and you move on to the next round. There are 9 rounds, after which you add up your gem points and the winner is the player with the most points. 

It should be noted that there is a free Ubongo – Play it smart app which includes a how to play tutorial, solution assistant as well as a die and timer – if you would rather not roll the die or use the sand timer. 

Though simple to today’s standards of polyomino puzzle games (a lot has changed in the 17 years since it was first published), Ubongo still holds up as a fun game. The simpleness may actually work in it’s favor when it comes to gameschooling, no extra steps, no different phases, just straight up race and trying to place shapes. Ubongo can bring out the competitive side of family game night, with everyone trying to be faster than other family members, but that is all part of the fun. I do appreciate that each puzzle has 6 different puzzles (using different pieces), and then double sided. That means there are 432 different puzzles to solve, so it will last for quite some time before you have played every puzzle (that would be 48 games if you have no repeat). 

Gameschool Aspect: What Skills Does It Teach or Reinforce?

Ubongo teaches…

  • Spatial Reasoning
  • Thinking Under Pressure
  • Puzzle Solving

Easy to explain, and with two levels of play, Ubongo is a real winner for gameschooling use.  My 5th grader gameschooler LOVES this game, even though he plays more advanced (gameplay/rules wise) spatial reasoning games. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ubongo can be found on Amazon.com

 

Dimension

1-4 Players | 30 Minutes | Ages 8+ | Thames & Kosmos | Designed by Lauge Luchau

Dimension is a real-time puzzle game that is best described as a board game and a logic puzzle merged together. Each round, 6 cards with different requirements are laid out and everyone has 

1 minute to try to build a pyramid of 11 balls that follows those requirements. Each player has their own set of balls (3 balls in each of the 5 colors) and a board to build their pyramid on. One the 1 minute round is up,  players get 1 point for each ball they placed on their pyramid and then lose 2 points for each of the 6 requirements they did not meet. There is also a bonus token scoring, which players need at least some of, or they will gain negative points at the end of the game. The game itself lasted 6 rounds.  

Let’s take a look at some of the requirements, so you can get an idea of how it works. 

Looking at the requirements in the picture above, from left to right they are: 

  1. Green marbles may not touch each other
  2. You must have sum of 4 white and black marbles total (so 2 black and 2 white, or 1 black and 3 white, etc) 
  3. Black may not have any other marbles on top of it. 
  4. You must have exactly 2 greens
  5. Your pyramid most have more orange marbles than black
  6. Blue marbles most touch each other. 

Here is a picture of a solution that follows all the rules above:

 

There are double sided player aids (x4) that can help players understand the cards, if needed: 

 

What if rules contradict themselves? For example, like blues MUST touch and blue must NOT touch cards come out at the same time? If you play the game with the rules as is, it’s valid, and you will have to follow one and lose -2 points for the other. However, there are some variants in the rulebook that deal with what to do if you don’t like the play anyways rule. 

Gameschool Aspect: What Skills Does It Teach or Reinforce?

Dimension teaches…

  • Practice thinking under pressure
  • Develops Logical Thinking
  • Puzzle game where you have to “think in 3d” 

In the end, Dimension is a good puzzle game, you are not only thinking logically under pressure, but you are solving the puzzle in 3d, and it plays different from just about any other puzzle game out there. Outside of Uluru (released in the US as Pelican Cove),  I am not sure of any other game that makes you think logically like this one under pressure to fulfill ever changing rules. I think a lot of gameschoolers look to solo puzzles made by ThinkFun or SmartGames to help develop more logic, however, with Dimension you can get up to 4-players involved in the puzzle solving fun. Also instead of a set number of puzzles to solve, players will have ever changing puzzles thanks to the 60 tasks cards that are laid out 6 at a time per round. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Dimension can be found on Amazon.com

 

Ubongo vs Dimension

Though both are real-time 1 minute puzzle board games, they are very different games in how they feel and what they teach.  Ubongo encourages spatial awareness, whereas Dimension is reinforcing logical thought. That said, Ubongo is going to be easier for kids to catch on, just because it is much more straightforward. Players will roll a die and take the pieces that match the die on the board and place them within the puzzle grid. This is the reason I think my 5th grader likes Ubongo more, at least for now.  With Dimension, they are not only solving in 3d, but also they need to learn the different task card types, etc. All that said, both games would make a good warm-up or let’s take a break from the school day games, and there is room for both in your collection, because they really do feel different outside of the 1 minute puzzle racing. 

Both games also have free lesson plans, you can download on their respective Thames & Kosmos pages. 

 

Thanks to Thames & Kosmos for sending review copies for an honest review. 


Ryan Sanders is the founder, owner, and editor-at-large of Adventures in Gameschooling. He’s also the guy behind its social media accounts. God has blessed Ryan and his wife Mary, with five children, which he homeschools. As a Christian, he believes that he should not only look out for your own interests but other peoples too (Philippians 2:4) and this is one of his guiding principles for Adventures in Gameschooling. Ryan’s expertise is informed by almost two decades of experience as a stay-at-home father and from the running The Inquisitive Meeple where he performed over 300 written and podcast interviews within the board game industry.