Publisher: HUB Games
Designer: Ondrej Sova
Artist: Jake Parker
Release date: 2021
2 – 4 Players
Favouritefoe score: 8/10
*Fun * Surprising * Colourful * Tactical * Memory * Family * Tile Laying * Battle Game *
Coming Soon – video review of Kombo Klash by HUB Games!
Let’s get ready to rumble……or, more precisely, Kombo!
Kombo Klash is my first game from publisher, Hub Games, and I was excited to see what this little square box would reveal when it dropped through my door. And designer, Ondrej Sova, and artist, Jake Parker, have created one colourful clash indeed!
So, what is Kombo Klash all about? Well, the name says it all, really. It is game where you and your opponents are battling it out to try and score points by laying sets of matching tiles on a shared board.
But these small square tiles aren’t just your common or garden bathroom variety. No, these tiles are hyper colour. These tiles are hunky-chunky. And, most exciting of all, these tiles have asymmetric anthropomorphic klash-tastic powers!
Eight to be precise. Eight different creatures. Eight different powers. Eight different ways to flip, move, take, mimic, and steal your way to victory. One move per turn won’t get you the glory, however. Instead you’ll be chaining fighting powers together to manoeuvre your way into the winner’s circle.
So how do we get set to klash, and did we go cuckoo for kombos? Let’s find out!
Setting up Kombo Klash is a breeze. Flap open the fabric board, and lay it down in the centre of the table. Shuffle all the tiles together and place one randomly chosen tile flipped face up on each corner. Then give each player a starting hand of 5 tiles. Finally, place the remaining tiles face down in the centre of the board. With the scoring markers placed close to the start of the scoring track, and everybody holding their power reference tile, you are ready to bring the noise!
NB: The first player will be the person whose reference card contains a 1 symbol, so no need to waste skirmishing skills on a pre-game turn order tussle!
Warrior Warm-Ups and Tactical Tussles!
So, on your turn, you can lay as many tiles as you like from your hand of 5. If there are already tiles on the board, you must lay adjacent to them or around the central stack.
Each of these tiles represents one of your wiley warriors. And, by laying them down, you can activate their powers.
The animals have cleverly themed asymmetric powers (a type/value mimicking chameleon, and a hypnotic, tile controlling snake being some great examples), which work well in helping (and hampering!) a player (or their opponents!) on their turn. They also have unique points values which become important when deciding what to lay and when.
Not only that, but, if you can group at least 3 matching creatures (called a “kombo”) by creating your own meld or by adding to an existing one, then you have an opportunity to score once per turn using the points values printed on each tile.
If you choose to kombo, those tiles are then flipped face down and can no longer be scored. Unless, of course, someone has one or more vultures whose ability is to turn tiles back over in order to make them available once again!
But, as you become familiar with all the animals and their powers, you’ll start to realise that going for the quick-hit kombo each turn isn’t making the most of your moves.
Instead, you’ll start to think in chains; one action that leads to another, and then another, resulting in huge moves and bigger scores (and blocks!) than you thought possible.
So much so that, what started off as a fresh hand of five different tiles, could see you activating a Raven to take another tile from the deck, laying vultures to flip back previously scored Kombos, adding further matching tiles to the set with a kangaroo kick and sneaky snake, and then finally knocking it out of the ring with a 7 tile Kombo!
And that cascading effect feels flipping brilliant! A real “Yesssss!!!” moment when you can turn over huge swathes of the tiles on the board in a single knock-out kombo!
You can probably guess that with all this laying and flipping, the board is going to fill up fast. When this happens, all of the facedown tiles are discarded, and play resumes. Similarly, replenishing hands can run the tiles down pretty speedily. But, again, it just takes a quick shuffle of the discard pile and, relocated back to the centre of the board, klash of the tile-tans can resume again!
With three different target scores to aim for as the end-game trigger, Kombo Klash can be over in a flash (10-15 minutes for a 50 point game) or pack a punchier 30 minutes (for a 100 point game). Having the option to tailor the game to the time available is a simple but helpful thought.
Kombo Klash is another game which has surprised me in a good way. I thought it would be a simple kid’s game but there’s more to those cartoon creatures than meets the eye!
Making our way through the first few games, it became clear that to get that “ohhhhh yeah” feeling, you have to appreciate and make the best use of the asymmetric powers in play. Combining different abilities in the way that packs the most punch per turn will take a little practice, but once you have played a few times, you’ll start to realise the worth of the action order.
There is a little luck of the draw of course, which is great for replayability as stacks, hands, and the board itself will always be different. But the way in which you utilise the asymmetric abilities counter against the randomness and help to provide balance.
You also need to be good at remembering things! As play goes on, a big section of the board will most likely become a sea of flipped over tiles. As such, there is a hidden wealth of potential kombo-tastic action just ripe for the picking…….if you have a vulture……and can remember which tiles match those you have in your hand (or can manipulate the board to assemble!), that is.
Leave it too late to do anything about it, however, and those juicy kombos will be wiped from the board forever. Don’t forget; when the board is full, all flip down tiles are discarded! And that is a fun layer of tactical thinkiness. You won’t know what your opponents have in their hands, and you can’t sneak a look at the stack, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try to stop them from making the best use of them!
Overall there is more to Kombo Klash than I thought, and in a fun, punch the air way!
It’s not a heavy weight brain burn, but what looks like a cartoony kid centric game, actually has tactical play to offer too!
The components are also great. I liked the novelty of the fabric board (Mandala is my only other game with one of these), although the creases caused by storing it in the small box can make the playing surface a bit bumpy. The square tiles are also nice and chunky. My only worry is that with repeated plays (of which this is going to be likely), I predict that the cardboard edges may begin to fluff and separate. As such, plastic tiles might have had more longevity.
The colours on the tiles and on the board also really pop – our 6 year old Mini-meeple liked making patterns and scoring kombos (although he is still a little too young to think through the combinations to best effect yet), and I think the animals with their individual powers work well in terms of the setting. In a way, I felt a little less like I was pitting animal against animal as I placed them on the board. Instead, I felt like I was ordering and triggering their unique powers to make sure I was using each to my own advantage at the optimal time. But in doing so, the fight against my opponents’ own efforts to do the same was definitely there, so the klash is undeniable!
For us, Kombo Klash works really well as a light, fun, fast, tactical, family tile layer that is really eye catching , and we will definitely be bringing it back to the table again!
[please note that a copy of this game was kindly provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review but any opinions expressed are my own]