Quick Glance: Bumuntu by Wizkids
Game Type: Set Collection
Number of Players: 2-5
Mechanics: Movement, Set Collection
Introduction/Overview: No, Bumuntu is not a new flavor of the Linux operating system. It is a new set collection game designed by Tim Blank with bright, colorful art by Michael Parla. In this game, players are trying to collect tiles to gain majorities of the most valuable animals. Which animals are the most valuable, however, will change throughout the game.
Gameplay: A turn of Bumuntu is a fairly simple affair, but there are a surprising amount of choices available to you. The first part of a turn, you can pay any amount of banana chips you have collected to move to a different space on the board. This is extremely useful in the later parts of the game as the number of tiles on the board decreases.
Then you can either move 1 space in any direction and end your turn, or you can use the special movement action of the animal tile your piece is standing on. If you do this, you collect the tile and get to perform the special action printed on the tile. There are four actions that you could get. The first icon is a banana which lets you pick up a banana chip for later use. The second and third icons are small bonus point symbols that score in different ways at the end of the game. The final icon is a colored in background. This allows the player to switch the placement of any two animals on the power board. This has a direct impact on how many points each animal you collect is worth at the end of the game.
That’s really the entire turn. The game goes until all of the colored background tiles have been collected. Then set majorities and bonuses are counted up. I love the fact that since tiles are hidden throughout the game once you collect them, it’s nigh on impossible to keep track of how anybody is doing until the very end.
Rulebook: The rulebook is big, bright, and filled with pictures. I do think the 2-page spread that visually shows how each piece is a little cluttered and confusing. Thankfully, they did include player aids on the player shields that spell each move out clearly. It would have been helpful to mention the rule about not being able to move through other player tokens in the actual movement section of the book, rather than in a highlight box that precedes the “How to Play” section, but that’s a fairly minor quibble. Otherwise, a well done book that you shouldn’t need to refer back to very much.
Theme: They go through quite a bit of effort to try and connect the game to the African theme shown in the artwork of the game. In reality, this game is pretty abstract. Most animals have moves that are analogous to moves in Chess. There are a few moves that do have some thematic touches I appreciate: the Tarantula can catch another animal in its web, and move it to another space, the Black Mamba will scare away any opponents standing near it at the end of a turn, and the Rhinoceros pushes everything to the edge of the board.
Set-Up/Takedown: Probably the biggest downside to Bumuntu. This game does take a while to set up. You have to first choose which eight of the included ten animal types your group is going to play (I take the 10 tokens for the power board and do random pulls and place them in ascending order on the power board), then you have to sort them all out...mix them up...and put them out onto the main board. I’ve decreased this time by putting each set of animals into their own individual baggies. This helps speed up set up, but slows down takedown. You can’t really win either way you go. Expect to take about 10 extra minutes on either side of the game to get things situated.
Components: I love the animal tiles which are the main component of the game. They are a nice, chunky plastic and have a satisfying weight and sound to them when you clack them together. The art on the tiles has a cutesy African-tinged look to them that I like. Each animal is a different color, although some of the shades of greens and blues are a little closer to each other than I’d like. They do have different shapes to them, but it can be tough to tell what an animal is if one of the movement tokens is standing on top of them.
The board has nice jungle-style art on it. The only thing I wish is that there were a frame or die-cut board, as the tiles like to spin around and move out of place quite frequently.
I do have one critique of the art in the game. Chimpanzees don’t have tails. That’s it really.
I also wish the game had included a cloth bag to do the mixing of tiles. There is a big clear plastic bag, but I’d prefer something opaque for the purpose of randomizing the tiles. As a gamer, I do naturally have a large stash of Crown Royal bags, so the problem isn’t much of a problem, but I felt it was worth mentioning.
Final Thoughts: I hope this game finds its audience, because I think it’s extremely good. It fits in that Azul/Sagrada/Splendor range of difficulty, but adds a nice amount of tension with the changing animal values and the player screens that allow players to hide their strategies. The theme is thin, but they have taken steps to make sure it’s a part of the game more than most games of this type. The art is fun and colorful. I would love to see more animals make an appearance in the game (especially more birds, as the flamingos are my favorite movements in the game). I would also enjoy seeing more animals that could affect the other players. There are a couple in here, but a few more would be fun (not too many though, I don’t want to make this a nasty take that game).
I was genuinely surprised and delighted by Bumuntu. I think this is a great game for families or newer gamers. More experienced gamers will also enjoy this as a good length filler with a little bit of brain burn.