Kombo Klash Review
Kombo Klash is a tile-laying, ‘match three’ game from Hub Games. Players battle by playing the cartoon animal tiles from their hands, using each creature’s special abilities, and trying to make adjacent groups of three or more of the same type to score points. There’s not really any story as such, but it’s a game that doesn’t need one. This is fast, satisfying player vs player fun in the style of a video game.
Show them what you’re made of
I want to start with praise for the components for Kombo Klash. It comes in a nice, small, square box, and the thick cardboard tiles for the animals will take plenty of play, which is good, because they’ll get played, shuffled, bashed and flipped a lot! The board too, is great, because it’s not cardboard. It’s a printed cloth play mat which feels tough and is really bright and attractive. That’s an important thing when you’re trying to get kids to engage with a game.
The whole match three mechanism has been done in countless video games, and board games for that matter. Anything from the classic Puyo Puyo games, through to the plethora of mobile games available now, ready to milk your credit card dry for more turns or power-ups. Creating a tabletop game with the same mechanism feels like a clear grab for the same part of the market, and it does so really well.
What sets Kombo Klash apart from a ton of other simple games, is the different abilities that each animal has when played. For instance – Kangaroos let you ‘kick’ an adjacent tile to another space, Ravens let you draw more tiles, Alligators let you flip tiles back over, and Chameleons, predictably, act as any other creature. The 5×5 grid slowly fills, and every time you claim a kombo, you flip those tiles face-down and score the points on the track.
What makes the game interesting is the way you can manipulate the tiles already in-play to set up combinations. When the board is filled, all of the face-down tiles are removed and discarded, offering a near-empty board for you to play into. If you’re clever, you can set up some nice kombos by setting some tiles up, only to clear the board and link them up.
Little square eyes
What I really like about Kombo Klash is the way it captures the feel of a casual app game. It’s a really important thing in my house, as it’s the sort of thing that instantly appeals to my son. As soon as I opened the box and laid things out, he was drawn in by the colours and artwork. He picked the rules up in a minute, and even in the first game was really excited when he came up with a plan for what to do next.
That sort of engagement is fantastic. In a world where screens are constantly trying to grab kids’ attention, being able to get them to step away and interact with their family, while still having fun with a game, is precious. Kombo Klash – despite saying 10 years and upwards on the box – hits a really sweet spot with kids between 7 and 13 years-old. It’s not a ‘little kids game’, but it’s not a dry theme, or complex adult game either.
Kombo Klash is a big hit in my house. It’s small and really quick to get set-up and playing, and it’s always fun to play. The level of strategy isn’t heavy at all, but there’s enough there to keep someone like me engaged. Far from a negative, this is a positive as far as I’m concerned, because this isn’t a game aimed for that target audience. This is a fun, fast, engaging, family game.
With younger kids you might need to guide them through their first couple of plays, just so they understand how the actions work, and how they would benefit from them. I love this part, because when you see them ‘get it’ and their eyes light up, it’s a wonderful feeling. The hardest part is probably remembering what’s under a flipped tile to make use of it, but as someone who’s firmly in his 40s now, I think that’s a bigger problem for me!
When I think of some of the terrible franchise tie-in kids’ games I’ve played that have cost more, Kombo Klash is a really easy recommendation for me to make. You can buy Kombo Klash for £15 direct from the Hub Games website, and if you’ve got kids around that 7-13 age bracket – or have a group that likes a lighter game – then go for it.
Review copy kindly provided by Hub Games. Thoughts and opinions are my own.
Kombo Klash (2021)
Designer: Ondrej Sova
Publisher: Hub Games
Art: Jake Parker
Playing time: 15-30 mins