Buggle-Trouble: A Kabuto Sumo Review

by Corey Whelen
29 October 2021

2-4 Players, 30 Minutes, Low Complexity, Low Strategy, Ages 6+
Disclaimer: Not distributed by Outset Media

Everyone knows that the lion is the king of the jungle, and that tuna is the chicken of the sea, but which insect is the champion of kingdom Animalia? The answer has plagued humanity for hundreds of years, but people keep telling me my idea of setting up an insect wrestling league is inhumane and unethical. Imagine my delight when Kabuto Sumo popped up on Kickstarter- a game about wooden beetles shoving each other off a log. It’s as silly as it sounds, but the excellent art, cool components, and surprisingly strategic gameplay really elevate this one- let’s explore it in more depth!Everyone knows that the lion is the king of the jungle, and that tuna is the chicken of the sea, but which insect is the champion of kingdom Animalia? The answer has plagued humanity for hundreds of years, but people keep telling me my idea of setting up an insect wrestling league is inhumane and unethical. Imagine my delight when Kabuto Sumo popped up on Kickstarter- a game about wooden beetles shoving each other off a log. It’s as silly as it sounds, but the excellent art, cool components, and surprisingly strategic gameplay really elevate this one- let’s explore it in more depth!


There is SO much game crammed into this box. Not an inch of wasted space!

Kabuto Sumo is played on an elevated surface (that looks like a log), and the play area is crammed with wooden discs. There are two wooden beetles in the middle of the log, one for you and one for your opponent. Players take turns pushing one wooden disc from their inventory onto the playing surface, in an attempt to push the other player’s beetle off- kind of like a sumo match. It’s also possible to win via submission, which in this game, happens when a player runs out of pieces to push onto the board. Fortunately, you get to keep all the pieces that fall off the board on your turn, so you end up angling your piece pushing efforts to not only push the opponent’s beetle around and hopefully off, but you’re also targeting the other pieces on the board, which come in a variety of sizes. If you can get one of the largest circles of the board, you can push it back onto the board and do some serious damage. Having multiple targets or objectives gives rise to a variety of surprisingly complex strategies. You’ll find yourself pushing tiny pieces into large gaps to starve out your opponent, or trying to arrange solid lines of pieces that you can reliably push, then force your opponent’s beetle into that line. Positioning is a huge part of the strategy, and you have to consider the whole board as you do- and since it changes a surprising amount between rounds, there’s a lot more thinking than you might expect.


LET'S GET READY TO RUUUUUUUMBLE!!!

On top of that, players can choose from a variety of wrestling-themed beetles, each with their own abilities. Some of these beetles are stunning allusions to professional wrestling, but all of them are well thought-out, fun, and they each have their own special pieces they can add to the board! The Pebble looks just a liiiiiiiitle bit like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and his special ability lets him put a championship belt on the board that gives him a bonus turn when it’s knocked off- perfect for setting up devastating combos. Sisyphus, the Dung Beetle, stacks pieces on the board into little towers until eventually he gets a giant “boulder” piece he that lets him do some real damage when he pushes it into the ring. There’s also an “Insect All-stars” expansion that adds eight new wrestlers, each with unique pieces. It’s got crickets, scorpions, and stick bugs, each with their own special pieces and powers, for even bigger and buggier battles!


So many characters! So many special abilities! So many PUNS!!!

Kabuto Sumo isn’t quite a dexterity game and it isn’t quite a strategy game, although it has elements of both. The more I play, the more it reminded me of marbles, although that may be because there’s nothing else like it! You play the angles and try to take all your opponent’s pieces by knocking them out of the arena and claiming them for yourself. Honestly, I like this a lot better. The only really downside is setting the game up- it’s definitely fiddly, and it presents a 5-minute delay between games that might be difficult for some, but that seems minor compared to everything this game does right. The pieces are phenomenal, the art is fantastic, and the theme is on point. On top of this, it’s light-weight, portable, and easily scaled up to three or four players. I’ve never played a board game quite like Kabuto Sumo, and I’m sure it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but if the idea intrigues you then I think you should check it out. This one is a big recommend from me.

Disclaimer: Not distributed by Outset Media