Game: Kombo Klash

Publisher: Hub Games

Designer: “Nero” Ondrej Sova

Year: 2021

Kombo Klash follows on the heels of Flip Over Frog, in a series of smaller games published by Hub Games. What these games have in common is that they create a fantastic puzzle using animals on tiles and manage to deliver a satisfying game in a small package, not by cramming a big game into a small box, but by distilling a very simple set of mechanisms into an addictive and fun puzzle. With the aid of some charming animal artwork, and a fabric playmat that keeps the box size down, Kombo Klash is a very impressive small package.

While Kombo Klash is a reimplementation of the game Kombo Afrika – it’s not one that ever seemed to make it to the UK market and Hub Games have really taken it to a new level with the new artwork. What is, at its heart, a tile-laying abstract puzzle for 2-4 players definitely brings fun to the table with the character-filled animals.

Gameplay

Kombo Klash takes place on a 5×5 square grid, with the center tile always being filled with the draw deck of tiles. Players will take turns playing tiles from their hand of five tiles. Each animal has a special rule which may trigger when it is placed. During their turn players may, if possible, score a combo on the board, but this doesn’t end their turn, they may keep playing animals if appropriate. At the end of their turn they will draw back to five cards, and then the next player will take their turn. The game is a race to be the first player to reach a winning score, though the round will finish, giving other players a chance to score higher during their turn.

2021-02-21 14.07.07.jpg

Scoring a combo is simple. Each animal has a score between one and three. When there are at least three animals of the same type in a group a player may score them on their turn, they gain points equal to the animal’s point value multiplied by the number of animals in the group. These tiles are then flipped face down, making them inactive. Over time the board will fill up with a mix of active and inactive animals, when the board is full all inactive animals are discarded leaving ample space for the active player to resume their play.

Each animal has its own unique ability, which vary from the ever-useful chameleon, which counts as the same animal type as its neighbour for combos, to the kangaroo, who will aggressively kick other tiles around the board, getting them into, or out of the way. Perhaps the most useful are the alligator and the vulture which can flip tiles over, making active animals inactive and vice versa. With clever play you can make the most of your opportunities, while limiting those of your opponents.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

Kombo Klashpresents a dynamic puzzle with an ever-changing environment to be played in. The 24 active spaces of the grid will rarely be the same from one turn to the next, with animals appearing, manipulating other animals and then flipping over to become inactive spaces until the board fills. But not entirely inactive…If you use the right animals, and remember which animals were where, you can flip them over, and move them into an opportunistic space for your own gains. Often the game will revolve around the limited supply of ever-valuable chameleons, being able to combine them with any other animal can make even a mediocre hand viable, so doing what you can to make it hard for your opponent to use them is often well worth doing, as well as making sure your memory is sharp!

2021-02-21 14.05.18.jpg

While there is certainly a large degree of strategy to how you play your hand there’s no denying that this is a game with a good amount of luck. Having a single wolf in your hand is often a great start as they simply reward points for being played early, and having a hand with at least three of the same high value animal guarantees you a good turn. This luck is well offset by being able to use the “weaker” cards in smart ways, creating a lovely balance of skill vs luck of the draw.

The powers in Kombo Klash are all simple to learn, but every single one is useful in its own right, with play order often being a crucial factor with cards such as the wolf, gorilla and raven affecting your hand rather than the board. This makes the game incredibly easy to learn, but still provides enough depth to have you coming back for more. Kombo Klash is, both mechanically and artistically, aimed as a family weight game and it hits that nail right on the head. The art is cartoony and evocative, while the gameplay is simple yet gives the opportunity for clever combos and counterplays. This results in a game that is always going to feel a little chaotic and a lot of fun!

Fi’s Final Thoughts

As you might expect, Kombo Klash is all about the combos – how will you play your hand of five cards each turn to maximise your points and leave few opportunities on the board for the next player? The sequence of playing your cards, as well as weighing up the opportunities you’ve been left on the board to push, flip or swap tile positions all form part of the puzzle. Certain combinations can leave you pulling of a really impressive turn from a situation that looked almost hopeless and that can really put a smile on your face in every turn. With your cards drawn from the deck at random, there’s a small chance you’ll have a lack-luster turn, but more often than not there’s something exciting and satisfying to achieve/

2021-02-21 14.06.17.jpg

Kombo Klash gave me a lot of the fun spatial aspects of a game of Neuroshima Hex, without any of the tedious admin or careful planning. The board state will change every turn, so planning (an area of games that I don’t excel at) doesn’t matter too much. Each turn is its own puzzle to optimise, using the animal abilities to perform clever tricks to maximise your points. And, every single turn is fun with no waiting around for your plan to come together.

From time to time, we observe that a game is one that many people would finish and play again right away, but the fact is, we rarely do – we like to play a variety of game in a single sitting. Kombo Klash made us play again, straight after our first play. We would’ve played best of three if Amy hadn’t wiped the floor with me for two games in a row! Kombo Klash has a level of simplicity that fools you into thinking you can do better next time, wanting to make a better opportunity out of the very effective animal powers. It’s earned a place as a go-to quick game in our collection.

You Might Like…

  • Kombo Klash is easy to learn and play.

  • Every turn is a brand new and interesting puzzle.

  • Games always feel close, making you want to play again to optimise your scoring and play the powers in different combinations.

You Might Not Like…

  • Sometimes you do get a lucky hand full of kangaroos who score three points each, vs. someone else’s hand of 1 point crocodiles.

  • Even at two players, you can’t really plan, this game is all about tactics.

The Verdict

8/10 Kombo Klash is a brilliant small box game! It’s deceptively simple, but hugely addictive and we always want to play again as soon as we finish. Whether you’re looking for a family game or you’re a seasoned gamer, Kombo Klash had a modern classic feel that made it appeal across the board.

Kombo Klash was a review copy kindly provided to us by Hub Games.

Originally posted at Punch Board Media