Buzzworthiness: Kombo Klash

Thanks to Hub Games for providing a review copy of today’s game.

As a general rule, I don’t like it when people use K in place of C for their logos. Especially when it’s something aimed at kids. (I also disapprove of using backwards letters – had Toys “Я” Us learned that lesson, they might still be with us today.) Today’s game is not specifically for for kids, but it still uses that K for C substitution. More on that later, but for now, let’s look at

image by BGG user idlemichael

Kombo Klash is 2-4 player game from designer Ondrej Sova, published by Hub Games. It’s a tile laying game where your goal is to score the most points by making combos. The game has a loose theme of arena combat between some very violent animals, but it’s fairly abstract in the end.

The game comes with 48 animal tiles, 6 each of the 8 different animals. These are shuffled together, and placed in a stack on the center space of a 5×5 grid that is printed on a cloth mat. Each player gets five tiles, and one tile is placed face up in each corner. Each player gets a score marker and puts it in the corner of the mat on 100 (which in this case also means 0).

On your turn, you can play as many tiles as you want to, or can. Each tile must be played next to another already placed tile, or next to the stack in the middle. Tiles are placed face up, and each one lets you do a special action:

  • Alligator – You can flip 1-2 other tiles face down, scoring one point per tile flipped this way.
  • Chameleon – This tile acts as a wild, mimicking an adjacent tile for scoring purposes.
  • Gorilla – You may discard the rest of your hand and redraw that many tiles.
  • Kangaroo – Move any other tile (face up or face down) into an adjacent space.
  • Raven – Draw a new tile.
  • Snake – Play on top of of a face up tile and take it into your hand.
  • Vulture – Flip a face down tile back to face up.
  • Wolf – After playing this tile, score one point per tile still in your hand.

At any point during your turn, you can also score a Kombo. This is defined as at least three face up tiles of the same type (with any Chameleons thrown in). You’ll add up the points from every tile in the combo (1-3) and score that many points. Each type has the same value – for example, Gorillas are always 3, while Alligators are always 1. Chameleons have the value of whatever they’re mimicking. After scoring, the tiles in the Kombo get flipped face down.

If the board is ever completely full, discard all face down tiles and continue playing.

At the end of your turn, you’ll draw back up to five from the stack in the center. If you can’t draw enough because the stack has run out, you’ll shuffle up the discards and keep drawing.

The game continues until someone reaches 100 points (or 75, or 50, depending on how long of a game you want). After everyone has had an equal number of turns, the player with the highest score wins.

The components in this game are really nice. The tiles are nice and thick, and illustrated with the particular creature they represent. Each tiles has a symbol to help remind you what they do, and if that isn’t enough, there’s four other double-sided player aid tiles that give a brief description of each ability. Rather than naming the creature, the player aid is color coded with the color and texture in the background of the tiles. It’s always nice when it’s obvious that thought was put into accessibility. The score markers too are different shapes, which is also a nice small touch.

The board for this game is a cloth mat, which is a nice touch, although it can be a bit frustrating since the score tokens around the edge can easily be bumped, and the natural creases where the mat is folded can prove to be obstacles. Still, it gives the game a nice unique look.

As I mentioned before, the game’s theme is kind of pasted onto what boils down to an abstract game. It looks like it’s an arena combat game, but you’re not really doing any fighting. It’s all about where you place your tiles, and how you use your abilities to score maximum points each turn.

So, let’s talk about the abilities. Some of these feel very situational, while others are ones you’ll want to use whenever you have it in your hand. Like the Raven, which allows you to draw tiles – you’re going to want to do that quite a bit. The Kangaroo, which moves tiles around, seems to get used more sparingly. Still, the Kangaroo is worth 3 points, which makes it valuable for Kombos. So, overall, the tiles seem to all work well together, and even though some abilities feel like they get used a lot, others are necessary for just the right moment.

I really like this style of minimalist design, and I only call it that because I don’t know what else to call it. The gold standard for this style, I would say, is Guildhall. GH is only 6 cards when you boil it right down, but it also uses colors to make a pretty deep game. I wouldn’t say Kombo Klash is necessarily deep, but there are only eight animals that can be used in all kinds of ways to score points, and that simplicity of design is something I can really respect.

Beyond the tile laying and trying to maximize your point totals, there isn’t a whole lot going on mechanically thanks to that simplicity. Figuring out how to manipulate the board to the state that you want is key, especially if you can use filling it up so you can empty it out.

For a game with such a silly name, the game is very clever. It’s simple enough for anyone to understand and have fun with. Well, almost anyone – I have yet to win this myself. Still, scores have always been pretty tight. The game is nicely portable, and doesn’t have a huge footprint. It can be classified as a filler because it plays quite quickly. Full disclosure – I haven’t played with more than two players. I imagine that there would be more downtime with three and four players, so maybe those would be good games to play to lower point totals.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? Kombo Klash is a quick, clever game with a good amount of strategy for its small frame. Even though the name makes it sound like some kind of silly fighting game, it’s more of a thinking person’s experience. I really enjoy this one, and I’m happy to recommend it.

Thanks again to Hub Games for providing a review copy of Kombo Klash, and thanks to you for reading!

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