Published by Hexy Studio, Uluk is set in an exotic world of tribes of sentient animals fighting for resources while seeking to meet their spiritual and material needs. It’s a Euro game for 1–4 players, tho' the solo game wasn’t available in time for us to include it in this review.
Uluk is of low-to-medium complexity and games take about an hour to play. The core mechanic is worker placement, enabling tribes to gather resources, process them into food, treats (think food with added VPs), poison (enhances gathering of some resources) and candles (key for holding celebrations for even more VPs), as well as creating inventions to gather and process more efficiently, and lastly to build monuments to the gods for big VPs.
There is a fluctuating market for each resource based on supply and demand, which has to be careful managed and exploited to win this tight game. Uluk certainly feels like nature red in tooth and claw with hunger (and negative VPs) never far away and tribes using their actions to do down their opponents as much as raise themselves up. The game reminds me of classics such as Agricola (Lookout Games), with its constant struggle for food, Caylus (Ystari/Space Cowboys), with its viciousness and its useful pause action space), and Navegador (PD-Verlag), for the need to master the market. Whilst not necessarily scaling those heights, Dominik Sidorek has designed a game here that is quick to set up and play so much more likely to hit the table than those more weighty tabletop games.
Uluk benefits from attractive art from Przemyslaw Gel but the game could be a bit more thematic. Each tribe is essentially the same and setup not sufficiently different that the game might well be 'solved' in time. It would be interesting to see each tribe having more asymmetry, such as the rhinos being better at building those heavy stone monuments and the birds being better at gathering resources due to their mobility. Maybe have these on the reverse of the existing player boards? Overall, Uluk is a game that’s easy to pick up and hard to master, so it's definitely worth checking out.
Uluk is due to come to Kickstarter on 30 August. We'll add a link to the campaign when it goes live.