23 September 2019
Gawj of the Jungle
Bumúntú is a game that knows exactly what it is and as such polishes every last precious inch. Lovers of chunky tiles will rejoice with what this set-collector has to offer. From the colourful and playful design of its African animal tiles down to the practical player screens with clear iconography, Bumúntú makes sure that no part, no matter how small or important, is of subpar quality.
The care with which Bumúntú presents itself translates to its gameplay. Players place their leader meeples on a randomised ‘jungle’ of tiles, which each animal has its own way of traversing. For example, flamingos can fly up in the air and land on the same type of tile anywhere on the board, whereas with a rhinoceros tile, players charge to the end of the board, pushing aside anyone else in their way. When a player uses a tile’s special movement, they collect that tile and place it behind their screen – if they cannot or do not want to perform a special move for any reason, they can still move one space, but without collecting the tile.
The most interesting part of Bumúntú’s gameplay is how the collected tiles score at the end of the game. The scoring board is always shifting and changing as the game progresses. The players have a chance to adjust the victory point value of a certain animal if they pick up any brown tile. So if you have collected a lot of black mambas, it would make sense to move those higher on the track so they score more victory points when the game ends.
At the same time, a bit of strategic thinking goes into choosing exactly when to pick up the rare brown tiles and readjust the scoring board without giving away too much of your plan to your opponents. Push your best animal up the rankings too soon and players will know to lower it the next time they have the opportunity. Getting the last brown tile becomes incredibly important – it signifies the end of the game but is also the last chance to affect the scoreboard.
There is only one nitpick that can be aimed at Bumúntú. Although there are ten different animal tile types, all with their own special movement rules, most of them feel quite samey. Despite that, gameplay never feels boring or repetitive. If the game only focused on collecting animal tiles, the lack of movement variety may have been more pronounced, but with the dynamic scoring in place there is enough to do and pay attention to every turn. While the movement options are similar, they are flexible at the same time, providing players with meaningful options every turn. Only towards the end of the game, when the board becomes much less populated with tiles, does the movement become slightly more restrictive.
Bumúntú may look unassuming, or even simplistic, but it is far from it. Focusing only on two main concepts – set collection and dynamic scoring – ensures that both elements are well designed throughout, making the game a real treat to play.
PLAY IT? – YES
At a cursory glance, Bumúntú may seem too simple in looks and play. Yet by focusing on the essentials and ensuring that every part of the experience holds up to a high standard of quality, it quickly becomes a game of few flaws and a lot of fun.
Designer: Tim Blank
Artist: Michael Parla
Time: 30 minutes
Purchase the game here
This review originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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