Uluk Board Game Review

Polyhedron Collider Uluk Board Game Review

Uluk is like a cake.  Like a birthday cake or something like that.  A good quality sponge with some jam and cream slapped on top, followed by another layer of sponge, then all dressed in icing or buttercream and covered in chocolate or sparkles etc.  This may sound like an odd analogy, but in a game about harvesting ingredients and making meals it's quite apt and will hopefully make sense as you read on.

Uluk is a worker placement game; you send your little band of villagers off into the world to hunt and gather food, or perhaps to go and build a monument too.  These workers return with the raw ingredients and you then prepare the meals that your villagers will eat.  With enough food you’ll be able to support an increase in your population and then off you go again.

Polyhedron Collider Uluk Board Game Review - Player Board

You will of course be able to research and invent new technologies to help you make your food faster or more efficiently, spread it further, or make it easier to hunt or gather in the first place.

So far, so worker placement and if that was all Uluk had to offer then this review would end here with a patented PHC objective review summary of “it is a game”.

Of course, it doesn’t end here and hopefully, my cake analogy is starting to make a little sense, so far Uluk is a good quality worker placement game/Victoria sponge.  It does everything exactly as you would expect, now here is the icing:

Polyhedron Collider Uluk Board Game Review - Harvesting

Uluk features a really interesting ecological dependency, in other words, if a resource is heavily harvested by the players, that resource will start the following round (season) with a diminished volume.  Further, if a resource is severely depleted, i.e. it reaches the bottom of its volume track it will trigger an ecological dependency.  In this instance another resource increases due to the lack of the former.  So, if the grubs (zork) are heavily harvested this will mean in the next round the roots (mgobu) will naturally start the round with a higher volume; because something that would naturally deplete them in the wild is less numerous.  If the roots and grubs are heavily harvested, then although the roots will see a small increase the following turn so too will the mushrooms (tiön).

This type of ecology is in play and affects all the food types, with the meat types affecting two resources each.  This aspect of the game is interesting not only mechanically, but also in how it affects the players around the table and their strategies as it allows players to directly affect the resources that they can see their opponents need and want, causing them to be in a state of depletion – in other words, there are plenty of opportunities for dick moves in Uluk.

Polyhedron Collider Uluk Board Game Review - Inventions

As much as I find this ecological dependency interesting as a mechanic, I do feel that it is just the start of it.  The knock-on effects of resources is clever, and it is managed simply, but I feel as if it is part of a larger, more complex mechanism, of which we are seeing the “baby’s first” version.  It is good, but it could be great. I want to see more of it, but I want to see a bigger, better, more intricate and more complex version of it.

Uluk is arguably a little bit too cut-throat at times, or at higher player counts.  There are only three spaces for gathering resources, and only the player in the majority takes the greater share of that resource which means a player can be forced into allocating workers to a space “just to be safe” or else being forced to gather/hunt resources which are sub-optimal.  These limited worker spaces become more of an issue in a four-player game, particularly towards the end of the game where you can end up in the unusual position of having more workers than there are optimal spaces to place them. 

Polyhedron Collider Uluk Board Game Review - Monuments

Uluk is the first published game by designer Dominik Sidorek, and it’s a great debut.  A solid worker placement game with a really interesting, novel layer on top.  I’m keen to see what he does next and where he takes this ecological dependency mechanism. I'm expecting more interesting games from him in the future.

AT the time of publishing, Uluk is live on Kickstarter and it is currently fully funded, so if it sounds like tis game is one for you, check out the campaign page here.

This Kickstarter preview is based on a prototype version of the game provided by the publisher; the final product may look, play or smell different to that used in this preview.
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