Teaching Time: 2 mins
Playing Time: 15 mins
Setup Time: 10 mins
Value For Money: Low
Recommended: Not Really
Website: Kabuto Sumo Board Game – BoardGameTables.com
I’m interested in innovation in games, particularly in good looking Kickstarted games, and so Kabuto Sumo caught my eye. It’s a dexterity game based on counters being shoved off a platform, which is something that I’ve not seen a lot of before. Its by the people from BoardGameTables who have made a small handful of games to add to their range of accessories, but who produce whatever they make to a very high standard. As such Kabuto Sumo was a pretty easy back for me.
Gameplay is simple in the extreme, a collection of wooden discs of a range of sizes and shapes are stacked on a raised circular platform. Players take turns placing a little entry runway next to the circle and slowly shoving a disc from their private collection onto the platform. It’s a lot like one of those stepped machines that push coins back and forth in seaside attractions, rather than a disc flicking sort of shoving. Any discs that fall of the platform thanks to your shoved on piece go into your collection for later shoving on, and each player’s insect wrestler comes with a weird shaped trademark move piece and special ability. If you shove your opponent’s coloured wrestler piece off you win, if an opponent runs out of pieces they’re eliminated, which leads to the win in two or four players (which is team play) but not in three player mode.
Basically, the game is fine, its pretty simple to understand even with the special move rules which are less hard to follow than likely to be forgotten in the heat of play. If you’re looking for something to play with very young children its probably totally acceptable. Also, the game looks great, the discs are very pleasing with the trademark pieces being a variety of colours and shapes and everything is made to a very high standard from single pieces of wood apart from the stage which is constructed fairly simply from very thick punch board.
The first downside, quite literally, is the set-up. Many dexterity games have a set-up that’s quite intuitive or easy to memorize, you don’t really need to be told how to set-up a Jenga tower for example. In Kabuto Sumo the discs have to be pre-stacked in quite a specific manner, and not a particularly obvious or intuitive one at that, meaning that re-racking is a bit of a faff. For a 15 minute game that can end a little suddenly, like a dexterity game, that can be quite a turn off.
The second issue is that the game is a tug of war in which people take turns, meaning that a lot of the play time revolves around one person pushing counters one way and the other person pushing them back in the other direction, which can result in a quite un-thrilling game until the discs skid in a lucky or unlucky manner or someone uses one of the special moves to do something different. This means that ultimately the base loop of the game is therefore not necessarily much actual fun.
The last, and easily most significant downside is the win/loss conditions, specifically losing by running out of pieces. During the game there will be plenty of times when a wrestler is hanging on the edge of the ring of battle, when that happens the clear climax is seeing it drop onto the table, everyone is waiting for that and wants to see that. When the game ends because someone has no pieces remaining its quite simply an anti-climax, its like playing a game of Jenga with a teetering, wobbling tower and being told that you won’t be playing until it actually collapses because someone has six pieces taken from the edge of the tower so they lose. It’s a mechanic that really feels like something that the designer would rather sheepishly apologise for if you played the game with them in person, something that should have been designed out but they couldn’t figure a better way to write around. The game should end with a wrestler clattering to the table with a satisfying noise, the fact that it sometimes ends with someone pushing a last disc on and nothing happening so they run out is criminal. It means that a pretty solid number of games end on a literal non-event. Sometimes it ends because nothing happened and for a quick, lightweight dexterity game that’s not forgivable.
I quite like dexterity games. Actually, I’ll caveat that, I quite like dexterity games that don’t rely on things being flicked or thrown. Still, I don’t own a huge number of them, maybe four or five, the issue is that while Kabuto Sumo is totally fine as a game, it’s still last in my list of dexterity games that I own and would choose to play. Which is a bit of an issue. If you love dexterity games and absolutely can’t own too many of them, then this one isn’t bad. If you try to only own one or two games of a given type or genre, then this is unlikely to be it.