18 Aug

So, let’s say you were Scott Abbot and Chris Haney in the year 1985.  You have designed one game in your lives, and it became a cultural icon.

How do you follow up a beloved design like this?  By making one of the weirdest games ever put to cardboard.  You are about to enter The World According to Ubi.


I would try to explain the back story to the game, but it’s like trying to describe the movie Primer…it just can’t be done without going insane.  To put it as succinctly as possible, Ubi is a geography trivia game where questions are written as riddles and your answers are coordinates on a map.  Confused?  What if I added in red herrings, and the ghost of Julius Caesar?  Yeah.  I bought this game some 5 years ago – mostly because of the box, and every so often, I would pull it off the shelf, open the box…blink a few times, and put it back.  It was only because of this blog that I finally sat down to try and understand this game.

Once you finally get by the terminology the game is actually fairly simple.  On a player’s turn, he or she first rolls the two 6-sided dice (RUBI CUBIS).  One die is marked with hexagons or triangles, the other has 4 sides which tell you where your question will take place, and two “wild sides.”

013Once those dice are rolled, another player grabs a card and reads a question.  The catch is that all of the questions are written in a bit of a riddle manner, with quirky wording.

023So, let’s break down a couple things.  First, you note every question starts with the word “Ubi.”  Once you realize that “Ubi” means “Where” you’ve solved much of the mystery in the game.  Let’s take a look at the AMR (meaning the answer to the question is in the Americas, the other regions are Europe, Water (any island nations or water based clues) and Universal (basically a wild category that encompasses the entire map) question.  “Ubi Bob Newhart’s psychiatric couch crouch?”  Translated, that becomes some form of: “Where is Bob Newhart’s psychiatric office?”  Now, if you’re a fan of that classic 1970s sitcom, you know the answer is Chicago.  However, this is Ubi…and that’s not good enough.  You must now go to the map.

010First off, awesome looking map.  It is a paper map, though, so some care needs to be taken with it.  It is also GIGANTIC, over 3 feet long!

So, to go back to our example, we’re looking for Chicago.  First, we grab the Rubicon Reticle…

022Net, find the hexagon on the map that includes Chicago, and place the reticle directly over the top of it.

025Now, depending on the shape die you rolled, you have to give one of two answers.  If you rolled a hexagon, you simply answer “464”, and you roll again.  This is called answering with “Hexagonal Precision.”

If you rolled a triangle, you must be more specific, you need to answer with “Triangular Precision”.  The reticle is broken into 6 triangles, each labelled with a letter in the word SEARCH.  In the case of Chicago above… the correct answer would be 464-E, as the Chicago dot is just inside the E triangle.  If you answer a question correctly with triangular precision in a region you haven’t already scored in, you get to build one side of your scoring pyramid.

015Answer one question in each of the four world areas, and you have an almost finished pyramid…

017At this time, you grab the specially shaped 4-sided die in the box (the UBI RUBI) and begin rolling it.  Once you answer one more question right, you win the game, by placing the RUBI UBI in your scoring pyramid.

019That’s not all…believe it or not.  Some of the questions aren’t real.


Which is the fake question here?

There is no Swiss Submarine School.  So, the correct answer to that question is “That’s a red herring!”  So yeah, they write the questions in riddle form, they use strange words, and now they add fake questions… that has to be it, right?  Nope.  One last, and incredibly cruel thing.

Earlier, I did mention that the story to this game didn’t make much sense.  It is somewhat important to know that Julius Caesar’s Ghost is involved somehow.    Every once in a while, Caesar’s ghost decides to exact his revenge on a poor, unsuspecting player.


BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH!  What does that mean?  Let’s flip the card over.

028HOORAY! I get to start the game over again!!  That’s incredibly mean in a game that’s already so difficult.  Even without the ravages of 27 years, this game would have been difficult back then.  I have a feeling a table flip or two would occur if this happened to me.  I despise this element in games (see also: my review of Beat Detroit).

Overall, Ubi falls into the “Experience” game category.  I feel like it is a game people should experience playing at least once.  Some people will probably really get into the riddle question format.  For me, I’m glad I finally sat down and figured out the game.  However, I can’t say I really enjoyed the game that much.  The layers of silliness hide the fact that this is basically Geographical Trivial Pursuit, but with a finite answer pool (several times I saw the same location show up as answers on the same card).  Ubi is a game that the designers probably had a blast putting together…I didn’t quite get that same level of fun out of it.  I will be keeping it though, because more people need to experience this game.

Next time, I’m going to look at a couple of games that you can play while doing something else.  Thanks for reading.


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